HC Deb 17 February 1986 vol 92 cc118-61

Ordered, That, at this day's sitting, the Motion relating to the Animals (Scientific Procedures) Bill [Lords] and the Ways and Means Motion may be proceeded with, though opposed, until any hour.—[Mr. Durant.]

Sir Bernard Braine

I am not seeking to stop the work of the Wellcome Foundation. The Minister will have responsibility for judging each application on its merits. What I am saying is that any hope that the Bill would reduce the numbers of animals used—and I am referring to non-medical experiments—has not been realised.

The Committee for Information on Animal Research, which I understand is a moderate body, is highly critical of the Bill. It feels that in certain areas it is too weak to prevent unnecessary pain, and in others is too vague to be regarded as an advance in the protection of animals.

My hon. Friend has spurred me on to say a great deal more than I had intended. The Bill stipulates that no cat or dog should be used under licence unless it has been bred at or obtained from a designated breeding establishment, although exceptions may be made by the Secretary of State. Why should there be any exceptions? Cannot the Home Office understand the disgust felt by ordinary people that dogs and cats are bred for experimentation of that kind? If such animals are used, what is the likely effect regarding dogs and cats stolen from their owners and traded to laboratories?

Under the Cruelty to Animals Act 1876, the use of animals to gain surgical dexterity was prohibited. However, this Bill relaxes that provision so that animals can be used to practice micro-surgical techniques. My hon. Friend said a few moments ago that all applications would be referred to the Animals Procedures Committee. Presumably projects would be carried out only under terminal anaesthesia. Who will constitute that committee? There have been great advances since 1876. Distinguished surgeons have experimented with live human foetuses—injecting them with steroids, killing and then dissecting them and then reporting their findings in the medical literature. If such murderous behaviour was legal, why should we show concern about animals?

Where are the safeguards against the re-use of laboratory animals and their subjection to repeated procedures? The restrictions in the Bill do not take effect until an animal has been subjected to a series of procedures. What, pray, constitutes a series of procedures? The Committee for Information on Animal Research asks: When does one procedure become a series, and what sort of series ranks as one procedure? Consider as an example giving an injection one day, putting dye in food the next day, taking samples two days later, and then performing the cycle again, with or without variations, for the next six weeks. Is this one procedure, or seven, or 21 or more? Until the terms are defined protection against re-use is meaningless, and a researcher who wanted to keep an expensive primate permanently available could link various routes routines to make a series. All that is to be governed by a code of practice. Neither the hon. Member for Erdington nor I had that document before the debate started.

Mr. Mark Hughes (City of Birmingham)

I picked it up from the Vote Office at 10 minutes to 11.

Sir Bernard Braine

In that case, the hon. Gentleman is reinforcing my point. He received his copy much later. I went out and got mine. I have had no opportunity to read it.

Mr. Hughes

Ten minutes to 11 in the morning.

Sir Bernard Braine

In that case, the hon. Gentleman received an earlier warning than I did. I did not receive the document, and I doubt whether any other hon. Member received it before the debate started. The hon. Gentleman is being helpful. If he received it at 11 am even he would be a genius to have mastered it by now and to be able to test the Bill against what it says.

Let me go further. The Bill does not require experimenters to use humane alternatives. It does not require such persons to be skilled in analgesia, anaesthesia, painless death or even in the handling of animals. Moreover, it increases the secrecy of animal experimentation. That does against the trend in recent days when public and Parliament have been asking for more disclosure of what goes on behind the scenes. Those who breach confidentiality can be sent to prison. What happens to accountability in those circumstances?

A great deal of reliance is put upon the judgment of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State. How is that to be exercised? How can he judge pain and distress? Who will advise him? Will he be guided by the people who carry out the experiments? He will have the advisory committee but we want to know who will be on that. That is fundamental to an understanding of the safeguards that are supposed to be laid down in the Bill.

There will be a statutory advisory body with wide powers to advise on policy, practice and procedure. Who will constitute that body? Who will man its subcommittees? There Lordships tried to strengthen this part of the Bill in another place. In Committee the Bill will have to be tightened up a great deal more when we come to the relevant clauses. We should be told about this before the vote, not after it. I feel badly let down. Had I had the opportunity to study the draft code of conduct beforehand, I might have understood the Bill better.

I ask these questions because we are being asked to approve the Bill without knowing in advance what the guidelines will be. The RSPCA has reported today the most appalling growth of ill-treatment of animals in Britain.

Dr. M. S. Miller

The right hon. Gentleman should follow that up by saying that the RSPCA's comments today showed great cruelty to animals, not from scientists but from the public.

Sir Bernard Braine

Exactly. I agree with that. I was simply pointing out that we should view the way in which we treat animals in Britain with increasing concern. I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for helping me to underline it.

I understand that the RSPCA has seen the guidelines in advance and I can say that it is disturbed by some of them. For example it does not consider that sufficient scientific expertise will be brought to bear on the licensing procedure. Then again where is the guarantee, should an experiment be designed to deliberately inflict substantial stress, that the expert advice of an animal ethologist will be sought automatically?

Pain is not only the cause of distress for laboratory animals. Where then does the Bill provide a safeguard for larger animals used in long-term studies to allow them to play and have social contacts? Primates are expensive animals to acquire, so one does not want just to inject them and kill them off. What are the arrangements for treating these animals as humanely as possible?

All licence applications for work on cosmetics will be referred to the animal procedures committee. Why is there not the same requirement for work on alcohol and smoking-related research? For eight years I was chairman of the National Council on Alcoholism, and I know something about this national scourge. I am also president of the Greater London Alcohol Advisory Service which covers the capital. If animals are used in this type of research—I am not sure that they are—why are they not subjected to exactly the same sort of controls as licence applications for work on cosmetics?

Mr. Thurnham

Is my right hon. Friend satisfied with the provisions for the protection of mammalian embryos, as shown in clause 1(2)?

Sir Bernard Braine

I shall not be drawn on that. It is not for me to say, because I am not an expert in this field. I shall not speak about particular procedures. There are, however, massive gaps in the Bill.

Mr. Charles Irving (Cheltenham)

indicated assent.

Sir Bernard Braine

I note that my hon. Friend is nodding in agreement. We can fill the gaps in Committee, but it is sad to bring a Bill of such consequence to the House without having the guidelines laid before us so that we can study them in advance.

If such points are raised by animal protection groups, why was not thought given to them ealier? Why bring the Bill before us with these questions unanswered? The Bill is too little and too late. It is an acute disappointment to me, and I predict that it will do little to reassure the many people who view animal experimentation, especially for non-medical purposes, with distaste, if not disgust.

Unless we have clear answers to all these questions, I cannot support the Bill. I know that it will get its Second Reading and will go to Standing Committee. Strenuous efforts will be made to improve it. I see around me those hon. Members who know a great deal more about this matter than I do. At the end of the day, the test is: does the Bill reduce the number of animals used in these experiments? Does it mean that they will be handled more humanely? Does it eliminate the use of animals in experiments for non-medical purposes? That is the test. I venture to think that the Bill in its present form will not not pass it.

10.13 pm
Mr. Ted Garrett (Wallsend)

I should like to emulate hon. Members by giving a short speech. For better or for worse, I seem to have been associated during the past six or seven years with animal experimentation. I notice that the hon. Member who used to represent Wellingborough—

Mr. Peter Fry (Wellingborough)

I still do.

Mr. Garrett

Despite boundary changes, the hon. Gentleman still represents that constituency. Well done. On 27 June 1979, he introduced the Protection of Animals (Scientific Purposes) Bill. He will well remember the eight acrimonious sittings before the legislation was finally abandoned. We took the advice of the Minister, who said that there would be time to await Council of Europe legislation. That legislation was agreed upon. The Government have ratified the treaty—not all European countries have. In the main, the Bill fulfils virtually all the matters that were in the protocol.

It seems fashionable tonight to declare an interest. By nature, I am a shy, retiring man and I do not brag too much about my achievements, but I must declare an interest in that I am the honourary chairman of a very notable and worthy organisation — the all-party group for the chemical industry. Hon. Members who are speaking in this debate and who are not members of that group should consider joining that highly educative body where the debate and discussion take place without any acrimony but we all emerge somewhat wiser.

I also have to declare an interest in that for 20 years I was an employee of Imperial Chemical Industries. I worked with scientists and found that they were human beings like us. They are as sensitive as anyone here tonight. If one works in the chemical industry, one quickly understands that it involves handling dangerous substances. Therefore, it is important to recognise that the people who work in the industry need to know that those dangerous substances are properly tested. If one wanted to forget about work and went home, one would find that there are paints, detergents, adhesives, man-made fibres, pharmaceuticals and modern foods which all have a chemical content in one form or another. We all know that such chemicals, in high enough quantity, can cause immense harm. An innocuous chemical such as salt can damage the human body sometimes beyond repair. Therefore, each one of us has to assume that no chemical can be considered totally harmless. I think that the House will agree that it is essential that the House should accept the responsibility to protect society from the harmful effect of certain chemicals, particularly at work. The people who produce and manufacture so many of the material needs that we use at work or in everyday life should also be given some protection. It is intolerable to expect society to expose people to chemicals without prior investigation as to the danger of the chemicals. I hope that nobody will challenge that analysis.

We are all talking about 1876. That was the heyday of Victorianism, when our manufacturing base was not declining but was at its peak and was continuing to expand. Even the Victorians recognised the consequences of long exposure to chemicals. It was primarily for that purpose that experiments took place in that period. The experiments were of a much wider degree than now with much more intensity and certainly less care for animals. When the Victorians introduced the Cruelty to Animals Act 1876, they were already alarmed about the exposure of their fellow beings to chemicals. After the Act, some experiments helped the human race to survive when they were involved in production to meet material needs. Much more knowledge came from that Act and the proper control of experiments, from which we have benefited. However, we cannot deny that that knowledge was gained through animal experimentation. Society has been made responsible for the care of animals, but it has gained. too.

Today most experiments can be carried out only on living mammals. Indeed, mammals meet the needs of most experiments that are necessary for our society. At present, no suitable alternatives are available. The right hon. Member for Castle Point (Sir B. Braine) quoted examples of substitutes at length. I admire his view, but, frankly, those substitutes do not measure up to the need to experiment on mammals, of which the most popular is the rat. To protect the human race, it is necessary to have those experiments.

This might surprise some hon. Members. Rats and some other mammals show a surprising similarity to man in their response to toxic substances.

Dr. M. S. Miller

Man sometimes shows a surprising similarity to rats. [Interruption.]

Mr. Garrett

Hon. Members can say that, but 1 am sticking to my view. To reject animal experiments on the basis of an occasional failure would be no substitute, and would not help to protect mankind. If, for example, the rat is not allowed to substitute for man, and if scientific knowledge in medicines and even foodstuffs is to be halted or restricted, some people might welcome it, but I regret to say that man will have to be the substitute. If man is riot the substitute, it all stops. Progress stays where it is. Is that what opponents of the measure would like?

I have declared my interest in the chemical industry. It is a responsible industry. It remains actively committed to seeking a voluntary alternative, as an integral part of its work, but none has yet emerged.

I pay tribute to those employed in the industry because they are fully aware of their responsibilities, socially and in law. They look upon the Bill as a correcting balance in the care of animals. At the same time, pushing forward the frontiers of science will benefit not only this generation, but future generations. I hope that we can extend cur horizons to think of those future generations. I support the Bill in its entirety and I hope that most of my colleagues will, too.

10.18 pm
Mr. Charles Irving (Cheltenham)

I have sat through the debate and listened to every speech. I congratulate my right hon. Friend the Member for Castle Point (Sir B. Braine) on a most powerful speech. He is a great defender of people and animals, and he is concerned about abuses, too. My right hon. Friend is recognised on both sides of the House for the compassion and concern that he displayed this evening.

I hope that my right hon. Friend will not mind if I say that he was just a trifle hard on my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department. The Under-Secretary deserves an absolute accolade for what he has achieved tonight in bringing this measure to the House. We have waited more than 110 years for it.

There are many hon. Members, and I am one, who do not agree with all that is in the Bill. I accept that in this particularly sensitive subject it would be very difficult indeed to find common ground with reason. The FRAME organisation, whose director is Mr. Ball, produced a moderate and sensible report, one which would be very difficult for most reasonable people to find much fault with. We will not obtain, whatever happens, all that some Members, particularly my right hon. Friend the Member for Castle Point, and I, would like to see. I would like to go much further than the Bill but I think that we must be satisfied as from little acorns grow large oak trees.

Few people would argue that the great strides in medicine which have rid the world of the most appalling diseases, owe much to the extensive testing of drugs on animals. Sadly, this is perhaps where some of us part company. In a great many cases that unnecessarily causes the most appalling pain and suffering.

Great strides have also been made in the science of testing drugs. It is time that we redressed the subject of animal welfare in the light of these changes and advances [Interruption.] I shall wait for the hon. Member for City of Durham (Mr. Hughes) to get up from his knees. I look forward to the hon. Gentleman's speeches as they are always first-class.

Mr. Mark Hughes

I was conducting a simple animal experiment, Sir.

Mr. Irving

The hon. Gentleman will see that the continuation of my speech has brought him an immediate recovery.

Basically, many of the proposals under the European Commission appear to me to be somewhat more compassionate than some of the British proposals in the Bill. For instance, we have not banned the LD50 experiments and we are rather inclined to allow very painful tests for trivial commercialism. We do not require scientists to use alternative techniques and the Bill does not require experimentors to be skilled in pain killing. However, with all the faults, we are making progress and that is why I feel that I must support the Bill tonight.

I welcome its main provisions. It establishes a much stricter regulatory control over those who engage in animal experimentation. It also takes a step forward in the recognition of animal welfare by placing a duty on those engaged in experimentation to minimise the pain, suffering and distress that may be caused to laboratory animals. It does not go far enough for me and for some of my right hon. and hon. Friends, but it is a beginning, and it has been a long time arriving. The strict provisions surrounding the granting of personal and project licences will, I hope, raise the standards of care for laboratory animals. They should also ensure that projects whose value remains marginal in respect of the pain or distress caused to animals will be stopped.

I congratulate the royal colleges on stepping up coverage of such issues and on providing new training and qualifications for those engaged in laboratory work with animals. I recognise the rapid pace of change in the medical and scientific world and the need for the Home Secretary to be constantly advised in matters relating to the granting of licences. The Home Secretary will forgive me if I say that I know of no legislation that can make a committee truly effective.

The Home Office inspectorate has received universal praise for its commitment and work. I endorse that. The Bill will no doubt drastically increase its workload. At present, 15 inspectors monitoring more than 500 establishments and about 3.5 million experiments annually. There is an urgent need to redress the inspectors' work load in the light of the Bill. I hope that we shall hear a commitment from the Secretary of State in this respect. I recognise the appalling difficulty in trying to frame objective legal tests for pain and distress, which ultimately are subjective assessments.

The Bill is full of weaknesses, but I can offer no constructive advice on the issue, except to say that, in view of the grave concern among the organisations that care for animals, half a loaf is better than none.

10.32 pm
Mr. Roland Boyes (Houghton and Washington)

As so many right hon. and hon. Members wish to speak on the Bill, I shall restrict my remarks to one subject—the fact that the Bill does not eliminate all experiments for purposes of warfare. I oppose the Bill for many reasons, but they have been well spelt out by my hon. Friend the Member for Leyton (Mr. Cohen) and partly by the right hon. Member for Castle Point (Sir B. Braine).

Warfare experiments are the most obscene, unacceptable and disgusting of animal experiments. They are used for exactly the opposite reasons that the experimenters would have us believe. I am not alone in assuming that. The majority of the British people agree with me, according to the poll conducted by the National Anti-Vivisection Society. I understand that a distinguished director of that organisation has just resigned, and I wish to pay tribute in the Chamber to Brian Gunn for his dedicated, tireless work on behalf of the organisation.

The poll carried out by the NAVS showed that 78 per cent. of people were against testing animals on nerve gases, 73 per cent. were against experiments to test the effectiveness of weapons, 74 per cent. were against wounding experiments, and 70 per cent. wanted a ban and new legislation on warfare experiments. Any hon. Member who goes into the Lobby to vote in favour of the Bill will be voting against the wishes of the vast majority of the people.

Donald Barnes, a distinguished American scientist who has experimented on animals once said: The more I look back I see their"— that is, the scientists'— greatest fear is in people finding out how the animals are treated and thereby initiating steps to correct them. I hope that small steps will be taken this evening along the path that Donald Barnes wishes to go.

That quotation came from a leaflet produced by a new organisation called Peace and Animal Welfare. It links the obscenity of the use of animals for warfare experiments with those people in the peace movement who wish to eliminate the use of chemical and biological weapons.

The vast majority of the experiments to which I have referred are carried out at Porton Down. I had the opportunity—I shall not say pleasure—of going to the chemical defence establishment to see what happens there, or rather, I thought that I was going to see what happened. I spent a day at Porton Down and did not see one experiment although 30 animals are tortured to death there every day. I was taken into a number of laboratories, but there was not one animal. That is not the way to treat elected Members of this Parliament. We, above all, should be able to see what is happening there. If elected representatives cannot see, what opportunity is there for the people to know what happens? We have found out what happens, which is why more and more people will demand that that establishment is closed.

All we saw was a few beagle dogs playing in a cage not realising that within a matter of time they would receive a lethal dose from a hypothermic needle which would turn that happy life into a living hell of pain and suffering.

I am not talking about a few animals only. Let us consider the number of animals that are unnecessarily wasted at Porton Down. Between 1952 and 1970 at Porton Down alone—many experiments are carried out at other establishments on behalf of the scientists at Porton Down —1,000 monkeys, nearly 200,000 guinea pigs and 1.75 million mice were used in experiments. That is the magnitude of the problem. As with many other numbers that we are given by defence experts, we suspect that the numbers are kept low and are well short of the true figure.

In 1984, scientists admitted that 11,000 animals died at Porton Down as a result of experiments, the majority of which were the result of chemical experiments.

Why does that hideous place exist? I said that I would demonstrate that propaganda plays an important part in its existence. We live in the world of Winston Smith in George Orwell's "Nineteen Eighty-Four" and double speak. An attempt is made to convince us that wounding experiments are to learn about healing, when they are about mutilation. An attempt is made to convince us that chemical and biological weapon experiments are to learn about defence when they are really about offence. We are told that they are about protection, when they are really about killing. We are told that they are about armies, when they are really about civilians.

Mr. Keith Best (Ynys Môn)

Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Boyes

I shall give way in my own time, not when you lot want. Chemical weapons are not about armies. They will be aimed at unprotected civilians. There is all this nonsense about protective clothing, but there will be none for dock workers, those who work on airfields or for backup forces for those at the front. Innocent civilians will be the targets of chemical weapons, and there will be no protection for them, no matter how many animals die at Porton Down.

Mr. Best

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for giving way. I share his abhorrence of needless experimentation on animals. Can I offer an answer to his question about why there is a need for experimentation at places such as Porton Down and Winterbourne Gunner? As long as the Soviet Union has a massive chemical weapon capability down to basic unit level, which is being used in Afghanistan and elsewhere, and when the German civilian population has no protection, does he agree that there is a duty on any Government to try to provide the basic minimum of protection for troops when faced with aggression? The hon. Gentleman knows that Britain has no offensive chemical weapon capability.

Mr. Boyes

I can only conclude that the hon. Gentleman wanted to make that point and has not listened to a word that I said. I have just demonstrated that experiments at Porton Down have nothing to do with protecting the population or troops, but everything to do with conning people into believing that there is a defence against chemical weapons. We know that, as with nuclear weapons, there is no defence for the unprotected population. If man is so stupid as to launch chemical or nuclear weapons at others, he will suffer for his stupidity. That has nothing to do with the millions of animals that are tortured to death in the name of protecting man, when there is no protection.

Sheep, pigs, monkeys and many other animals are used in wounding experiments. In a journal called Injury, scientists at the chemical research establishment write: Anaesthetised rhesus monkeys were shot in the head to investigate the effects of injury. In the 20 experimental animals, a penetrating injury was inflicted by a steel ball with a diameter of 3.2 mm fired at a range of 5 to 10 m from a smooth barrel with an estimated impact velocity of 1,000 m per second. The animals survived from two to 169 minutes. After having part of their head blasted away from 5 m. Why? We learn more in one hour in a battlefield than from hundreds of thousands of such experiments. Another publication by NAVS says: Human beings and animals are physiologically different, so such tests can be irrelevant. Another document says: Doctors at the famous Royal Victoria Hospital in Belfast, who have to deal with the real victims of a continuing war, believe that Porton experiments are of no value to them in treating human patients. What is the purpose of these experiments if they have no value for human beings? Why has the Minister not said categorically and clearly that the Government will put an end to such nonsense? And what about the chemical and biological experiments? I shall refer to just two of them. All of the experiments are well documented. The Ministry of Defence says that it cannot provide the answers, for security reasons, but the results have been published. I shall quote only from material that has been published by the Porton Down scientists. On the protection of primates against soman poisoning by pretreatment with pyridostig-mine it is said that Rhesus monkeys were exposed to soman nerve gas in experiments designed to test an antidote. After a medium dose of soman, together with antidote, the animals became prostrate with violent convulsions. After 1-11 minutes they Lost consciousness, and breathing became slow, shallow and laboured and the animals appeared very close to death. After a high dose of soman the animals collapsed within a minute, with violent convulsions and laboured breathing. The animals surviving this stage regained consciousness after 10-30 minutes. The animals then made attempts to crawl about the cage but relapsed after about 1 hour and died. Are right hon. and hon. Members able to imagine the pain and suffering that those animals went through during the time taken by the experiments? Is it not obscene? Is there not something the matter with men who are prepared to carry out experiments of that kind on animals?

It has also been said about the use of cyanide gas on beagle dogs that Signs of laboured breathing were 'marked'. Four out of six dogs recovered after one hour but one suffered two grand-mal epileptiform seizures. The sixth dog died 44 minutes after injection of the cyanide. I asked a parliamentary question about this to discover whether any anaesthetic was given to the dogs to help them through this experiment. The Minister said that no anaesthetic was administered to them because the Ministry of Defence could not otherwise have carried out the experiments. Beagle dogs are being allowed to crawl around their cages in agony and to take 45 minutes to die.

For animals, Porton Down means torture, mutilation, agony and a slow, lingering death. For people, Porton Down means shame, disgust and degradation. However, as Donald Barnes, the distinguished United States of America scientist said, the more he looked back the more he realised that their greatest fear was that people would find out how animals were being treated and that they would take steps to correct it. I assure you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, that people are finding out and will initiate steps to ensure that neither Porton Down nor any other chemical defence establishment that treats animals in this way is allowed to continue to exist.

10.49 pm
Mr. John Ward (Poole)

I begin by paying my tribute to my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department. It is through his patience and persistence that this Bill has been introduced. As a member of the FRAME all-party parliamentary group I should also like to acknowledge the help that I and other hon. Members have received from the chairman of the trustees, Dr. Michael Balls, and its parliamentary consultant, Mr. Bill Annett. Their reasonable, practical and unexcited approach to a subject that is of great concern to so many hon. Members has been an example to all those who would influence the working of Parliament.

I freely acknowledge that this Bill will not satisfy all those who are concerned about animal welfare. Nothing less than a complete ban on animal experiments will satisfy certain groups of people. I am of that group which acknowledges, regrettably, that some animal experiments are still necessary to further the search for knowledge to alleviate human suffering. To those who give priority to the saving of human lives the FRAME goal of reducing the numbers of animals used, minimising their suffering and replacing them with alternatives where possible and as soon as possible, must surely be the right way forward.

I cannot ignore the statement sent to me by the United Kingdom Co-ordinating Committee on Cancer Research which said that almost all the significant advances in the control of cancer have at some point required experiments on animals. Concerned though I am at any suffering inflicted on animals, I support the Bill as a major and sensible step forward. There are one or two areas where I share the anxiety expressed to me by some of my constituents, many of whom support the main thrust of the Bill and yet seek reassurances, as I do, that every alternative is being explored. One of these areas is the Draize eye irritancy test and I understand that work on alternatives is already at an advanced stage. I hope that when the Bill reaches the Committee stage, as it surely will, there will be an examination to see whether the work on an alternative to the Draize test can be speeded up so that an alternative can be introduced at the earliest possible moment.

The other matter of great concern is the LD50 test. Other hon. Members have spoken about that. It has been said that the formal LD50 test is widely thought to be unscientific and wasteful of animal lives. Reference has been made to the LD50 limit test and I understand that the development of alternatives to this test is proceeding with all speed. I should like to be sure that the Committee gives positive encouragement to ensure that progress continues. I can find no better words to give my reasons for welcoming the Bill than those used in the joint statement issued by the British Veterinary Association, the Campaign for the Reform of Animal Experimentation and the Fund for the Replacement of Animals in Medical Experiments. The statement says, It is our belief that it represents the effective compromise between the welfare needs of animals, the legitimate demands of the principles for accountability and the equally legitimate requirements of medicine, science and commerce. Those words will capture the mood of the House. I hope the Bill has a speedy passage.

10.53 pm
Dr. M. S. Miller (East Kilbride)

I agree with the comments of my hon. Friend the Member for Houghton and Washington (Mr. Boyes) about the deliberate inflicting of wounds on animals for the purpose of discovering how people might react to warfare. That is where the line should be drawn in animal experiments. I am sure that the Minister, while he may have an opinion about the matter, realises that that is not within the scope of the Bill, and it is to the Bill that I wish to refer.

As a medical practitioner, my objective is to cure people. However, that objective should not include the unnecessary inflicting of pain upon any other species. But that is a secondary matter, and I do not start from the premise that we must reduce the number of experiments on animals. I should like the number to be reduced, but that is not my main objective. My main objective is to try to cure many of the illnesses which afflict us.

I understand the moral and ethical objections to the use of animals in experiments, though there are such objections to eating the flesh of animals, and anyone who opposes scientific research on animals surely must be a vegetarian. We who believe that experiments on animals are necessary cannot persuade those who believe that animals should be treated in the same way as humans, and there is little point in trying to reason with such people.

There is not one hon. Member who has not benefited from animals experimentation, whether in the anaesthetic given for the removal of a tooth or in the injections or tablets that we are given before making a trip abroad. In the process of being born, everyone has benefited from animal experimentation.

We have to decide whether, on balance, experiments on animals are defensible. That decision must not be made by those who object to the use of animals; it must be made by people who agree that animal experimentation is necessary. The Government have no alternative but to listen to the views of those who are trying to cure our people.

The right hon. Member for Castle Point (Sir B. Braine) said that it was not up to us to make such decisions. But it is. We often have to take such decisions, and I strongly oppose tying the hands of people who want to do everything that they can to cure diseases.

Of course there are other ways of experimenting. One can experiment with tissue culture or cells, but eventually it is essential to test drugs on animals. More than 80 per cent. of the animals used in experiments are rats or mice, and we do not usually hesitate to get rid of them by any possible means. A cell in a test tube or tissue in a dish does not react in the same way as cells in the body, which contain triggers that tell us whether a drug will work or will bring us out in a rash or whatever. That can be detected only by introducing a drug into an animal, whether by injection or by ingestion.

Mr. Boyes

I hesitate to be critical of the doctor who cured the pain in my arm, but I ask my hon. Friend to reflect on one point. Let us assume that his analysis is correct. One of the problems is that most drugs are made by profit-making concerns, which need to make a massive profit. Therefore, the same experiments are conducted on animals in thousands of laboratories throughout the world. Would it not be helpful if each of these laboratories exchanged information, because millions of animals would be saved from suffering in that way alone?

Dr. Miller

That argument bears careful consideration. However, it does not impinge on the moral aspect of whether experimentation on animals is permissible. I agree that if there are ways to cut down on the number of animals used we should use them, and that would be one way. However, there would be a problem, because not all the drugs about which my hon. Friend is talking are the same. There are subtle differences, as my hon. Friend will know if he takes medicines. Nowadays, particularly with computerisation, many doctors and general practitioners feed information on side effects into a computer so that information can be gathered centrally. That means that it is necessary for minor variations to be made in drugs.

I assure my hon. Friend the Member for Houghton and Washington that I have no interest in drug companies. I am not employed by them and do not hold a candle for them. However, they are doing a good job, and if there are ways to reduce the number of animals used, I am sure that they would want to use them, because animals are expensive.

The right hon. Member for Castle Point spoke about cosmetics, and that word is difficult to define. It means not only the products used for beautifying purposes, but those used to help, for example, the woman who has had a nasty operation on her neck, leaving a scar. The cosmetic that she needs to cover it needs to be tried out on animals. One cannot then jump to the conclusion that if the product is manufactured for so-called beauty purposes it should not be tested on animals, because it has to be. All products such as baby powder and skin lotions have to be tested on animals.

I am not making a plea for increasing the number of experiments, but we should look at the thing in balance. As has been said, we do not treat animals in exactly the same way as we treat human beings. If we have a dog or cat that has outlived the possibility of continuing its existence without pain, we have no hesitation in taking that animal to the vet to be put down. The RSPCA disposes of 150,000 dogs a year. Hon. Members say that constituents protest to them about cruelty to animals, but who is it other than their constituents who caused such cruelty to animals that 150,000 of them are thrown into the streets and have to be disposed of by the RSPCA?

I commend the Bill, which ties up a number of loose ends. It is not small. It has 30 clauses which contain much potential for tough argument. However, it shows a step towards progress in conjunction with the people who are doing the exprimentation. Unless we have good reason, it is not up to us to stultify this further development in medicine.

The right hon. Member for Castle Point says that he opposes experimentation which is not for medical purposes. Most experimentation is for medical or related purposes. I should hate to think that we would prevent the continuation of work to cure the diseases from which human beings suffer. There are two or more main groups of diseases—cardiovascular and cancer. Nothing should be put in the way of attempts to cure them.

Some hon. Members have referred to experimental surgery. I know at least two hon. Friends who would not be here without such experimentation. They have had serious open heart surgery, and no doubt other hon. Members or their relatives have had the same experience. Such operations could not be attempted without experiments on animals. We would fail in our duty as responsible legislators if we put obstacles in the way of further progress.

11.7 pm

Miss Janet Fookes (Plymouth, Drake)

My right hon. Friend the Home Secretary said that the 1876 Act had served a useful purpose for many years. I differ from him on that. Those of us interested in animal welfare have been seeking for a long time to remove that Act from the statute book and to introduce a new one. It has been defective since well before I entered the House.

I recall in 1973 introducing a private Member's motion in which I called for an updating of the 1876 Act. One can see how long it takes for a Government to be prepared to take up such a difficult issue.

Successive Governments of both political complexions have dodged the issue. It has taken this Government some courage to come forward with a Bill. I suspect that had it not been for the personal commitment and drive of the Under-Secretary of State we should not be debating the Second Reading tonight.

Having waited so long, I am disappointed at the uneven standard of debate. In particular I thought that the contribution by the alliance was singularly disappointing. It was a string of ill-considered cliches with no coherent alternative. If that was a sample of the policy—making of that body, heaven help us if it ever comes to power. Its intention was to break the mould of British politics. I prefer to keep our traditional mould.

The key issue is the pain and suffering of an animal and how far the Bill prevents that pain and suffering. I have experienced a major disappointment in that the Government have not taken up the suggestion of the RSPCA—with which I am closely associated, as hon. Members know — for what it calls a no-pain clause, which would prohibit pain and suffering to any animal. It was probably too much to hope that that would be incorporated in any Bill. Setting aside that disappointment, the Bill provides a reasonable framework within which to go forward.

Two approaches could have been adopted. First, to name specific procedures that should be banned—and hon. Members have cited many examples, such as the LD50 test, the Draize eye irritancy test, cosmetic experiments and so on. The second approach, adopted by my hon. Friend the Minister, was to draw up far tighter controls, but without naming specific procedures to be prohibited. I can see at once the attraction of singling out particularly obnoxious tests and banning them. On the other hand, we must recognise the perils of that procedure. When drawing up a Bill we must be very precise in legal definitions. Most of the tests defy such definition. Scientific procedures and work move at a very fast pace. I suspect that any attempt to make such definitions, even by means of orders attached to Bills, would never keep up with the pace of scientific progress. We would always find certain experiments of which we disapproved not included in the Bill or any attachment to it.

Provided that there is good will by the Secretary of State of the day, the present approach is the one more likely to stand the test of time. Frankly, if we are going on precedent, it will be 109 or 110 years before there is another Bill. Therefore, it behoves us to try to get it right.

Much will depend on the way in which the Bill is interpreted. The code of practice is extremely important. Like my right hon. Friend the Member for Castle Point (Sir B. Braine), I am a little concerned that we have not all that long had a code of practice. I recognise the Government's difficulty in presenting this to us. I am sure that there will be ample opportunity in the remaining stages of the Bill to consider that key point closely.

I wish to raise only a few specific points, as I realise that many hon. Members wish to speak. There is the issue of suffering that can be labelled substantial. Where there is a likelihood of that, any application should go automatically to the new advisory committee—or, at the very least, to outside assessors. As I understand the Bill, that could happen; I believe that it should be mandatory on the Home Secretary so to refer it and not to leave it to the Home Office inspector and then a rubber stamp by the Home Secretary.

In the code of practice there should be a requirement that at all times alternatives should be sought. I understand that, under the Bill, that may be one of the conditions attached to a licence. No experiment should be allowed unless those making the application have definitely investigated whether there is a possible alternative. I hope that that provision may be strengthened in Committee.

I also hope that the methods of killing which are set out in an appendix to the Bill will be looked at again and expert veterinary advice taken, because I am not sure that they are absolutely right and I am sure that my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary would wish to see that the best professional advice is given in setting out what methods of euthanasia are to be employed with these animals.

Will my hon. Friend clarify the position about registered breeders and suppliers of laboratory animals when he replies? Will animals be specially bred for the purpose, something which the RSPCA is particularly keen on, and which would definitely cut out the possibility of stolen pets being used? Unless that is the case, it would presumably be possible for stolen animals to find their way to a registered breeder or supplier.

There were some ill-judged criticisms of the new advisory committee. I know several welfare members of the existing advisory committee. They have assured me that they are not drawn up in serried ranks of welfarists and scientists in opposition to one another. They work together as individuals. The personal testimony of people such as Dr. Judith Hampson from the RSPCA and Mr. Clive Hollands, whose name has also been mentioned several times, is that that is a useful and worthwhile committee which is looking at the interests of animals and furthering that. I see no reason why the new committee should not do an equally, if not better, job.

One gap in the Bill worries me. It is wrong that the Bill does not provide for compulsory animal welfare training for those who will carry out experiments, whether the scientific people of the top rank or the technicians, before they are allowed to do so.

I see that fees are to be incorporated in the applications. I see no reason why those fees, instead of going into the greedy jaws of the Treasury, should not be diverted for the running of training courses. I urge my hon. Friend to look closely at that aspect of the matter because there is no way in which policing, however good, can entirely replace the commitment of those engaged in experiments day by day. If they are taught to have a far greater respect and concern for animals that will do more good than any number of Home Office inspectors. That is a point on which I want to lay considerable stress tonight.

The issue of experiment duplication has been raised. I appreciate the practical dificulties, but I hope that it will be possible in the new set-up to try to ensure that duplication does not take place. Perhaps it could be a condition of the licence that the licensee should have searched around to see whether there was any relevant experience that could be used without duplicating the experiment. I put that forward for my hon. Friend's consideration.

Will the code of practice be along the lines of the "Highway Code" or is it of some other legal significance? So much will depend on what goes into that code of practice that it is important that we know precisely where we stand on that point.

There has been criticism of the Bill on the ground that the title—Animals (Scientific Procedures) Bill—is not especially clear to the general public. Why is it not possible to have a title that more adequately reflects what we are seeking to do? We are concerned with the welfare of animals used in scientific experiments. I suggest that the Bill's title should more adequately represent its purposes.

It will be apparent that, although I am disappointed about the scope of the Bill, I believe that it provides a reasonable framework and that, given determination by successive Secretaries of State, there will be an improvement in the lot of animals. It is in that spirit that I welcome the Bill and hope that it is given a Second Reading.

11.20 pm
Mr. Andrew Bowden (Brighton, Kemptown)

I have been involved with animal welfare all my life. I must declare an interest in that I have three West Highland terriers, named Tammy Hansard, Speaker Hansard and Ben Hansard.

I am a member of the executive of the Campaign for the Reform of Animal Experimentation. I should like to add my tribute to Lord Houghton for his tremendous work over so many years. It has been a privilege to serve under his wise and steady leadership.

No hon. Member looks forward more than I do to the day when animals are no longer used in experiments for so-called scientific purposes. In the past 110 years, tens of millions of animals have suffered and died. It is a disgrace that animal welfare in general and the Cruelty to Animals Act 1876 in particular have been untouched for so long.

Hon. Members have asked whether the Bill goes far enough. Many wish that it would go considerably further. Those of us who have the opportunity to serve on the Standing Committee will want to look in great detail at a number of issues to ascertain whether it will be possible to strengthen the Bill, especially in relation to the LD50 test, the Draize eye test and other tests. All hon. Members should ask themselves when deciding how to vote on Second Reading whether the Bill will lead to a reduction in the number of animals used in experiments. There can be doubt that the legislation will not move quickly enough but I am confident that, even if it is not strengthened in Committee, as I hope it will be, there is a strong chance that, within 10 years, the number of experiments will have been reduced by up to 50 per cent.

There is no doubt that the Bill will greatly strengthen research into alternatives. It will increase public awareness which, in turn, will put further pressure on those who would look for further alternatives. It will mean greater parliamentary accountability, as there will be many more opportunities for hon. Members in this Parliament and in Parliaments to come to question Home Office Ministers and to discuss the Bill's operations and effects. In those areas the Bill is really breaking new ground.

The introduction of a new form of individual project licence, compared with licences for individuals carrying out research must have an excellent long term effect. The controls on premises in which experiments take place and the controls on breeding establishments will all lead us down the path of helping to reduce the number of experiments. When the Bill becomes an Act, it will put tremendous responsibility on the Home Secretary and the Ministers at the Home Office. They will have to ensure that the letter of the Act, as it will then be, and the spirit behind it are fully operated.

I briefly want to refer to the mobilisation group. I know that many members of the mobilisation group are sincere and dedicated in their wish to reduce suffering to animals. However, it is being unrealistic in saying to hon. Members and the country that unless all its objectives can be achieved overnight there should be no changes. I think that that would be a disaster because we know that there is no prospect whatsoever of a Bill which will stop all experiments overnight becoming law in this Parliamentary Session or in any foreseeable Parliamentary Session. I understand and respect the sincerity of the mobilisation group, but I believe that its tactics are wrong.

I totally condemn the extremist groups which go way beyond the mobilisation group and are prepared to use violence. The actions of such groups will, sooner or later, lead to the death of individuals because they are much more concerned with creating anarchy and chaos than helping animals. I hope that everyone in the House will totally disassociate themselves from that complete lunatic, extremist and anarchist fringe.

Mr. Martin Flannery (Sheffield, Hillsborough)

Does the hon. Gentleman not realise that many of us who are staying for the debate realise that we will be defeated? We want the caution to be put on record that we profoundly believe that a great deal more has to be done. We want to place that clearly on the record for everyone to know.

Mr. Bowden

Of course, Mr. Deputy Speaker, it is the right of every hon. Member when he catches your eye, to put matters on the record. That is what hon. Members on both sides of the House have been doing. That was not my point. I was talking about the groups that want to destroy democracy and cause anarchy and chaos and use methods of violence. That does not refer to the hon. Gentleman or anybody who has spoken in the debate, so I am afraid that I do not understand his point. There has been an opportunity for all points of view to be expressed.

I think that my final point provides a warning to Parliament. The MORI poll in 1984 centred on the moral issue of this subject. I think it is significant that 53 per cent. of the people asked thought that it was morally wrong to kill or cause pain to animals in any sort of experiment and only 36 per cent. said that it was morally right. I shall not comment further on those figures, but it is something that Parliament must not ignore. The House, through the Home Office, will have a vital role in ensuring that when the Bill beomes an Act, it operates effectively and leads to a progressive reduction in all types of experiment on animals.

11.29 pm
Mrs. Ann Winterton (Congleton)

The Bill and its associated guidelines break new ground in requiring the Secretary of State and his inspectorate to award an individual project licence for each experiment, which imposes specific conditions on the licence holder and requires each experiment to be justified. That is in addition to the present requirement that all individuals carrying out research work should be the holder of a personal licence granted by the Secretary of State.

The Bill also controls the premises on which procedures are carried out and includes for the first time the breeding and supply establishments. This point has been raised many times in the debate. I should like to bury the myth that there are body snatchers who collect pets from the streets to experiment on them, because most of the experimentation is done on specially bred animals, because they have to be disease-free, and their breeding and pedigree have to be right for the job to be done correctly. Therefore, it is a myth that there are people going around collecting granny's pet cat or Uncle Bob's little dog. It does not happen in this day and age. Experimentation is an expensive process, and to obtain correct results the right animal has to be used. Such animals are specially bred. I welcome the provision in the Bill that those establishments should be licensed.

The Bill also establishes a new statutory animal procedures committee to advise the Secretary of State. Many hon. Members have commented on the make-up of that committee.

In seeking to bring up to date the law on animal experimentation, the Bill has widespread support and strikes the necessary balance to ensure that the welfare of animals used in experiments is safeguarded, while it ensures that necessary research for the health, welfare and safety of people living in the United Kingdom can continue.

Research benefits not only human beings but other animals, including domestic pets, farm animals and bloodstock. The need for continuing medical. and pharmaceutical research is obvious. Many hon. Members have spoken of the medicines that have been developed to control, for example, epilepsy, asthma and diabetes. Vaccines can now prevent polio and diphtheria. Smallpox has been wiped out. Medicines can treat many heart diseases and cancers, not only prolonging life and controlling pain, but improving the quality of what little life is left to those who are suffering from terminal illness.

All that could not have been achieved without research on animals. Furthermore, any potential new medicine must be tested to see whether it is likely to work on human patients and to ascertain whether any serious risks to patients could be predicted. The Medicines Act 1968 demands that adequate safety testing be conducted on animals; for example, nearly 90 per cent. of ICI's usage of animals is for medicines research and safety testing, the remainder being for other consumer and industrial chemicals, which is also demanded by the law. The minimum number of animals is used, and since 1977 ICI has achieved a reduction of 50 per cent. in the numbers used. That is a notable fact, because it is despite an increase in the amount of research and safety testing.

Nationally, I believe that the number of experiments has come down from 5.5 million in the mid-1970s to 300 million last year—

Dr. M. S. Miller

It is 3.5 million.

Mrs. Winterton

The hon. Gentleman corrects me—it was 3.5 million last year.

That reduction in the number of experiments is very much to be welcomed, but they can never be wiped out. There must always be some experimentation on animals because there is no possible alternative. Although much money is being put into research into viable alternatives, at the end of the day there will always need to be experimentation on animals.

As a result of the Bill, if it passes through the House, there will be an increase in the number of experiments reported in Government statistics because of the different way of collating those statistics. As a result of the further safeguards in the Bill, there will be a need for the inspectorate to be strengthened. I welcome the announcement that apparently six more inspectors are to be appointed fairly soon. Much will rest on the shoulders of the inspectors, who must interpret the intentions laid down in the Bill, with the help of the notes for guidance and the codes of practice.

I represent a constituency in which the employees of four major pharmaceutical companies live and where the chemical industry is an important employer. Some of my constituents work at ICI at Alderley Park, some at Fisons at Holmes Chapel, some for Wellcome at Crewe Hall, and some for Ciba Geigy at Wilmslow. Knowing that the legislation would come before the House, I inspected all of the animal laboratories in which my constituents work. I assure the House that the animals which I saw that are being experimented upon are kept in the most controlled conditions and are extremely well cared for. I praise the young technicians who look after those animals, who have their best interests at heart and who are caring people. Often they get a bad press, and it should be put on the record that they do a splendid job.

I have no hesitation in supporting the Bill wholeheartedly, for the simple reason that it is an eminently reasonable measure which balances the proven need for continued research to benefit man and animals with the need to have sensible safeguards for the welfare of the animals that are involved in experimentation.

11.36 pm
Mr. Michael Meadowcroft (Leeds, West)

Listening to the debate for four hours has demonstrated to me that it is not a party political issue. In commending the Secretary of State and the Minister on introducing the Bill, may I say that clearly hon. Members on both sides of the House take different views from those prevailing in their parties. Any Bill that can bring into the same camp the right hon. Member for Castle Point (Sir B. Braine) and the hon. Member for Leyton (Mr. Cohen) does a remarkable service to the processes of the House.

I had expected to agree with the speech of the hon. Member for Leyton much more than I did, and in some respects, his speech was counterproductive. He portrayed the failing which in such issues it is difficult to avoid, and that is stating a subjective view as though it was an objective fact. It is extremely difficult to get away from stating what one believes firmly is one's opinion as though it was a scientifically proved fact. I do not believe that any hon. Member would wish to do other than to minimise the experiments that are conducted on animals, and I do not believe that anyone who takes part in the debate has an ulterior motive. It is crucial to accept people's bona fides.

The question to be asked in the debate is, where do we draw the line? I agree with almost all the arguments of the hon. Member for Plymouth, Drake (Miss Fookes), but I would come to a different conclusion on what the Bill will do and, therefore, what I shall do in the Lobby tonight, if there is a Division.

There is no doubt that a minority of people believe that humans have no right to use any animals for any research. I respect that view. Indeed, many of those people carry their beliefs into what they eat and wear. But it is a minority view, and I reject it, because I cannot accept such an absolute view. It is difficult to sustain logically. For example, although the hon. Member for Leyton opposes hunting for genuine principles, he would allow fishing. We cannot determine whether fish feel pain, any more than we can determine whether any animal feels pain intrinsically. It is impossible to maintain the principle consistently, and it is interesting to note that such differences appeared on both sides of the debate.

There is a hierarchy of response from animals, and sometimes there is a problem, taking the anthromorphic view of the matter, of trying to put oneself in the place of animals to determine the mental consciousness of an animal as though it were a human. It is difficult to do that. However, the difficulty that must be faced—I accept that the Minister and those who introduced the Bill faced it conscientiously—is that, because as humans we have power, we hold the animal world in trust and have a sensitive responsibility to exercise that trust with great care. In some cases, and with strict safeguards, experiments are valid.

The majority of the people interested in animal welfare oppose the Bill. I do not agree with the hon. Member for Poole (Mr. Ward), who said that the animal welfare lobbies will never be satisfied until all experiments are done away with. My experience from talking to the people who came to give their views on the Bill was that they looked forward to the White Paper and the Bill, hoping that it would improve the Cruelty to Animals Act 1876. It is their opinion—it is one of which I am persuaded—that although there was a need for further legislation, the Bill has not materially improved that Act with regard to the protection of animals. That is why those people are disappointed with the Bill. They believe that it does not go far enough towards protecting and providing safeguards for animals.

There is one aspect of this matter which goes through all our medicine and our view of it. It is that too much emphasis is placed on curative rather than preventive medicine. All the experiments are to do with cure rather than prevention. If many of the resources that are devoted to cure were devoted to prevention, the need to use animals in experiments would be minimised. Such an approach would be an advantage.

I agree with the hon. Member for Richmond and Barnes (Mr. Hanley), who intervened and took an early bath in this debate. He said that he did not believe that the Bill would reduce the number of experiments. One of the key features is that the Bill fails to stress the need to search for alternatives to animal research. The Bill dodges that point. The nub of the Bill may be where it says that no licence will be given unless no animal can be substituted for the higher animals listed in the clause. If the clause provided that the licence should not be given unless there was no substitute—not necessarily animal—it would have been far more acceptable and would have put the emphasis where it should lie. The Bill does not do that.

We should study the alternatives, some of which have been mentioned. I accept the expertise of the hon. Member for East Kilbride (Dr. Miller), but there is a contrary view which suggests that more experiments could effectively be done on human tissue.

Mr. Mellor

I should not want the hon. Gentleman to be under any illusions, because when applying for a project licence all applicants will have to declare that they have considered alternatives to the use of live animals and have rejected them on good grounds. There is a new power for us to say that we are not satisfied that the applicants have properly considered the alternatives or we believe that an alternative to the use of live animals exists, and a project licence will not be granted however competent the applicants may otherwise seem to be.

Mr. Meadowcroft

I am grateful to the Minister, but I should like to know whether the view he has expressed will be given the force of law and will be included in the Bill. Perhaps the Minister can deal what that point when he replies. That is the crucial point. It is no good saying that that is the intention — there may be a code of conduct—because the Bill does not say that.

A further point about alternatives is important. It has been said by experts that the use of human tissue culture could have predicted the results of thalidomide. That is perhaps something that should be studied carefully. Those who seek alternatives suggest that if we were interested in providing the means for microvascular surgery practice and in perfecting that technique, the use of human placenta, which is usually discarded, could provide an opportunity. The use of quantum pharmacology to predict the harmful effect of drugs could be emphasised more. Some hon. Members have mentioned the possibility of using more computer simulation of the effects of drugs. Those are all matters that could have been made the Bill's main emphasis.

Another objection which has been prayed and which I accept is that the subject of the repetition of experiments has not been spelt out adequately. It is one of the features of the Bill which is less favourable to the protection of animals than the 1876 Act. There is a problem which the Minister will find difficult to redress in Committee if the Bill receives a Second Reading. I refer to cosmetics. Of course cosmetics should be tested if people might suffer disfiguring scars, but whereas the large majority of people would accept the need for animal experimentation to try to find cures for some desperate human illnesses, they would consider that need less imperative when it comes to cosmetics. That should be addressed far more.

I find it repugnant that using animals to test wounding by weapons is not outlawed by the Bill. My noble Friend Lord Airedale moved an amendment to that end in another place on 12 December, but it was not proceeded with and the Minister put the case for continuing with such testing.

This is a desperately emotive subject and hon. Members have rightly put their cases quite emotionally. I would find many aspects of experimentation repugnant, but that is not a basis for legislation. I might not want to benefit from much of the research, but the question is whether I should deny others the benefit of it. It is not possible to take an absolute stance. It is a matter of balance and judgment. My judgment is that the Bill is inadequate. If it receives a Second Reading, I hope that it is substantially amended in Committee, but I doubt it. I have read carefully the Official Report of another place. My noble Friends there proposed 18 amendments, but they were not proceeded with. However strenuously we try to improve the Bill, it will remain defective in many respects, so I hope that my hon. Friends will vote against it.

11.46 pm
Mr. Roger Gale (Thanet, North)

Much earlier in the evening, the hon. Member for Leyton (Mr. Cohen) mentioned an early-day motion, to which an amendment has been tabled. He also mentioned an amendment to the motion before us. At the risk of taking a little of the House's time, I think that it is important to answer some of the questions that have been asked.

I should like, first, to put the early-day motion and the amendment to it on the record. The early-day motion reads: That this House rejects the Government's Animals (Scientific Procedures) Bill as totally inadequate to protect animals from unnecessary experiments that are known to be taking place in British laboratories; and calls for any legislation which replaces the Cruelty to Animals Act 1876 to include the following basic minimum requirements: (a) a ban on cosmetic, tobacco and alcohol experiments, (b) a ban on the Draize eye irritancy test, (c) a ban on the L.D.50 poisoning test, (d) a ban on behavioural-psychological experiments, and (e) a ban on warfare experiments and the reconstitution of the Home Secretary's Advisory Committee on Animal Experimentation, to exclude those who have a vested interest in the continuation of animal experiments. The amendment, which was tabled in my name and those of members of the all-party parliamentary group for FRAME and others, reads: this House welcomes the Government's Animals (Scientific Procedures) Bill [Lords]; congratulates the Home Office on introducing long-overdue legislation that will both meet immediate needs and permit the replacement of all animals used in scientific experiments as this, through research, becomes possible; notes that the Bill had wide all-party support during its passage through the House of Lords and believes that there would be no morality whatsoever in any legislation that led to the unilateral banning, in the United Kingdom, of research which would then certainly be carried out under less satisfactory controls, and with greater harm to animals, in other parts of the world.

The early-day motion and the amendment epitomise the argument. I doubt whether any hon. Member who has been in the Chamber today does not want an end to all animal experiments. The debate is about how to achieve that end, and how to achieve it worldwide. The hon. Member for Leyton has a sincerely held view. He has tabled an early-day motion, an amendment to the Second Reading motion and introduced a Bill under the 10-minute Bill procedure. However, I believe that he is wrong. I do not share his views.

I respect also the views of my right hon. Friend the Member for Castle Point (Sir B. Braine), even though I do not share all of them.

The motion is based on the demands by Mobilisation for laboratory animals. Mobilisation says: In our view there can be no ethical justification for exposing any sentient and unconsenting individual to suffering, or risk of suffering, when the only benefit would be to others. In other words, Mobilisation would ban research completely. In doing so it would ban research, and the results of that research, into cancer, continuing research into Parkinson's disease, research into senile dementia, which was referred to by the hon. Member for Birmingham, Erdington (Mr. Corbett), research into AIDS, which was mentioned by my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary, and countless other pieces of medical research that are designed to benefit human beings. I believe that these programmes are important.

I shall answer as quickly as I possibly can Mobilisation's queries—I can put it no higher than that —about the Bill. I intend to deal first with cosmetics. My right hon. Friend the Home Secretary said that only one half of 1 per cent. of all animals used in experiments are used in cosmetic experimentation. That figure is correct, but one experiment is one too many if it is unnecessary. Cosmetics are an emotive issue. It is important for the House to understand that we are referring not just to lipstick and eyeshadow. I ran quickly through a shopping list of the kind of cosmetics that a man uses during the course of one day. They include toothpaste, mouthwash, soap, shampoo and conditioner, shaving soap, an antiseptic pencil, perhaps, deodorant, hair dressing, aftershave, detergent and other household goods. All of these products are tested upon animals. To those products can be added the gum on the back of envelopes. That is also a tested product.

Would any hon. Member or any member of the public go to a store and buy a product that was labelled, "This product has not been properly tested"? I discussed this subject with a manufacturer of household goods. He informed me that his company, which I shall not name, had been testing a shampoo on live rabbits three years ago. They did no more than shampoo the rabbits, which in due course gave birth to malformed progeny. It is not altogether surprising that that product development was dropped there and then. I should like to know which right hon. or hon. Member would be prepared to subject his or her children to that kind of untested product.

The thalidomide case is often wrongly quoted. It is said, "But testing did not prevent thalidomide, did it?" No, it did not, because until the thalidomide case, products were not tested on pregnant mammals. As a result of the thalidomide case, they now are.

The other argument is that there are already enough products on the market. During the last 20 years the cosmetic side of the industry has developed fluoride toothpaste, which in some areas has reduced the incidence of caries by up to 50 per cent. Sunscreens, including those which are incorporated in all National Health Service approved camouflage creams, non-irritant vaginal anti-perspirants, anti-dandruff shampoo and anti-plaque agents are all cosmetic.

I suggest that those products will be developed either in the United Kingdom or elsewhere. I would prefer those products to be developed in this country, under the stringent controls that we apply, rather than elsewhere under less stringent controls. That is why our early-day motion says: There would be no morality whatsoever in any legislation that led to the unilateral banning in the United Kingdom of research which would then certainly be carried out under less satisfactory controls, and with greater harm to animals, in other parts of the world.

Mobilisation refers to the Draize eye test. Much work has been done on acceptable alternatives, which work is now well advanced. It is likely that the Draize eye test will be obsolete in the foreseeable future. The legislation that is before the House tonight takes account of that. As and when the Draize eye test becomes fully obsolete, the Secretary of State will be able to introduce regulations against it.

Many of the potential causes of eye injury are now determined from databank information. The hon. Member for Houghton and Washington (Mr. Boyes) asked why more databank information could not be used. My hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State made available a sum of money through FRAME in the middle of last year to establish three programmes, one of which was to set up a databank for exactly that purpose, to obviate yet more unnecessary animal experiments. The doses used in the Draize eye test were chosen to produce mild responses. I have given one of the results produced from experimentation with shampoo.

Another argument used is that there are products on the market that have not been tested on animals. But are there? We do not usually produce exhibits in the House, but I have to do so in order to read the label. It is a product labelled, "Peach conditioning Cream Shampoo, Pure plant products." On the cap is a red sticker which says, "Produced without cruelty to animals." If analysed, the product would, I believe, be found to contain amine alkyl sulphate, which is a synthetic surfactant material, ethylene glycol monosterate, and ethylene glycol distearate. These ingredients are not of pure plant origin, and they have been tested on animals.

I am sure that the manufacturers of that shampoo made their claim in good faith but that the shampoo itself has not been tested on live animals. I do not know of a product containing detergent that has not at some point been tested on live animals, and I challenge anybody on the Government or on the Opposition Benches to produce such a product. There is an organisation called Beauty without Cruelty which claims to be able to purvey such products. I would like to see one, and I would have the product analysed to find out what was in it. I have given the House the results of one such analysis. The LD50 test has also been mentioned. Should we ban the LD50 test, or the LD49, or the LD48, or should we ban toxicity testing altogether? In asking for a ban on the LD50 test, that is what one is asking for. Hon. Members have mentioned the difference between drugs and cosmetics, and some hon. Members have sought to distinguish between the rightness and wrongness of experimenting for the purpose of creating life saving drugs and for the purpose of creating cosmetics.

Sir Dudley Smith

I am listening with great interest to what my hon. Friend is saying, and I support what he says. Is he aware that over the years a number of pharmaceutical researchers have discovered excellent drugs which had the potential to be great lifesavers, but because of their toxicity they had to be abandoned, and the only possible way they could be tested was by animal experimentation?

Mr. Gale

My hon. Friend is right about drugs and what he says also applies to household goods and ordinary cosmetics. If toxic, an ordinary lipstick left around the house could be eaten by a child. At present there are no adequate test tube toxicity tests. Organisations like the Fund for the Replacement of Animals in Medical Experiments, Mobilisation and other organisations are working towards that end.

The International Fund for Animal Welfare has proposed that A project licence shall not be granted for the purpose of ascertaining the lethal dose which kills 50 per cent. (or some other percentage) of the subject animals. In effect, that means no toxicity testing. It is generally accepted that the traditional LD50 test is of some value. I had a meeting with representatives of Mobilisation last week. Significantly, no amendment to this portion of the Bill was introduced in another place, and that could well be because one is difficult to devise. I have asked Mobilisation if it can draft an amendment for the Committee stage of the Bill. If it does so, I would like to consider it carefully. The Minister has considered every other submission very carefully and I do not doubt that he would be equally prepared to consider such an amendment.

If Mobilisation does that, it will have to take into account a number of regulations. Article 2 of Council directive 76/768/EEC, and regulation 5 of the Cosmetic Products (Safety) Regulations 1984 provide that cosmetic products, which include toiletries, protective and decorative cosmetics and perfumes, put on the market within the EEC must not be liable to cause damage to human health when applied under normal conditions of use. Directives 78/45/EEC and 85/374/EEC say the same, and directive 79/831/EEC requires producers to test all new substances. One can add to that list regulations under the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974 and those of the Committee on Safety of Medicines, the World Health Organisation and various other bodies. Before Mobilisation comes up with an amendment, it will have to satisfy all those national and international regulations.

Behavioural and psychological experiments have been mentioned. The International Fund for Animal Welfare says: A project licence should not be granted for behavioural studies designed to reveal information not for use in the treatment of disease in human beings The fund at least recognises some uses; for example, in the development of treatment for schizophrenia, for geriatric medicine, and for senile dementia, but it does not recognise the potential use in animal medicine.

Many hon. Members have expressed worry about aversion stimuli, deprivation and aggression tests. We recognise that there is a need for reform in that area, but the nature of the Bill allows us to study that and allows the Secretary of State to legislate thereafter.

The hon. Member for Houghton and Washington referred to warfare experiments. I have visited Porton Down, and I saw many of the experiments taking place there. Between 1980 and 1984 a total of 190 animals were used in wounding experiments. I know of no beagles being used at Porton Down. I know of beagles that are bred there and supplied to the DHSS for drug testing.

As far as I am aware, no weapons testing of any kind is carried out at Porton Down. I and those who came with me to view the establishment were given as free a run of the place as may be had outside sterile laboratory conditions, and when we were not able to enter premises we were, wherever possible, able to view the laboratories through windows. While I and, no doubt, many other hon. Members do not like this aspect of the work, the research carried out on behalf of our armed forces is every bit as legitimate medical research as is any other programme carried out in any laboratory in this or any other country.

Mobilisation says that the Home Secretary's advisory committee should comprise: Persons who, whilst having knowledge of the subject … have no vested interest whatsoever in the use of animals for research purposes … Only if the committee is constituted fairly will there be any chance of reasonable recommendations being made for the benefit of laboratory animals". Fair composition? That would rule out Dr. Michael Balls, the chairman of the trustees of FRAME, who has contributed so much to the Bill, but who, like most medical practitioners, has carried out animal experimentation. Is it right that people with experience should be excluded from serving on the committee? That is exactly the sort of person that we need on the committee.

No Bill is perfect, and amendments will be tabled to this measure. Mobilisation says: 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". I shall not propose an amendment to permit the re-use of animals, but I should like to know why Mobilisation, my right hon. Friend the Member for Castle Point or anyone else wishes to condemn yet more animals to death when some could be re-used and thus save others. Perhaps when they have thought about that, they, rather than I, might like to table an amendment.

I entirely agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Plymouth, Drake (Miss Fookes) and others who have referred to the fact that a project licence will not be granted unless the Secretary of State is satisfied that full consideration has been given to all the alternatives, and that the use of animals is the only viable way to achieve the necessary purpose. I hope and believe that my hon. Friend the Minister will consider that, and accept an amendment to the Bill.

FRAME seeks alternatives that will obviate the need for all animal experiments world wide. In the interim, the Bill will result in the immediate strengthening of the controls, as all use of laboratory animals will have to be justified. It will provide a basis for continuing reform in the years to come, without the need for further legislation. That is why, in the early-day motion, we say that this is a Bill that will both meet immediate needs and permit the replacement of all animals used in scientific experiments as this, through research, becomes possible". That is why, together with the British Veterinary Association, the Committee for the reform of Animal Experimentation and now hon. Members of all parties in the other place, we wholeheartedly support the Bill.

12.5 am

Mr. Steve Norris (Oxford, East)

It has been said by several hon. Members on both sides of the House that the real test of the efficacy of the Bill is whether fewer animals are used after its passage than are used now, and whether those animals that are used are not caused unnecessary suffering.

I have listened with interest to what has so far been a patchy debate. At the end of it, I cannot help being immensely disappointed that after 100 years absence of any reform of the 1876 Act, we are still disputing whether the Bill will reduce the number of experiments. There has been a statement by the director of the Research Defence Society that he cannot think of one experiment that is permitted before the Bill that will not be permitted after it has become law. That is challengeable, but it is regrettable that, having got this far, and with such a great delay since the last substantive legislation, we are still arguing whether there will be a material difference in the number of animals experimented on.

I cannot think of any other endeavour where so little progress would be so widely accepted in the extraordinary bipartisan atmosphere that we have seen tonight. I trust that hon. Members will accept that some of the reservations about the Bill are equally felt on both sides of the House. We have had some distinguished speeches, particularly that from my right hon. Friend the Member for Castle Point (Sir B. Braine), bearing this out. I am disappointed and frustrated that some exceptionally cruel and disgusting tests have been used in animal experimentation that, from all the evidence that a lay person can adduce, no longer even retain any scientific credibility, but the Bill will permit at least their technical continuance.

FRAME has been quoted often this evening, and I have the greatest possible respect for it. It has said of the Draize eye test—rather contrary to what the hon. Member for East Kilbride (Dr. Miller) implied, although I would not seek to contradict him as he is a doctor—that it is not the case that culture and other tests are always necessarily less effective and useful than those performed on animals. The hon. Gentleman is right to say that there must be a certain number of experiments, at least at this stage of development, that must be performed on animals. I hope that we avoid the assumption that any of us that speak expecting rather more of the Bill than we have got, would necessarily have bought the whole anti-vivisectionist mobilisation bandwagon, because we have not.

FRAME has said: There is no need for animals to be exposed to chemicals likely to cause severe reactions … Within the foreseeable future, the Draize eye irritancy test will be discontinued since it will have become unnecessary.

Dr. M. S. Miller

I agree with that comment. FRAME is a worthwhile organisation. The hon. Member for Oxford, east (Mr. Norris) criticises the Bill. My opinion was clear. I said that we should ensure that human beings are not at risk. The Bill is not intended to do what the hon. Gentleman says that it should do. The Bill is not called the "Animal Welfare Bill".

Mr. Norris

There is a difference between the view which the hon. Gentleman expressed in his speech, to which I listened with interest, and the views which all hon. Members have expressed, whether in favour of or against the proposals. None of us suggests that human values should be set aside while we consider animal welfare.

My argument is that outmoded and scientifically unsupportable tests have no impact upon medical science for human beings. They are discredited tests. FRAME, which is highly respected and has views which are not to be set aside, says that the Draize eye test will be discontinued since it has become unnecessary.

That test will be discontinued more speedily if the Bill contains a prohibition. I can extend that argument to the LD50 test. FRAME states: The classical or formal LD50 procedure is now widely regarded by toxicologists as unscientific and unnecessarily wasteful of animal lives. That cannot be more clear. FRAME continues: This is another area where progress in the development of alternatives can be expected. Most of us would agree that that is desirable.

There is the greatest possible difference between drawing, in a technical sense, a distinction between lethal dosage and therapeutic dosage in relation to cancer drugs and the testing which I, as an instinctive vivisectionist, recognise is necessary in this vital research. However, does that mean conducting tests which deliberately require the death of a proportion of the subject animals for no better reason than that that is contained in the small print of the LD50 test?

Mr. Mellor

My hon. Friend is being analytical. The difference is not as great as he suggests. The Bill will permit the Secretary of State, through the inspectorate and such other authorities as he might wish to call upon, to take an individual view on the merits of each application. We cannot say now that there will never be a need to test a substance on an animal's eye. We can say that there are ways of operating the Draize test which cause the minimum of suffering which should be employed in every case. The advanced work on non-animal alternatives means that in a few years we shall not need the Draize test. The purpose of the project licence is that when that time comes the Draize test will not be permitted because the project licence allows for best practice to become common practice.

The LD50 test is a whole package of tests, and it is the crude LD50 test to which we and my hon. Friend object. That will not be permitted under the project licence mechanism, other than in an exceptional case where it really is necessary to know the classic LD50 rating. Again, because it is a complicated area and no one can say at this stage of the game that we do not need to know the toxicity ratings of certain substances — for example, agrochemicals where any amount might be ingested by a farm labourer during his work, or cancer drugs — it would be contrary to the public interest to say, "Stop the LD50 test." It is better to say, "Let us purge it gradually out of the system by taking a proper, careful, balanced, individual view on the merits of each test."

Mr. Norris

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for his helpful intervention.

I had hoped that I would make only a few short remarks. I want to deal with the defence that has been adumbrated on previous occasions, that the discretion given to the Minister to approve each individual experiment overtakes the desirability of banning certain of the outmoded tests.

I understand and have great sympathy with my hon. Friend's argument. In a great many cases, the procedure will prove invaluable. I wish to take this opportunity to join in what is not a chorus, but a genuine concert of congratulation to my hon. Friend for what he has managed to achieve. Those of us who may feel frustration at so little progress after a century of neglect, in no sense direct that frustration at him.

On the crude LD50 test, my hon. Friend the Member for Thanet, North (Mr. Gale) suggested that the wording of his amendment to the early-day motion referred to the almost immorality of banning LD50 in this country but permitting it to occur overseas. The theme of his remarks was that it would be immoral for us to ban the LD50 test — even though it has been wholly scientifically discredited — because all we would do would be to export the problem. That is a superficially attractive argument and logic, but no more than that. My hon. Friend suggests that we would make no progress in the standards on animal experimentation until the standards adopted by the least tolerable of our European partners were to match our own. Surely what we in the United Kingdom would be doing was setting exemplary standards and then requiring our European partners to adopt them. That might be one useful way in which the Community, for once in its incessant clamour for harmonisation, might be useful.

Mr. Gale

My hon. Friend is well aware of my belief that if experiments are to be carried out at all, they are better carried out under regulations in this country than elsewhere. The real objective that we all pursue is the obviation of all animal experiments by the provision of alternatives. Until those alternatives are available, I believe—as I know he believes—that it is better to have the experiments carried out here than anywhere else.

Mr. Norris

My hon. Friend must not put words into my mouth. He is saying exactly what I am not saying. It is not an adequate line of logic to say that because the experiments might be carried out in other countries if they were not carried out here, we should continue to carry them out because we are the good guys and we cannot export the moral dilemma and thus rid ourselves of it. I do not seek to rid myself of the moral dilemma at the expense of a third party. I am merely suggesting that, unfortunately, the logic of that argument is that we do nothing until everybody else's standards begin to approach our own. That is not acceptable to me. We should be prepared to be exemplary, to be first and to be the best. That is the way in which in the long term we shall achieve significant progress.

I am similarly disappointed that we cannot go further on research into tobacco and alcohol addiction. Those are linked by the fact that they are self-induced conditions. I hope that I shall not fall into the trap of suggesting some sort of moral opprobrium, but I defy a medical expert to prove to me that significant areas remain to be investigated which have not already been flogged to death.

Surely the same goes for experiments into cosmetics. My hon. Friend the Member for Thanet, North makes much of the fact that he has a bottle of shampoo that is said not to be harmful to animals but in fact contains all sorts of things which sound as though I would expect to find them in my antifreeze. That is a plausible line, but it does not run contrary to the line that I would prefer to take.

Those of us who are concerned about unnecessary experimentation are simply saying—to put it as crudely and straightforwardly as it strikes me—that we surely have enough lipsticks, creams and unguents to cover the medico-social reasons for cosmetics for disfigurations mentioned by the hon. Member for East Kilbride (Dr. Miller).

We cannot honestly say that we need more research to test yet more products. I hope that it does not sound too heretical coming from the Conservative Benches to say that we are simply offering companies a range of products from which to make money. Let them make money by producing products from ingredients that have already been tested and on which there need be no further unnecessary testing.

Sir Dudley Smith

Will my hon. Friend extend that to household products such as oven cleaners and other items which are potentially lethal where new discoveries are being made all the time to improve the running of households? Surely they all need to be tested.

Mr. Norris

I am not persuaded. I accept that that is an extremely unpopular and non-intellectual view. No doubt I am missing some tremendously powerful stream of logic which so far defeated me, and I apologise for that. But I do not put a new improved oven cleaner stick before the desirability of abolishing one area of animal experimentation. Is that so awful? I do not know. Perhaps it is. However, there must he a point, which I suspect most people recognise, at which we say that we have gone far enough and we have the appliances that we need. Without some major area of new endeavour we have gone far enough. There is no justification for continued experimentation.

Finally, let me say that it has been said by my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary that none of these bans are necessary because the Secretary of State has been given power to control each experiment and experimenter. However, we in our legislation have never told a Secretary of State that he knows roughly what we want, outlined the general principle and left it to him to get on with the business of interpreting that. We are not prepared to make such an assumption in other legislation as far as I can gather from my limited experience. Rather, it is the tradition of the House to dot as many i's and cross as many t's as possible and that we reserve to Secretaries of State, however, distinguished they may be—and this one is as distinguished, if not more so, than his colleagues—only those matters which have to be determined on discretion at the time. That is not necessarily the case in every experiment to be covered by the Bill.

May I just say finally—

Mr. Tony Baldry (Banbury)

My grandmother died at the early age of 36. For a number of years, my father was research secretary to the British Tuberculosis Association. I suspect that he and his contemporaries would not have discovered a cure for TB if they had not been able to experiment on animals. I suspect that they would not have been able to find a cure for TB if they had been forced to dot every i and cross every t. A balance must be struck. Does my hon. Friend not feel that the Bill strikes the best balance to ensure that the grandmothers of other people do not die at the early age of 36?

Mr. Norris

Both my maternal grandparents died from the same condition. I think that every hon. Member appreciates the argument of my hon. Friend the Member for Banbury (Mr. Baldry). However, if he had followed what I was saying, he would have known that I was talking about the Draize and LD50 tests, cosmetic and kitchen equipment experiments and experiments concerned with tobacco, alcohol, and so on. I was not referring to the sort of experiments about which my hon. Friend speaks. I am grateful to him for giving me the opportunity to make that clear. I am sure that there is great agreement on both sides of the House on that point.

Mr. Thurnham

Will my hon. Friend give way?

Mr. Norris

I should prefer to finish my speech. I have said "finally" several times and, each time, I have been greeted by greater cheers from the Opposition. If I may say "finally" again — [HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear."] —through the chorus of approval, if we have the technology to dispense with unnecessary suffering and can demonstrate that alternatives are available, let us be prepared to do so in a straightforward declaratory way in the Bill and to demonstrate our desire to move a century forward in alleviating distress to animals. That should be our aim.

12.27 am
Mr. David Amess (Basildon)

It is often said that Britain is a nation of animal lovers, yet one has only to consider this debate to see that there are great differences in the definitions of "animal lovers". In Basildon, which I represent, people are concerned about animal protection. However, locally and nationally, one need only go to a dog pound to realise that there is much abuse of animals. That point was emphasised by the figures released today by the RSPCA. Over the years I have kept animals of all kinds, although parliamentary commitments at present limit me to goldfish and doves.

Some people maintain that they prefer animals to people because animals do not answer back. This is at the heart of the issue in assessing the rights of animals commonly referred to as "dumb", although many people would dispute that. Where do we draw the line on the right of human beings to exert their ascendancy over animals?

The groups that seek to safeguard the welfare of animals are increasing in number and fervour. I found them to be an articulate and persuasive lobby during the general election campaign. Most such groups adopt a sensible and constructive approach. However, I utterly condemn those animal welfare groups that use violence to achieve their ends, whether through poisoning food, breaking into laboratories or placing bombs in busy department stores. Such activities have no place in a democratic society. They will not meet with success. They give the animal welfare movement a thoroughly bad name. Reference was made in the debate on this issue in another place to the so-called animal rights extremists who committed violent assaults against laboratories and scientists. The words of Sir William Paton were quoted. He said that they are mostly of the healthiest generation that this country has ever seen because of past medical research.

Tonight we are debating the principle behind the Bill first introduced into the other place. As I understand it, the Bill seeks to strengthen the protection for animals used in experiments, which is something that I certainly applaud. It is a pity that some people have sought to rubbish the Bill without giving it a fair chance, particularly the hon. Member for Portsmouth, South (Mr. Hancock). I think that the Government should be congratulated on having the courage to amend a piece of legislation dealing with animal welfare which has been in existence for 109 years. It is always an emotive subject.

Of course the Bill is not perfect, but then what is? The House of Lords has again demonstrated its worth as a second Chamber by introducing sensible amendments to the Bill. I know that the RSPCA would also like to make some changes to the Bill. However, as the British Veterinary Association, the campaign for the Reform of Animal Experimentation and FRAME have all expressed the view that the Bill represents the effective compromise between the welfare needs of animals, the legitimate demands of the public for accountability and the equally legitimate requirements of medicine, science and commerce. While recognising that there is justifiable public concern over many aspects of laboratory animal use, their view is that the legislation would provide a basis for ensuring that all areas of animal experimentation were effectively controlled.

I particularly welcome the central feature of the Bill — the proposal for a dual licence system. This new system will surely act as a double check against abuse of animal experimentation. I also welcome the fact the requirement of a project licence will mean that the pain, distress and discomfort of the animal will be minimised. For the first time, the likely adverse affects for animals will be weighed against the likely benefit to man or other animals.

I also welcome the fact that for the first time it is proposed that establishments for the breeding and supplying of animals will come under statutory control, so there will be no question of unwanted or stolen pets being used, as my hon. Friend the Member for Congleton (Mrs. Winterton) said. The requirement under current law to kill all animals which have been allowed to recover from anaesthesia once the experiment is over will also end with the Bill.

In the light of the new legislation, it makes sense to set up an animal procedures committee to advise the Home Secretary on matters of policy and practice, including individual cases referred to it. However, I hope that the Committee will be allowed to use its initiative to press for reductions in animal suffering and usage. I also hope that protection for members of that committee against criminal proceedings for disclosure of other than commercially sensitive material will be given.

I wish that it was not necessary to have any experimentation on animals. I accept the view which is genuinely held by some people, certainly by the hon. Member for Leyton (Mr. Cohen), that there is no end which can justify experiments on animals. In fact, some people would rather die themselves. However, I believe that the vast majority of people believe that the end does justify the means, certainly for finding cures for terminal illnesses.

Mr. Cohen

The hon. Gentleman outlines a view which is not mine. My view is that there are a vast number of unnecessary experiments that should be stopped. We should be looking for alternatives. Certainly the burden of proof to show that experiments are necessary should be shifted to those who want to conduct animal experiments.

Mr. Amess

I apologise to the hon. Gentleman for misinterpreting his view. However, he spoke for rather a long time and I was probably lulled into a false sense of security on that point.

All hon. Members will have received a letter from the United Kingdom Co-ordinating Committee on Cancer Research and surely could not fail to be impressed by its achievements over the past 25 years in improving the survival chances of thousands of cancer sufferers. Children with acute leukaemia or Hodgkins disease have been helped, and lung cancer has been prevented. In Britain alone, cancer counts for one in five of all deaths.

There can be few hon. Members who have not lost someone through cancer, a disease which usually results in the victim losing his very self-respect. We would all wish to find a lasting cure for that terrible disease, yet we are reliably informed that almost all the significant advances in the control of cancer have at some point required experiments including animals—surely a most persuasive argument.

Having received so many cards from constituents about the Draize eye irritancy test, I am encouraged by FRAME's view—although I know that my hon. Friend the Member for Oxford, East (Mr. Norris) argued the point — that within the foreseeable future the test will be discontinued as it will have become unnecessary. I hope that animal protectionists will welcome the widening of the pain concept to that of severity, and the statutory control of it.

I look forward very much to the day when we no longer have to use animals for scientific purposes, but until then the goal of reducing the number of animals used, minimising the suffering caused to them and replacing them with alternatives wherever possible, and as quickly as possible. can best be served by supporting the Bill.

12.36 am
Mr. Conal Gregory (York)

I, too, welcome the Bill. It is long overdue that we update the Cruelty to Animals Act 1876 to ensure more humane treatment of laboratory animals in scientific and industrial research. Like my hon. Friend the Member for Basildon (Mr. Amess), I have a large postbag. I imagine that most hon. Members have a larger postbag on this subject throughout the year than on any other single subject. The public support reform, and reform is before the House today.

Furthermore, the Bill is a further fulfilment of the Conservative party manifesto, as pledged in 1983, following two White Papers, in May 1983 and May 1985. After 110 years, although there has been updating by some regulations, there is a need for a new Act. We have a duty to modernise and strengthen the protection given to animals.

As my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State has said, the Bill strikes a balance between the welfare of animals and the scientific search for genuine solutions to medical problems, all within the umbrella of public accountability.

Animals have helped the fight against disease. For example, childhood deaths from diphtheria have fallen to almost nil from about 800 per million at the turn of the century, as a result of the vaccine. Polio has been mentioned, as well as tuberculosis, and the worldwide eradication of smallpox. Animal diseases have not been mentioned frequently in the debate. Advances have been made in the control of anthrax, canine distemper and foot and mouth disease. Medical advances have been made through animal experimentation.

For the future, controlled reseach on animals may give the much-needed breakthrough for multiple sclerosis arthritis and cancer. Animal experimentation is still required to fight death and disease. However, I am pleased that the number of experiments has fallen in each of the past eight years. The number commenced in 1984 was almost 2 million less than in 1976 and the lowest since 1959. That follows the ability by researchers to adapt their methods so that fewer animals are required. Furthermore, alternative methods have been developed, particularly in the early screening stages of testing new compounds. The culture of cells and tissue in vitra and mathematicl modelling using computers are two such alternatives.

I welcome the Government's decision to support alternatives by a grant to the Fund for the Replacement of Animals in Medical Experiments. That principle is right. However, the sum of £150,000 is paltry. In view of the importance of that work, I hope that a minimum sum of £1 million annually can be allocated.

My major worry about the Bill is the extent to which it will permit experiments to continue related to tobacco, alcohol and cosmetics. It is appalling to contemplate that animals are subject to vile abuse to check on products sold to promote human vanity. Why should conscious rabbits continue to have noxious substances dripped into their eyes before the sale of a new shampoo or hairspray? The Draize eye test—a method for evaluating irritancy to the eye—is inaccurate. Alternative methods of testing with cultures give equal, if not better, results. I hope that the Committee will examine whether such tests are still required.

Experiments on animals should be legalised only where no alternatives exist and there is a defined medical purpose. The cosmetics, toiletry and perfumery industries should use human volunteers.

Let us consider alcohol and smoking-related experiments. The rationale for conducting experiments in animals using alcohol is that, ultimately, it will help the alcohol-damaged or alcohol-addicted patient. Hence any suggestion that such research be curtailed is strongly resisted. However, what are we to make of studies into the effects of alcohol on aggression in mice, especially when the mice are confined in narrow tubes and will bite a piece of metal in front of them, or the effects of alcohol on the time that mice spend running round or keeping still? Rats can be made alcohol-dependent by introducing it into their food or drink, and, when alcohol is withdrawn, they become prone to convulsions. Mice from different strains have different preferences for alcohol, but those preferences change when they are made to drink alcohol solutions over a period of time. Rats may have substances introduced directly into the brain to see what effect that has on their alcohol preference.

Alcoholism in the United Kingdom is a serious problem, but, while facilities for detoxification and rehabilitation are still underfunded, the validity and utility of the animal studies described cannot hope to command public confidence.

Tobacco research in animals is an emotive subject, suggesting forced inhalation of tobacco smoke. Such experiments continue, mostly if not exclusively, in rodents to study the effects of smoke on the respiratory tract. Less well known is the expanding research on the nature of smoking addiction. That is now recognised to be largely due to the pharmacological effects of nicotine within the central nervous system. The idea of restricting such research has been forcibly contested because, it is claimed, it is so important for the help that it can give to smokers in giving up. The pharmacology of nicotine has become an "interesting" study in its own right. Funded largely by the Medical Research Council, workers are studying receptors in the rat brain: how they interact with nicotine, the effect this has on behaviour, and how in turn other drugs affect the interactions.

Nowhere is there an explanation of how elucidation of these central mechanisms is likely to help smokers to combat the habit. In experimental rats, the procedures include the implantation of brain electrodes, maze running, food deprivation— so that they will press a lever to get a food reward—the induction of stress, conditioned taste aversion, or learning to dislike a taste through associating it with feeling ill or nauseous, direct injections of nicotine into the brain and, of course, multiple injections of other drugs at various sites to see how this affects their response to nicotine.

While the tobacco industry spends £100 million a year on promotion, and while health education and anti-smoking clinics have inadequate funding, one is not impressed by the essential or directly helpful nature of experimental work in rats.

The regulatory framework proposed is a tighter system of control involving project licensing and personal licensing of competence with the approval of the Home Secretary. That dual system of licensing is welcome provided that, first, the research is in the public interest and, secondly, that there is no alternative method and the Home Secretary's staff is adequate.

When he replies will my hon. Friend say whether the present team of 15 inspectors can supervise experiments with 3.5 million animals? I ask him to increase the establishment to a realistic level in the light of the Bill. That should be in respect of the animals and their source. There is public anxiety about the disappearance of unwarranted or stolen pets to be used as laboratory animals. Inspectors will have to be fully assured that all laboratories use animals that have come from sources defined in the Bill.

The inspectorate's work will be made that much easier if licences are granted only if the applicant is adequately qualified and has a demonstrable skill in the techniques he or she wishes to carry out. That point was dealt with adequately by my hon. Friend the Member for Plymouth, Drake (Miss Fookes). The training schemes which are at present voluntary are missing from the Bill. With no official incentive, companies and universities will not train their staff. Will my hon. Friend the Minister commit the Government to establishing new training schemes?

That will be all the more necessary as the powers and duties of the persons named as being responsible for the daily care and well-being of the animals are unclear. Such a person in authority must be available at all times. That element is missing from the Bill.

I give a cautious welcome to this reform of the Cruelty to Animals Act 1876. It is very much a curate's egg. It is an effective attempt to meet the scientific and technological advances of the 110 years since that Act. The Bill may not go as far as many hon. Members wish and I hope that it will be extended in Committee.

12.47 am
Mr. Peter Thurnham (Bolton, North-East)

I congratulate my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary most warmly on his great skill and success in steering the Bill so far. I wish him all success in steering it onto the statute book. I am a strong advocate of medical research and an officer of the all-party group on the chemical industry, and I strongly support the Bill.

We can all take pride in the Government's record. Every year since they came to office in 1979 the number of animal experiments has fallen. I hope that my hon. Friend will take my interventions and my comments as constructive. I thoroughly welcome the Bill.

In balancing the needs of man and the welfare of animals we should bear in mind the fact that 10 per cent. of farm animals die in the first month of their life. It has been said that 250,000 children's lives have been saved in the past 50 years through drug research related to animal experiments.

Mr. Corbyn

The hon. Gentleman has just made an interesting point about the number of lives saved through animal research. Will he tell the House how that information has been drawn together and what proof there is to support it?

Mr. Thurnham

The information was on a video that I watched this morning in which Sir Douglas Black was commenting. The video is entitled "What About People" and is produced by the Research Defence Society. I will supply the hon. Gentleman with the video if he wants any further information. I refer him to Sir Douglas Black's comments which I do not wish to dispute.

I wish to make some points about the Draize, cosmetic and LD50 tests. The number of Draize tests has fallen to 7,800. That is a substantial reduction and shows the extent to which the test can be reduced. I should like to thank my hon. Friend for his letter of September last year in which he said: We would very much like to see the ending of the Draize eye test as soon as possible and that he had ordered a survey of all such tests performed here. He wrote again in December about cosmetics tests and the LD50 test. He said that there had been a "dramatic reduction" of cosmetics tests from 30,500 in 1979 to 17,500 in 1984. My right hon. Friend the Member for Castle Point (Sir B. Braine) and my hon. Friend the Member for Oxford, East (Mr. Norris) should note that cosmetics include all substances applied to the skin. If they want to continue research on medicines but not on cosmetics, they should remember that the skin is the largest organ of the body. They would therefore seem to advocate research in regard to all but the largest organ.

As for LD50, my hon. Friend the Minister said: You may be assured that we will continue to monitor these tests closely". Why do we have no numbers? I am worried that we are unable to establish the number of LD50 tests. The advisory committee report of 1979 said that 41 per cent. of acute toxicity tests were LD50 tests and that that was only an approximate figure and subject to a substantial margin of error. Is my hon. Friend able to give any idea of the number of LD50 tests being carried out? I estimate that they exceed 100,000 a year. Far fewer cosmetic and Draize tests are conducted.

National statistics for toxicity tests show that they are increasing as a proportion. Acute toxicity tests represented 9.9 per cent. of all tests in 1978, whereas they represent 11.3 per cent. in 1984. In view of what has been said about the reduced need for the LD50 test, how much reliance can we put on my hon. Friend's assurance that the matter would be "closely monitored" when we do not have any numbers and when such a large area of testing is involved?

Emotions do not seem to be running as high now as they did in 1907 when the "Brown Dog" statue was erected in Battersea Park. I am interested in those parts of the Bill which relate to embryos and foetuses. We have had a great deal of controversy relating to human embryos, and I know that the Bill provides protection for the developing embryo or foetus only after half of the gestation period, unless the Secretary of State decides otherwise. Medical scientists want to carry out embryo research to minimise the number of children born with severe congenital handicap. Some such research can be carried out only by using human embryos, but other research can use other animals such as mice. Unfortunately, the male mouse's semen can be obtained only by killing it. Fortunately, no such restrictions apply to human beings. I wonder how my hon. Friend the Minister would balance the value of a mouse's life against a pre-fourteen day human embryo.

Perhaps that is an example of the value of the Bill, in which so much is rightly left to the discretion of future Home Secretaries. That is a feature of the Bill which I hope is not lost. I congratulate my hon. Friend on his excellent work presenting the Bill and commend it fully to the House.

12.53 am
Mr. Mark Hughes (City of Durham)

I start with something approaching a declaration of interest. As many hon. Members will know, I am a Privy Council appointed member of the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons. In that capacity, I have a non-pecuniary interest in the subject of the Bill.

There is an absolute stance. It is that, as a Labour friend of aphids, or whatever, one must not destroy life. We must try by all means preserve life. It is interesting that not one right hon. or hon. Member has adopted an absolutist position.

In his very interesting speech, my hon. Friend the Member for Leyton (Mr, Cohen) said that at that point one does not damage life. I do not accept the point at which my hon. Friend says that one should not carry out experiments, but I fully appreciate that, in his terms, he holds a proper and correct view of life when he draws that line. Although, therefore, we may disagree, there will be no hassle between us. I have a brother who is dying of cancer, so I am a little reluctant to reduce the opportunities for medical research. If it means that the odd rat, cat or dog gets mischief done to it, so be it. But that is a highly subjective, temporary and personal position. I trust that my hon. Friend will not find it difficult to understand why I cannot follow him all the way.

The Bill would transfer control over experimentation to a Home Office inspectorate. That is the first difficulty. The number of qualified vets and medical practitioners who man the inspectorate and who can be inspected by it amount to fewer than 200. We run the risk of creating a highly incestuous group. Those who grant the licences know and are friendly with those to whom the licences are granted. This causes me to hesitate—I put it no higher than that—because it means that the policeman is part of the poacher gang.

I give notice to the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department that that point will be examined very carefully in Committee. We shall try to ensure that an effective. arm's length relationship is established between the licensing authority — the inspectorate — and the licensees. Many of my hon. Friends and I are not satisfied that that relationship is adequately dealt with in the Bill. A group of 15 or 20 inspectors are well known to all the major laboratories and universities. They are wholly honourable men, but they will issue the licences and also supervise both the project licences and the personal licences. That will not secure the public interest. More than that is required. We shall seek in Committee to find a more certain method of enabling the public interest to be secured, particularly over project licensing. We must be assured that projects in which animals will be subjected to severe, less severe or moderate procedures are not in the hands of cosy, in-house relationships. It must be subject to external vetting—I am sorry, that is a terrible pun. It must be under the control of a body that is not in-house. What worries me about laboratory animal veterinary work is that it is in-house with a small number of vets and medical people. I give notice to the Under-Secretary that when we get to Committee we shall look at that.

I see no reason, in terms of the protection of animals, why Crown immunity should remain in the Bill. If experiments are taking place at Porton down or at any other Ministry of Defence establishment, and if procedures are required at pathological laboratories under the control and within the premises of the Home Office rather than local government, I see no reason why animals subjected to laboratory experiments in those establishments should not have the same licensing procedure for their welfare. A rat owned by the Ministry of Defence should not be subjected to more heinous treatment than one in a university or a chemical laboratory. In committee I and my colleagues will seek major modifications to the Bill in that area. I see no case for Crown immunity on animal welfare. The inspectors are already covered by the Official Secrets Act and there is therefore no difficulty on that score.

I and my hon. Friends on the Committee will need a great deal of persuading that Crown immunity should not be waived for the welfare of laboratory animals. If we do nasty things for chemical warfare purposes, at least let the rats or the chimpanzees or whatever be decently treated. I may not like what we are doing, but I want to make sure the animals are properly looked after.

I must now say why I will not go along with the opposition expressed by my hon. Friend the Member for Leyton. The notes of guidance and other things we can do in Committee will provide 98 per cent. of what my hon. Friend seeks in the reasoned amendment that he has placed before the House. I advise my hon. Friend that I will not vote for that reasoned amendment if it is called. There is a perfectly honourable difference of opinion between us.

That is not the case in my relationship with the hon. Member for Portsmouth, South (Mr. Hancock). In all my 15 years in the House, I have never read a piece of more egregious crap than his amendment. If the House passed that, it should be ashamed of itself.

1.5 am

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mr. David Mellor)

As someone said, follow that!

After 110 years, the House deserved today's debate, and the introduction of new legislation to control scientific work on animals is a momentous event. I feel a particular pride and pleasure in commending the Bill to the House, for three reasons.

First, in common with many other hon. Members who have spoken in the debate, I have for many years—certainly since before I took up my present responsibilities —taken an active interest in the protection and welfare of animals. Secondly, as the Home Office Minister responsible for the subject over the past three years, I have made this project one of my principal tasks. Thirdly, I know how much hard work has gone into getting the right balance in the Bill. I believe that it is a good Bill and that its structure and framework will serve us well and help animals for many years to come.

It is not surprising that opinions on the details have differed, and I look forward to the Committee stage and the opportunity to come to grips with those matters, but it is significant that there has been a large measure of agreement on both sides of the House about the importance of the topic and the need to make progress.

I am particularly glad to have this opportunity, as one of the first debates in which I participated in the House was the discussion on the attempt by my hon. Friend the Member for Wellingborough (Mr. Fry) to change the law on animal experiments, which failed, but put down a marker which a number of hon. Members have pursued over the years. I remember that when the then Minister of State, Home Office, now my right hon. Friend the Minister for Overseas Development, replied to the debate, I urged him to get on with it, little thinking that I was shaking my fist at fate and that I would be the one who would have to get on with it.

We have seen some useful advances in animal welfare over the past three years, including the Bill of my hon. Friend the Member for Plymouth, Drake (Miss Fookes), strongly backed by the Government, to ban the sale of pets in open street markets, the Bill to make it easier to prosecute those involved in the disgusting sport of badger baiting, and the grant for research into alternatives which the Government made to FRAME. We are the first Government ever to make such a grant. The hon. Member for Leyton (Mr. Cohen) thought that our grant was stingy, but he was obviously brought up in the Ken Livingstone school of grant giving, and we can never hope to match that. The sum is certainly less than Ken Livingstone has given to some less notable causes.

I note what my hon. Friend the Member for York (Mr. Gregory) said about the grant, but I urge on him the need not merely to think of a figure that sounds rather grand and to say, "£l million is the right figure." We gave FRAME £150,000 because that is what it asked for to do the work that needed to be done. I am sure that that is the right basis on which to fund research.

I particularly thank the hon. Member for Birmingham, Erdington (Mr. Corbett) for a distinguished contribution, making a number of significant points. I congratulate the hon. Gentleman, because I know that before he took on Front-Bench responsibilities, and during his first period in the House, no one fought harder to make advances in animal welfare. It is a subject about which he is concerned, and he strove with great success to strike a balance.

Because the hon. Gentleman is advised by many of the people who have advised me, he knows how much work has gone into the Bill and how many people, such as Clive Hollands and others, have done so much to advance the cause of the Bill.

The hon. Member for Erdington also made it clear that there were a number of points to be examined in Committee. I agree with him on several of those points, particularly about the animal procedures committee. I stress that I see this as a different organisation from the Secretary of State's advisory committee, which was an in-house committee which did valuable work. We are giving the animal procedures committee a separate statutory existence, with the aim that it should be an independent body, with distinguished members drawn from the scientific, medical, and animal welfare sectors.

I am delighted at the increase in the number of distinguished animal welfare campaigners who have gone on to the committee in my time in the Home Office. They will become members of the animal procedures committee. I hope that that committee, under an independent chairman, will take an independent stand and look into matters into which it wants to look, and not just into matters that are referred to it by the Home Secretary. I hope, too, that it will fulfil the watchdog role, but as a watchdog that knows from experience what this sophisticated arrangement is about. I look forward to responding positively on a whole range of issues in Committee, as we have got into the habit of doing.

I commend what the hon. Gentleman said, because I know the pressures which he and the hon. Member for Durham (Mr. Hughes) come under from those who are opposed to all animal experiments, and in particular what he said about the conquest of disease.

Ms. Clare Short (Birmingham, Ladywood)

The hon. Gentleman should recognise that there is a position between the Government's and that of those who say that there should be no animal experiments. Many of us think that some animal experiments are necessary to try to cure otherwise incurable human diseases, but also that we could move faster forward than the Government are proposing. I hope that the Minister will withdraw the comment that my hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Erdington (Mr. Corbett) is under pressure from a lobby that is opposed to all animal experimentation.

Mr. Mellor

I realise that the hon. Lady accepts the need for some animal experiments but not for others. My hon. Friend the Member for Thanet, North (Mr. Gale) made it clear that some people are opposed to all animal experiments and have campaigned on that basis.

The hon. Member for Erdington made clear the significance of the conquest of disease, and we should not get complacent about that. Many of us can recall from family experience, as a number of hon. Members on both sides of the House have done. the way in which lives were cut off in their prime through diseases which today can be vanquished. My mother had two siblings who died in infancy of diphtheria, which years ago used to kill eight children in 1,000, but now does not kill any.

We know the progress that has been made in the procedures that can be carried on in operating theatres, and in the provision of modern antibiotics, which are all effective because of the careful testing that has gone on in advance. None of us take for granted such medical advances when so much remains to be done. The hon. Member made a distinguished speech, and I look forward to taking these matters further with him in Committee.

I wish that I could say the same—because this is not a partisan matter—about the speech of the hon. Member for Portsmouth, South (Mr. Hancock). If ever a speech fell below the level of expectation, the one to which he treated us did so comprehensively. However, it was rather better than it was trailed, because I was told by a distinguished veterinarian, who has been working on the Bill for three years, that the hon. Member said that the Bill was a whitewash. He is quoted in Veterinary Record as saying, with the moderation that we have come to expect from the alliance: I will be going hell for leather to expose the Bill for what it is and to destroy it.

The hon. Gentleman's speech tonight was slightly more measured, but it was not much better.

I hope that the hon. Gentleman's speech will be read by the right hon. Member for Plymouth, Devonport (Dr. Owen), who is a medical practitioner, and that the right hon. Gentleman will think that it was unwise of him to be wherever he is and leave the hon. Member for Portsmouth, South to put the alliance case. If ever there was the fudge and mudge that the right hon. Member so condemns in the House, I suspect that it was in the hon. Gentleman's speech, particularly with the empty rhetorical tub-thumping that had no substance by way of a viable alternative as to where, in a sophisticated society, we strike the balance between what needs to be done and what does not.

The hon. Member for Leeds, West (Mr. Meadowcroft) had a more stylish approach to the same issue and managed to steer round the more obvious pitfalls into which his less experienced hon. Friend fell. But neither of them suggested anything of which any responsible political party could feel remotely proud. If they do not think that the Bill is right, they should be capable of more than the third-rate sniping which alienated hon. Members on both sides of the Chamber tonight.

Mr. Meadowcroft

One can always tell when Ministers are hiding behind a poll, because they make this kind of attack. In the other place, 18 alliance Members took part in the debate and we should not have to spell out tonight the alternatives suggested.

Mr. Mellor

The noble Lord who spoke for the alliance in the other place recognised the worth of the amendments by not pressing any to a Division because he knew that if he did he would be alone in the Lobby. If the hon. Gentleman thinks that a cheap jibe about the polls is the answer, many in different or no political parties who have worked in harmony to produce the Bill will disagree, because he shows again that the alliance simply sees such issues as an opportunity to exploit them to the lowest common denominator of popularism. That does not go down well. The more serious contributions are worthy of more time.

I agree with the hon. Member for Erdington about the figures in the moderate animal welfare movement. I think in particular of the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons, the British Veterinary Association—John Seamer and David Morton—and FRAME, whose help has been invaluable, whose parliamentary group has been a constant source of pressure for change and whose chairman, my hon. Friend the Member for Thanet, North made an excellent speech containing some necessary detailed points. I also think of the campaign for the Reform of Animal Experiments and of Clive Hollands, for whom I have a great admiration, who has been brave in recognising that the best should never be the enemy of the good, and who, as a committed anti-vivisectionist, has striven to make the Bill achieve the consensus that it has achieved.

I also think of Lord Houghton, without whom the Bill would not have been possible. At 86 years of age, he has a remarkably agile mind and a remarkable commitment. In some darker moments when I have had to endure flack about the issue I have drawn comfort from his steadfastness. When he said at the launch of the White Paper that this was the best thing for 30 years, all those associated with the Bill took heart because we knew that he had a genuine commitment.

I should also like to mention the Association of British Pharmaceutical Industry, the Chemical Industries Association and the Research Defence Society, which have given generously of their time and effort to try to strike a balance. It is in no one's interest that doctors should be impeded. It is in no one's interest that the British pharmaceutical industry—one of our successes—should be damaged in its efforts to provide the products which we and the rest of the world need. It is in no one's interest that the chemical industry's chances should be made any more difficult or that we should drive more jobs out of Britain. However, all involved recognise that they should be subject to a rigorous legal framework. That is what we have today and what we shall certainly have tomorrow under the Bill.

I thank my hon. Friend the Member for Drake for what she said when she set out the major steps forward in the Bill. I can deal with them only in shorthand, because of the time. The project licence for the first time gives us the opportunity to examine each project and to ask whether it is necessary, to strike a balance between a project's aim and the means by which it is to be achieved, to look at the categories of discomfort and pain inflicted on animals, and to draw down the standard so that project licences contain a more restrictive condition than is possible today.

The Bill will bring breeding establishments under control, so that at last we can nail the fear of so many people that their pets are being used in vivisection. Every normal domestic animal that is used will have to have a pedigree and its origin will be established. The breeding establishments will be properly examined.

Finally, there is a provision for constant veterinary supervision by the presence in a laboratory of a named person on whom all legal responsibility rests. An important precedent for that was created in the safety at work legislation. The inspectorate totals 15, all of them either doctors or vets. We intend to increase the numbers, and to that end we have placed advertisements in the relevant newspapers this very week for three further inspectors. Others will need to be recruited.

I appreciate the sincerity of my right hon. Friend the Member for Castle Point (Sir B. Braine) on this and other moral issues. However, he should not underestimate the need for product safety in our society. We take it for granted that the products that we use in our homes and at work are safe. I say to Opposition Members who are dubious about the Bill that they should not throw away all the health and safety at work arrangements that have been achieved. Any number of people are subjected, day in day out, to constant exposure to chemicals during the manufacture of a wide range of products. If we cannot be aware of the toxicity of those products, it will be a retrograde step: we will be playing with the health and livelihoods of many working people, which would not be right.

I commend the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Thanet, North on the vexed question of the tests which Mobilisation and its supporters in the House think should be banned overnight. Because of the time, I shall not go through all the details. I wish to make one point about the Draize and LD50 tests. It is too easy, for what must be a sophisticated measure, to say that we intend to ban those procedures. We are doing something far more radical than that. We are not saying that we will ban 2 per cent. or 3 per cent. of animal experiments, and the remainder are all right. We are saying that every animal experiment must be justified. That is a way of increasing the pressure that we have already applied, and which has led to a fall in the number of tests over a decade—5.6 million to 3.5 million last year, with a fall of 750,000 achieved during the last two years alone.

The Draize test will not be necessary for very much longer. We intend to use the project licence to ensure that it is carried out only where it has to be carried out, with all the pre-screening which will avoid the excesses which are sometimes mentioned erroneously in the Mobilisation literature. There will come a time, and it is not far removed, when full alternatives will be possible for the Draize test. However, it would be irresponsible to say that the point has been reached where there is not any case for testing any substance on the eyes. I cannot wait for the time when that test will be unnecessary.

The same is true of LD50. There are only a limited number of cases where the so-called classic LD50—if we can so dignify it—is required. We will use the project licensing system to restrict those occasions ever more tightly. The limit test and other tests pioneered by our advisory committee will have the effect of improving the standards of our testing. However, let none of us be under any illusions—toxicity testing is needed for the basic protection of men, women and children in a wide range of activities at work and in the home. Already, through FRAME and the other groups, tests are being carried out on non-animal alternatives. I hope and pray that those will be successful, but until they are no responsible Government could throw over this protection.

I shall conclude by recalling the insistent advice of Lord Houghton, that to win better protection for animals they must be put into politics, and that in politics all roads lead to Westminster. Laboratory animals are now at Westminster for the first time in 110 years. We have an opportunity today to provide a lasting service to the cause of animal welfare and humane research, and it is on that basis that I commend the Bill to the House.

Question put, That the Bill be now read a Second time:—

The House divided: Ayes 125, Noes 28.

Division No. 78] [1.25 pm
Alexander, Richard Merchant, Piers
Amess, David Meyer, Sir Anthony
Arnold, Tom Miller, Dr M. S. (E Kilbride)
Atkinson, David (B'm'th E) Mills, Iain (Meriden)
Baker, Nicholas (Dorset N) Moynihan, Hon C.
Baldry, Tony Mudd, David
Batiste, Spencer Murphy, Christopher
Bellingham, Henry Neale, Gerrard
Best, Keith Nelson, Anthony
Bevan, David Gilroy Nicholls, Patrick
Biggs-Davison, Sir John Norris, Steven
Blackburn, John Oppenheim, Rt Hon Mrs S.
Boscawen, Hon Robert Page, Sir John (Harrow W)
Bottomley, Peter Page, Richard (Herts SW)
Bottomley, Mrs Virginia Pawsey, James
Bowden, A. (Brighton K'to'n) Portillo, Michael
Bowden, Gerald (Dulwich) Powell, William (Corby)
Brandon-Bravo, Martin Powley, John
Bright, Graham Proctor, K. Harvey
Brinton, Tim Raffan, Keith
Brooke, Hon Peter Rathbone, Tim
Bruinvels, Peter Rhodes James, Robert
Buck, Sir Antony Rhys Williams, Sir Brandon
Burt, Alistair Roberts, Wyn (Conwy)
Cash, William Roe, Mrs Marion
Chapman, Sydney Rowe, Andrew
Chope, Christopher Sackville, Hon Thomas
Clark, Dr Michael (Rochford) Shepherd, Colin (Hereford)
Clegg, Sir Walter Silvester, Fred
Cockeram, Eric Skeet, Sir Trevor
Colvin, Michael Smith, Sir Dudley (Warwick)
Conway, Derek Soames, Hon Nicholas
Coombs, Simon Speed, Keith
Cope, John Speller, Tony
Corrie, John Spencer, Derek
Couchman, James Stanbrook, Ivor
Currie, Mrs Edwina Stern, Michael
Dorrell, Stephen Stevens, Lewis (Nuneaton)
Dover, Den Stradling Thomas, Sir John
Durant, Tony Sumberg, David
Emery, Sir Peter Taylor, Teddy (S'end E)
Eyre, Sir Reginald Terlezki, Stefan
Fallon, Michael Thomas, Rt Hon Peter
Fookes, Miss Janet Thompson, Donald (Calder V)
Gale, Roger Thompson, Patrick (N'ich N)
Garel-Jones, Tristan Thurnham, Peter
Gregory, Conal Trippier, David
Hamilton, Hon A. (Epsom) Twinn, Dr Ian
Hanley, Jeremy Vaughan, Sir Gerard
Hind, Kenneth Wakeham, Rt Hon John
Holt, Richard Walden, George
Hughes, Dr Mark (Durham) Waller, Gary
Hunt, David (Wirral W) Ward, John
Jackson, Robert Warren, Kenneth
Knight, Greg (Derby N) Watts, John
Lennox-Boyd, Hon Mark Wells, Bowen (Hertford)
Lester, Jim Wigley, Dafydd
Lilley, Peter Winterton, Mrs Ann
Lloyd, Peter (Fareham) Wolfson, Mark
Lyell, Nicholas Yeo, Tim
McCurley, Mrs Anna
Maclean, David John Tellers for the Ayes:
Mather, Carol Mr. Michael Neubert and
Maude, Hon Francis Mr. Tim Sainsbury.
Mellor, David
Alton, David Lamond, James
Ashdown, Paddy Lewis, Terence (Worsley)
Banks, Tony (Newham NW) Loyden, Edward
Beith, A. J. Madden, Max
Benn, Rt Hon Tony Maynard, Miss Joan
Campbell-Savours, Dale Meadowcroft, Michael
Carlile, Alexander (Montg'y) Nellist, David
Clwyd, Mrs Ann Penhaligon, David
Cohen, Harry Sedgemore, Brian
Cox, Thomas (Tooting) Short, Ms Clare (Ladywood)
Fields, T. (L'pool Broad Gn) Skinner, Dennis
Flannery, Martin Wallace, James
Hancock, Michael
Hardy, Peter Tellers for the Noes:
Hughes, Simon (Southwark) Mr. Jeremy Corbyn and
Kirkwood, Archy Mr. Bob Clay.

Question accordingly agreed to.

Bill read a Second time and committed to a Standing Committee pursuant to Standing Order No. 42 (Committal of Bills).