HC Deb 15 February 1999 vol 325 cc598-9
15. Dr. Phyllis Starkey (Milton Keynes, South-West)

What assessment he has made of the reduction of the number of experiments on animals since the ban on testing (a) cosmetics and (b) their ingredients on animals. [69121]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mr. George Howarth)

During 1995 to 1997 inclusive, an average of 130 procedures a year were carried out on animals to test finished cosmetic products, and about 1,900 a year to test the ingredients of those products. The figures for 1998 are being collated. They will include some testing of cosmetic ingredients, as we did not end such testing until November.

Dr. Starkey

I thank my hon. Friend very much for that answer, but ask him to consider the area of necessary animal experimentation, such as the proper testing of genetically modified food. Is the Home Office insisting that experimental design is always optimised, so that the minimum number of animals are used, consistent with proper scientific results?

Mr. Howarth

Most people would agree with my hon. Friend. Although we seek to minimise the use of animals in all such procedures, some animal usage is necessary in some procedures, such as medical research which can often lead to the saving of human lives or research that ensures people's safety. We shall pursue relevant measures across Europe, rather than risk exporting animal experimentation to countries where, often, less rigorous controls apply. Of course we will ensure that measures are sustainable and do not disadvantage United Kingdom research, medicine and industry, while at the same time ensuring that the public's safety is not compromised. My hon. Friend is right: we must strike a balance between the welfare of animals and the necessary requirements of science, especially medical science. It is a difficult balance to strike, but we are working very hard to do so.