HL Deb 25 October 1979 vol 402 cc220-66

3.58 p.m.

Second Reading debate resumed.


My Lords, first may I apologise to the House for not being able to stay until the end of the Second Reading debate on this most important Bill. Unfortunately, I have a prior engagement which is unavoidable. My Lords, I welcome this Second Reading debate and also the setting up of a Select Committee which will be able to assess more fully the facts regarding cruelty to and unnecessary treatment of animals. The subject of laboratory testing evokes automatically strong emotional feelings—those for the continuance of and those opposed to the practice. I admit that I find it difficult to be objective without being biased.

Having read the Bill, I am not happy with some of the clauses contained in it, especially the ones dealing with pain and suffering. I do not think that it goes far enough towards ensuring the welfare and safety of animals, but I for one would rather be informed and convinced more fully before making a final decision. One reads of frightening cases of treatment and experiments. I do not know whether those accusations are justified, but, surely, in order to obtain the truth, could not the veil of secrecy which seems to exist be lifted and more facts be allowed to be published?

One solution could be the appointment of more inspectors. I believe that they number only 14, and that the number of experiments amount to a few million. I would approve that extra fully-qualified inspectors—and possibly some could be recruited from various animal welfare groups—should be given more powers. I believe that those inspectors should have the right of entry to any laboratory without having first to apply for permission to inspect. I cannot see any objection to that if all experiments are being carried out lawfully and there is nothing to hide.

I, for one, cannot condone the testing of tobacco on animals to find out which strains are harmful to humans. There must be any number of humans willing to smoke themselves to death, given the offer of free tobacco. Let them be the guinea-pigs. I also fail to see the justification in the experimentation of cosmetics in order to make women more attractive to men. There are enough products on the market for that already. If experiments are to continue, which will be the case, I think that the criteria should be purely on medical grounds. I shall follow closely the progress of this Bill, or any similar Bill, with a great deal of interest and concern. Finally, I look forward with interest to listening to the maiden speech of the noble Lord, Lord Adrian, who I understand is well qualified to speak on this very important subject.

4.1 p.m.


My Lords, I speak for the first time in your Lordships' House with a good deal of apprehension. I know that maiden speeches should be non-controversial and I know that the subject of today's debate gives rise to strong feelings. If what I say does likewise, I apologise in advance; I do not mean it to. I shall need all your Lordships' traditional kindness. At the outset I must make it clear that I hold a licence under the 1876 legislation to carry out animal experiments. I am a physiologist and I teach medical students. Being also a university don, I am forewarned, having read a most helpful article by the noble Lord, Lord O'Hagan, that your Lordships have no taste for lectures. I shall do my best not to fall into that, for me, very familiar mode of address.

Your Lordships will understand that I am one of those who hold the view that animal experiments can be justified, and indeed that they are necessary. They seem to me to be justified by the knowledge that they produce and, more importantly, by the benefits which stem from that knowledge; by the reduction of disease and the increase of the health of mankind and animals. I believe that the human and animal suffering which would be caused by denying ourselves the benefits of experiment would far outweigh the suffering caused by experiment.

As a physiologist with a medical training, I can see clearly how far the advances of medicine have depended on animal experiments. I do not doubt that there are in your Lordships' House several, and in the world at large millions, whose very lives depend on animal work on diabetes. The production, testing and standardisation of insulin has traditionally used animals. Now, however, we can look forward to the production of insulin by genetic engineering and to its standardisation by "alternative" methods.

The use of these "alternative" methods, as and when they become sufficiently developed and reliable, is very much to be welcomed; and I believe that their use is increasing. Ten years ago people thought that the numbers of animal experiments would continue to rise inexorably year by year. Instead the Home Office statistics show that since 1970 the annual total has, in fact, declined slightly. We may acknowledge the part that the noble Lord, Lord Houghton of Sowerby, and many others have played in this very welcome development.

I have said that I believe using animals in testing and experimental work is justifiable, but that is not to say that I think that all experiments or tests are justified. I do not advocate uncontrolled animal experiment—rather it should be done only under informed and responsible control; control of the kind that I believe has been exercised in this country for the last 100 years. But if we are to maximise the benefit and minimise the animal suffering, that control must be well-informed. This is indeed recognised in the composition of the proposed advisory committee, but it seems to me so important that I should like to see the role of that committee strengthened.

The advisory committee should be active in offering the Secretary of State and the Inspectorate advice on all aspects, scientific as well as ethical, of animal experiment, and their counsels should surely take into account the best available medical, veterinary and scientific knowledge. I should like to see the clinical and scientific members of the committee appointed from nominations by the Royal Colleges, the Royal Society, and relevant learned societies. I would also hope that in matters of appeal under Clause 15 the advisory committee's advice would normally be heeded. The importance of control, and indeed of self-control, is part of the outlook of biological scientists in this country who are jealous of their good reputation for animal care. I know that it is held that, because of lack of testing in the courts, the 1876 Cruelty to Animals Act is widely neglected. I can only say that in my own experience my colleagues take the provisions of that Act very seriously indeed and listen closely and with respect to the very knowledgeable advice of the Inspectorate; and that this attitude of willing co-operation extends to our professional associations.

The Bill which your Lordships are considering today preserves a great deal that is well-tried in the 1876 legislation. But biological science has made very great progress in the last 100 years and it is hardly surprising that the 1876 legislation needs bringing up-to-date. The Bill of the noble Earl, Lord Halsbury, does just that—it implements many of the recommendations of the Littlewood Committee. The concept of experiment is replaced by the much wider one of procedure. The scope of control is extended. Sponsoring for licence applications is made less automatic and will demand that the sponsors know more about what and who is being sponsored. All this greatly improves the present position, and does much of what critics of the 1876 Act have demanded. But it must be admitted that the present position is not altogether bad— in fact, the existing Act, for all its detractors, works well. There seems to me to be some force in the argument that our efforts should be concentrated on achieving a satisfactory agreement in the ad hoc Committee of the Council of Europe for the Protection of Animals, and for delaying changes in our legislation until that agreement has been accepted.

But, on balance, I think that we have waited long enough. At the same time I should be sorry indeed if controversy over this Bill and over one which may reach us from another place should interfere with our efforts to influence what is yet to be agreed in Europe. Finally, I do not think that human beings will very readily give up using animals, for food, for work, for knowledge, for safety, even for sport. Individuals differ widely in what they themselves will do. But society has to set limits on all these activities and fiercely argues about where those limits should be. To set those limits in experimental science in the last 100 years this country has relied on a combination of legislation and the personal responsibility of scientists. On the whole, it has worked well. It has offered protection to animals and, be it admitted, to scientists also, as was the intention of the original legislation. The Bill before your Lordships' House builds on and develops that very well-tried approach. I shall support its Second Reading and, if it be so moved, its reference to a Select Committee.

4.9 p.m.


My Lords, I am sure that all noble Lords will agree with me when I thank the noble Lord, Lord Adrian, for his splendid maiden speech. He is the distinguished physiologist son of a distinguished physiologist father whom many of us knew. Like his father, he has been elected a Fellow of the Royal Society. His father was awarded the Order of Merit and was a Nobel Prize winner in medicine. We hope that our new friend will follow this splendid example and rise to those heights, and that he will speak to us often. We are proud and privileged to have him with us in our House. We thank him once again for his speech. It was, as it should have been, non-controversial. When I had been in your Lordships' House for four months the Chief Whip came to me and said, "It is time you made your maiden speech". I said, "What on?" He said, "Any non-controversial subject". I said, "What do you suggest?" And he said, "What about pay beds in National Health Service hospitals!" I had difficulty in making that really non-controversial.

May I return to the subject of our debate this afternoon—the Laboratory Animals Protection Bill. Many years ago when I was on the junior staff of the Medical Professorial Unit of St. Bartholomew's Hospital, I took out an animal-experiment licence with a grant from the Medical Research Council to investigate a possible connection between the pituitary gland and gastric ulcers. This involved working with rabbits which I had bred myself in my parents' garden in Surrey. As you know these animals multiply quickly. With the help of my family and others looking after them we soon had a considerable number. We became quite fond of some of them and we got to know them by name. When mature they were brought up to London, to the Dunn Laboratory at Barts. While there I remember, well, being concerned about their welfare. We did our best to be kind to them but I thought, then, that more regulations were needed to supervise and control experiments on animals.

This Bill introduced to your Lordships' today by the noble Earl, Lord Halsbury, sets out clearly possible lines along which such protective legislation, regulations, official advice, embargoes, codes of conduct and licensing (not only for the experimenter himself but also for the premises in which he works) could and should now be developed to alleviate as much as possible the ill-health, distress, discomfort or pain experimental animals may suffer. But, as the noble Earl has himself suggested, and as the RSPCA and others have pointed out to me, his Bill still needs amendments; first, perhaps, by a Select Committee and then by a Committee of the Whole House.

Modern medicine and millions of people owe an enormous debt to those who have observed animals under controlled conditions, or who have carried out carefully-planned tests, trials or experiments upon them. These scientists have played a large part in the prevention and treatment of a great number of very serious diseases ranging from diphtheria and tuberculosis to poliomyelitis and bubonic plague. At present we cannot do without these animal experiments, because the alternative methods of assessment, which are steadily being developed, are not yet good enough in all contexts.

Members of the public and their lawyers are becoming more insistent on adequate protection and safety in almost every aspect of modern life. The number of animal experiments is, we are told, increasing because of the eight or more workers' or consumers' protection Acts which have been put on the statute book during the past 25 years. And more and more work is being done in trying to find an answer to our many vital medical problems. It might be thought that a Bill like this, with its stricter licensing and tighter controls, would tend to impede or perhaps even reduce medical research. I believe that the opposite is the case; it should lead to more and improved scientific trials and experiments under better conditions for the animals concerned.

In some subjects more should have been done in the past. Last year my wife and I travelled to Salzburg by air, with about 20 "thalidomide" teenagers on a holiday jaunt, some of them with arms and legs only a few inches long. A more cheerful bunch of youngsters I have seldom seen; but during lunch one could not help wondering, as have many others, how much human anxiety and suffering might have been avoided had more adequate animal experiments been possible before thalidomide had been put on the market. They were attempted, we all know, but did not prove sufficient.

There are some people who think that this Bill is quite unnecessary because they believe all experiments involving animals should be banned. To them I would reply by paraphrasing what I said to your Lordships on 22nd February 1977: If there is the slightest chance of a new food additive, drug, antibiotic, hormone, vaccine, insecticide, or even a new cosmetic preparation such as a hair dye, making someone ill, perhaps even causing cancer or some other very unpleasant or fatal disease, would these people really prefer that the first sign of such an illness should appear in a son or daughter, mother or father, wife or husband rather than in a rabbit, guinea pig, mouse or rat? I think we all know well enough, in our hearts, how the majority of people would answer that question. Therefore, my Lords, as a doctor and on behalf of most of my patients and their loved ones, I beg you to give this Bill a Second Reading.

4.17 p.m.


My Lords, I find it extremely difficult as a layman to express adequately the admiration I have for those noble Lords who have spoken already, particularly the professional ones who understand this subject inside out. I ask your Lordships' forgiveness for intervening for a few moments as a layman. I should like to thank the noble Earl, Lord Halsbury, for having given us the opportunity of speaking and of hearing him on this subject. Most people are deeply concerned about how animals are treated, but I think that very few, if any, would deny that it is important in some way, and perhaps in many ways, for experiments to continue.

The importance of this Bill arises from the fact that an attempt is being made to deal with a subject in a reasonable and proper manner. I should also like to say, particularly to the maiden speaker, Lord Adrian, that of course anybody who has any knowledge of anything at all knows what a valuable service his father and he have rendered to humanity, and today he has exhibited it in his speech. There is not very much need to speak about its excellence because we all expected it, and we look forward with considerable pleasure to hear from him very often and again shortly. That is why I confine myself to a portion of the Bill that I consider to be of considerable importance, and which I hope your Lordships will agree is of considerable importance.

I agree with the views already expressed, that we in Britain are outstanding in the manner in which protective legislation to animals has been used, and I think particularly in the last 100 years to Europe as a whole. We in Britain have had a proud tradition for more than 100 years of the strongest legislation in Europe in this respect. I am concerned of course for the well-being of animals, as are such vast numbers of our fellow men, and I commend the Bill as being a step in the right direction; namely, that of bringing legislation concerning the protection of laboratory animals up to date. Many of your Lordships who have much deeper knowledge and experience of this subject than I have, have given, and will be giving, the benefit of their views, and those views will be listened to with interested attention by the House. I therefore propose to deal briefly with one aspect of the Bill which I consider to be of considerable importance; namely, the provisions of Clause 8.

All of us will agree that every method should be sought to carry out tests humanely, on any kind of animal, and that just as important is the need to try to minimise the need for, and the number of, animal experiments that are required in any particular circumstance. Clause 8 requires the Secretary of State to publish a guide for good laboratory practice and advice on alternatives to experimental animals. The concept of alternatives is not new, as we have heard, but the questions that present themselves are: What alternatives are suitable? And, are they valid?

I wish to quote, as an example of the importance of research, the recommendations of scientists known to me who have studied the subject extensively and whose work in SCIP I admire. One of the alternatives to the use of animals which they propose, and with which after long deliberation they consider to be suitable for testing certain chemicals in medicines and food additives, is an easily available human tissue, the placenta or afterbirth. They state that when a substance is being tested for safe use in man, the best alternative to animals is man himself. Since it is not technically possible to carry out many tests on man, the best alternative is to use a human tissue, and in the placenta there is just such a tissue.

Clearly this does not replace all experiments on animals, but it has been pointed out to me that some experiments which take place using animals perhaps use more animals than would otherwise be the case in order to arrive at certain conclusions which may fail. However, I am talking now about something which does not mean that at all; in some instances experiments with the placenta can be better than tests using animals.

The report of the work of these scientists has just appeared in a publication entitled Placenta—A Neglected Experimental Animal, by Dr. Peter Beaconsfield, MD, PhD, and the director of SCIP, a research organisation with which I have worked and in which I have been interested for a considerable time, the Research Unit of Bedford College, University of London, the Visiting Professor of the City University, and Dr. Claude Villiee, PhD, the director of the Laboratory of Human Reproduction at Harvard Medical School, Boston, in the United States.

In this volume a number of articles and discussions between members of the group are collected. These people are experts whose knowledge is very wide-ranging and world renowned, and all of them are qualified to express their opinions on the satisfactory use of alternatives to animals in research. According to them the placenta, being human tissue, is infinitely more suitable a testing material to assess the accuracy of certain reactions than many animals currently in use, for the simple reason that it is human tissue. The foreword to the book has been written by one of the group, the Swedish Nobel Prize-winner, Professor Hugo Theorell, and I quote from his opening remarks: The quest for a suitable model on which to base human medical research is as long as the history of medicine itself. Only time will show how important a milestone on this journey the placenta may prove to be. As yet, it has been neglected … somewhat surprisingly, when we consider how much effort has been applied to seemingly less satisfactory and less freely available alternatives. The placenta's remarkably complete spectrum of cellular and biochemical activity, as well as its hormonal and endrocrinological roles and its short life-cycle, adds to its suitability for studying the processes of cell replication, immune mechanisms … and perhaps ageing. This second quotation amplifies the first: Although only one of many possible research models, the human placenta offers many advantages. It consists of human tissue, it is readily available and it possesses the unique properties of differentiating and growing from embryonal tissue to maturity and … senescence in only nine months. On the subject of drug testing, for example, Dr. Beaconsfield comments: As the placenta is a rapidly growing tissue, it is a good testing ground for compounds which are being developed to slow down growth and interfere with certain aspects of metabolism. Dr. Beaconsfield also comments: The validity of the placenta as an experimental animal is fully upheld … it can be kept alive and intact … and many processes can be studied on it. I hope your Lordships will forgive me for quoting so fully, but to me, as a layman, it seems strange that this subject, which is considered very fully in the publication to which I referred, appears to have escaped the notice of the Home Office and those who should have been deeply concerned with this subject. I believe that this Bill, and in particular the clause to which I referred, will make it compulsory for the authorities to see that every incentive possible is given to those who are taking part in research work of this description.

4.30 p.m.


My Lords, I should like to open my speech by adding my congratulations to those already extended to the noble Lord, Lord Adrian, upon his most thoughtful and informative speech, and I hope that it is but the forerunner of many more to come. I welcome the Bill for three reasons. The first is that I am connected with, and interested in, research into migraine, as well as blindness. Secondly, I believe that the Bill should curb the experiments done by irresponsible people. My third reason can be expressed in the words of Professor Hutt, Counsellor for Research, and Director of the Max Rayne Institute across the water at St. Thomas' Hospital. Professor Hutt hopes that the Bill will help to demonstrate to the general public that research workers, who are often denigrated by prejudiced groups, are responsible people who really care about welfare of the animals they use and now accept the need for restrictive legislation. The professor also points out that the great majority of animal experiments carried out in this country, particularly in the medical and veterinary field, really are necessary if we are to develop new techniques for the prevention and treatment of disease and therefore of suffering by mankind and by animals.

In a Stephen Paget Memorial lecture in 1978 Professor Paton of Oxford University pointed out that scientists had been represented as pursuing wanton curiosity or lacking in social responsibility. So he drew attention to the many forms of animal suffering, such as dying from disease and being killed for food. He also referred to the unwanted dogs and cats which are destroyed each year if they are lucky, and are not otherwise starved to death or dumped on a motorway. Yet only one animal experiment which leads to a future reduction of suffering is the one that is most bitterly attacked. It is not always understood that the use of animals in medical research is for the benefit of both human and veterinary medicine.

I must join with other noble Lords in thanking the noble Earl, Lord Halsbury, for his brilliant and most comprehensive speech and for introducing the Bill. I must tell him that the director of the Max Rayne Institute says that he and his team could find in the Bill no point of principle to which they could take exception, but they would like attention drawn to three clauses. With regard to Clause 7 they suggest that all breeders of laboratory animals should be inspected regularly for standards and disease control. In relation to Clause 8 they suggest that all licensees should receive a code of conduct and regulations with reference to animals used within the institutes. Clause 14 deals with the advisory committee, and the director and his team recommend that there should be more than one representative for the industries listed under sub-paragraph (2) of paragraph 1 of Schedule 3, and they would strongly press for the inclusion of an experienced chief animal superintendent (technologist) on the committee.

Would the noble Earl agree with these three points, and if he does, would he draw them to the attention of the Select Committee if the Bill is committed? Finally, would the Government agree that the enforcement of higher standards will inevitably lead to higher costs which in these days of financial stringency many universities and medical research institutes will not be able to meet? Therefore this will mean a reduction in medical research of the very best type. I should be grateful if the noble Lord, Lord Belstead, would indicate whether the Government would give sympathetic consideration to this problem.

4.34 p.m.


My Lords, I will occupy your Lordships' time only very briefly. I want to underline, if I may, one point. Before I do so may I join in the congratulations to the noble Lord, Lord Adrian, upon his magnificent maiden speech today. Inevitably he reminded me of the gentle, extraordinarily able man who was my director of studies some 55 years ago—Lord Adrian. We welcome the noble Lord; we enjoyed his speech greatly.

In connection with the Bill I want to underline the significance—to which the noble Earl, Lord Halsbury, referred in his opening speech—in the change from the word "experiment" to the word "procedure". It really is a significant change that there will be brought within the strengthened control, which other provisions of the Bill will secure, any procedure which in the absence of relief would cause distress, pain, or ill-health—and that is whether experimental or not. Those actions are brought within the ambit of this strengthened control, whereas today many of them not involving experiment are not within the ambit of the existing Act.

This point is of immense importance, and I emphasise it for the following reason. Some of your Lordships may have listened to the seven o'clock news this morming and a contribution that followed from a spokesman for the antivivisection people, who described the Bill as a "whitewash". I think that this must be answered now. Is it a whitewash, first, to strengthen the control over experimental work (the existing arena) and to extend that control to cover this extensive and growing world of action—not experiment— concerned with vaccines, biological products, testing, and insulin, which is of course likely to be much more used as the consumer protection movement grows? Is it whitewash to do those two things? Whereas one can understand those people who, for sentimental or other reasons, would deny other people the great benefits of animal experimentation, nevertheless they have no right to describe as a whitewash a Bill that does a very important thing in bringing the law up to date by substituting the word "experiment" with the word "procedure".

If the noble Earl, Lord Halsbury, is to be thanked for anything—and he is to be thanked considerably for the amount of work he has put into the Bill—it is for proposing that change of terminology which means so much protection to many more animals, and which is a very real advance, particularly because at the same time the control is strengthened so as to be even more effective than it is at present.

4.38 p.m.


My Lords, first, may I say how grateful I am to have been able to listen to the noble Lord, Lord Adrian, with his vast experience and knowledge. Secondly, I want to thank the noble Earl for bringing the Bill before this Chamber. It is time that a Government, whatever their political colour, took the responsibility rather than leave it to the enterprise of Members from either side of this House or of the other place to try to put the situation in order regarding protection of animals in laboratories.

I have to declare a little interest here. I have over the years been linked with the work of the pharmaceutical laboratories and I have watched pathologists at work. Consider the situation if one is trying to sell the result of work of such men as the noble Lord, Lord Adrian, and his noble father, and others overseas who may be seeking a licence to sell a drug in Japan, perhaps through the FDA—the Federal Drug Association. Whether the British pharmacologists, biologists or others like it or lump it there must be put forward a vast amount of evidence before the drug can be licensed in the country concerned, no matter how good the drug may be. There must be some animal pharmacology, there must be some work on animals. Whatever legislation this country may introduce, if we want to export the results of the brain work of our people in the fields of drugs, gastroenterology, et cetera, some work must first of all be done on animals, and if it is not done here it could be taken to other European countries where there is less concern for the safety of animals than there is in this country. Therefore, those vivisectionists who, like myself, also love animals should remember that if we push these experiments out of this country, which is famous and noteworthy throughout the world for its love of animals, they could go to parts of the world where, whatever action is done to animals, the thought of cruelty to them will be the last thing in the minds of the experimenters and results will be the first. If one looks at the distinguished men and women—and I know some of them—who have contributed to this Bill, one can only pay tribute to the hours and hours of thought and discussion which have gone into the production of it.

My Lords, when we talk about the Littlewood Committee's report, I should like to point out that in 1976 the figure was given of some 5½ million animals having been used; and I should also like those of us who are interested in the prevention of cruelty to animals not to be so anxious and self-righteous about it. To my mind, the Bramwell Committee's report on the factory farming of animals showed that that is much more cruel than the gentle work which has sometimes to be done with animals in a laboratory. Anybody who has been to a modern chicken farm, where millions of chickens are living with their necks between bits of wire, and who have seen these neurotic animals, will, I am sure, agree—and it is now moving into the realm of pig farming and calf farming. Let us stop this attitude that it is only the scientists in the laboratories who are being wantonly cruel to animals. People who speak like that know nothing about what it costs to set up, from the pathological department right through, an experiment on animals. No scientist would have the background for simple, wanton research. Anyway, all research has to have approval—and it has to have the approval of men and women in a profession which has to be trusted, because it has the know-how so far as we laymen are concerned. Consequently, let me say that more work has been done to try to meet some of the feelings of the Littlewood Committee as shown in their report on laboratory animals than has been done in the field of agriculture as a result of the Bramwell Report on factory farming.

I want to thank my noble friend Lord Janner. I was fascinated by his story of the placenta. We have not got the time to do it now, but perhaps at the Committee stage or at some other time some noble Lord in the field of medicine or in this field, who knows about the work which is done on this matter—there must be some noble Lord who does can—tell us whether there is any reality in it. If there is reality in it, then I say to my noble friend Lord Janner that I am quite certain the scientists and others in Britain will be among the first to recognise the truth of this statement.


My Lords, I quite agree. I hope they will read the book which has been produced, which contains very full information about it, but I do not want my noble friend to think for one moment that I was in any way deprecating those who are in the scientific world.


My Lords, my noble friend missed my opening sentence. I was congratulating him. In fact, I used the words, "Thank you". My Lords, I must not speak for too long—and I have an apology to make to the House. It is not my custom to leave the Chamber if I have spoken in a debate, but I have a commitment with the Inter-Parliamentary Union. I shall stay here as long as I can, and I hope that perhaps the debate will be finished before I have to go. Let me take just another couple of minutes.

There are regulations and Acts which, whatever we may say at the present moment, imply that animals have to be used; and they require manufacturers, those of us in the pharmaceutical industry and others to let the Home Office know, and to let other authorities know, what is being done. There are the Medicines Act 1968, the Health and Safety at Work Act, the Consumer Protection Act, the cosmetic products regulations of 1976, and the regulations concerning the safe use of poisonous chemicals on farms. I am picking the noble Earl's brains now; he knows that. Then there are the 1978 regulations concerning approved products for farmers and growers, the proposed scheme for the notification of toxic properties in substances, the Food and Drugs Act 1955, two of the Pesticides (Safety Precautions) Schemes 1971—and so one could go on.

My Lords, I am about to sit down. We talk about Europe, and what we might do there. I do not think we have to wait for this. To cut my speech right short now, I hope that this House will approve and give a Second Reading to this Bill, so that we may have a Select Committee to give a lead and produce a piece of work which will do well for Britain and also (since this Government are interested in prosperity) for the drug industry and the research of our great medical, scientific and biological people who, for years, have given a lead to the world in the cure of diseases.

4.47 p.m.


My Lords, until recently I was the chairman of the committee set up by the Home Secretary to advise him on problems arising under the 1876 Cruelty to Animals Act, so perhaps your Lordships will bear with me while I say a few words and they will be very few—on this Bill. In 1876 there were comparatively few animal experiments, and the main problem which faced the legislature 100 years ago was that of vivisection, the performance of surgical operations on unanaesthetised animals in furtherance of physiological knowlege. Today, the main problem, I think, is quite a different one. It is that created by the need to test for safety new substances—medicines, industrial chemicals, pesticides, weed killers, detergents and so on—which are constantly being devised and made available to the public. Nearly all countries—this country, the EEC countries and most developed foreign countries—have legislation which requires the use of animals to test the safety of new substances, and under that legislation, day in and day out, millions upon millions of rats and mice are being used for safety testing. The problem, of course, is to strike a fair balance between the safeguarding of the consumer and the limitation on the number of animals used.

My Lords, I would emphasise to your Lordships that this is not a United Kingdom problem. It is a worldwide problem; and, as the noble Earl who opened this debate emphasised, it is one in which this country, with its great experience of animal protection legislation, can lead the way—and I am sure I hope it will. But, of course, legislation in this field is something of a hot potato. There is necessarily, I think, a certain suspicion, or there has been, between, on the one hand, scientists and doctors and those predominantly concerned with the protection of the consumer, and, on the other hand, those predominantly concerned with the welfare of animals. Of course, those classes overlap; many doctors and scientists are animal lovers, and many people who are members of animal welfare organisations use medicines and detergents.

I think myself—this is the strong impression I gained in my work as chairman of the committee—that, based on a greater knowledge of the facts, there is gradually growing a greater mutual understanding on both sides than there used to be. That was borne, in on me as I heard the evidence in the inquiry the committee made into the LD50 test some months ago. But the time is undoubtedly ripe for a new Bill and thin, Bill is certainly an enormous improvement on the existing one. Speaking for myself, I should have liked to see it a Government measure. I do not think that the noble Earl will dissent from me on that. But assuming that the Government are not going to produce a Bill of their own, I would invite your Lordships to give this Bill a Second Reading, trusting to having it amended in certain respects in Committee.

My Lords, there are just one or two points of detail on the Bill that I would refer to. The first concerns the composition of the advisory committee which is to be built into the statute. It is not like the existing committee, which is not statutory at all. The Bill makes no express provision for the inclusion among the members of the committee of members representative of animal welfare organisations. I am not sure that that is wise. Certainly, in our deliberations on the LD50 test we were greatly helped by having with us as an observer Mr. Jordan, a member of the Committee for the Reform of Animal Experimentation. Obviously, it would be inappropriate to put on to the committee a convinced abolitionist, a man convinced on principle of the wrongful nature of animal experimentation; and obviously such a man would not willingly serve on the committee. But I hope that the Select Committee, if this Bill goes to one, will consider the possibility of including members of animal welfare organisations on the committee.

The second matter is rather more personal. The Bill provides that the chairman of the committee should be a legally-qualified gentleman. In a general way I am all in favour of "jobs for the boys" even if the job, like this one, is unpaid; but I am not sure that it is by any means necessary that the chairman of the advisory committee should be a lawyer. I was very glad to hear that Mrs. Warnock, the Oxford philosopher, who has been a member of our committee, was prepared to take my place as chairman of it when it was a non-statutory body. That is the second point which I hope that the Committee may take into account. I commend this Bill to your Lordships.

4.53 p.m.


My Lords, I am a layman but it so happens that I have had much to do with animals used in medical research and I have taken part in a number of debates in this House over the years—to such an extent that I feel justified in adding to the congratulations which have been showered on the noble Earl on the result of his expertise and enterprise and that of his team which produced this Bill which is praised as it should be. I think, on what I have heard, that I can assume that the House will give the Bill a Second Reading and refer it to a Select Committee; but that will not be the end of it for there are plenty of problems with other Bills in the other House, problems connected with the Common Market and the like and we shall no doubt hear from the noble Lord, Lord Houghton of Sowerby, about other projects which are in his mind. But I do not propose to refer to any specific part of the Bill for that is a Committee matter.

I intend to detain your Lordships for only a very short time to comment on the situation in general terms. First I should like to congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Adrian, on his maiden speech. He outlined a number of directions in which man's life is related to animals, and I should have liked to hear him add the word "companionship" in terms of animals. I have just been to the Kipling lunch and I think of his poem about "the firstest friend". He said: I love Binky my dog because He is the same as the first friend was And I am the man in the cave. The problem has an emotional element, thanks largely to the divisive and sometimes hysterical campaigns by organisations in the anti-vivisection field whose sponsors' heart-felt sincerity must be respected although, alas! they allow their hearts to overrule their heads. The noble Lord, Lord Hill of Luton, brought that out in his reference to this morning's broadcast to which I shall refer again. Talking of the anti-vivisection people, with their substantial financial resources, they inevitably employ personnel whose merit in their employers' eyes rests on the stridency with which they "sing for their suppers." That is something that we must bear in mind increasingly today. It applies to trade unions but that is another matter. There are people employed to say these things.

Those of your Lordships who may have listened to Radio 4 at 7.15 this morning, to which the noble Lord, Lord Hill of Luton, has referred, will understand what I mean. I thought the BBC were interviewing someone on the Bill. I thought that their interviewer put up a very moderate and sensible case for the Bill in the face of the criticisms that were made and he dealt with the "anti's" strident and misleading condemnation of it. This brings me to the single point that I want to make. One result of the Bill, if it becomes law, will be to enable the Home Office to collect and publish statistics in a more generous way and in a more accessible form than at present. I cite this instance. I was in the woods the other day collecting chanterelles and wood hedgehogs—which I had not heard of but ate with relish. I took a book on fungi from my shelf and it opened at "Moulds". In the middle of the page was a description of Florey's original experiment, in respect of penicillin. I sent my name immediately to the noble Earl, Lord Halsbury, and said that I should like to speak. Your Lordships may recall that with the small pickle of penicillin that was available to Florey he inoculated 50 mice with streptococci and treated 25 of them with penicillin. Twenty-four of these survived and all the others died. No one, I think, can say that that was a waste of animal life. This, we know, is the sort of thing that happens. This experiment of his led to the saving of thousands of lives in the war and continues today into the millions.

Was the experiment necessary? I leave it to your Lordships to decide that. Was this one experiment or was it fifty? Here I am back to statistics. I think I am right in saying that at present it would be 50; but there are various other angles on this which are very interesting. Were the mice anaesthetised'? Of course not. If one turns to the Home Office publication Experiments on living animals: Statistics 1977, at page 18 one sees under the heading Rabbit, Applications of substance to the eye: 14,897 experiments. I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Hill of Luton, who congratulated the noble Earl, Lord Halsbury, on pressing the use of the word "procedures" rather than "experiments" Ten animals and 10 control animals used in one test would be reported as 20 experiments. One animal used 10 times in 10 consecutive experiments which all gave negative answers would be reported as 10 experiments. On Page 18 at column 6 the returns are 14,897 experiments on rabbits used for testing the application of substances applied to the eye. This figure could relate to anything between 14,897 rabbits used once each with a positive result, and one rabbit used 14,897 times with a negative result in each case. The truth would lie somewhere between these extremes, but not in any discoverable way. This is indicative of the way in which I hope to look forward to see statistics turned out when the noble Earl's Bill is an Act and the law of the land.

This is where I cross swords with the "anti's". They know perfectly well that many of their accusations based on current figures are grossly misleading because the figures are misleading or capable of misinterpretation. If they do not, then they ought to. This Bill will go a long way to clear matters up. I deplore the divisive and accusatory terms in which these campaigns are waged. It was by chance only that I found myself concerned with the use of animal procedures. First, as a boy in a physiological laboratory under a well known research physiologist; and, later in my life, as chairman of a group manufacturing pharmaceutical products with our own animal laboratory. I mention this in order to refute the accusation implicit in too much of the "anti's" material, that researchers are, ipso facto, monsters of cruelty. They are not. The reverse is the case. This point was made by the noble Baroness, Lady Hylton-Foster. Individuals, with very few exceptions, are not callous. They respect life. Why else are they researching? Compassion and the love of animals does not reside on one side of the divide which has been created and none on the other.

Let us strive to press on with this Bill. It is far ahead of anything else that has been done. The speech of the noble and learned Lord who preceded me was most impressive on this direction. What more really can be said? Let us try to press on with it. It is far ahead of anything that has been done. It reflects the greatest benison on the noble Earl and his team. I repeat the word that he used in his own speech when talking about compassion. He referred to his work as "a labour of love by a dedicated team". So far ahead indeed is this Bill that one appreciates how wounding it must be to those who wish that they had thought of it before, or thought of it themselves. That is why I said early in my speech that there are problems ahead with various Bills in various directions. I do not think anything more meticulous or more well informed is going to emerge. The Bill is a huge step forward and I hope that the House will give it a Second Reading and commit it to a Select Committee.

5.4 p.m.


My Lords, before I address your Lordships, I should like to offer an apology to the noble Earl for not being present when he made his speech, and to the other noble Lords whom I unfortunately did not hear because of the rather inclement weather that I encountered on my way here. Having said that, I shall not detain your Lordships unduly. It would be ill of me to make comments on this Bill, not having heard what other noble Lords have said. Any remarks I may make are purely my own views.

The noble Earl and I on a number of occasions have disagreed quite strongly on the subject of animal experimentations. When I obtained his Bill during the recess I was most surprised to find that I supported him practically the whole way through. This is the first really good attempt that we have had—and when I say "good" that is a masterpiece of understatement—at producing a Bill to amend the 1876 Act. The whole of the administration of the 1876 Act, until fairly recently, was clothed in the most appalling fog.

One of the things about which I agree most strongly with my noble friend Lord Ferrier is the totally incomprehensible statistics which have been produced. One of the reasons why there is such tremendous heat against animal experimentation is the enormous numbers—running into millions—of experiments being carried out on animals. The bulk of those experiments were probably justified; perhaps a lot were not. The trouble is that those of us who are on the periphery of these things are presented with only the very worst aspects. One never sees anything being pushed forward to suggest that certain scientific experiments on animals have been made which are going to advance everything for the benefit of mankind. But if one experiment goes wrong there is noise like the trumpets of Hell blowing to welcome the noble Earl, Lord Halsbury. That is wrong, my Lords.

I do not like experiments on animals. My personal feeling is automatically against them. But I hope that I am one of those who can see that these are necessary, and that, up to a point, we have to have them. Many advances which have been made would never have been made without experiments. I am not saying that I agree with the methods on occasions, but I can see that experiments have to take place. I say to the noble Earl: I thank you for taking the steps forward which you have.

I strongly support the noble Earl in moving that this Bill be committed to a Select Committee. I have heard of this House—particularly when we had another Government—having long hot summers; this Select Committee is going to have a long hot winter. The Committee is going to be exposed to flames of indignation and wrath day after day. I hope that those selected to sit on it will have a great deal of resistance to pressure, because they are going to suffer it. Apart from that, there are a few small items with which I disagree: some drafting; some minor matters of principle. I heartily support the noble Earl's Bill, and I trust that your Lordships will give it a Second Reading. I wish it the hest of luck in the Select Committee, if it is so committed.

5.10 p.m.


My Lords, like the noble Lord, Lord Hill of Luton, I was a student of the late Lord Adrian and formed an admiration and a love for him which was very commonly held. It was thus with great delight that I listened to the enormous success of his son when he made his maiden speech this afternoon. My pleasure at this, however, was considerably muted by the fact that he said many of the things that I had wished to say and said them so much better than I would have if I had attempted to say them. So I must confine myself strictly to matters that he did not stress although he mentioned them.

One, I think, is very important—and in this I speak from experience—which is that this debate and this discussion is coming at a time when the Council of Europe is considering the legislation concerning these matters throughout Europe; and several noble Lords have made this point. Why I say I have some experience of this is that the first of the Directives directed towards the professions from the EEC was concerned with my own profession. It was extremely clear that the long experience of organisation of education in this country had a major effect on the tenor of those Directives. In fact, the assessment of sufficiency for medical student training would have been expressed entirely quantitatively had it not been for the introduction of the qualitative element by people representing this country. I believe the same is true in the postgraduate field where, again, we are well organised and know what we think. If in this country we can know what we think and know it in a modern setting—not just as it was 103 years ago in its starting—this Bill will have done a very great service to this country.

The noble Earl, Lord Halsbury, made very clearly a point about the sponsors for those who should hold licences. I am one of the 10 presidents of institutions who has the task of acting as a second sponsor and, like the late Lord Platt, I find it is intensely difficult and indeed invidious, because I do not know enough of the individuals and sometimes of the subject. I have to search my knowledge and try to find out, but I do not believe I always do this satisfactorily and I know that another president of another institution holds exactly the same views. In the future those who are sponsors not only will, in the one instance, know the individual and his work but, in the other instance, will know the relevance and importance of the experiments to be done.

We have heard this afternoon about emotion. It is not entirely on the side of those who would deplore animal experiments. It is held very strongly indeed by doctors who have to care for patients and who have the greatest and most intense gratitude when there is a specific remedy they can apply, and who have a sense of extreme pain that would amount to terrible anger and resentment if, when they cannot find a remedy that can be applied, the reason for their not finding it is a failure to experiment because of a false logic and a lack of balance as to the relative importance of man and his suffering in relation to that of animals, however greatly one might wish the animals not to suffer.

Mention has been made, as was inevitable in this debate, of penicillin. The experiments that the noble Lord, Lord Ferrier, has just told us about were relevant to penicillin. It so happens that last Sunday in the Central Synagogue in Great Portland Street there was held a memorial service for the last to die of the immortal triumvirate of Florey, Fleming and Sir Ernst Chain, and the Chief Rabbi, in a most moving memorial address, said of genius that there had been Darwin and Marx and Freud and Einstein. Then he said: Which of those has been responsible for saving the lives of millions and millions of men?"—Sir Ernst Chain He went on to say he did not think there was a single person in that vast building full of people who did not owe something to that discovery, either directly or indirectly. I believe this to be true of the Members of your Lordships' House. The emotion is not entirely on the side of the anti-vivisectionists.

5.16 p.m.


My Lords, the debt of gratitude which this House owes to the noble Earl, Lord Halsbury, for instigating this debate this afternoon is very much more considerable than many people think, because we have had Bills, quite sincerely meant, from the other side of the spectrum but nothing in those Bills have ever given any real alternative to saving lives and to decreasing the numbers of deaths and disablements through malignant disease. Now at last we have a Bill which we hope will in due course reach the Statute Book, if not in its present form, in something like its present form, because it has very much merit in it.

Most of those who have contributed to this debate have themselves been distinguished doctors and scientists. I cannot classify myself in either category, although for many years my family and I—as I have had reason to mention before to your Lordships—have been involved in sitting on hospital committees of various kinds and have witnessed the use of drugs which have been able to be used, very largely through experiments on animals. I should like in this connection to add my own congratulations to the very erudite maiden speech of the noble Lord, Lord Adrian, whose father was a distinguished and much respected scientist who contributed most valuably to your Lordships' House.

The Bill has the merit of setting out with considerable clarity its aims. It places considerable obligations upon those who conduct these experiments. I think that is a very important point to remember. We were regaled in some of the popular Press recently with some quite loathsome experiments on animals in a certain Oriental country—experiments which would never be allowed here under the legislation at present in force and certainly not under the legislation which the noble Earl, himself a most distinguished scientist, has put in his Bill.

Of course, this is an emotive subject. Any death of a pet, particularly a dog, cat or rabbit, is a matter for tragedy; but it is something like 0.25 per cent. of dogs which are used in experiments in this country. But let us get things into perspective. How many dogs get thrown out of cars on to a motorway because they are unwanted by families? I must declare an interest here, as we have a dog which was obtained as a small puppy from a lady who specialises in dogs which have come from the RSPCA and which, as puppies, have been ill-treated in some form or other. We have given homes to several such dogs which I am pleased to say have all, so far, lived to a fairly ripe age. We like to think that that is because they have been well looked after.

How many dogs, cats and other animals are kicked, have things thrown at them or have poison indiscriminately put down for them? We hear all too little of this from those who criticise what the noble Earl, Lord Halsbury, is seeking to do in his Bill. Of course, no legislation of this kind can be above criticism and no care can be too great to ensure that suffering does not take place. I think that the obligation to put all animals used for these experiments to sleep afterwards, though regrettable in many ways, is essential to make sure that no suffering takes place.

I especially welcome Clause 5 of the Bill, but I wonder whether my noble friend who will be replying for the Home Office, and the noble Earl would consider making this power mandatory, rather than permissive; in other words, substituting "shall" for "may". However, that is a matter for the Select Committee, if that is where the Bill goes. I believe that power to be most essential. Also, it should be extended to the kennels where these dogs are kept, particularly if they are some distance away from where the experiments take place. Similarly, the power in the very important Clause 7 should be mandatory, if it is not already so. I may be doing the noble Earl an injustice in asserting that it is not mandatory, but my reading of the clause is that at the moment it is a discretionary power. One reads stories about the transportation of animals in rather different circumstances, and this is something which is vital.

It is obviously very difficult to obtain figures of people who have suffered from conditions such as asthma—and, since I suffer from sinus trouble from time to time, I can speak with some knowledge here—arthritis and certain cancers, who would never have seen the light of day for more than a few months or years of their lives, had it not been for these experiments. I have not witnessed many such experiments. I have witnessed one in this country and another at a well-known pharmaceutical company in Antwerp. The experiments were carried out under conditions of absolutely maximum cleanliness, hygiene and skill and there was no question of the animal being ill-treated. There was also no question of a show being put on, merely because several Members of Parliament went along in an official capacity.

I believe that this is a Bill which is well worthy of going to a Select Committee, particularly in view of the possible implications of EEC legislation. If we do not have a Bill such as this, two things will happen. First, animals will suffer very much more than they do now at the hands of all kinds of cheapjack experimenters working for profit, and, secondly, more animals will find themselves abandoned by those who do not know how to look after them. It may, in sonic cases, be a choice between evils. One can understand people's feelings when animals are used on experiments and, in the long run, have to die. But there has been very convincing proof in speeches this afternoon by those who really know and who have taken part in these experiments that much human life has been saved and that much remains to be saved in the future if these perfectly ethical experiments can go on with the Home Office inspectorate being ever vigilant to make sure that no malpractice takes place.

5.27 p.m.


My Lords, the debate that we have had today has been more than a discussion on the Second Reading of a Bill. I believe that it is the opening of a long and, I hope, fruitful debate on this difficult subject which is likely to continue in Parliament for some time. As an indication of public concern on this question, I would remind your Lordships' House that the three major political parties referred to this subject in their respective election manifestoes, and that is a clear sign that public concern about this question has made an impact on political opinion.

I think that we all owe a deep sense of gratitude to the noble Earl, Lord Halsbury, for his accomplished presentation of this Bill to us this afternoon. I have been grateful to him for a long time for his confidence and reports, as occasion arose, on the progress that he was making with this Bill. I say to the noble Lord the Minister opposite that, if he spends half as much time on a Government Bill on this subject as has been spent by the noble Earl, Lord Halsbury, then at the end of the day we shall have accomplished a fine legislative change.

The Government themselves have promised to introduce a Bill to update the 1876 Act, but now we have a Bill by the noble Earl, Lord Halsbury, in this House; we are to expect the Second Reading in another place on 16th November of a private Member's Bill introduced by Mr. Peter Fry on the same subject, and currently we have under consideration the draft convention of the Council of Europe, which is also about experimentation on living animals. So after a long period when there has been little happening on this front we have three new elements in the situation, and I think it will be of interest to the House to learn from the Minister how Her Majesty's Government see the legislative programme, the strategy for dealing with this complex problem during this next Session of Parliament.

The noble Earl, Lord Halsbury, will probably find that he is a kind of pathfinder for the Government. He is leading the way in thought on this subject. If the Bill is referred to a Select Committee, as I hope it will be, I think that the evidence which will be given to it will be of great value in considering the later stages of discussion and constructive thought on the subject.

I happen to be the chairman of a committee for the reform of animal experimentation, and in the course of today's debate I have not heard the kind of speeches on this Bill that I hear from my friends in the animal welfare movement. The debate has been one of tranquillity. The voice of sanity has prevailed throughout. But it takes more than the voice of sanity to make the world go round. It takes the voice of passion, of deeply held conviction, of deeply stirred conscience. That is what we shall be listening to in the weeks and months to come on this and other measures for reform in this field. And we must not despise that. We must take account of the fact that public opinion is stirred more by emotional reactions to a matter of this kind than by the laboratory approach to the use of animals for research and similar purposes.

In my own work in recent months I have missed the late Lord Platt whose vast experience and moderate counsel on this difficult subject was of great benefit to me. I am quite sure that he would have taken part in the debate today had he been spared to comment on my noble friend's Bill. This Bill is to be welcomed for the good it does, which is not inconsiderable. It incorporates practically all the recommendations of the Littlewood Committee which have been neglected for so long because they needed legislative change. The opportunity has now come to incorporate them in the Bill.

The Bill strengthens the conditions under which licences are granted to persons who are suitably qualified. It requires the limits of their use of animals for particular purposes to be clearly laid down. The Bill improves laboratory practices; it imposes conditions for the alleviation of suffering and stress; and in many ways it seeks to make the life of the laboratory animal more tolerable. That is all to the good. However, I see nothing in the Bill which offers any hope of reducing the numbers of animals which pour into our laboratories happily alive but which come out of them miserably dead. I see nothing in the Bill to restrict the use of animals and to get the numbers down, which the leaders of both the Conservative and the Labour Parties have publicly declared to be their wish.

The Home Secretary can, admittedly, use his discretion under the procedures of the Bill to put the brake on practices which would give rise to public indignation if they became known or which would he an objectionable abuse of animal life. However, I cannot put too much confidence in Home Secretaries to use their discretion in Bills of this kind because the record of successive Home Secretaries on the Cruelty to Animals Act 1876 is quite deplorable. I know of no Act of Parliament which has been converted so freely by successive Ministers into a piece of elastic as the Cruelty to Animals Act 1876.

That is why I think that we must examine closely the two watchdogs in the public interest with which the Bill deals. One is the inspectorate and the other is the advisory committee. The inspectorate on the one hand and the advisory committee on the other ace the representatives of the public interest here. Clearly the public have an interest in what experimenters are doing. They are doing a great deal at public expense, anyway, and they are doing it under immunity from prosecution under the general criminal laws against cruelty to animals.

To the extent that cruelty or suffering and pain are inflicted on animals in laboratory work, it is done under licence. If it were not done under licence, it would probably be the subject of criminal prosecution. Indeed, not so long ago there was a case in Scotland where, had an experiment been carried out under the protection of the 1876 Act it would not have been open to prosecution; but since the experiment was conducted outside the protection of that Act the person concerned was prosecuted and convicted under the Protection of Animals Act (Scotland) 1912. Therefore those who are doing this work under the protection of the 1876 Act have an obligation to pay attention to public concern. That is why they must submit themselves to be monitored and supervised where suffering may prove to be unavoidable.

The inspectors are there to see that the law and the regulations are complied with. The Bill strengthens their position, and that is to be welcomed. However, they are not able by themselves to provide the Home Secretary with all the advice he needs to exercise the discretion which the Bill would give to him. That is where I think the advisory committee conies in.

Several references have been made by noble Lords to the composition and work of the advisory committee. In a very well informed and interesting speech, the noble Lord, Lord Adrian, referred to the advisory committee. Then a few moments ago we heard from the noble Lord, Lord Cross of Chelsea, who until recently was chairman of the advisory committee. The late Lord Platt was a member of the advisory committee and complained bitterly on more than one occasion about the infrequent use made of the committee by Home Secretaries of the day. That is why I am most anxious that the advisory committee provided for in this Bill should not only be statutory but also should have responsibilities and powers of initiative of its own. It should not be dependent wholly upon the call of the Home Secretary to examine a particular matter upon which he needs advice. It must be free. It must have the powers of a watch dog in the public interest.

The present Home Secretary has to some extent forestalled the provisions contained in the Bill relating to the future terms of reference and the composition of the advisory committee. In an announcement made a little while ago the Home Secretary appointed a new chairman—who is not to be one learned in the law, as the noble Lord, Lord Cross of Chelsea, pointed out—and he had fresh proposals to make regarding the terms of reference, which to some extent are satisfactory. However, there is still, unfortunately, a problem as to the composition of the advisory committee: who shall be on it, what kind of background they shall come from and what kind of interest one is to expect them to reflect in the work of the advisory committee.

This is a most difficult question. One can either have a completely neutral, non-professional committee or one can have a committee which has upon it those of experience and those with points of view upon particular aspects of the problem—professional, medical, animal welfare and so forth—and I think we have not finally resolved how the new advisory committee is to be composed. But undoubtedly we want to see on that committee a few intelligent laymen. After all, they are the representatives of the public interest. The public are lay people, but in a democracy their voice is as important, if not more important, than that of more sophisticated and well informed people. We cannot leave all these things to the experts. Your Lordships know as well as I do that very often experts, left to themselves, become dangerous people. Some of them even go "dotty" and they require the commonsense of the layman to keep them on the lines of rational thought and activity. That is the element that we want to see on the advisory committee.

The Littlewood Committee understood this when in paragraph 238 of their report they said: The role of legislation is to prohibit objectionable activities, to encourage humane practices and to provide for the aceountability to the public of all concerned". My Lords, that is the keynote of legislation and that must be found in full measure in this Bill. I think that an examination of it will show that it has to be tested against that particular criterion. I strongly support the Motion to refer this Bill to a Select Committee. I support the Second Reading of the Bill, also, not because it is the final word, not because it reflects all that I would wish to see, but because its great value lies in the fact that it is the product of deep thought and consideration by scientific opinion. In particular, it might be said that it represents what the Research Defence Society feels able to accept and that is an important guide in the consideration of this matter.

If we have a Select Committee, I think it will help to receive evidence; not only to invite it but to summon it and let us hear the constructive proposals of those who have much to say on all sides of this argument, and in particular the animal welfare organisations. When animal welfare organisations have carried their message and their propaganda to the point of attracting the serious attention of political parties, the close attention of Government and of Parliament, who want to reform and change the law, then I believe the animal welfare organisations have a clear public duty to come forward with constructive proposals to enable all parties to arrive at an agreed conclusion. That is really what all this should be about and the noble Earl, Lord Halsbury, has started the process of that opportunity.

This is the first time for many years that we have had the opportunity of embarking on such an important phase of consideration of this matter. I know, as my noble friend Lord Davies of Leek said, that there are other worries in the field of animal welfare, but we cannot do everything at once and we cannot put one noble cause in competition with another. I think we have to deal with those things upon which we feel deeply, upon which we believe that we have the knowledge and conviction to advance the matter further and to try to get progress in that way.

The noble Lord, Lord Adrian, and other noble Lords have given their philosophical judgment upon the use of animals for experimental purposes. This is not the moment to open the moral argument, but so far as I am concerned—and I speak only for myself—I do not believe that we have any moral right to do these things to animals. I do not believe that man has any divine or moral right of dominion over other species. Personally I can never accept the doctrine of the sanctity of human life from those who regard animal life as being freely expendable and who will subordinate other living things to the greed and the arrogance and the selfishness of mankind. That is a personal point of view, but I do not let it blind me to other considerations and other points of view. Since we have to get a consensus if we are to get legislation, if we are to get public opinion behind us, if we are to get the response from those who are working in the laboratories, we must all try to come together and get a code and a standard of conduct which will be accepted by all of us as the best possible method of going forward in all the circumstances. Therefore, I hope the House will give the Bill a Second Reading and will adopt the Motion to refer it to a Select Committee, because I believe that the evidence which that Select Committee can obtain will be of enormous value in the later stages of this Bill.

5.47 p.m.


My Lords, I had not intended to speak tonight and I hope your Lordships will bear with me for a few moments. The noble Lord, Lord Houghton of Sowerby, to whom I always listen with respect, particularly on this subject, regretted the lack of passion in today's debate. I think I may count myself as a modest representative of the animal welfare world: I am the president of the Council of Justice to Animals, I am chief patron of the Crusade against all Cruelty to Animals. I am also a patron of a trust which owns a large dogs' home, but I have always found that where one gets passionate defence of animals it is practically invariably from those who are either incapable of seeing both sides of the question or who do not want to see both sides. I believe that the only way in which to make any progress at all is to look at it from a perfectly balanced point of view and to see the pros and cons of the entire subject.

I owe a great deal to the medical profession. In fact if it were not for them I should not be standing here tonight and anything that can further their knowledge I am perfectly prepared to support. I can only say that I entirely support my noble friend's Bill and I sincerely hope that it will go to a Select Committee.

5.49 p.m.


My Lords, animal experimentation is a complex and highly specialised subject. It also raises moral and social issues which are by no means the exclusive concern of the scientists. I think there are few other scientific activities which give rise to such strong instinctive reactions towards suffering to which many, in fact all, of your Lordships have given expression in the speeches which have been made today. With over 100 years' experience behind us in the working of the Cruelty to Animals Act of 1876, and in view of the developments which have taken place during that time in the fields of scientific research and animal welfare, it is clearly right that the most serious consideration should be given to placing on the Statute Book legislation which takes those developments fully into account. So our thanks are more than usually due to the promoter of a Private Members' Bill: to the noble Earl, Lord Halsbury, today, not only for introducing what I think is only the second attempt completely to replace the 1876 Act but also because by introducing this important Bill the noble Earl has attracted to the debate many of your Lordships who have a close knowledge of the working of the existing legislation. May I join all other noble Lords in welcoming particularly the speech which was made by the noble Lord, Lord Adrian. In fact the noble Lord has been frequently a patient listener in your Lordships' House and I welcome so much that he decided to come and speak on this subject today, a subject on which he has unrivalled qualifications to speak.

If I may say so, the noble Earl's speech and the speeches of other noble Lords have shown that legislation on this subject must maintain a proper balance between the legitimate requirements of science and industry and those of animal welfare. As I think all noble Lords who have spoken in this debate will know better than I do, the basic objective of the 1876 Act, which has continued substantially unchanged to the present day, is to regulate and restrict experiments calculated to cause pain in living vertebrate animals.

It is against that background that the most recent independent review of the working of the Act was carried out by the Littlewood Committee between 1963 and 1965. Perhaps I could just remind your Lordships in passing that the Committee found that the Act had been generally effective in preventing objectionable activities, in encouraging humane practices and in providing for the accountability to the public of all concerned. The members of the Committee concluded, however, that in what were then recent years the provisions of the Act had not matched up to modern scientific and technological requirements and that administration had not kept pace with scientific advance.

The Committee made 83 detailed recommendations. As the noble Lord, Lord Davies of Leek, said, actions were then taken to try and put at any rate parts of the report into effect. Over 20 of the recommendations were in fact implemented administratively, either wholly or in part, with consequent improvement to the effectiveness of the controls. The most obvious examples are the appointment of lay members to the Advisory Committee and the re-organisation which took place of the Inspectorate.

Perhaps I could just pick up the point which the noble Lord, Lord Houghton, kindly made in his speech: that on the 25th July the Government announced a reconstitution of the Advisory Committee with a new name, the Advisory Committee on Animal Experiments, with wider terms of reference and with a new chairman, following the period of service which the noble Lord, Lord Cross of Chelsea, had most kindly given to the work of that committee. The noble and learned Lord gave us advice as he saw it on how the committee could develop in the future with regard to both composition and function. Lord Adrian in his speech also referred to the Advisory Committee, as also did the noble Lord, Lord Houghton, and I do assure all three noble Lords and the rest of your Lordships that I will draw the attention of my right honourable friend the Home Secretary to what has been said not only generally in this debate but specifically on that particular subject.

Some 10 recommendations from Little-wood called for no specific action in that they endorsed provisions in existing legislation or in existing practice. Of the remainder of the Littlewood recommendations some 20 needed legislation. May I just say that the noble Earl, Lord Halsbury, has, I think, every right to claim, as he did in his speech, that his Bill aims to deal with those remaining recommendations of Littlewood which needed legislation. The Government have also had this in mind and this was why at the General Election our Manifesto undertook to introduce legislation updating the Act. When the noble Baroness, Lady Hylton-Foster, asks me about higher standards and what the Government would do to commit themselves to higher standards in this field, my answer is that updated legislation would be designed to continue to enable improvement in standards of animal experiments along with strengthened control for animal welfare.

As the noble Lord, Lord Adrian, mentioned in his speech, however, a United Kingdom delegation is currently engaged, in full consultation with the animal welfare organisations and with the research and professional interests, in discussions in the Council of Europe on a draft convention to protect animals used for experimental purposes. In fact the delegation only returned from the latest round of work last weekend. I understand that the overall shape of the convention is becoming clearer, but there remains a good deal of work to be done on the contents. I hope that after listening to Lord Richardson's professional testimony to the influence which the medical profession in this country has had on EEC Directives your Lordships will allow me to assert that I believe we are playing a leading part in these discussions on the European Convention, and this is a tribute to this country's long experience in this field. Although I cannot commit the Government at this stage, I very much hope that, not least through United Kingdom influence, a convention is going to emerge to which we shall have no difficulty in being able to give our assent. This would in itself almost inevitably mean that the Government would be required to bring in new legislation to meet the pro-visions of the convention.

In case your Lordships think that this is simply an excuse for saying that there-fore the Government are not prepared to do anything at the present moment, may I just explain the effect of what I have just tried to say. It seems likely that the Council of Europe convention will establish general principles of control while preserving a measure of flexibility as to method, so that each of the contracting countries would have a certain amount of freedom in adopting its own preferred control system. But really it is too early to be sure that United Kingdom legislation produced now would not need amendment in the light of the convention in its final form. There are several key issues which will receive further study in Strasbourg.

If I may give one concrete example, the latest draft of the convention covers the breeding and supply of laboratory animals, which is beyond the scope of the 1876 Act. In order to comply with the convention, therefore, we would have to provide for controls in this particular area. I recognise absolutely that the Bill of the noble Earl contains a provision about this, but with respect it is a very general provision embodied in Clause 7, and I think it is too early to say whether further provision would be needed to meet the requirements of the convention as the convention emerges in its final form. This consideration applies not only to the question of controls on the breeding and supply of animals. If I may weary your Lordships with one other example, it applies also to all aspects of animal experimentation which are to be covered by the convention.

Here is another example. The draft convention as it stands recognises as a legitimate goal of experimentation "the improvement of life of man or animal", and this is taken up in the noble Earl's Bill in Clause 2(c)(ii). But it is very much a matter requiring careful examination and further debate as to whether this principle, which could allow all manner of abuses, should be subject to further refinement and restriction. This question will almost certainly be among matters which must receive further study at the next meeting of the Council of Europe committee.

The noble Earl has indicated that his Bill has the broad approval of many of the scientific and research interests. The noble Earl's wish to demonstrate that those who are animal users are no less concerned with animal welfare than other people is certainly welcomed by all, and it is in that context that our debate this afternoon has been held. As we have heard, however, certainly from the noble Lord, Lord Houghton of Sowerby, there are wider issues on which the non-scientist expects to be heard and has a right to be heard. May I put it like this. What is the informed non-scientist pre-pared to accept in the use of experimental animals? I would suggest that he would not find acceptable some aspects of this Bill, which might indeed appear to compare unfavourably in concern for the welfare of experimental animals with the provisions of the 1876 Act, which they are intended to replace. That is particularly so as regards the purposes for which animals may be used.

I have already mentioned the question of experiments concerned with improving life, that is to say, non-medical experiments. As drafted Clause 2 (c) (v)—experiments done solely for the purpose of teaching technical skills—might also be unacceptable to some people. I acknowledge that some relaxation of the absolute prohibition in the 1876 Act is desirable to take account of the demands of the highest levels of modern surgery, and that Clause 2 (g) of the Bill requires a licensee to have the Secretary of State's permission before conducting an experiment for such a purpose. That is certainly a safeguard, but I do not know that it goes far enough. In general, the use of live animals for the purpose of gaining manual dexterity is surely to many people morally repugnant. I should have thought one would need to consider very carefully whether it could only be justified exceptionally.

Our informed non-scientists would also be likely to find difficulty with Clause 2 (h) which deals with infliction of pain on an animal during an experiment. I was interested to hear the noble Earl's list of forms of treatment, and the list of the noble Lord, Lord Cross, of new substances which have developed since the 1876 Act came into force. I can well under-stand why the scope of the word "pain" in the context of modern animal experiments, is now much wider than when the 1876 Act was drafted. I must say that I am not convinced that the drafting of Clause 2 (h) would adequately deal with the problem. It would, for example, allow prolonged pain if the experimenter could satisfy himself that the degree of pain was not too severe; and it is left to the judgment of the experimenter as to what is severe pain or distress. I realise that these are difficult issues which—as the noble Lord, Lord Hunt of Fawley, and the noble Lord, Lord Richardson, said—must be put in the context of the saving of many lives. These are issues which rightly will be occupying much time at Strasbourg.

I should like to deal with one other point. A general feature of the Bill which gives it, quite wrongly, an incomplete appearance—"quite wrongly" because we know of the enormous amount of work and professional expertise which has been put in—is the considerable extent to which it would leave matters to be determined by the Secretary of State. Clause 7 in effect leaves the control of supply, breeding, transport, accommodation, veterinary supervision and laboratory animal care to subordinate legislation without any indication being given as to the scope of the regulations. If for no other reason than that such controls may require financial provisions, some further substantive provision seems essential if effective controls are to be established over all these matters.

I know that it is bound to give a mis-leading view of a Bill—indeed it may, if I may say so, give a rather impertinent view—to select the more obvious difficulties. Therefore, I should also like to say that I have been enormously impressed with the general aims of the Bill, with the noble Earl's speech and, without any Government commitment, I was most interested to hear the noble Earl speak of the licensing provisions of the Bill and of his idea of a guide to good animal laboratory practice. Of course, many of the provisions stem straight from the Littlewood recommendations. But, whether or not the differences of view concerning this Bill are capable of reconciliation, any legislation must, as I have already argued, be introduced against the background of the provisions which will be included in the forthcoming European Convention.

In the gracious Speech, the Government have declared their intention to introduce legislation when we know what the European Convention provides; but in the meantime, if close study of all the issues involved in the noble Earl's Bill can be undertaken, it would be an enormously valuable contribution to this country's revised legislation which we shall have to have. The noble Earl has indicated that if the Bill is given a Second Reading he will move for the Bill's referral to a Select Committee. The Government would support such a move in order to facilitate detailed examination of these difficult issues and we should, of course, give very careful consideration to the Select Committee's views.

6.5 p.m.

The Earl of HALSBURY

My Lords, in winding up the debate I should like to begin by thanking the whole House for the kind reception that has been afforded to this Bill. Without a single exception everyone has paid tribute to the work of the drafting and advisory team which I was able to engage. I should like generally to thank the whole House.

Without wishing to prolong the debate unduly, your Lordships will perhaps allow me to take up a few points that have been made by various speakers and reply to them. I should like generally to assure the whole House that as regards any what I call "Committee points" that have been raised, I personally shall be responsible for combing through the Official Report of today's date and ensuring that they are referred to the Select Committee, if your Lordships give the Bill a Second Reading and the Select Committee is set up. By giving that general undertaking I shall be able to shorten my remarks.

As regards the matters raised by the noble Earl, Lord Grey, I should like to point out that he has not quite under-stood the implications of Clause 18. Of course an inspector has right of entry, but what happens if that right of entry is withstood? Is the inspector to be given the right to break in?—No, my Lords. He must go to a magistrate, and a police officer must be given a warrant to break in and search the premises for whatever it may be. We cannot have people untrained in breaking and entering, other than burglars whom we send to prison. If anyone is to break and enter on a warrant from a magistrate it must be a police officer who knows his powers under that warrant.

The other matter which I thought the noble Earl had not fully understood was cosmetics. I want your Lordships to appreciate how general the term is and perhaps I can make it a little more personal by giving an example. Suppose the wife of one of your Lordships or some noble Baroness was involved in a motor accident and was very badly scarred. It would be only natural to want to disguise those scars by cosmetical treatment. Scarred tissue is abnormally sensitive to carcinogens and therefore it is particularly important that cosmetics used for that purpose should be free from carcinogens. To say that they may not be tested by putting some general embargo on the testing of cosmetics would be quite wrong. I do not want to elaborate the matter. The noble Baroness, Lady Phillips, and I discussed the matter fully on the occasion of her two Bills.

I was delighted with the maiden speech of my noble friend Lord Adrian. In addition to the other qualities referred to by your Lordships, I noticed at one point a little note of dry wit which always com-mends itself to your Lordships' attention and which we shall look forward to hearing in the future. I noted his point about nominations to the advisory councils and will bear it in mind in Committee.

I sympathise with the noble Lord, Lord Hunt, becoming over-emotionally involved with an experimental rabbit. I once nursed through all its childhood a small duckling with a broken leg which became, as it were, a toy for the children to play with and needless to say, it was known as "Donald". However, eventually came Christmas and we had to eat Donald. When we saw his broken leg on the dish coming out of the oven we were all deeply distressed to know that Donald had gone.

I was interested in what the noble Lord, Lord Janner, said about the use of the placenta. I shall follow that up by reading what he recommended. However, I must make one point clear on the use of these alternatives. To establish and validate an alternative to animal experiments means using many more supernumerary animals. This is an area where one should make haste slowly otherwise one will find that one is sacrificing an un-necessarily large number of animals to the validation of alternatives which turn out not to be alternatives.


My Lords, perhaps the noble Earl will allow me to make just one remark on that point. The experiments to which I referred needed no experimentation on animals at all.

The Earl of HALSBURY

My Lords, in order to establish that the technique of using whatever it may be—a placenta or tissue culture—gives the same result as that which would be obtained using an animal there needs to be correlation of the results on the former with the results on the animal. That is where the supernumerary animals must be used.

I was delighted with the support that I received from my noble friend Lady Hylton-Foster. I am only too happy to assure her that I can take the three points she made to Committee to see what can be made of them. I was most grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Hill of Luton, for his comments about extension of the coverage and his defence of the Bill against the broadcast this morning. I was telephoned at a late hour last night and asked whether I would give an inter-view and make a recording for this morning's broadcast on Radio 4. Rightly or wrongly, I said that I would not, that I wanted to go into a huddle the night before this debate, stew over my notes and think about what I was going to say, and not get involved in making a recording.

I was extremely interested in the remarks of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Cross of Chelsea, who spoke of the change of emphasis that there has been between the parties, who hitherto had been at daggers drawn. This is well represented in this House by the cordial relationship that has subsisted now for quite a number of years between the noble Lord, Lord Houghton of Sowerby, and myself, who have been in one another's confidence over progress in this area. I take the noble and learned Lord's point about the seats for animal welfare; there are vacant seats on the Council which could be used for this purpose. Again, it would be a Committee point to argue out whether they should be nominated for a specific purpose or whether the seats should be left open at the discretion of the Home Secretary.

I was delighted with the exposition of the noble Lord, Lord Ferrier, on, as it were, the arithmetic of the annual report, because this is something that tends to be extremely misleading. I shall deal with that again when I come to some of the points made by the noble Lord, Lord Houghton of Sowerby.

Having wrestled with the noble Lord, Lord de Clifford, in years past, few people's speeches have pleased me more than his. The concept of wrestling with the noble Lord must be taken in a very general sense because, many years ago as little boys, we used to wrestle together when playing in Ranelagh Gardens. I am delighted to have his support. I was very glad that my noble friend Lord Richardson stressed the contribution that Britain can make to leadership by drawing on his experience in medical matters, and I was also delighted with the support of the noble Lord, Lord Auckland. As regards the mandatory as opposed to the permissive element in Clause 7, it reads, "The Secretary of State may". When the noble Lord speaks of making it mandatory, I take it that he wants Clause 7 to read, "The Secretary of State must". There is a certain drafting difficulty in making this mandatory because we cannot say that the Secretary of State must make a regulation on a matter if he may not want to make a regulation. There must be a point where we trust the Home Secretary to do what we expect him to do. If he does not, then we must chase him all over the horizon in Parliament, which is the right place to bring pressure to bear, rather than put it into written words, which can be so treacherous.

Lastly, I turn to what the noble Lord, Lord Houghton of Sowerby, had to say. The noble Lord called me a pathfinder. I had thought of myself more as a pace-maker, but I shall deal with that when I reply to the remarks made by the noble Lord, Lord Belstead, on behalf of the Home Office. With all respect to the noble Lord, Lord Houghton of Sowerby, I believe that to take numbers as a criterion is to pursue a will-o'-the-wisp. There are no magic numbers in nature, politics, or anything else. But numbers are not policy determinants; they are policy consequents. We cannot have a policy for animal experimentation based on, for example, the use of 4 million animals rather than 5 million. We are dealing with an on-going situation, never an equilibrium. Old methods are always falling into desuetude, new methods are coming into practice. New alternatives are being found and at the same time new demands are being made which entail the use of animals. At the end of the road the final balance is what it is. If we think that it is too much, we must attack it at some other point and not simply say, "Let us reduce numbers".

There are some points in common between the noble Lord, Lord Houghton, and the noble Lord, Lord Belstead, which I should like to emphasise to your Lord-ships because we must face reality. Human beings are at the apex of the predatory pyramid on this planet. No animal species can withstand us: save on the rare occasions when we have to meet a rogue elephant single-handed, we always come out on top. Nothing stands between any animal, individual or species and blue hell but the conscience of humanity. We must incorporate that conscience into statutes as best we can. There comes a point when we have to trust the Home Secretary to do what we want him to do, and that is where I join my notes on the remarks made by the noble Lord, Lord Houghton, with the remarks that I want to talk about made by the noble Lord, Lord Belstead, concerning the intentions of Government.

There is many a slip twixt cup and lip. I appreciate that the Government would like to introduce new legislation, and that they would like to string along with Strasbourg. I am disturbed to find that Strasbourg meets only twice a year for this particular purpose. At its last meeting it only managed to get through the second half of the first draft of this convention. Having read the first half, I conclude that an enormous amount of work needs to be done on it. If we are to wait upon Strasbourg, I am afraid that it may fall in the lifetime, not of this Government but of the next Government, or possibly the one after that. Therefore, regarding myself as a pacemaker, I intend to press ahead with this Bill. Both during the last Government and during this Government's time in office I have been in touch with the Home Office throughout. I have never made any secret of the fact that, if I can pilot this Bill safely through this House, I hope the Government will take it over and, needless to say, make the necessary amendments to it. I hope that they will make it a Government Bill and see it through its hazards.

In my next remarks I shall attribute motives to all Governments that have ever been. I do not know whether in logic there is such a thing as a "trilemma" as opposed to a dilemma, but this situation is one in which there are three alternatives which no Government would like. In the other place Governments never want to put the Whips on on an emotionally laden subject; they like to give such a subject a free vote. On the other hand, Governments never want to have responsibility for administering a Bill which may have been mutilated in Committee by enthusiasm in an unwhipped House. Finally, Governments do not want to lose face by having to withdraw their own legislation from Parliament because it has been mutilated. The result is that the system has been biased in favour of inactivity.

When I was going through the early period of gestation before producing the Bill this afternoon, it seemed to me that, if I could take upon myself the onus of the initiative, if I had to I could withdraw the Bill—I am not a Government; I do not lose face; it is just another Private Member's Bill that does not get proceeded with. I could perhaps get the Bill to the stage where the Government could take it over, knowing that they could back it fairly effectively without the risk of it being mutilated.

I hope that, if the Bill goes to a Committee, the Government will give evidence in Committee. I should hate to feel that they might rob us of their wisdom and experience, for these definitions of "pain" and so on are very difficult. We are dealing, as I said in my opening remarks, with situational ethics, where you are pitchforked into a situation not of your making and you have to make the best of it. With those remarks, coupled to my firm intention to press on with this Bill so long as it is in your Lordships' House, I beg to move.

On Question, Bill read 2a.

The Earl of HALSBURY

My Lords, I beg to move the Motion which stands in my name on the Order Paper.

Moved, That the Bill be committed to a Select Committee.—(The Earl of Halsbury)

On Question, Motion agreed to, and Bill committed to a Select Committee.