HL Deb 04 July 1980 vol 411 cc735-6
The Earl of HALSBURY

My Lords, I beg leave to ask the Question which stands in my name on the Order Paper.

The Question was as follows:

To ask Her Majesty's Government what steps they will take to protect property and personnel employed at the Agricultural Research Council's experimental station at Babraham against vandalism by militant anti-vivisectionists who bring undeserved discredit on the animal welfare movement.


My Lords, I assume that the noble Earl has in mind an incident which took place on Sunday 29th June in which approximately 70 demonstrators broke into several buildings of the Agricultural Research Council's Institute of Animal Physiology at Babraham and damaged them. This incident has resulted in the staff of the institute reviewing, in consultation with the local police, precautions which they had already taken to protect personnel, animals and property.

The Earl of HALSBURY

My Lords, I should like to thank the noble Lord the Minister for his reply to my Question. I am glad to learn that there has been reconsideration of the security arrangements. In probing a little deeper into this matter, I wish to steer between the Scylla of asking the noble Lord to comment on a matter which is sub judice and the Charybdis of asking for the details of the enhanced security arrangements to be published. However, without impropriety, may I ask him, while waiting for the outcome of the judicial proceedings, to think out very carefully the part that the Star newspaper has played in stimulating mass hysteria in this field, with a view to taking under consideration whether a complaint might possibly be made to the Press Council with respect to the be-haviour of one of its affiliates?


My Lords, the noble Earl is quite right in referring to the matter as sub judice. I would remind your Lordships that I understand that 18 people have been charged, 17 with burglary and one with obstructing a police officer, following the incident at the institute. The Press matter, to which the noble Earl referred, is mentioned in some detail on page 59 of the institutes own report for 1978–79, published in April 1980. So far as the Press comment is concerned, may I remind the noble Earl that this is a matter for the Press Council, which is a body entirely independent of the Government.


My Lords, is my noble friend aware that those of us who saw excerpts on television will have noticed that there was a 7 ft. wire fence, over which these people, who may well have been doubtful value to the research people and were probably not interested in it at all, managed to clamber? While there is an inquiry to take place, may I ask whether my noble friend could ascertain if, in the view of his department—


My Lords, I understand that, although these individuals have been charged, their trial has not yet taken place. It therefore seems that the matter is sub judice.

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