HL Deb 02 April 1981 vol 419 cc331-59

5.1 p.m.

Lord Houghton of Sowerby

My Lords, on behalf of the noble Earl, Lord Halsbury, I beg to move that the House do now resolve itself into Committee on this Bill.

Moved, That the House do now resolve itself into Committee.—(Lord Houghton of Sowerby.)

On Question, Motion agreed to.

House in Committee accordingly.

[The LORD ALPORT in the Chair.]

Clause 1 [Licence for use of animals in laboratories, etc.]:

Lord Beaumont of Whitley moved Amendment No. 1: Page 1, line 6, leave out ("for the advancement of knowledge or").

The noble Lord said: I have tabled a number of amendments to the Bill at this stage and they are of two kinds. The first kind, which is represented by this Amendment No. 1, is to remind us of the problems of this Bill. When we had finished examining the Bill in Committee upstairs, we came out of it with a Bill which had been agreed by the various noble Lords who sat in that Committee and who represented very different points of view—in particular, the noble Earl, Lord Halsbury and the noble Lord, Lord Houghton of Sowerby. I think it was agreed among us all that this Bill would be a definite improvement on the present situation and the best agreed Bill that we were likely to get. Nevertheless, it is fair to say that there were some of us—and I know that the noble Earl, Lord Halsbury, will be saying this—who felt that on both sides we had surrendered some important points of principle. So long as the Government do not produce their own Bill so long, for various procedural reasons, will this Bill come before your Lordships time and again in order that we may jog the Government along and, if necessary, pass our own Bill ourselves. I certainly believe that it is a good Bill and that the Government are not likely to produce anything much better, but I think it is right that your Lordships—and indeed the general public—should be reminded that although there has been general agreement that it should be put forward, the Bill does not represent the basic views of all members of your Lordships' House or of all the noble Lords who have been involved with it. So, as I have said, one kind of amendment, including this Amendment No. 1, is designed for that purpose. Of the other amendments which I have tabled, some, including particularly Amendment No. 3, are genuine efforts to improve the Bill within the frame work of the agreement, and I rather hope that that one at least will be accepted.

To return to Amendment No. 1, it is a matter of basic principle that we now raise. Among the objects for which it is said that the Secretary of State may grant licences authorising the use of living animals for research and other procedures, two basic objects are stated: One is for the health or welfare of mankind or animals and the other is for the advancement of knowledge. There are some of us who think that the second purpose is really not ethically satisfactory at all. We think that while man has the power and indeed the duty to use animals for alleviating the distress of man and animals, he equally has a duty not to inflict pain. I realise, of course, that this Bill is not just about the infliction of pain; very often it is about not inflicting pain, but man has not the right to inflict pain or to breed and keep animals specially for experiments and to kill them in the course of those experiments merely for any lesser purpose than the relief of suffering of man or of the animal kingdom. The idea that merely the enlargement of knowledge is a sufficient step to treat animals in this way is something that fills a lot of us with repugnance and fills a great many of the general public with repugnance, as public opinion polls have shown and many of us think that it should not be legislated for in a civilised country. I beg to move.

The Earl of Halsbury

I should like to begin by apologising to the Committee for not being in my place when the Motion to move the House into Committee should have been moved. A sudden acceleration in the tempo of the business on the Floor of the House coincided with a blackout in the public information service, and I am greatly obliged to my noble friend Lord Houghton for intervening on my behalf. Perhaps I may just respond in general terms to the remarks made by the noble Lord, Lord Beaumont of Whitley, on the obligations of those who worked together as colleagues in the Select Committee of the House. By all means let us discuss matters which are on our minds in Committee. Everyone is entitled to have second thoughts. It is quite a little while since the Committee reported unanimously, but the Bill as it stands represents a fragile concordat between two groups with a century-old tradition of mistrust between them. My noble friend Lord Houghton and I have worked for quite a number of years in trying to resolve those feelings of mutual distrust and to get people working and talking together. In a sense, the unanimity of the Select Committee and the compromises there to some extent symbolise his and my hopes for the future. If we renege on that unanimity, then one factional amendment—and, as I said at Second Reading, anybody can improve the Bill from his own point of view, and I say, "factional", not, "factious"—will generate another and the end result is that our handiwork is undone. Therefore, I appeal to the noble Lord, Lord Beaumont of Whitley, to withdraw his amendment, when it has been discussed and debated to his satisfaction, as I on my side shall ask leave in due course to withdraw my own amendments for the same reason, notwithstanding their merits.

To return to the first amendment moved by the noble Lord, Lord Beaumont, in the first place from the stand- point of the technique of drafting an Act of Parliament, if one studies a text book on how this should be done, one is taught that the drafting of a Bill proceeds from the general to the particular, starting with the Long Title of the Bill, going on through the early clauses and finally reaching the more detailed provisions of the Bill. So when it comes to the construction of those details and the interpretation to be put upon them, you can trace your way back, as it were, through the early stages of the Bill to the Long Title, each bearing on the other and on the construction of particular clauses. Clause 1(1) conforms to that model, but the proposal for amendment would narrow it and be in contradiction of subsection (2)(a)(iii), which refers to the purposes of the biological sciences. One ought to be able to trace one's way back from the purposes of the biological sciences through the content of knowledge to the Title of the Bill, the Laboratory Animals Protection Bill.

The amendment contains to some extent an internal logical contradiction in its form as drafted. How can one promote health and welfare without first acquiring the knowledge of how to do it? This takes one back to the structure and history of medical science, in so far as studies of abnormal and normal functioning go forward in parallel, each throwing light on the other, not necessarily coincidental, either as to the persons who do the research or as to the place where it is done or the time when it is done. If this amendment were really held in any way to govern subsection 2(a)(iii), it would in fact wreck medical science and would wreck the Bill.

I do understand quite clearly what the noble Lord, Lord Beaumont of Whitley, has in mind. I think his picture is of someone irresponsibly curious who is just interesting himself in what happens if you do something horrible to a mouse, and so he carries it out. I assure your Lordships that that really is not the intention of the Bill as worded, and I do not think it is in any sense of the word a serious danger. In that spirit I would ask the noble Lord, Lord Beaumont of Whitley, to withdraw his amendment when, as I say, it has been debated to his satisfaction.

Lord Hill of Luton

May I add a word in support of what my noble friend has just said. Lord Beaumont of Whitley seemed to assume that research for the advancement of knowledge could have and would have no relationship to the treatment of disease. That seems to me to be nonsense and dangerous nonsense. Although I did not intend to speak, as I listened to him my mind went back to my undergraduate days and three men: Lord Adrian, whose research on nerve transmission was research as a physiologist in no way intended or related in his mind to the treatment of any particular disease. It was research of a fundamental character which has revolutionised neurology over the years. A physicist named Aston discovered some isotope qualities. He had no thought of the use of isotopes in his mind. They have proved of profound importance in the years that have followed.

What about Gowland Hopkins, whose discovery of vitamins was in no way related to the treatment of rickets or other forms of vitamin shortage; it was research for the advancement of knowledge, and no man can say that that advancement will not in subsequent years advance the knowledge of medicine and the treatment of disease. The noble Lord's amendment is based on a fundamental flaw, and I hope he will withdraw it. For, as my noble friend said, it would be destructive of much valuable research into the causation and treatment of disease, and it would stand in the way of much that is done to save life and to heal disease.

Lord Energlyn

May I join in this appeal to the noble Lord, Lord Beaumont? If we remove this phrase, it does seem to me it would discolour the Bill. As one who has been active in this field, I appeal to him. If you delete this phrase it means that you are casting an almost jocular attack upon the work of pure scientists. It is in the study of the behaviour of animals, as my noble friend has just said, that we can make some very fundamental advances. If you carry this to the logical conclusion that even bacteria are animals, then it would seem to me clear we are really talking a lot of nonsense. It would seem to me to be somewhat carping to remove this phrase, and I would strongly appeal to the noble Lord to leave the clause as it is.

Lord Adrian

I would like also, if I may, to add support to what the noble Earl, Lord Halsbury, said, and to express my thanks to the noble Lord, Lord Hill, for the kind thoughts and memories he had of my father. Nearly a year's work in the Select Committee went to creating this compromise and agreement that is embodied in the Bill. I would support the pleas that this Bill should remain more or less as it stands at the moment. I would especially ask the noble Lord, Lord Beaumont, not to press his amendment to Clause 1, to leave out "the advancement of knowledge". As has been said, this would strike at the very heart of the solution that the Select Committee achieved, and it was a solution that was based on wide permitted purposes and close scrutiny of individual projects.

I know that this amendment springs from the noble Lord's deep concern for animal welfare, but the removal of "the advancement of knowledge" as a legitimate purpose would very much transform this Bill, and I know it would transform also the attitude of scientists to it; it would transform it from acceptance and support to opposition.

I would argue also that I do not think that the amendment, if passed, would have the effect that the noble Lord, Lord Beaumont, intends. It seems to me that the effect of the amendment is to remove the power granted by that clause to the Secretary of State to license work for the advancement of knowledge. If as a consequence of the passage of this Bill the 1876 Act is repealed, which is what is contained within this Bill, that would remove the illegality of doing an experiment of itself, so that an experiment for the purposes of the advancement of knowledge, though it could not be licensed by the Secretary of State, would have to be cruel within the meaning defined in the 1911 Act in order for it to be illegal. That Act appears to me to allow necessary suffering, as also operations performed with due care and humanity. So it is not at all clear to me that all experimental uses which could be said to be for the advancement of knowledge would in fact be contrary to the 1911 Act. And if that were the case then the effect of the noble Lord's amendment would be to remove from Home Office control, or from the control of the Secretary of State and the Home Office inspectorate, those experiments which were done for the purpose of the advancement of knowledge. This, I think we would all agree, would be a most unfortunate consequence, because it was agreed by all of us on the Select Committee that what was needed was control and inspection of both the purposes and the execution of experimental work on animals.

Lord Houghton of Sowerby

Quite frankly, I do not think there is much point in debating the merits of this amendment. We are in rather a peculiar position this afternoon, because we are considering the Committee stage of a Bill which has already passed your Lordships' House in the last Session; this is the second time around. But there is more to come. Although this is the only Bill before the House at the present time, and it is the best Bill there is, we are hoping that there is another one coming before very long, and that will be the Government's own proposals.

Eight members of the Select Committee are present. We are almost a meeting of the Select Committee with a few observers. If we go on, all that we shall do is to give your Lordships a glimpse of the nature of the discussions that took place in the Select Committee. That would he interesting, edifying and it might even be amusing, although there really was not very much fun on that Select Committee. However, if we are to examine the merits of the amendment to delete something from Clause 1(1) then we must look at that in the context, and the structure and provisions of the Bill.

If we get a Bill from the Government which is different in structure and a different kind of Bill then what is in Clause 1(1) will have to be related to that new kind of Bill. I shall try to illustrate what I mean. Hitherto, the whole of this field of operations has been governed by a law passed in 1876 which provided immunities. The echoes of yesterday's debate are ringing in my head when we were talking about the relative advantages of giving freedom by immunities or freedom by positive statutory provision. We saw in our debate yesterday on the trade union immunities how the area of activity had been widened beyond anything contemplated by Parliament at the time the 1906 Act was passed. In just the same way the area of activity in this field of animal experimentation has gone far beyond anything contemplated by the authors and the Parliament which enacted the 1876 Act.

The Home Secretary has some criticisms of the structure of the Bill. We have heard them and we may hear more of them in a moment or two. But the great difference in principle between one school of thought and another on this Bill is how much should be written into the statute law and how much should be left to the Secretary of State to introduce by regulation. The Home Office has been saying, "You have left too much to the Home Secretary. He does not want all this responsibility. Indeed, you have left so much to him that he could even extend the law rather than implement it". The Home Secretary, as I understand it so far, said, "I should like to see some things in the statute law. Parliament must decide. It is not proper for a Secretary of State to decide some of the things that you have given to him to decide by power of statutory instrument".

Therefore, this debate in a sense puts us all in a false position. We are not, if I may say so with great respect, doing business this afternoon. We are still waiting. When we come to the question of whether the clause shall stand part, both here and a little later on, we shall be needling the noble Lord the Minister of State at the Home Office to tell us more about where we are going and how soon we shall get there. That is the important issue today and not, if I may say so, the particular wording of the Bill in front of us.

However, your Lordships will be aware of the kind of difficulties that we shall be in later on—and I am sure about this—when we convert the law from immunities to positive provision, because the more positive it is the more argument there will be on the meaning of words and how much you say and how you define what you mean, which has not been attempted in this field any more than it has really been attempted in the field of trade union law to the extent that some people would now wish. So I sincerely hope that the noble Lord, Lord Beaumont of Whitley, who was a member of the Select Committee—and we all went through it together—will not press his amendment. I certainly echo what the noble Earl, Lord Halsbury, has said. However, I shall not be drawn into a business discussion on whether this should go in any Bill or whether it should not. I think that that dispute—if it is a dispute—will have to be fought out when we come to the substantive process of legislation, and we are not there yet.

So I sincerely hope that we shall not amend this Bill at all—not even with the amendments of the noble Earl, Lord Halsbury. None of them in my view should be pressed this afternoon. In that way we shall have the Bill going forward on this occasion in exactly the same form as it went forward previously, representing the maximum measure of agreement on the Select Committee. We presented it together. We stand by it together and we should see it go on together. That, in my view, is how it must be dealt with as of now. We may have to part company later on if there are provisions in the Government Bill which excite serious controversy, but we have not arrived at that moment yet and in any case far be it from your Lordships' Committee to decide an issue of this importance when almost the majority of noble Lords present were members of the Select Committee.

5.27 p.m.

Lord Peart

I should like to thank the two noble Lords who are involved in this matter. I expected the same speech from the noble Earl, Lord Halsbury, as the one which he made previously, or a similar speech, and also a similar speech to the one which has been made by my noble friend Lord Houghton of Sowerby. I think that the logic of their argument inevitably is that it would be wise for our noble Liberal colleague to withdraw his amendment, because I think that it would spoil the Bill and spoil the atmosphere in which we are debating this limited clause. So from the point of view of the Opposition, I would advise my colleagues to support the noble Earl, Lord Halsbury, and also my noble friend Lord Houghton of Sowerby.

The Earl of Cranbrook

I should like to make a brief intervention. I should feel extremely disappointed, despite the words of the noble Lord, Lord Houghton, if I were to feel that there was absolutely no chance whatever of making any progress. It would be extremely disappointing, both as a supporter of the Government and as a member of the sub-committee, if I were to feel that the Bill in its present form were a total nonstarter. We know that the Government have their eye on the Council of Europe and we intend to listen with extreme interest to my noble friend the Minister. But, despite that, the Bill itself has great merits and can be pursued with a certain sense of realism and dedication.

Lord Ferrier

Falling into the category of those whom the noble Lord, Lord Houghton, described as "observers", I feel that I should say something. I am certainly an observer but I am also an observer who, like many other noble Lords not on the committee, is deeply concerned. I feel that what I have said in the debates during the course of this Bill can stand, but the noble Lord, Lord Hill of Luton, has put into a concise form my feelings about this matter. I could never find myself differing from an urge to forward knowledge.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Home Office (Lord Belstead)

After the valuable work of the Select Committee which produced the Bill standing in the name of the noble Earl, Lord Halsbury, and which is before us in Committee today, of course I accept that some detailed discussion is valuable. Indeed, it would be undesirable if the Bill went through without some discussion in Committee in your Lordships' House. I also realise—as, I think, do all Members of the Committee—that the Bill contains an element of compromise. That was inevitable. However, I was surprised to see the Marshalled List of Amendments, for there are amendments on that list which give expression to what I imagine are the basic views of the noble Lord, Lord Beaumont, and the noble Earl, Lord Halsbury.

If I may, I should like to mention three of the amendments in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Beaumont. There is the one which we are now discussing, which would prevent experiments for fundamental or pure research. There is Amendment No. 6, which would require the elaborate screening process of Clause 3 to be used to decide on all cases, and not just on cases of severe pain. There is Amendment No. 7 in the noble Lord's name which would make it mandatory that in each case the licensee must personally see to it whether the whole procedure or experiment could be carried out by alternative means.

To add to that the noble Earl, in whose name the Bill stands, has tabled amendments which would considerably widen the grounds on which a certificate may be granted, by extending those grounds to any other legislation, including foreign legislation. I raise this point now not only because we have spoken, as we very often do on the first amendment, a little widely, but because those amendments would substantially alter the character of this Bill.

If amendments of this nature represent the basic views of some noble Lords, then agreement on the way forward will be even more difficult to achieve than I had imagined. That leads me back to the amendment which we are, in fact, discussing. It is an absolutely fundamental amendment. Your Lordships, who have knowledge and experience of these matters of a kind that I can never have, have already spoken. I would only say that, by seeking to raise a general barrier to the grant of licences for the advancement of knowledge, this amendment would obviously create very great problems for research in this country. I, therefore, add my voice to what other noble Lords have said, and say that I hope that we will consider very carefully before putting such an amendment into the Bill; but on wider grounds I hope that we shall also consider very carefully how this amendment and other amendments affect what I had supposed was an element of agreement on the drafting of the Bill which is before us today.

Lord Beaumont of Whitley

I am surprised that so many noble Lords have urged me to withdraw this amendment when, in fact, in my opening words I announced my intention to do so. I see no reason to change my mind. Of course I shall beg your Lordships' leave to withdraw this amendment. But I think that this little debate has been worthwhile for a number of reasons. I was impressed by the argument advanced by the noble Lord, Lord Adrian, and I must admit that the major point he made had not occurred to me and, I imagine, had not occurred to the noble Earl, Lord Halsbury, either, as he did not raise it in debate. It is an interesting point and I shall obviously look at it.

However, on the main point of principle there is a divide, a divide on which I certainly hope I have some supporters in your Lordships' House, even if they have not been very vocal today; a divide, on my side of which I undoubtedly have a very great many people in the country—people who are not necessarily cranks, people who feel instinctively that to treat animals in less than their fullness as God's creatures for our benefit or for some abstract good or semi-abstract good, such as the increasing of knowledge, is not a justifiable matter.

It is a very strong, moral and ethical divide, and nothing that is said in this Committee about the agreement to which we have quite rightly come about the best possible Bill that we are likely to get and that therefore we must support, can obscure that divide or should allow us, whichever side of the divide we are on, for a moment to relax about the ethical importance of what we are doing. Whether or not noble Lords agree with me—and clearly most noble Lords do not—it is a matter of the highest ethical importance that we should not treat animals in less than their natural "animality"; that we should not cause suffering; that we should not breed animals in order to use them for experiments and then use them in experiments; that we should not do this for anything less than the highest possible reasons.

Where the line between those highest possible reasons is drawn is a difficult matter to decide, and your Lordships will draw it depending upon your philosophies, your religions, your ethics and everything else. But do not let us pretend that it is a minor matter or that it is a matter merely for cranks. It is an extremely important matter, and it is a matter which I think that the population as a whole regards as important.

Having said that, I return to what I first said. Of course I stand by what I said. It is our business in this Parliament not just to hold ethical arguments, though that is an important task that we perform. One of our purposes here, and our purpose this afternoon, is to progress with a Bill on which we can agree and which improves the law. I entirely realise that we will do this by sticking to the text that we have before us, and I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

5.38 p.m.

The Earl of Halsbury moved Amendment No. 2: Page 1, line 22, leave out from ("products") to ("; and") in line 24 and insert ("or substances").

The noble Earl said: I beg to move the amendment which stands in my name, which is, if you like, my contra riposte to the noble Lord, Lord Beaumont of Whitley; when I saw that he had put down an amendment to Clause 1, I put down an amendment to Clause 2. Of course, I entirely agree with the noble Lord, Lord Belstead, that if we start amending something at as early a stage as Clause 1, inevitably we alter the character of the Bill. It is part of the general philosophy of draftsmanship that the most general features of the character should come at the beginning.

This particular amendment has the effect of making safety testing irrelevant to the main purposes of the Bill by rendering the particular provision more general. Safety testing does not have to be contained within the other provisions of the Bill if this amendment, which of course I shall not press, is approved. But I think it is a point that justifies my raising it which the Government must have in mind when they produce their own Bill. We must resolve this question politically: Who is to be responsible for laying down the specification for safety testing?

At the moment we have one lobby—the environmental lobby, the safety and health at work lobby, and so on—pressing for safety testing to be done, and another lobby pressing for the restriction on the use of animals for safety testing purposes. When you get two groups of people in opposition to one another in that frame of mind, the solution must be a political solution. It cannot be a legal solution. Therefore, I would invite the noble Lord, Lord Belstead, to bear this matter carefully in mind when it comes to drafting the Government Bill.

The insertion of the word "substance" is in respect to the Medicines Act, so that the words "product" and "substance" are both used as they are in the Medicines Act. I think that that usage should be respected in this Bill because they have different senses. In rather over-simplified terms, a product is what you make to sell the public; a substance is what you buy to put in the product. In homely terms, and perhaps rather over-simplified, sugar is a substance; a jelly baby is a product; but the one is incorporated in the other. I beg to move.

Lord Houghton of Sowerby

I hope that I do not have to go on saying the same thing, and I am sure that your Lordships wish to be spared my saying the same thing, but I have an approach to this Bill which is quite clear and obviously differs from that of the noble Lord, Lord Beaumont, for example, in the speech he made a few minutes ago. If we were discussing a Bill that is going to make progress; if it were a really business, legislative session, then we should be having many more amendments than these, and battles would have to be fought on the Floor of the House. We should not only require the rest of today; we should require two days of next week. I see the noble Earl, Lord Avon, looking apprehensively at stages of the Bill that go on day after day. When I see the noble Earl I think that we have left the "snares" and now we are dealing with the "delusions". Certainly one of the delusions today is that we are doing business. We are not.

Therefore, while it is useful to have an exchange of views on these matters, it would be a mistake to think that what is decided this afternoon prejudges subsequent events. I would have a lot to say on amendments that are down, including this one, if we were really putting things in the Bill, or deciding whether we should put things in the Bill or not, but I can only repeat that we are in this peculiar position this afternoon of dealing with a Bill which is really a curtain raiser for the Bill to come. Whether it will be a stage full of pygmies or just a lot of illusionary matter when we come to the Government Bill, I do not know; but anyway we are waiting for it to come, and this is a curtain raiser to it. It might have been different, but this is how it has turned out.

We have to be especially careful on Clause 1 not to enlarge the scope of the clause beyond what was agreed in the Select Committee. That was a delicately balanced operation, and I think highly successful. Whether we all stick together like a kind of bulldozer when the time comes to consider the Government's Bill remains to be seen, but I was hopeful that we would act in concert so far as ever we could to show that this was the line of compromise and of sensible solution to the dilemmas of this legislation.

But it may be that there will be tugs at the coat of the noble Earl, Lord Halsbury; it may be that there will be tugs at mine. I am much more likely to get denunciation than tugs at my coat, but the noble Earl moves in a more temperate climate where they do not do that sort of thing. In the animal welfare movement they treat you rough, believe me. That is what I may have to go through in due course if the compromise seems to offend the hopes and expectations of many people for this future Bill. I am sure that after that my noble friend Lord Halsbury will feel disposed to withdraw his amendment. I think that we have some important matters to discuss when we come to clause stand part.

Lord Energlyn

I hope that the noble Earl will not withdraw his amendment, because in context with the previous amendment we ought to be clear about what we mean by "substances" and "products". The noble Earl has given one definition, but perhaps an anecdote here may not come amiss. When we were trying to discover what was the fundamental chemical reaction that caused lung tissues to be transmuted from cellular tissue into fibre we had to take the decision that the substance that we were dealing with, not a product, was a mineral. That mineral was quartz.

Quartz, when dissolved, is silica; a highly toxic substance. What I am now going to say may be of interest to the noble Lord, Lord Beaumont, because the animals that were engaged in this experiment were human animals. Human beings had to swallow quartz to find out what the reaction would be. We did this—I declare an interest—and we found that by swallowing pure quartz we were engendering certain areas of toxicity but, more important than that, we were able to demonstrate that the silica was the primary rogue substance in transmuting cellular tissue into fibre. From there a whole range of new discoveries took place.

Not to bore your Lordships but just to give one recent development in this connection, when a transplant, say, of a kidney goes wrong you are in this urinary area of the human animal; then a whole mass of minerals—which are not products but they are substances—were formed. By the study of these we were able to indicate to the pathologists what additional materials they would have to add to the human animal in order to effect a good transplant. I would appeal to the noble Earl to retain this amendment, because the use of the term "substances" is more effective than "products".

Lord Belstead

It is a matter of the greatest importance that those who are representing Her Majesty's Government in the discussions on the draft convention should bear in mind what is said in the debate on this Committee stage when they next go to Strasbourg in just over a month's time. I am certainly bearing very much in mind that we have to await the final draft of the convention before we can see what is to be done—this is the argument I have put again and again to your Lordships—so far as our domestic legislation is concerned.

All I should like to say, therefore, is that I know that what has been said by the noble Earl, and by the noble Lord, Lord Energlyn, and other noble Lords, on this matter will most certainly be borne in mind by those who represent the United Kingdom at Strasbourg. At the same time I should also like to say that the relevant provisions of the draft European Convention, so far as this matter is concerned, have been most carefully drafted up to date with the moral issues raised by using animals to test cosmetics very much in mind. This is a matter to which I am certain we must continue to give the most careful attention in this country.

The Earl of Halsbury

With my coat tails torn in one directon by my noble friend Lord Houghton of Sowerby and in the other by my noble friend Lord Energlyn, I think I must obey the Newtonian principle that action and reaction are equal and opposite and maintain the position which I started from, which is that this amendment was an illustration of the fact that if you desert the principles of unanimity that we had on this Bill, then an amendment from one of the interested parties merely provokes an amendment by the other. I think that is all we need to say. We have had a useful discussion. The last thing I would wish to do would be to use the need for unanimity to stifle discussion, or anything like that, but I think I have said enough and I beg leave to withdraw the amendment in my name.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

5.50 p.m.

Lord Beaumont of Whitley moved Amendment No. 3:

Page 1, line 27, at end insert— ("No applicant shall be deemed competent unless, in the opinion of the Secretary of State he or she is appropriately trained in animal care and, where it is necessary for the purposes of the Act, sufficiently trained in the techniques of analgesia, tranquillisation, anaesthesia and euthanasia").

The noble Lord said: Of the amendments standing in my name, this is the one that I particularly urge on the Committee as an improvement to the Bill, and I do so with some hope of acceptance. I need not speak to it because it explains itself. The only argument against it is if the noble Earl, Lord Halsbury, says it is unnecessary in that it deals with a matter which in any event would be taken into account. Long experience in your Lordships' House leads me to think that, while something may be contrary to what the draftsman thinks, it is usually good to include a matter which one wants underlined, even if one could hope to rely on there being an understanding of what one hoped to add. In other words, even if something is implicit, it is sometimes a good thing to make it explicit, and I am not entirely convinced that the matter is implicit in the Bill. It seems that the Bill could be administered, as drafted, with a certain laxity in this area of analgesia and that it would be happier for all concerned, not least the animals, if the amendment were made. I beg to move.

The Earl of Halsbury

Again I feel, as the Peer in charge of the Bill, that I cannot go along with the noble Lord, Lord Beaumont, on this one, and once more I hope he will do what he said he would do—I have no need to underline it—and withdraw the amendment in due course, after we have had a reasonable discussion of it. I do not feel the amendment takes us further than subsection (2)(b), which ties competence and responsibility to procedures, already takes us.

The amendment tells the Secretary of State how to do his job. This is again one of those acts of judgment that must continually be performed by those who are collaborating on the draftsmanship of a Bill of this kind—having given the Secretary of State a job to do, just how far is one going in the direction of telling him how to do it? The reaction of the man told to do a job must depend on the epoch in which he is fulfilling his instructions, and the method of discharge may change with time. The proliferation of detail in the amendment is not really complete, and that has its dangers. Why, for example, is training in surgery and training in opsysis not included in the recital?

One of the dangers of this sort of treatment of the subject is that the result may fall foul of the legal principle called exclusio alterius, on which the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor gave us a fascinating exposition in relation to another matter earlier this year. The effect of it is that if you use a general term and then illustrate it by particulars which fall under it, you exclude all the other particulars that fall under it. The effect of the amendment might be to fall foul of that and exclude all other factors from consideration. I merely say that that could be the case. I am not a constitutional lawyer or draftsman, but I have had to take advice on these points from time to time and that is the advice that I am given.

The other point that does not seem satisfactorily attended to is the differential training requirement of animal technicians and operating scientists, which one must suppose will be a function of epoch and context. I have in mind the fact that this sort of Bill is not politically popular. It will be when, finally, we enact something on the initiative of the Government that this Bill will have played a useful part in, as it were, giving everybody a run over the course. But we must not expect to get another Bill for another 100 years. We are operating now under a Bill which 100 years old and nobody will want to touch the Bill which the Government finally approve. Therefore, we must strike a right balance between doing what we provide for in general terms, and filling it up with a lot of petty detail on how a person is supposed to discharge his responsibilities now, in this day and age, as opposed to 50 years from now, when facilities and responsibilities may be altogether different. For those reasons I cannot support the amendment.

Lord Energlyn

I join the noble Earl, Lord Halsbury, in asking the noble Lord, Lord Beaumont, to reconsider the amendment and to ask whether it is really practicable. If you go into a laboratory concerned with, say, the study of the chemotherapy of carcinoma, you have a variety of techniques which you must use and one of them is not anaesthesia as Lord Beaumont seems to visualise it. To illustrate the point, if you try to give a rat a chemotherapeutic substance which you are hopefully expecting to have an ameliorative effect on a cancerous growth, it is extremely difficult to give it to the rat orally because of the dimensions of the throat. Indeed, we spent ages trying to find a method of getting a compound which I had produced into a rat. If we had had to operate under this amendment, we should not even have been able to begin that experiment without seeking the permission of the Secretary of State.

Lord Belstead

I shall not repeat what the noble Earl, Lord Halsbury, and the noble Lord, Lord Energlyn, have said. In essence, the noble Earl said that the amendment was teaching the Secretary of State how to do his job, with the advice he also received from the inspectorate. I need not add to that. It might be of interest to the Committee to be reminded of the present state of the draft convention; Article 22 is worded in much the same way as Clause 1(2)(b) of the Bill. In other words, the convention as drafted now is requiring procedures to be performed only by competent people, but it is leaving it open as to how such competence is to be judged. There is another article in the draft convention, Article 24, which as drafted will require each contracting party to make provision for the education and training of persons carrying out duties, including supervisory duties, under the convention to ensure that animals used for procedures receive the care and treatment they need.

The noble Lord, Lord Beaumont, will be the first to be seized of the fact that in the United Kingdom we do not have the power to dictate what shall be taught in our education system. However, we already make provision for education and training in the sphere of the care and treatment of animals used for experiments, and the courses will be familiar to many of your Lordships, so I shall not go through them except to say that they are to be found in the North-East Surrey College of Technology, Surrey University, the Royal College of Surgeons and the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons, and there is of course in-house training to be found as well.

The conclusion which the Government have reached on the amendment is very much the same as that which the noble Earl expressed. We have considerable sympathy with the objective of the noble Lord, Lord Beaumont, in putting the amendment forward, but we disagree that it is desirable to tie the definition of "competent" to certain specific courses and lines of training, and, on those grounds, I too hope he will not press the amendment.

Lord Airedale

If my noble friend is being told that the amendment is teaching the Secretary of State how to do his job, then I would say that that argument could be used against any section of any Act of Parliament which provides that the Secretary of State, before taking action, shall have regard to various matters, which are usually set out. Such a provision is very common in a clause in a Bill; and it is not really a question of teaching the Secretary of State how to do his job.

Lord Belstead

I do not think that this afternoon we want to discuss whether or not an amendment is correctly technically drafted. I am sure that this amendment, so far as its objective is concerned, is drafted exceedingly well. However, as I understand the amendment, it is not drafted in such a way as to require anyone to have regard to certain factors, but rather it lays down a duty. It states: No applicant shall be deemed competent unless, in the opinion of the Secretary of State he or she is sufficiently trained in certain techniques. That lays down a duty, and the Government see very great difficulties in that.

Lord Beaumont of Whitley

I cannot pretend that I am happy with the responses that I have received. The noble Lord the Minister, and the noble Earl, Lord Halsbury, seemed to me to be putting up the kind of smoke screen barrage against amendments which one is used to encountering—

Noble Lords


Lord Beaumont of Whitley

Is there no such thing as a smoke screen barrage? Well, noble Lords know what I mean—but really there is such a thing as a smoke screen barrage. One can lay down smoke shells in front of a position, and that is exactly what the noble Lord and the noble Earl were doing. I do not think that the arguments they used are of tremendous import. Nevertheless, I take seriously the fact that for various reasons they do not wish me to proceed with the amendment and that they do not wish to accept it.

The noble Lord, Lord Energlyn, in his speech referred to some most interesting points which horrified me. I think that before we finally get the Bill that we are promised we should look at the very interesting points the noble Lord raised. I was certainly under the illusion that my amendment, if it was anything, was a work of supererogation, and if I am told not that it is not necessary, but that such an amendment in itself would be a bad thing, then clearly we ought to look at the problem again. Perhaps this is the first major point of substance to have been raised this afternoon. In the meantime, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

6.3 p.m.

Lord Beaumont of Whitley moved Amendment No. 4:

Page 2, line 6, at end insert— ("( ) The Secretary of State shall refuse to grant a licence for any procedure on any living animal where in his opinion, on the advice of the Advisory Committee, the purposes of the procedure or a sufficiently similar result can he achieved by alternative means").

The noble Lord said: Once again I shall be very brief. This amendment, which ties in with a number of amendments to Clause 3, is concerned with writing into the Bill the requirement that animals should not be used where material can be tested or experiments carried out by other means. I think that there is no one in the Chamber—at least I hope that there is not—who does not have the greatest of regret about what can be only the sad necessity of animals being used for experiments. In that situation it seems to me right that wherever possible we should lay down an absolute duty to explore all alternative methods, and I believe that it is right to spell this out in the Bill. I beg to move.

Lord Houghton of Sowerby

I feel that there is still much work to be done on the very important question of alternatives. I do not think that it would be desirable to add the words of the amendment to the Bill but I must say that the substance of the amendment concerns a great many people who are trying to find alternatives to the use of living animals. So far as I can tell, remarkably little attention is being given to this question where one would expect it to receive constant attention—that is, in the laboratories and similar places. We are told that living animals are so expensive that cost alone is compelling researchers and experimenters to look for alternatives to living animals.

However, the departmental responsibility here is very sloppy indeed. This is simply because Governments in the past have not given sufficient attention to the welfare of animals as species. The Home Office, that pudding of a department with ingredients from almost every corner of society and of social and civic responsibilities, does not have responsibility for dealing with the question of alternatives. In fact, it does not have very much responsibility for experimentation on animals at all, apart from the granting of licences, and in my opinion the way in which licences are granted leaves much to be desired. By the leave of the Home Office we happened to see samples of licences that had been granted. Oh dear! I did not like much of what I saw there. However, I shall not be drawn into that aspect of the matter.

The responsibility for alternatives is apparently that of the Department of Education and Science. I know this because I well remember raising the matter in another place at one time when I received a complete brush-off on the subject from the then Minister of Education and Science, who happened to be Mrs. Thatcher. I was told that the question was not an important part of what the Department of Education and Science was interested in.

We tried to get some form of foundation to devote itself to finding alternatives. We also tried to get Government sponsorship for research into alternatives, but none of our efforts succeeded. Just about the only organisation that is really devoting itself expressly and persistently to finding alternatives is the body known as FRANE. It is a voluntary body which receives funds from a number of diverse sources. Some of the funds come from commercial enterprises which are very much engaged in the use of living animals for their own laboratory purposes and which want to find alternatives, in particular in connection with the so-called LD 50 test, which uses an enormous number of animals for the testing for toxicity purposes of various kinds of substances. If alternatives could be found for testing toxicity without using living animals, enormous savings would be made in the numbers of animals involved, and an enormous amount of discomfort and suffering to animals would be avoided. There is one respect in which the line taken by the Home Office on the granting of licences and on keeping animals free from severe pain does not apply when using animals during tests of substances for toxicity and other ill-effects. The animals suffer considerable pain and under the LD 50 test there is no way of relieving them of it.

This is a very important matter, and I am sure that when we come to our substantive discussions it will occupy much of our time. So I endorse completely the approach of the noble Lord, Lord Beaumont of Whitley, to the question of alternatives. I merely add this to the list of matters which the Home Secretary will have to consider when he comes to draft his Bill.

The Earl of Halsbury

I delayed my contribution because I thought that in the course of discussing alternative methods we might drift a little towards a Second Reading type of debate. Perhaps I can assist the Committee by bringing us back to the substance of the amendment. First, there is here some loose drafting, which perhaps the noble Lord, Lord Beaumont, has not noticed. A procedure and a result are two entirely different things; they are different kinds of animals. One is consequential upon the other; they therefore cannot be similar. That is a drafting point which I can see the noble Lord has taken, and I will not refer to it any more.

The policy thrust of the Bill is such that the intended obligation lies upon the Secretary of State already. Again, it is a question of good judgment as to how far you go on hammering the nail home into the wood. Clause 4, on sponsorship, requires a knowledgeable sponsor who is an expert in the particular field of this experiment to certify just the condition that, again, Lord Beaumont wants to put into the Bill when an application for a licence is made. So the matter is already covered by Clause 4.

Then, Clause 6(6)(c) requires a licence-holder to make a statutory declaration in his annual return to the effect that he has in fact used alternative methods where they are available. Lastly, the words "any living animal" particularise the animal, and they appear to make the advisory council responsible for detailed decisions on which it is the business of the inspectorate to judge. The inspectors and the sponsor's certificate are the real safeguard here, so you have a double safeguard. Do you really want a third? My judgment would be, No, you do not. I would, therefore, as previously, ask the noble Lord to consider withdrawing this amendment.

Viscount Massereene and Ferrard

May I make one point? I understand there has been a great advance regarding tissue. If you want to experiment on animals, I understand there are now tissues which can be used for certain experiments which are still carried out on animals. I should like to ask my noble friend on the Front Bench whether he would impress on the Secretary of State to give every encouragement, by financial means if possible, to scientists who are experimenting in the use of tissue, because I am sure that if the Government were really to support that it would be a very popular move among a great many people.

Lord Belstead

If I may respond to the question which has been asked of me, the Government accept the desirability of alternative methods being used whenever practicable; and when the noble Lord, Lord Houghton, chides the Government with distancing themselves from this matter and not becoming involved in it, I think the noble Lord may have temporarily forgotten that an exhortation was sent out in December 1978 to all licensees under the 1876 Act, urging them to consider and, if practical, to adopt whatever alternatives are available to them in their particular field of work. That exhortation has been repeated in each year since then, in 1979 and in 1980. It is not sent out by the Department of Education and Science; it is sent out by the Home Office on behalf of Her Majesty's Government. We do care, and we are continuing the system which was started by the previous Government in this respect, although I must admit to my noble friend that we are not accompanying the exhortation with financial inducements. I had not really intended to speak on the amendment because, for reasons which have been deployed by the noble Earl, I do not think the Government would wish to support the amendment as it stands, but I have ventured to make this intervention in order to put what I have just said on the record.

Lord Houghton of Sowerby

Since there seems to be mutual chiding going on, and my name has been mentioned in that connection, may I say that I was fully aware of the circular issued. Indeed, I had something to do with its being issued. We urged this upon the Home Office. I only say—there is no strong note of criticism in this regard—that telling people to use all the alternatives they know of is not quite the same as being involved in finding alternatives which people might use, because so many times when you urge people to use alternatives they tell you there are not any, or the alternatives will never substantially reduce the use of living animals. There is no way out, we are often told. So all I can say is that this is a field of endeavour in which the Home Office should begin. They have not even started on it, really, yet, because the Department of Education and Science, when it comes to the scientific side of the matter, have the responsibility. The Home Office can urge licence-holders to do anything without having immediate responsibility for the technical side of what it is that they are doing. I put that in only as a note of selfdefence against what the noble Lord was saying.

Lord Beaumont of Whitley

I think this particular amendment has in fact produced a useful debate, but I accept the arguments of the noble Earl, Lord Halsbury, that in fact this amendment is unnecessary because it is in substance covered by the Bill. I do not, as a matter of interest, accept his argument about the drafting, for reasons which I shall be happy to explain to him outside and will not weary your Lordships with, but as to the argument about it being unnecessary I think that probably is so, and therefore I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

On Question, Whether Clause 1 shall stand part of the Bill?

6.16 p.m.

Lord Houghton of Sowerby

This may be a convenient moment for me to raise one or two general questions relating to future progress on this Bill. We have been told that we are waiting for the final draft of the Council of Europe, and they have been at work for some long time. They met in January, when they had a drafting committee trying to finalise the draft which has been under consideration for so long. They failed to agree on the final draft, and another meeting is to be held on the 12th to the 15th May. I think the Home Secretary and the Council of Europe members concerned hope that at the May meeting they will reach finality, though there are still one or two very important questions outstanding. I do not dwell on them for the moment, because one of them arises directly on Clause 3 of the Bill; but what I am asking the noble Lord the Minister at the present moment is how we are going to proceed. The question I am really raising is: What consultations do the Government have it in mind to hold with the various sections of interest in this difficult problem?

When Governments are preparing legislation, especially if it is lengthy or complex, or where strong feelings are being held in particular sections of our society, or where there are special interests involved, they have consultations about it with the representatives of the bodies concerned. Are there going to be any consultations with anybody when the Government come to prepare their Bill? Have they made any progress? Have they yet to begin? I fear that when you are waiting for something the temptation is not to start on it until you have got it; and then, when you have this something, you begin, you find how much more difficult it is than you thought, and you get well behind in the timetable. Is that going to occur?

The Select Committee, it seems to me, provided the Secretary of State with a most valuable survey of the whole field in evidence, and presented the Home Secretary with this Bill, which represented both in structure and in content the best that we could do. The structure of the Bill is very important indeed, as I said earlier in the debate this afternoon, because we are completely changing the approach to this problem in terms of legislation. Under the 1876 Act you almost plunged into Section 2 to see what was unlawful. You were therefore dealing with immunity problems right from the beginning. Here we have a set of positive provisions, an attempt to say what people may do rather than to tell them what they may not do. We are embarking on a complex exercise. It would be of help to those of us directly concerned to know how the Home Office are proposing to get through this period of the formulation of legislation and the preparation of a Bill to put before Parliament.

Another question I should like to ask—and perhaps I am too premature in asking this question—is this. Where is a Government Bill going to start? Will it be in this House or another place? Are we to wait until the House of Commons has had the Government Bill and has mulled over it for weeks and then find we have a Bill arriving which has obviously gone through the hands of inexperienced people? We are, after all, the experts here. They are all here. You only have to look around to see who they are, serving on the Select Committee, probably a committee composed of more highly-qualified people than any Select Committee that could be gathered in another place on this or any other subject. They are politicians in another place. We are dealing with these matters constructively.

We saw on the Wildlife and Countryside Bill the enormous value of dealing with a subject which is non-political but nevertheless contentious in a nonpolitical way, of wide significance and requiring a great deal of experience and knowledge. I thought that was one of the most rewarding experiences anyone could have in this House—to go through all that and put a Bill together and feel that a pretty good job was made of it in the end.

Are we going to have the benefit of that experience in connection with the Bill that the Government will bring forward? I do not like to remind the Government that they still have some election pledges to fulfil. They are probably sorry they have so many of them. One day the Social Democratic Party will teach the lesson of the folly of political manifestoes to the other parties by not having one of their own. All sorts of interesting possibilities will arise shortly on the political scene. I was reading about one of them only a few moments ago. Seriously, could we be told—we seem to be shadow boxing all the time—how we shall get to grips with this? Are we wasting our time at the present moment waiting for a Bill which does not come, waiting for a convention of the Council of Europe which may or may not help very much when we have it?

The language of the convention will not be the language of an Act of Parliament. It will be more loosely drafted, in terms which will be more general in character. They will lack definition. This is the way of the European convention procedure. We shall have to translate that when we get it into more specific language required by an Act of our own Parliament. I think I have indicated to the noble Lord the strong desire to get some indication of how they see the period between now and, say, the end of the year. We are not going to get a Bill this Session. Will we get a Bill next Session? What is the programme? There is such a thing as the future legislation committee of the Cabinet. They have it all on paper. Where does this Bill come? Ministers stake their claims for a slot in the future legislative programme. My noble friend Lord Aylestone, who was here until a moment ago, was deeply involved as the Chief Whip in a Labour Government at one time in how Bills came forward, what would be in the Queen's Speech and all the forward thinking that the Ministers have to do; and they have permanent civil servants. Do not believe all you see in "Yes, Minister". There is a lot of truth in it but I do not think we have had quite a dunce as a Minister in any Conservative Government that I can remember. It is highly entertaining, but I hope people will not think it is the truth. There is something much more dynamic behind the Minister than that, and a little more dynamic in Ministers themselves. Can we have some indication of how we go, when we get there, and see whether this long-awaited, promised up-dating of the 1876 Act will come about?

Lord Belstead

If I may reply to the noble Lord, Lord Houghton, I gave a Written Answer to a Question which the noble Lord put down, on 4th March. In the Answer I said that a sub-group of the ad hoc committee of experts under the United Kingdom chairman had met in Strasbourg from 13th to 16th January and completed its task of making proposals for improving the drafting of the text of this convention. It made progress on its other task on statistics and, with the aim of completing that, will meet again on 11th May immediately prior to the next meeting of the ad hoc committee itself from 12th to 15th May. That committee is charged with making recommendations for the policy and substance of the future convention.

In preparation for these meetings, the Home Office held a further consultative meeting on 23rd March with representatives of a wide range of interested bodies in the scientific, industrial and animal welfare fields in this country The objective of the meeting which was held on 23rd March was to inform those present about developments and to take their views on the future draft convention, with particular reference to those articles the principles of which have not yet been settled by the ad hoc committee. These are the articles relating to the pain condition, to the re-use of animals, to education and training and to statistics.

The impression which we gained at the Home Office was that the meeting was useful and we shall consider carefully a number of matters which were raised before the United Kingdom delegation goes back to Strasbourg in May. Although at the meeting of the sub-group in January the West German delegation unexpectedly made a general reservation on the articles dealing with the breeding and supply of animals (and it remains to be seen how this will affect the discussions in May), we expect, as a result of that meeting to have a sufficiently clear idea of the obligations of the convention to enable us to move forward towards legislation. We shall in the near future be receiving the report of the Advisory Committee on Animal Experiments so far as the framework of new legislation is concerned.

The noble Lord, Lord Houghton, asked me specifically about the holding of consultations. I hope that it is implicit in what I have been saying that many views have already been expressed to the Government on these matters. As I stressed before, we must await the final draft of the European convention. In the meantime, we shall continue to take as constructive a part as possible in your Lordships' consideration of the Bill of the noble Earl, Lord Halsbury.

Clause 1 agreed to.

Clause 2 agreed to.

Clause 3 [Form and conditions of licence):

[Amendments Nos. 5 to 7 not moved.]

6.30 p.m.

Lord Beaumont of Whitley moved Amendment No. 8: Page 4, leave out from the beginning of line 22 to ("that") in line 26.

The noble Lord said: I shall reassure the noble Earl, Lord Halsbury, by saying that I again shall seek to withdraw this amendment. It is a probing amendment. I ask the noble Earl and possibly the Minister if they will comment on this matter. The particular point I want to raise is something which I do not remember coming up before. I may be wrong about that. Certainly I have no recollection of it. Is it the implication of subsection 7(a) that if it is required with a view to carry out tests or investigations necessary for compliance with requirements having the force of law in the United Kingdom, the Secretary of State is under a duty to issue a licence or does he have discretion?

One can imagine the situation whereby a law was passed or a regulation was made which had the force of law, which said that a substance should be tested or could not be used unless it had passed certain tests. It was not necessarily in the minds of those drafting the law as to what those tests should be. They just assumed that there were tests. I can imagine such a matter quite seriously happening or that science and knowledge progressed to such a stage after the passing of the Bill that it became quite clear that the only way in which a substance could be tested would be by tests involving animals and involving them at a degree of pain level which would not be acceptable in other circumstances.

In other words, the fact that you have a Bill or a regulation passed without a full understanding of the distant consequences in terms of animal testing. In such a situation as that, is the Secretary of State under a duty to approve of such tests being carried out or can he in fact withhold his approval? It is a rather recondite point but it is none the less one of substance and not detail. I beg to move.

The Earl of Halsbury

I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Beaumont, that this is an amendment of substance and the amendment which follows it is also an amendment of substance in exactly the reverse direction—again a contra riposte, one amendment to the other.

It is bad legislative policy in any context whatsoever so to leave the law that whatever is done someone is breaking it despite all efforts to conform to it. This amendment, as it stands, would so operate as in effect to repeal other legislation without explicitly enacting a repeal. Parts of other provisions in existing law would thereby be repealed in effect by making compliance with it impossible save by breaking the provisions of this one.

Although I sympathise with Lord Beaumont's approach, this is the wrong terrain in which to fight this particular battle. If the noble Lord dislikes the provisions of the health and safety at work Act, the clean food Act, the drugs Act, the medicine Act or whatever it may be, from the standpoint of the bearing that they have on the sacrifices that we impose on animals, it seems to me that he or his party should initiate legislation to repeal some of the requirements of the law as it now stands. He would, of course, have a headlong collision not with the scientists who are not really deeply involved with safety testing, but with the environmental lobby, the clean food lobby, or whoever it might be. But that would be his business. My point is that he would then be fighting the battle on the right terrain and not on the terrain of this Bill.

Lord Beaumont of Whitley

The noble Earl is fighting a battle that I did not open. He is making a speech in answer to the speech that he thought I was going to make instead of the speech that I made. I made it quite clear that I was not putting forward the kind of argument that he suggested; but I was asking a question as to what he understood as to the meaning of this Bill regarding whether the Secretary of State is bound to give a licence in these circumstances or whether he has discretion. I wonder whether the noble Earl or the Minister can answer that.

The Earl of Halsbury

I do not think that either under the Cruelty to Animals Act of 1876 or this Bill the Minister is bound to give a licence to anybody merely because he asks for one. The point is that if someone is under an obligation to have his product tested and the conditions of test fall foul of this Act, it is not a question of whether this Act gives the Secretary of State power to issue a licence but whether his doing so or not doing so falls foul of some other Act. This is the real point at issue.

Lord Beaumont of Whitley

The issue is even more complicated by that answer. When we get to the stage of considering the Government's Bill and its relationship to this Bill, I probably have raised a question which needs a little more elucidation. In the meantime, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

The Earl of Halsbury moved Amendment No. 9: Page 4, line 23, leave out ("requirements having the force of law in the United Kingdom;") and insert ("any statutory or other government requirement under other legislation, including any foreign legislation;").

The noble Earl said: This is the counterpart in the reverse sense. I shall not press it to a Division. I want to point out its merits as they must be attended to in any subsequent Government Bill. We must really avoid being just silly about animals and our regard for them. There are milestones on the Dover Road. We do not control what they do in France and elsewhere. The idea that British mice are sacrosanct but that French mice do not count is just silliness. It is insularity carried to the point of absurdity.

British pharmaceutical products that are going to be exported will be tested. If they are to be exported to France they will be tested according to French safety standards. If they are not tested here, they will be tested in France. We cannot legislate for what happens abroad. Are we seriously going to embargo British exports on the grounds that they are going to be tested in France on the point of arrival? What earthly legal power do Her Majesty's Government have to do any such thing as embargo exports for that reason?

If testing to foreign standards is done here, the animals will almost certainly be better treated than anywhere else, notwithstanding the fact that we shall be supposed to be working to the standards of animal treatment laid down by Strasbourg. There will almost certainly be an overall economy of animals since at least part of the safety standards will be common ground as between Britain and France. We should obviously like to align them completely but that may take time. For all these reasons, some such provision as this should be looked at by the Government in the drafting of their own Bill. For that reason, in order to give the Government an opportunity to comment on it, I beg to move.

Lord Davies of Leek

I have just come into the Committee. I apologise, but I have been watching for this amendment. I do not want to make a long speech, but I feel that a great effort has been made to make a success of this. I have listened to the noble Earl's argument—I knew what it was going to be—and I hope that, whatever happens to this amendment, the spirit of it is taken into account. The Committee having had a long day, and I have spoken for about only two minutes, I shall leave it at that because my intentions are obvious.

Lord Beaumont of Whitley

This is a most interesting amendment, particularly if it is taken together with the previous one. At the end of our discussion on that amendment I did not think we made ourselves clear. If the answer to my question was, "Yes, the Secretary of State has a duty to give a licence to matters which are affected by subsection 7(a)"—that is, tests on substances for compliance with requirements having the force of law in the United Kingdom—and if the noble Earl's amendment were passed or were to be incorporated into another Bill, which is what we are really discussing, then we are in the situation which I think the noble Earl was very near to urging, if he was not actually doing so, where we say that we will accept other countries' demands for the ways in which substances will be tested in order that we may be able to export our substances to them. Whereas in nine cases out of 10 to object to that would be to expose oneself to the ridicule which the noble Earl quite rightly expressed about certain cases, there are indeed certain exceptions and certain cases where we should not want to go along that path, and where in this country we should be absolutely right to take a stand which is more moral than that taken about the treatment of animals for experiments and testing in other countries and to say, even if that meant that what we export from this country was still going to be tested in other countries, that we would not do it ourselves because it would be absolutely wrong.

There are those circumstances, and therefore I hope that when it comes to the Bill itself the noble Earl will not be trying to put this kind of amendment into that Bill. I understand that he is now going to withdraw his amendment and therefore it is irrelevant at this particular moment, but I do think that again we have brought up and highlighted another point of principle.

The Earl of Halsbury

I am well content at this point with what has been said on this amendment and propose to withdraw it unless the noble Lord himself wants to speak on it.

Lord Airedale

May I intervene for one moment on a very small drafting point? I do not understand the phrase— government requirement under legislation''. Governments never legislate. They may get into the habit of supposing that they do, but it is Parliament that legislates.

The Earl of Halsbury

I should be prepared to concede that the noble Lord's point may indeed have some substance and I should like to look at it rather closely when I have more time available; but the amendment will be withdrawn in any case. I should like to assure the noble Lord, Lord Beaumont, that it is not mandatory on the Government to give licences under these conditions. It is permissive to say they may do so. If the foreign testing procedure was abhorrent to the conscience of the British people, they could say: "All right: then let it be done abroad". That is all right: you cannot stop it being done abroad. I am merely saying that for the most part to do one set of experiments which will provide safety standards for two countries is an economy of animals; but I think we have said all we need on that.

Lord Ferrier

I rather hope that the noble Earl will not withdraw the amendment if only so that we may take the sense of the voices in the Committee on the matter.

The Earl of Halsbury

I feel that if with the last amendment standing in my name I violated all that I have pleaded for during the course of our debate, the noble Lord, Lord Beaumont, could with justice charge me with a double-cross! In those circumstances, notwithstanding what the noble Lord, Lord Ferrier, has said, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

6.44 p.m.

On Question, Whether Clause 3 shall stand part of the Bill?

The Earl of Halsbury

On this question of Clause 3, I want to take the Committee a little further through the clause which was to some extent anticipated by my noble friend Lord Houghton on Clause 1 stand part and press the noble Lord the Minister to tell us a little more than he did on Clause 1 about the position in regard to Strasbourg. I know there was a meeting of which I have had an account, but not yet minutes, from the Home Office last week. Everybody made their points as part of the briefing of our representative at Strasbourg, but I still need to learn the Government's reaction to it. I know that all is not well at Strasbourg. The Germans have reneged on part of the convention's detailed provisions as to rearing animals, or so I am told, and the number of clauses which the noble Lord, Lord Houghton, has recited, including the pain clause are still unsettled.

I am anxious that the Committee shall fully understand what is involved. As the law stands, in Britain today you cannot do an experiment which inflicts pain on an animal without a licence from the Secretary of State. The Act now in force allows him to attach conditions to the grant of such a licence and for years past a condition has been attached to the effect that under certain conditions animals must be destroyed in order that their pain may be relieved. I think it is pertinent actually to read these conditions of the present licence. Paragraph 3(a) reads as follows: If an animal at any time during any of the said experiments is found to be suffering pain which is either severe or is likely to endure and if the main results of the experiment have been obtained, the animal shall forthwith be painlessly killed". So there we have either severe pain or enduring pain. Now we come to 3(b), which legislates for severe pain which is also enduring pain. It says: If an animal at any time during any of the said experiments is found to be suffering severe pain which is likely to endure, such animal shall forthwith be painlessly killed. "Forthwith" does not presuppose that the experiment is finished.

Those are conditions but they are imposed at the Secretary of State's discretion. It is not a statutory requirement. The statute does not tell the Secretary of State what conditions he is to attach. He can issue a licence without this requirement if he thinks circumstances warrant it. It is now agreed that the conditions should be written into the Bill, but I have always argued that, if so, we must also write into the Bill an escape clause corresponding to the Secretary of State's current power not to impose this condition under the Act now in force.

I took this point very strongly in Committee, pressed it and carried it. At the time, and shortly afterwards, I was criticised, not by my colleagues in the Select Committee but outside, for over-dramatising the contingency aspects of what I insisted on. Since then opinion has swung my way. My noble friend Lord Adrian on Second Reading took up a real issue on the question of blackleg in horses, the preparation of sera against which does entail severe and enduring pain to the horses which are used as a source of this material. I hope he will repeat his comments this evening and, if I have in any way misquoted what he said on Second Reading, he will put me right.

I know that the Royal Society and, I think, the physiologists are now unquiet about the state of the pain clause at Strasbourg, and the insistence on the need for what I have called an escape clause in special circumstances is receiving increased support. I would therefore ask the noble Lord to tell us exactly how not only his department but other departments which are involved—the Department of Health, the Medical Research Council, the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, the Department of the Environment and any other deeply involved departments or industries—feel about the present status of the pain clause at Strasbourg.

Lord Adrian

I have on a previous occasion referred to the pain condition and, at the risk of boring your Lordships, taking up the invitation of the noble Earl, Lord Halsbury, I should like to say a few more words. Perhaps I should say first that I think the enduring pain is caused to guinea pigs in the present preparation of blackleg vaccine and not to horses—though horses and cattle are subject to that particular disease, I believe. The noble Earl, Lord Halsbury, has already asked the Minister about the pain condition in the draft European Convention. In the Bill before us and in particular in Clause 3, ultimate discretion is given to the Secretary of State, though the Minister has said he would prefer an inviolable pain condition in any legislation. In this respect, I understand he deems that this Bill is insufficiently rigid.

Can the Minister assure the Committee that an inviolable pain condition on the face of the Bill, to be interpreted ultimately by the courts, will not prevent urgently required work on new viral diseases from Africa; on Marburg disease, on lassa fever and on some forms of hepatitis? These are newly recognised viral diseases and to contain them we need to know how the virus kills and how it works, and we may be able and may need to develop, make and test new vaccines. These are processes which might—I do not say that they will—have to involve severe or enduring suffering in experimental animals; or, at least, a degree of suffering which a court could well deem to be severe or enduring, if it were brought to their notice. Is the Minister content with the prospect that the courts shall decide which diseases may, or may not, be investigated, rather than the DHSS, the Home Office and the Medical Research Council; and, moreover, that the courts will, by law, have to decide this issue on animal suffering rather than on human suffering?

I should prefer to see the decision reside with the Secretary of State, after taking appropriate advice. I should add that I would expect this discretion to be exercised only—and I underline "only"—in cases which involve work on the prevention, cure and treatment of serious disease. My own preference, as I have said before, is for a pain condition to be administratively applied to licences, as is the present practice. But if it is to be on the face of the Bill, I plead that some ultimate discretion is withheld for the Secretary of State to allow this kind of work to go forward when it appears to be necessary.

Lord Houghton of Sowerby

This matter will be one of the main features of the legislation to come. It is on this that I think a great deal of debate and, probably, difference of opinion will arise. After all, the 1876 Act was designed to alleviate pain. It was concerned with pain. It described the general range of purposes for which living animals could be used, but its main purpose was to alleviate and eliminate pain on the animals being used. This has been pursued further in Clause 3 of this Bill. We have to look at what we mean by "properly anaesthetised".

We have a pain condition—I am now reading from page 4—and, having stated it in quite clear terms, we then go on to provide that the Secretary of State should have power to grant exemptions. This is the snag. If you lay down a clear-cut definition of what must be avoided, and then give the Secretary of State power to issue exemptions from that, you are obviously getting into very deep water indeed. We have to look at the pain condition in subsection (5) on page 4; then, we have to look at subsection (6); then, we have to look at subsection (7); then, we have to look at subsection (8) and, then, we have to look at subsection (9), before we have the whole picture of what could be called the pain condition. There is no doubt that a great many people in the field of animal experimentation, and among welfare bodies, will be looking for pretty clear guidance on this subject of pain.

One of the articles in the draft European Convention deals with this subject and it is not surprising that it is one of the draft articles that has not yet been agreed. This has to go to the next meeting in May, in the hope that it can be incorporated in the final draft, either in its present form or in an amended form. But this is the article which still has not been agreed. With the permission of the Committee I shall read it. It says: When during a procedure it is found that an animal is going to suffer, or is suffering, severe pain or distress or a degree of pain or distress greater than was envisaged which cannot be prevented or alleviated, that animal shall be humanely killed without avoidable delay, even if the main object of the procedure has not been achieved. I want to ask the noble Lord the Minister: where will the British delegation stand on that at the meeting in May? What will be said on behalf of the British people, of Parliament and of the Government at the meeting in May? It is vitally important to know where the British delegation will stand. No doubt there will be two opinions about this. This is where compromises have to be made, if there is to be any kind of consensus. However, the Committee will note that the article, as drafted at the present moment contains this most significant condition at the end—and I repeat it— even if the main object of the procedure has not been achieved". I believe that in the pain clause which the noble Earl, Lord Halsbury, read out a moment or two ago as being our present practice, there were words to the effect of the purpose of the experiment having been substantially achieved. There is nothing in our rules at the present time which requires an animal to be destroyed, if the purpose of the experiment has not been achieved—

The Earl of Halsbury

Will the noble Lord allow me to intervene? That is not the way I read the condition in (3)(b). It says: If an animal…is found to be suffering severe pain which is likely to endure, such animal shall forthwith be painlessly killed". It says nothing about whether the purpose of the experiment had been achieved. That only applies to the "or" condition—severe pain or pain which is likely to endure.

Lord Houghton of Sowerby

They are difficult words unless you have them in front of you. But the advisory committee, which took two years to examine the LD 50 test, which is the one to which I referred earlier—the toxicity test—admitted that the LD 50 test caused suffering. There seemed to be no escape from it. After all, if you are going to put substances into living animals until you reach the point where half of them die, it is unavoidable that you will cause suffering, probably of an acute nature, before death actually supervenes. This is what it is for. It is to test the lethal nature of the substance that is being used. In fact, "LD" means lethal dose, and "50" means 50 per cent.

This is a test which is highly controversial, because it is mostly used in the field of medicines, drugs, commercial substances—everything which you use in the kitchen, in the garden, on the farm and in industry. The area of this LD 50 test has been widely enlarged, as a result of health and safety legislation dealing with industrial substances.

I am raising the point: Where are we going to stand on the question of pain? I can quite understand that, in surgical treatment, it is very often possible to alleviate pain by anaesthetics and so on, so that the animal will not suffer acutely, and so that, if it does, the suffering will not last. But when dealing with the testing of substances, many of which are highly toxic and many of which can be actually poisonous, how does one escape from inflicting pain if animals are going to be destroyed before one knows whether or not it is going to kill them? That is why I am pressing the Minister to tell us this afternoon where we are going to stand on the article in the draft European convention which has not yet been agreed. Who is demurring? Are we? Or is it the others? Could we know, please, because this will give us a clue as to where the Government are likely to stand on this question? We have given our version in the Bill. It is not entirely satisfactory. Nothing can be which is going to provide any way out at all. Any escape route is bound to give rise to difficulties. So I raise this question and ask the Minister whether he can give us a clear reply.

7.1 p.m.

Lord Belstead

The form which the pain condition should take in the Council of Europe convention has still to be settled. That is clearly understood this evening in the Committee. I should like to make it clear on the general point that, so far as the Government are concerned, we believe that the starting point for our reconsideration of this matter must be the present pain condition attached to all licences issued to persons wishing to carry out experiments on live animals under the 1876 Act, which empowers the Secretary of State to attach such conditions as he sees fit to any licence. The pain condition has remained in its present form, as the noble Lord, Lord Adrian, reminded us, since 1929, having undergone only a few changes since it was first attached to licences in 1887.

The noble Lord, Lord Houghton of Sowerby, asked me where the United Kingdom stands, so far as the drafting of Article 8 is concerned, in the draft convention at Strasbourg. The present draft of the convention, Article 8 of which contains the pain condition, has not yet been agreed. It is designed to permit an animal to be put out of pain by the use of anaesthetics and not necessarily to be killed. It is, however, in our view, clumsily worded. Consequently, the United Kingdom delegation has had on the table at Strasbourg since last September a revised version which would have the same effect but which would make it quite clear that where an animal is in, or is expected to be in, severe continuing pain action must be taken immediately to relieve that pain or to kill the animal humanely.

The noble Lord, Lord Adrian, asked me if there was an inviolable condition upon the face of legislation, whether this would prevent tests which would be necessary to try to discover cures for the various illnesses which the noble Lord mentioned to the House, including lassa fever. I can give no assurance that the tests necessary in these circumstances would comply with the pain condition. As to the courts which the noble Lord mentioned, it does not follow that putting the pain condition on the face of legislation would bring the consideration of such matters before the courts. It would depend on how any new legislation was formed. However, the assurance I should like to give to the noble Lord—I think it is important that I should give this assurance at this stage—is that no final decisions have been taken on the matter. I assure the noble Lord that, in giving very careful consideration to all the views which have been expressed before the United Kingdom delegation returns to Strasbourg, we shall most certainly give very careful consideration to the words which the noble Lord has spoken this evening.

I really do not think that I can give your Lordships more information about the pain condition, so far as the Government are concerned with it at the moment. I hope that what I have been able to say is of some interest.

Clause 3 agreed to.

Remaining clauses and schedules agreed to.

House resumed: Bill reported to the House without amendment; Report received.