HL Deb 02 June 1981 vol 420 cc1114-6

3.4 p.m.

Lord de Clifford

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 whether they are aware of the grave disquiet aroused in millions of pet owners by the reply to Lord Houghton of Sowerby's Question (columns 552 and 553 of the Official Report of 12th May); why it required an illegal act to discover that a stolen pet had been acquired for animal research; whether they will consider making it a condition of licensing research that the dealer or pet shop supplying the animals should be licensed under the Pet Animals Act 1951; and whether they will introduce legislation to ensure all animals for research under licence are bred specifically for that purpose.

Lord Sandys

My Lords, my right honourable friend the Home Secretary is aware that many people are concerned about the possibility that pets may be stolen for supply to laboratories for experimental purposes. It would not be appropriate to attach a condition to licences issued under the Cruelty to Animals Act 1876 that animals used for experimental purposes should be obtained only from suppliers licensed under the Pet Animals Act 1951, since that Act applies only to businesses engaged in selling animals as pets. The theft or dishonest handling of stolen pets, however, are offences for which very substantial maximum penalties are available. The Government have announced their intention of introducing legislation when parliamentary time permits to modernise the Cruelty to Animals Act 1876, and the legislative proposals will include provisions extending control to the breeding and supply of animals intended to be used for experimental purposes.

Lord de Clifford

My Lords, while thanking the Minister for that reply, may I ask whether he would agree that it comes down to this: that an animal which is stolen may go for research, while one taken under legislation may not? Is it not a most extraordinary situation that an animal stolen may go for research while an animal collected as a stray may not?

Lord Sandys

My Lords, the position was set out very clearly by my noble friend Lady Young in her reply to a Question for Written Answer on 12th May 1981 from the noble Lord, Lord Houghton of Sowerby.

The Earl of Halsbury

My Lords, may I ask the noble Lord to draw the attention of his right honourable friend to an article I wrote in World Medicine in January of this year from which, with the permission of the House, I will quote one sentence: No-one would risk experimenting with an animal whose history he did not know and which might have been planted on him by anti-vivisectionists after being mendaciously reported stolen to the police"? Does not the noble Lord consider it a most extraordinary thing that an unknown dumb animal has been stolen and linked to an owner of unknown name and address? Is not that a feat unprecedented in the annals of detection?

Lord Sandys

My Lords, I shall certainly draw the attention of my right honourable friend the Home Secretary to the article written by the noble Earl, Lord Halsbury.

Lord Houghton of Sowerby

My Lords, is the Minister aware that when the Government's forthcoming legislation to update the 1876 Act comes before Parliament, the public will look for a complete clean-up of the procurement and care of animals for laboratory use and that that must form an important part of the legislation?

Lord Sandys

My Lords, as I said in my original reply—I emphasise this—the Government are intending to include in legislation the breeding and supply of animals intended to be used for experimental purposes.

Lord Airedale

My Lords, are the Government satisfied that a most disgraceful affair actually took place and, if so, have Sheffield University apologised and expressed their regret and distress that the incident took place?

Lord Sandys

My Lords, I am not aware of any official reply or apology being sent to the Home Office or to any other source.

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