HL Deb 21 November 1984 vol 457 cc643-72

7.31 p.m.

Lord Somers rose to ask Her Majesty's Government whether they will consider the withdrawal of the White Paper on Scientific Procedures on Living Animals (Cmnd. 8883).

The noble Lord said: My Lords, we have had a most distinguished debate this afternoon on the question of research, and I can only hope that nothing that I say this evening will be interpreted as casting any disparagements on that very distinguished and splendid part of our civilisation. In fact, I can say that I owe a good deal to research because without it I very much doubt whether I should be standing here speaking to your Lordships. Of course, whether the Government think that that privilege is worth paying any money for, I must leave to them to decide.

However, this evening I shall deal with only one small area of research, and that concerns the Government's White Paper on Scientific Procedures on Living Animals. I am not usually one to get excited over the question of vivisection. Of course I detest it, as I think anyone with any sensibility would do. But I believe that those who campaign so very earnestly against it are sometimes apt to forget the horror of human suffering. I have seen enough of that to realise that while vivisection is able to do anything to relieve human suffering, it must be accepted.

However, I cannot look at it as anything except a necessary evil and one which needs the most strict supervision and control. At this point let me say that I wholeheartedly condemn the fanatical approach of some misguided persons who think that they will gain public opinion by doing harm to others. That is absolutely unforgivable and, incidentally, it defeats their own end because it simply puts people against them.

A good deal of emphasis has been laid on the necessity of developing alternatives to the use of five animals, and I, too, should like to see them not only developed but, where they have been proved capable of doing that for which they were designed, made compulsory. However, one must admit that at the moment their capacities are limited. Professor D. H. Smyth in his book Alternatives to Animal Experiments, which is published by the Scoler Press, lists them as follows: (a) Dummies; (b) Models and computers; (c) In vitro methods; (d) Tissue cultures; (e) Use of lower organisms; (f) Man as an alternative; (g) Using fewer animals; (h) Mass spectrometry and gas chromotography; (i) Audio-visual aids; (j) Saturation analysis and radioimmunoassay; (k) Alternatives in the cosmetic industry; (l) Alternatives in the behavioural sciences; (m) Alternatives in bacteriology, virology and immunology; (n) Alternatives for teratogenicity testing; and (o) Some miscellaneous alternatives.

That is quite a formidable list. I shall not weary your Lordships by going right through the list, but I should just like to mention one or two. The chief use of dummies, of course, is for teaching. They make it unnecessary, until perhaps the very last stages, to dissect a living animal.

In vitro methods are interesting. They can take an entire organ, such as a heart, a liver or an intestine, and keep it alive for a short time separate from the body, performing its normal functions. I believe that they can continue to do this for several hours, providing opportunity for much useful research.

As to tissue cultures, which are so often quoted as an alternative to the use of live animals, they have many advantages, but they also have their limitations. Professor Smyth points out that after a time the cells in these cultures begin to change and are no longer of use. He also points out that all the cells in our bodies are not the same and that a drug which is perfectly innocuous to one group of cells may be absolutely toxic to another. So, of course, one must make certain that one has the right group of cells.

However, one thing is essential: if these alternatives are to be of any use, they must be made compulsory, unless it can be shown that the desired result cannot be obtained without the use of live animals. Where the latter are used, the very strictest supervision is necessary if we are to make certain that no abuses are being made.

The White Paper, which I am asking Her Majesty's Government to withdraw, does not tighten the controls at all; instead, it relaxes them. In the Introduction in paragraph 2 it says that the new controls, will give better protection to animals used in scientific procedures".

In fact, in many cases the result will be the exact reverse. Let me give a few instances of the changes. In paragraph 7(8) we see that microsurgery on living animals, which was formerly banned, is to be allowed, under anaesthetic, for the purpose of acquiring skill. I suppose that that is allowable in that it prevents students from going abroad and perhaps picking up even worse practices there.

Paragraph 27 gives the purposes for which a live experiment can be carried out. These purposes cover practically everything. For instance, the words "scientific research" would be an excuse in any conditions whatever. Paragraph 43 says that an animal need not always be destroyed after experiment; it may be re-used. That was not formerly the case. The condition that it must be kept under anaesthetic may easily be abused.

Paragraph 44 says that curare and other similar agents known as muscle relaxants, but which may equally well be called paralysing drugs, are to be used with permission. This means, of course, that an animal can be paralysed so that it is incapable of moving but at the same time be completely conscious. Therefore, it may be suffering excruciating pain but be unable to move. On the subject of pain, if anybody doubts whether animals are capable of suffering pain I have here a learned study by Professor Patrick Wall of University College, London, if anybody would like to have a look at it. It is completely convincing that animals can suffer pain.

Paragraph 30 deals with tests for cosmetics. It says that the obnoxious LD50 test and the Draize shampoo tests are to continue. Tests for cosmetics are absolutely unnecessary. There are several firms now which produce perfectly good cosmetics based chiefly on vegetable sources. Not being very experienced in the use of cosmetics myself, I consulted a friend who uses them. She tells me that they can be obtained at most health food shops, and that they are entirely satisfactory.

Many eminent doctors and scientists have protested against the provisions in this White Paper. Among them, one which has met with very general criticism is the one in paragraph 51, which says: Provision would be included to make unlawful unauthorised disclosure of confidential information.

The people have a right to know what is going on in these institutions. A cover-up policy does no good whatsoever to the scientific profession; it merely arouses suspicion.

Some will no doubt say, "Why make all this fuss about a few small animals when there is so much suffering in the world?" My reason is this. I feel that it is morally wrong to inflict unnecessary pain on any creature which is unable to defend itself. That, in my opinion, is contrary to the law of justice. Incidentally, it is no matter of "a few" small animals. The figure for 1983 in Britain alone was over 3½ million.

I am not a scientist, but neither am I a crank. I am perfectly ready to accept the opinion of a distinguished scientist, such as Professor Smyth, that it is impossible at present to do without animal experiments. But he has mentioned a great many alternatives, and I feel that these could and should be developed. But to achieve this, pressure must be brought to bear on scientists to do so, and this pressure can only be brought about by making it more difficult—I say more difficult, not less—to obtain permission to perform a live experiment. I should like to quote here from the

notes which the RSPCA made on this White Paper.

They say: Some areas of work are particularly appropriate for increased replacement of the use of animals, such as the production and testing of vaccines. We believe that the Home Office should give greater encouragement to the search for alternative techniques, particularly at the stage of licence application, and that licences should not be granted where alternative techniques could be used to achieve the same ends".

Many of your Lordships may have heard of the organisation known as FRAME—which is, of course, an initialised abbreviation of the Fund for the Replacement of Animals in Medical Experiments. They are doing excellent work, and I am glad to see that they have the approval of the Government, who are intending to give them quite a useful grant before long.

I shall end by emphasising this point. I am not pleading for the abolition of vivisection at present. I hope that science will advance to the point where it is no longer necessary, but until that time I am prepared to accept it. But I make two conditions: first, it should be kept to a minimum—that is, to those cases where it is necessary for the prevention or cure of disease—and, secondly, it should be kept under the strictest possible supervision. This White Paper provides for neither of these conditions.

Any Government, of whatever party, can make mistakes: they are, after all, only human. But my experience has been that the one thing which is completely beyond the power of any Government is to admit that they have made a mistake. How much more we should respect and admire them—how much more we should trust them—if only they did!

7.45 p.m.

Lord Mishcon

My Lords, I believe that there will be three things upon which this House will be united in regard to the Unstarred Question so usefully moved by the noble Lord, Lord Somers, because he has enabled this House, once again, to discuss the matter of cruelty to animals and vivisection. First, I imagine that each one of us is a lover of animals. The basis on which I was brought up was to mistrust, and indeed to have a prima facie dislike for, anyone who was not a lover of animals. The second thing that I imagine unites us is an overwhelming desire that we should advance that part of science which does not destroy human life but prolongs human life and lessens suffering both among human beings and among animals themselves. The third thing, I suppose, is a desire to see that a proper, fair and equitable balance is made between those two considerations.

I mention that this is not the first time by any manner of means that your Lordships in your wisdom and in your mercy have contributed to a discussion of this serious subject. The legislation upon it goes back to the Cruelty to Animals Act 1876, never amended, never revoked; and now we are again looking at a White Paper which discusses that Act, 108 years after it was passed. How many extraordinary changes have taken place since the passing of that Act! Indeed, when it was passed it was literally true that there were only a few hundred experiments carried out. Certainly only a few hundred animals were involved; and most of the experimentation, if not all of it, was done in regard to matters relating to surgery.

I noted the figure given by the noble Lord, Lord Somers. If I heard him aright, he mentioned a figure of 3½ million as the number of animals currently annually involved. The figure that I had for 1980 was 5 million. I do not know whether the figure has rapidly decreased to 3½ million. If it has, all of us will at least welcome some improvement in that rather dreadful statistic. Not only has the number of animals involved been so varied between 1876 and now, but the whole nature of scientific experiments and the nature of these experiments has altered, too. Therefore, it was not difficult for your Lordships on several occasions to take the view that it was about time we had some up-to-date legislation.

Whenever this matter has been debated in your Lordships' House, whenever there has been an opportunity to discuss it, that great friend of animals my noble friend Lord Houghton of Sowerby—I nearly called him Lord Houghton of Assisi—has addressed your Lordships with a conviction, a principle and a fervour which has always commanded your Lordships' respect. Indeed, the noble Earl, Lord Halsbury, has played a very honourable part in the discussions upon these matters. He has advanced views not always agreed with by all your Lordships, but nevertheless one knows that he, too, is a man possessed of great scientific knowledge, with such an ordered brain, and at the same time a man of infinite mercy.

It was indeed because of a Bill that the noble Earl brought before your Lordships' House, the Second Reading of which took place in October 1979, that that Bill was referred to a Select Committee which reported in April 1980. I have had the benefit of reading that report, and, if I may say so as somebody who had nothing to do with it, it is truly a magnificent report and is a great credit to your Lordships' House.

That Select Committee had the benefit of a departmental committee which was set up in 1963 and of which the chairman was Sir Sydney Littlewood—a very distinguished solicitor. That departmental committee made 83 recommendations. It is odd to think that 83 recommendations were made 20 years ago. Some of them have been carried into practice, but none of them has yet been carried out in a change in legislation. The Government is committed, as I understand it, to legislate. They made that declaration in November 1979. I have no doubt that they collected a few votes on it, because it was repeated in a recent manifesto, and, if all the items in their manifesto were as warm and as merciful and as kindly, they would receive no criticism from my Bench or from my noble friends.

This White Paper, upon which one imagines legislation is going to be based, was issued in July 1983: there was to be consultation upon it and representations were invited. It would be interesting to hear from the noble Lord the Minister when he replies, what is the extent of the representations that have been received and what effect, if any, on the Government's thinking, by way of variation of what is said in the White Paper, there has been in response to those representations.

There were four main items of concern in relation to the 1876 Act. The first was that many uses of animals cannot now be interpreted as experiments. The second was that legislation protecting consumers was now more stringent and the third that there were some purposes for which animals were used which could really be described as trivial. The question arises and concern is felt as to whether ethically those experiments should be permitted and who should be the judge. Lastly, there were rare instances—and the noble Lord, Lord Somers, has referred to some of them—where animals were used in a way completely repugnant, not only to members of the public, but indeed to scientists as well.

Now, my Lords, we all have those concerns, and we all want to produce a balance. As the noble Lord, Lord Somers, intimated, neither mankind nor animals nor good causes are served by fanatical extremism, and indeed I know that that too is a matter upon which all your Lordships will have a unanimous view, especially at this moment.

Unlike the noble Lord, Lord Somers, I did find much that was worthy in the White Paper. I did find that there were some improvements in the existing conditions and indeed on existing practice, and it is worthy of note that the Government have gone further in the White Paper than the European Convention. The European Convention permits us to go further, and we have taken advantage of that permission. In some respects, as I said, we are better off than the European Convention would have us be in regard to the question of consideration for animals.

My Lords, if I may, there are just some questions which I should like to put to the noble Lord the Minister arising out of what I have said. I do not think it a useful exercise of your Lordships' patience for me to summarise the recommendations in the White Paper, because I have taken it for granted that all your Lordships who have been good enough to wait for this debate, and certainly those participating in it, have studied the White Paper and need no paraphrase of it from me.

The questions that I think do arise are the following. I mentioned the European Convention. It is very important, as the noble Lord, Lord Somers, I think intimated, that there should be such a convention because otherwise it would mean that we should legislate but all that people who wanted to carry out certain experiments not permitted under our legislation would have to do would be to make a short journey abroad into the Continent of Europe. So this European Convention is very important.

My first question to the noble Lord the Minister is to ask him how far that convention has gone and, secondly, because it is related, is he able to give the House any intimation as to when this long-awaited legislation is due to come before Parliament?

Under the present Cruelty to Animals Act, the maximum penalty, I believe I am right in saying, is a fine of £100. If I am right in that, or anywhere near right, can the noble Lord the Minister intimate whether or not, in the legislation that is to come before us and in the thinking of the Government as shown in the White Paper, it is intended to have penalties which are much more commensurate with public feeling on this particular question?

It is mentioned in the White Paper that there will be an increase in the number of inspectors. Now, the White Paper, as I read it, did not say that there will be an adequate increase in the number of inspectors. Can the Government intimate to the House that there will be? Upon this vital matter and in regard to the very important duties that they have to carry out, will the Government see to it that the addition to the number of inspectors will be adequate to allow them to carry out their important duties?

The Government mention in their White Paper the question of guidelines, and it is mentioned in connection with the very difficult matter that the noble Lord, Lord Somers, briefly but, if I may say so, very effectively, referred to—that is, the pain and suffering of animals and certainly the severity of it. Can the noble Lord the Minister tell the House upon what lines that guidance is going to be issued? Who will be advising on it, and, my Lords, will the guidelines have the statutory effect that a breach of them will in fact be a matter of offence under any proposed legislation?

My last two questions—I promise the Minister—are directed to what is happening elsewhere and in particular in Sweden, Canada and the United States, but I propose to concentrate for only one minute before I conclude upon the United States. Are the Government aware of the proposal by the United States of America to require the appointment at each research institution of an animal research committee which will consider both the care and the use of animals and will be required to review any research proposals in which animals are likely to be exposed to severe pain and distress? Does he know of the interesting requirement in that proposal that there should be at least one member of that committee who is a representative of the public? Would not the Government consider that such a proposal, if legislated for in our country, would mean a great lessening of the burden upon the Home Office and upon inspectors and would ensure that the projects were examined on site by the committee, which would mean that they came forward in very much better form when an application was made to the Home Office under the proposed legislation?

Lastly, I turn to the question that worried the noble Lord, Lord Somers, and has troubled everyone of your Lordships present in this Chamber tonight and the public outside—that is, the use of animals for experiments with cosmetics. In that connection, I ask whether the noble Lord the Minister is aware that in 1983 18,037 experiments were apparently carried out on animals for cosmetic and toiletry purposes? Is not that a matter which should be looked at more than closely? Would not the Government agree that if such experiments are allowed—I am not saying in using those words that I think they should be—they should be limited to research on the most severe and serious skin complaints and those only?

I hope that in posing these questions I have not put too great a burden upon the Minister. As I have said, we are indebted to the noble Lord, Lord Somers, for making possible yet another discussion on this important matter, and I believe that possibly the House can best be served on this occasion by the asking of questions on this important White Paper.

8.3 p.m.

The Lord Bishop of Bath and Wells

My Lords, I have already apologised to my noble friend the Minister and I want to apologise very sincerely to all your Lordships for having to leave the House for a long-standing engagement probably before the end of this debate, unless we are all very brief as I dare to hope I shall be.

I am among those, like the noble Lord, Lord Mishcon, who finds it difficult to see why the noble Lord, Lord Somers, wants this White Paper withdrawn. Studying it as intelligently as I can, I cannot have it in me to be other than grateful that, as we have heard, more than 100 years after the 1876 Act a real attempt is being made to update the law. That surely must be good news.

If the noble Lord, Lord Somers, reckons that it is not intending to update things enough, at least we may take comfort that such of the provisions as may find their way on to the statute book would be steps in the right direction. Private Members' Bills against cruel experiments on animals failed at the Second Reading stage in 1973 and again in 1977. Her Majesty's Government are now seeking, through this White Paper, I believe, to pave the way for new laws on this emotive subject. For the life of me, I cannot see why this move is not to be welcomed.

We have already expressed our abhorrence of the extremists' actions in recent months. I hope that no extremist from either side would be allowed to become a member of the animal procedures committee outlined in paragraph 16. This would need very careful scrutiny when the Committee was made up. People can easily disguise their extremism when it suits them. One would also like to see those appointed to include, first, a lawyer; secondly, someone specifically to represent the ethical viewpoint; and, thirdly, a person expertly, not just amateurly as so many English people are, concerned with animal welfare.

The inspectorate is obviously a key element in the greater supervision of animal use in experiments which is envisaged. It is significant, I am afraid, that after some quite fulsome words about the inspectorate's expanding task in paragraph 19—I noticed this as did the noble Lord, Lord Mishcon—one had to go right through to the end to paragraph 54 before there was any mention of adequate funding. I doubt whether the implication in paragraph 54 carries with it sufficient funding. The paragraph says that a small increase of manpower will be necessary if new legislation is to have any impact at all. I say amen to that.

The clauses in paragraphs 24 to 26 are perhaps the nub of the matter. I hope that the important line in paragraph 24, line 4 I think it is, will be written firmly into the new Act; namely, that the word "pain" should be very broadly interpreted to include, disease, other disturbance of normal health, adverse change in physiology, discomfort and distress". That seems to me to be a good package and brings home to me, and I am sure to many other people, how much pain is inflicted in the name of scientific advance on animals at the present time. All honour to the work of the RSPCA in seeking to curb this. To curb one aspect I am glad that project licences will not be issued to persons under 18, with the consequence that under the new proposals experiments in schools, with all their hazards, will be against the law.

I welcome too the general provision that each person should be individually licensed and carry his or her own responsibility for the animals used. I am bound to say, however, that in the user establishments clause I do not think that the phrase "adequate care and accommodation" really means a thing. Rather there should be a code of practice setting out in detail, for example, the minimum freedom of movement to which an animal should be subjected.

I am glad that so many of the proposals set out in the report Animals and Ethics, made by a working party convened four years ago by the Dean of Westminster, Edward Carpenter, have been accepted in principle. Like the Council of Europe Convention, the Animals and Ethics report recognised that it simply is not possible to give animals all the ideal environment requirements, but where such deviations are absolutely unavoidable then efforts should be made at the other end of the business, as it were. In other words, is there unnecessary duplication of experiments? Could not information gained in one experimental laboratory be fed into a computer which would then be checked when further applications were received? My Lords, I welcome, with apologies to the noble Lord, Lord Somers, the general plans outlined in the White Paper; improved, I hope, in some of the ways I have touched on, all of which will need money: I do not doubt that there's the rub! But if my noble friend Lord Somers is afraid that at present we are only in the realm of lip service and are seeking to draw attention to this matter by the wording of his Motion, then, of course, I go along with him. I believe that the Government are intent on much more than lip service. I prefer to be optimistic.

Concern for the welfare of animals brings out many of the best features in people. One might not think from the attendance in your Lordships' House tonight that English people love animals as much as we do. But we do love animals and, without being smugly self-satisfied. I should have thought that there were very few countries in the world that care for animals as we do. Care for the rest of creation, especially for those parts which cannot answer for themselves, is engendered and encouraged by our bothering about animals; by a sensitivity to our kinship with the animal kingdom and, indeed, for the mystery of life itself; by the awareness that there are moral imperatives which cannot be dealt with simply in utilitarian terms. The extremists, as we have heard and as we all agreed, are not to be pandered to; but the general public interest in minimising cruelty to animals is, I believe, a very strong one and one which we shall do well to heed and promote in this House. Therefore, I oppose the thrust of the Motion of the noble Lord, Lord Somers, and welcome the White Paper as being generally on the right lines.

8.12 p.m.

Lord Ferrier

My Lords, I am pleased to be following the right reverend Prelate in saying what he said; namely, that personally I welcome the White Paper and believe that as a result of this debate the noble Lord, Lord Somers, (for whom I have particular affection and regard) will be satisfied that the course that is now before us is the best course available. I took part in the important debates, which have already been referred to by the noble Lord, Lord Mishcon, and which led up to the completion of the noble Earl, Lord Halsbury's Laboratory Animals Protection Bill, and we are looking forward to hearing the noble Earl when he speaks later in the debate. At that time I described some of the reasons why I myself though not a technical man, believe that I am qualified by experience to take part in a debate of this sort. I need not emphasise that I have been fated to be involved with animals at work and in play since I was brought up by an eminent professor of physiology and took some part, (despite being quite a little boy) in helping him with some of his work in the University of Glasgow which led up eventually to the solution of the cause of rickets. From the Army, where I found myself for one brief period involved with a large number of remounts from South America—a terrifying experience, but I worked with shoeing smiths and vets and I consequently had a valued and varied experience there—I then went to work in India, where I became concerned not only with field sports, including whipping in to a pack of fox hounds, but also in industrial and agricultural processes involving the use of animals.

I feel that this might be the juncture at which to emphasise one of my feelings about the criticism of people who are working with animals. It simply does not pay to hurt them. Nobody can say that it is worthwhile for pain (which it is very difficult to evaluate) to be applied to animals. It was after I retired to this country that I became chairman of a pharmaceutical company with its own animal laboratory. In the course of the later years of my life I have studied shooting dogs, particularly pointers, and have shown dogs of my own breeding and won prizes at Crufts. I have undergone anti-rabic treatment as a result of being bitten by a rabid dog and, what with this and that, have rubbed shoulders with men and women who know about animals and have lived with them. Therefore, I regard myself as competent to contribute to this debate in which, as I have said, I disagree with my noble friend Lord Somers that the Government need hesitate to go forward with the programme which they have in mind based on this White paper.

Subsequent speakers will refer to the need of our association with Europe. In fact, the noble Lord, Lord Mishcon, has already mentioned it. I assure your Lordships that our connection with animal research in the world-wide spectrum of the healing sciences is without parallel. I feel that it falls to me to emphasise that in all my long and varied experience I have been impressed by the tenderness, the consideration and the kindness of veterinary officers, doctors, researchers and the menials who help to look after animals in applying to their tasks the care for animals which they themselves felt and which, under the existing regulations, they were compelled to observe, even if they did not like it.

Perhaps this is the moment to refer to the word "cruelty" which is always applied to the Act of 1876. I can only say that it might be worthwhile studying what went on in the debates on the Bill of the noble Earl, Lord Halsbury, in respect of this word "cruelty" and how it ever came to be mixed up with an accusation, as it were, in respect of medical research. I will not suggest that this is an occasion to talk about pain and the evaluation of pain; but our Government are committed to replace the White Paper in due course.

But, my Lords, to dismiss it now, I believe, would be to throw away much of the work that has already been done. So my first point is to emphasise that the people concerned with research and with the care of animals, whether it be in terms of medical research or to help man with his agriculture or the like, feel that it just is not worth while to inflict upon animals pain which can be avoided. That is my first point.

My second point is a little complicated. It is a complaint about the extent to which the "antis", who have already been referred to, interfere with necessary and legitimate work which is directed in the long run towards the avoidance of suffering. That is what we are up to in medical research. But where do they get the money from? My Lords, they get it from legacies. I do not know at all, but perhaps the Minister may know, the depth of the pockets of these associations so that they are enabled to pay high salaries to individuals conducting opposition to research work. Is it that the substantial sums at their disposal have got to be spent in accordance with the wishes of the donors, namely, in dealing with experimentation, vivisection, or the like?

My feelings in this respect are supported by what we have heard in the debate on research which immediately preceded this one. It seems that there is a tremendous lot of research which is limited by the availability of resources. I wonder whether there are any means whereby people could be persuaded, if indeed there are adequate funds to support the work of "antis", to support research such as has been referred to this afternoon.

The noble Lord, Lord Kilmarnock, mentioned cot deaths. Oddly enough, that is a subject which I raised in this House the other day and I have in my pocket a letter which arrived only this morning, pointing out something which I did not understand, which is that the Department of Health and Social Security and my noble friend Lord Glenarthur have no control over medical research in Scotland. That is in the hands of the Secretary of State for Scotland. I mention this only because there is a possibility that we can use this means of getting in touch between the two departments. Obviously, from what has been said in this Chamber today, an enormous amount could be done if more money was available. I believe that there are a large number of people who have subscribed and will continue to subscribe to anti-vivisection movements and others of that nature, who could have their money diverted to (shall we say?) important work such as that of the Battersea Dogs' Home.

That, then, is my second contribution to the debate. First, I wished to emphasise my impression of the natural feelings of the people dealing with animals who like to be kind and do not like to be unkind; and secondly, to wonder where we could go if only we could persuade people to leave more money for research, such as I know they do to, say, cancer research today.

I have one or two notes here on points which I will briefly mention. One is to remind your Lordships that when they talk of "an experiment", a diet is an experiment. If you put two dozen mice on a diet, that is 24 experiments; and it is as well to remember that this question of anaesthesia in experiments is an interesting one. We had an old rabbit in my pharmaceutical company who lived to a great age. He had "an experiment" several times a week when a drop of blood was drawn from his ear—because he was "bloody" and could be used to check the output of a narcotic in that way without any anaesthetic.

I see I also have a note of a point which may be interesting to your Lordships from the veterinary angle: that is the use, in dealing with horses, of what is called "a twitch". That is a short stick with a loop on it which you put over the bottom lip of a horse and twist it like this. It looks awful—I was watching my daughter doing it to one of her horses the other day—but the fact is that it is painless, and not only is it painless but it allows the horse itself not to feel—am I not right?

That is my contribution to this most fascinating debate. I think we owe an expression of gratitude to the noble Lord, Lord Somers, for raising it. I am sure the right reverend Prelate was right in saying that there is no point in suggesting a withdrawal of the White Paper. Let us go ahead, as we are doing now, and I look forward with the keenest anticipation to hearing the speakers who are going to follow me in making my rather amateurish contribution.

8.26 p.m.

Lord Airedale

My Lords, it may be that sooner or later someone will say that, with my name, I ought to be taking an interest in this subject, and I therefore thought that I might as well say it myself and get it out of the way! I think it is my only qualification, really, for taking part in this debate, and I see on the list of speakers who are to follow me the names of distinguished scientists, so I will confine myself to just a very few points that have occurred to me in reading the White Paper.

I quarrel with paragraph 9, in which it is said: It will also be a feature of the new controls that no animal should be subjected to a level of pain greater than is appropriate to the procedure in question". I simply do not understand how anybody can contemplate the deliberate infliction of pain on an animal as being "appropriate". I very much prefer the words of paragaph 26. I hope that these, and not the words in paragraph 9, will appear in the Bill. It says there: the new system of control will ensure that in no procedure will the level of pain be permitted to exceed what is unavoidable to achieve the intended results". Paragraph 32 deals with what I suppose one might call random research. It says: Research with no immediately clear application has led to many of the greatest practical advances". That is undoubtedly true, and I suppose a good example of it was the discovery of penicillin by Sir Alexander Fleming. Sir Alexander was not looking for penicillin when he made the discovery, and in his modest way he said: "Penicillin simply flew in through the window of St. Mary's Hospital". But I wonder +78how many experiments Sir Alexander had conducted and how many kindred experiments had been conducted by his colleagues all over the world before penicillin "flew in" through Sir Alexander's window.

I would say that if scientists wish to pursue research with no immediate objective in mind, let them do so to their heart's content if they confine themselves to creatures without the higher sensitivities. But to subject animals with sophisticated nervous systems to experiments in the interest of purely random research, in the hope that a spin-off like penicillin or something of that kind might eventually arise, should not be permitted. I hope that paragraph 32 will be reconsidered before the Bill is presented.

There is a curiosity in paragraph 41 which deals with applications for project licences for education and training. It states that, procedures for the purpose of education and training should be permitted only if their objective cannot be achieved by effective audio-visual or any other suitable methods or combination of methods. This will be met by requiring applicants for project licences for this purpose to certify that the objective could not effectively be achieved by such means". I hope that when the Bill is published no applicant for a licence will be allowed to certify anything at all. I hope that the certification will be a one-way traffic from the authority which gives permission for the licences. That is the intention of the White Paper, as expressed in paragraph 38. I do not want there to be any possibility of the authority sheltering behind a certificate arriving from the applicant. Let the applicant make his representations, but let the authority do all the certification.

Paragraph 43, which is the only other topic that I want to mention, appears to look forward to the day when people will no longer be able to say that laboratory animals never come out, because the 1876 requirement that experimental animals must be killed in every case is to be repealed. The advisory committee look forward to these better times, too, when they say in paragraph 79: A dog may have undergone surgery from which it has recovered sufficiently to be taken home as a pet". This must be so. Pet animals nowadays undergo serious operations from which they recover and return home, just like their masters. It is an absurd idea that every laboratory animal should be regarded as being incapable of being released, given a good home and able to live out its life in the natural and normal way.

However, I can foresee one or two administrative problems. It is very important that the laboratory should find a good home for every animal that is released. How will this be controlled? What is "a good home"? It is not a very easy subject with which to deal. Will laboratories be allowed to sell the animals which they no longer require? Will they be allowed to undersell the professional breeders of pet animals? And if they derive an income from the sale of animals, will they be less economical about the number of experiments that they conduct than they are now, when they have no income to alleviate the expenses of running the laboratory? These are some of the administrative problems which may arise from this new policy. We need to think about these matters before the Bill is introduced.

That is all I have to say, apart from saluting the noble Lord, Lord Somers, for the very moderate terms in which he introduced this subject.

8.35 p.m.

Lord Hunter of Newington

My Lords, legislation for the protection of animals in Britain predates that of any modern state and I, for one, have tended to think that we have nothing to learn from others who are attempting to catch up. The essential framework of our legislation has not changed, though experience over the years has led to many improvements. In recent years the anti-vivisection lobby has become more demanding and militant. Now that the legislation is being reviewed, it behoves us to consider whether the legislation is still on the right lines and to cast a glance or two at what others are doing. We are very grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Somers, for raising the matter at this time.

The first fact one discovers when one looks around is the heightened awareness by experimenters of the responsibilities associated with the use of animals: an increased sensitivity to their needs and their capacity to suffer. This awareness will do more than any legislation, but it is this awareness which has prompted important developments in Sweden, Canada and the United States.

It would be fair to say that there has been a notable reluctance among British experimenters to discuss the moral implications of animal experiments. Both I and many others who have held a Home Office licence feel that we operated within the law. The regulations and permissions were carefully monitored by the Home Office inspectors. Some scientists honestly believe that only they can appreciate the issues and that discussion with others might not be very profitable. The Research Defence Society has done a wonderful job in defending the situation against the extremist anti-vivisectionists, but the new factor is a general interest and concern by a broad section of the rational general public. A "low profile" approach has not stilled the protests of the anti-vivisectionists.

What responsibility do scientists have to be accountable to the public for their actions and activities? Would sharing the responsibility with informed members of the public not only lighten the burden of decision but inform the public on the issues in a way which has not been attempted before? Surely the informed public have a role to play in countering the extremists. Moreover, the public must know and understand how scientists are striving all the time to devise new methods of testing which do not involve animal experiments.

Looking around the world, we find that scientists are less inhibited in this debate about the ethics of using animals in experimentation and that they have invited participation by the public at large. Is it time for scientists involved in research with animals to consult that section of the general public which has a genuine concern to avoid unnecessary suffering? Animal experiment review committees could contribute a valuable dialogue with the general public. Now is our chance to look abroad, because these experiments have already started.

The question, then, is: will lay input encourage scientists to be more reflective in their management and use of animals and in experimental procedures without detriment to worthwhile scientific investigation?

In July 1979 local ethical committees for the review of animal experiments were made mandatory in Sweden. As originally conceived, the committees were not to be mandatory but advisory bodies, encouraging consultation between investigators and other experts. The greatest threat to the usefulness of the Swedish committees is posed by the strength of the anti-vivisection lobby striving for the unobtainable. By demanding the immediate abolition of the use of animals for experiments, they are hampering the amelioration of animal suffering that is possible now. That is what is happening in Sweden.

In North America, scientists are currently trying to come to terms with the new guidelines on laboratory animal welfare proposed by the National Institute of Health, which were mentioned this evening by the noble Lord, Lord Mishcon. As he said, one of the major proposals requires that each institution appoints an animal research committee. This will consider both the care and the use of animals and will be required to review any research proposal in which animals are likely to be exposed to any pain or distress. Most controversial of all among these proposals is a direction that at least one committee member must be unconnected with the institution; in effect, a representative of the general public.

Failure to comply could deprive the research institution concerned of money from external sources, because most funding agencies traditionally defer to the National Institute of Health in the matter of regulations. So this is a profound revolution on the American scene. Veterinary surgeons have been in the van of the United States' initiative and their diploma in laboratory animal medicine is increasingly accepted as a suitable qualification for those employed in animal care. It is too early to say how this NIH initiative might work, but surely we should be studying this experiment closely. Current proposals allow the appointment of outside members but the committees will want to appoint people from the community with sufficient objectivity to be credible as representatives of public opinion. In Canada, the Canadian Federation of Humane Societies, representing 36 member organisations, proves an effective mouthpiece for welfare concerns.

It would be wrong of the United Kingdom not to consider these developments with the greatest of care. We must accept that we have something to learn. In fact, the expression of concern for improvement in laboratory animal welfare in Canada has outstripped legislative provision here. We have a fine Home Office inspectorate with a history of which they can be proud. Through them, we could have an excellent means of supervising institutes based on ethical committees. Of course, their full-hearted co-operation would be vital to the successful functioning of the committees—but by this means, we could avoid some of the snags and disappointments which have occurred in Sweden.

8.47 p.m.

Lord Houghton of Sowerby

My Lords, when I first saw the Question on the Order Paper by the noble Lord. Lord Somers, I was a little doubtful whether this was the time to have a debate on the subject. This was in view of the fact that so much work is now in progress following the publication of the White Paper last year, the difficulty of defining the present position of the Government on some of the proposals in the White Paper, and also the difficulty posed to those of us who have been within the range of discussions and consultations in bringing them before your Lordships' House. So it struck me that this was a difficult time for some of us to discuss the subject.

Nevertheless, I think that so far this has been a most fruitful occasion—and by the end of the debate I am sure it will be more so. A number of valuable comments and criticisms have been made, which I believe will come timely to the Government's further consideration of the White Paper. I withdraw the reservations I had in my mind about dealing with the matter at this particular time.

That does not mean to say tht I am going to inflict a long speech upon your Lordships and deal with the matter in any detail tonight. The noble Lord, Lord Somers, does not of course expect the Government to give an affirmative answer to his question. It is an art form of procedure when one asks the Government to consider withdrawing something—and do not expect that they will do so. In fact, most people probably hope that they will not. I would not join with the noble Lord in asking the Government to consider withdrawing the White Paper. We do not want to start all over again. Indeed, there is so much in the White Paper that is good, we would only have to re-write it if we did start all over again. We have to go on from here.

What we want are improvements. This is no reflection on the White Paper, because White Papers are published for the purpose of seeking constructive proposals and comments in order that a final revise of the proposals and of the approach may be made in the run-up to the legislation.

I am not going to ask any questions of the Minister except one. I asked this question during the debate on the Queen's Speech, and it has been asked by my noble friend Lord Mishcon. My question is this: can we really rely on the Government introducing this legislation in the next Session of Parliament?

I read in the newspapers of the difficult and controversial legislation that is blowing up in the field of social security and in other areas, which is going to impose enormous burdens on the time of both Houses of Parliament. I ask myself about building societies, farm animal welfare and swans—and I could list a number of other topics which are all clamouring for the attention of the next Session of Parliament. That next Session is going to be a really busy one, and many controversial matters will come before us.

My difficulty is the privilege I have in being within the range of consultation and discussion on the White Paper. I am chairman of the Committee for the Reform of Animal Experiments, and have been since it began. That committee has been working in a joint effort with the British Veterinary Association and with a body that has been referred to already—FRAME, which exists for the purpose of finding alternatives to the use of animals in medical experiments. This combination of CRANE, the BVA and FRAME has proved to be a most useful one. I might even say that it has been a most formidable one, because within the range of those three bodies there is probably as constructive and moderate an approach to this matter as one can find anywhere in the spectrum of animal welfare at the present time.

We are most anxious that when the Government's revised proposals are made, much that has been recommended to them from that source will be adopted. I do not want to anticipate what the noble Lord the Minister will say or to prejudge anything connected with his remit tonight, but we are expecting another memorandum from the Government some time in the New Year which will give their opinions about the matters which have been referred to them as a result of their request for information, proposals, and criticisms of the White Paper. We look forward to that memorandum.

As far as the three bodies I have mentioned are concerned, we have had much to say about many of the proposals in the White Paper, and I will not go into that aspect now. Some of the weaknesses of the White Paper have already been picked on in the course of this debate, and others have not. But what we have done—the three bodies acting jointly, to which I have referred—is to make the crucial issue of the forthcoming legislation the minimisation, the control and, wherever possible, the complete elimination of pain to animals in laboratories, That was the central issue of the 1876 Act in the context of that time. It is the central issue of the next piece of legislation in the context of our time.

In this connection we have to have regard to many procedures on animals which have long ceased to deserve the name "experiment". They are not experiments; they are procedures. To a very large extent they are routine procedures. In 1876 animals were not being used by the million for the testing of toxicity in substances of all kinds, from the kitchen to the garden, to the farm, to the lavatory and to the dressing table. These are substances of an infinite variety which are tested on living animals for dangerous side effects. Although the existing legislation talks about the control of pain, unless to relieve it would defeat the purpose of the experiments, there are thousands upon thousands of animals going through a most distressing experience by having substances pumped down their throats to see how much one can inject into them before they die. That is not a pleasant thing to be doing to any animal yet in the case of LD50, and in other ways, animals are being subjected to excessive doses of irritation, possible infection and other side effects of substances in order to satisfy the safety syndrome of the consuming public.

There is probably no problem upon which the public have two sets of values, their own and those of the animals. They are very reluctant to reconcile the two. People can go from a meeting on the protection of animals straight into a chemist's shop and buy something which is there because it has been stuffed down the throat of a helpless animal so that they can buy without fear that it will do them harm. If the public want to save animals from these dreadful experiences and agonising death, they have a simple remedy—stop using the substances that give rise to this very dreadful use of living creatures for the service of mankind. But we know that is an impossibility because we are all dependent upon substances, drugs, medicines, household utensils and all the rest of it.

We have much reconciling to do before this legislation is ultimately approved by both Houses. I beseech the Minister to make sure, in his discussions on the future legislative programme for that Session, to allow us adequate time. I must say that it is a great comfort to know that it will be a Government Bill. We will be out of the tricks and the devices of the Private Member's procedure, with people getting fussy and fidgety as the calendar goes on. It will be the Government's job to see that Bill through, however long it takes. It will not take anything like so long if the Government make up their mind that they must get the highest common denominator in their approach to the different controversial matters in it.

Therefore, my message to the Minister and to your Lordships' House is that when this Bill appears it will represent five years of work and waiting for the fulfilment of the pledge given by the Conservative Party during the General Election of 1979, and renewed since. After all that time this Bill had better be good. Upon my word, it had better be good! Throughout that time public opinion on this question has been hardening. When one leaves a problem unresolved for too long the price goes up all the time. History has proved that time and again. If you do not do it when you should then later on you have to satisfy stronger demands. The public are hardening towards a more drastic curtailment of the use of animals for numerous, seemingly trivial or unnecessary purposes.

I think that so much that might have been regarded as significant progress in 1979 will by next year be scorned as political palsy, or even worse. The unfortunate experience that some of us are having is that while this is all going on not only are the Government being attacked but the militant movement inside some organisations is being directed against those of us who are trying to steer a steady and constructive course in this debate and in the approach to the new legislation. We are already under fire. We can stand for that, but we certainly cannot stand for what is going on now in the name of animals, animal welfare and animal liberation. I dissociate myself completely from the frantic behaviour which we are at present witnessing. I associate myself with the criticisms that have been made.

I sincerely hope that the people concerned will stop it. It is not doing any good. It will be a great shame if the pedestal of public respect and compassion that animals have at present is dragged into the mire of public indignation and condemnation. It will be bad for them and also for those of us who are trying to improve the condition and treatment of animals in society. I beg of these people—I do not know them and I doubt whether I have any influence on them—that it would be very desirable for them to stop what they are doing and let us get on with the constructive work which is now in progress.

There, I think, I can draw my remarks to a conclusion. I look forward to the publication of the further document in the new year. I hope to be pleased with it, as do many of my friends who have been working hard to assist the Home Office to come to conclusions in that document which will command widespread support. Let us get on with it. Let us have the Bill ready for the next Queen's Speech so that the moment Her Majesty utters the promise that a Bill will be introduced to update, review or reform the Cruelty to Animals Act 1876 we can have it the next week and start on it, with the whole of that Session before us to see it through. That will be the day. I only hope that, with my ambitions in life, I live to see it.

8.58 p.m.

The Earl of Halsbury

My Lords, I too, am grateful to my noble friend Lord Somers for putting this Question down for debate because it gives me an opportunity to ask the noble Lord who is to answer for the Government a couple of questions on his forward look for the Bill arising out of any representations that have been made to him about the White Paper.

Those I shall come to later, if I may, because I should like to bring a little comfort if I can to my noble friend Lord Somers and also to the noble Lord, Lord Airedale, on where I think they are distressing themselves unduly by failing to take certain factors into account; the failure to do which tends to get people to catch hold of the wrong end of the stick. All the factors of self interest operate on the side of the animal. Alternative methods are cheaper—I repeat, cheaper.

At one time I was chairman of the Institute of Cancer Research, which used 100,000 mice per year at £1 each. I had to find that. We were an unendowed organisation. I had to find someone willing to give me £100,000 with which to buy those animals. So if there had been an alternative method it would have been much cheaper.

For heaven's sake, all the alternative methods are much cheaper. But as somebody once remarked, if you want to do research into teratogenesis, which is the production of monsters during pregnancy, nobody has ever seen a pregnant test tube and you may have to use an animal for this purpose. but generally speaking, where you can have alternative methods they are very considerably cheaper.

The next point to observe is this. I expect nearly all your Lordships have a driving licence. Very few of you would want to do something which would risk the loss of your licence. Still, if you were no longer allowed to drive a car, you could take a taxi. But if you have your licence taken away by the Home Office for doing something you should not do to a mouse, you do not just lose a means of transport, you lose your livelihood. So the last thing you are going to do is try to pull a fast one on the Home Office inspector.

Furthermore, your employers will be on the side of the inspector. They will not want to pull a fast one and risk getting caught, because all your work will be terminated and there is no resale value for half-completed research. So from that point of view the employer will be on the side of the inspector, the licensee will be on the side of the inspector and all three of them will be on the side of the mouse for that reason.

The noble Lord, Lord Somers, referred to muscle relaxants which he said are really paralysants. He referred to curare in this context. It is quite true: curare is a South American arrow poison, and it kills by paralysing the muscles you use for breathing. But short of a lethal dose it does relax the muscles. I hope nobody in the House is over-squeamish about surgical operations. When you have made a hole on the outside of a human body you have only begun. You have to open up that hole by pulling, and you bruise the tissues very considerably. So to be able to use a muscle relaxant based on research on curare is a very valuable addition to the tools of the surgeon. The two most commonly in use are hexamine and decamine. I had one or other—I cannot remember which—in the course of an operation, and I was not bruised at all. So they are very valuable tools in the hands of the surgeon.

It is a great mistake always to use a pejorative word in this context. Vivisection is a pejorative word. It means cutting up alive without anaesthetics. But you never get a licence to do that from the Home Office. The word was coined before anaesthetics existed, and nobody would be allowed by the Home Office to cut up a live mouse without anaesthetics. It would never be permitted. So really we all have a self-denying ordinance. So do not use the word "vivisection" it means surgery without anaesthetics, and nobody will ever get a licence to do that.

The noble Lord, Lord Airedale, I think was a little disturbed at the idea of random experiments out of random curiosity. Scientists do not do that sort of thing. I do not pick up a mouse by its tail and drop it in to a bottle of sulphuric acid to see what is going to happen. I know what is going to happen: I shall inflict a very nasty death on the mouse. We do not do that kind of thing. It is quite unnecessary to take precautions against it.

Take LD50. Why do we use LD50s? Why do we not use LD1s, for instance; that is, something that would kill 1 per cent. of the batch of mice instead of 50 per cent? It is because it can be shown mathematically that for a given level of significance you use fewer animals on an LD50 test than on an LD25 or an LD75. It is in fact the minimum use of the animal. Why do we do it at all? It is because some very important drugs have a very low chemotherapeutic index. That is the ratio between the lethal dose and the therapeutic dose. Some of the cancer resolving drugs (carcinolytics, as they are called) have very low chemotherapeutic indexes. In giving a therapeutic dose you are very close to the lethal dose. They do make people very ill: hair falls out, skin comes off and so on. It is most important to know, in this range of drugs with a low chemotherapeutic index, what it is safe to give, where is the LD50, and so on. This is very important to know. That is the context in which things of that kind are done.

You do not use LD50s on experiments with cosmetics like cold cream. You use what we call a limit test. You ask yourself what is the largest quantity of cold cream a child could possibly swallow, from its mother's dressing table, as a percentage of its body weight. You give that percentage of its body weight to a mouse and if nothing happens, you are okay. That is what is called a limit test.

Take safety testing. You do not normally test something on an animal for safety, believing the substance to be dangerous. You believe it to be safe, but you want confirmation. Probably 99 times out of 100 you are quite right; nothing at all happens. For example, is it a particular cosmetic carcinogenic? You put in on the skin of a mouse. If nothing happens, then it is not. So the mouse has not suffered in any way. It is freely available for re-use for another carcinogenic test and so on. All these safety factors are operating the whole time on behalf of the animal. It is always receiving the benefit of human self-interest in the course of that sort of work.

The word "cosmetic" is of course again a sort of pejorative term; you feel it is decoration for prostitutes, or something like that. But scar tissue, as I have said before——

Lord Houghton of Sowerby

Yes, you have.

The Earl of Halsbury

but not to a House of the same composition. Scar tissue has a high tumourogenic potential; it is more likely to produce a tumour than others. So a cosmetic is to hide a scar; call it beautification—that is another emotionally laden word. It is to hide a scar, but it is particularly important that you know that that cosmetic is not carcinogenic because the scar is particularly liable to engender it. So it is tested, and so on. But this all works in general in favour of the animal.

The Draize test is a case in point. This is another pejorative term. The Draize test is no longer used. It was invented because specific eyebrow black used in the United States was suspected to cause blindness in human beings. I think that the man's name was Draize. He fixed up this test in which the cosmetic was applied to the eyeballs of rabbits, and they did go blind. It is no longer done that way. The test was rigged up in an emergency. It got a bad name for itself. People talk about it as if it was an everyday practice at Boots, or something like that; not a bit of it! There is now a microscope through which one can look at any sign whatsoever of damage to the cornea in a rabbit.

There is a specific reason for using rabbits. They have corneas that do not blink, or something like that. I have forgotten the actual reason. But nobody would use a rabbit at £5 if he could use a rat at £3 or a mouse at £1. Those figures are ones that I carry in my head from of old.

The reason that I am going on like this—and I am nearly coming to the end—is simply to give a little comfort to my noble friend Lord Somers and the noble Lord, Lord Airedale, that the sort of things that scientists do in the laboratory are such that we are not really as black as we are painted.

There was a point that the noble Lord, Lord Mishcon, made about the adequacy of the number of inspectors. How long is a piece of string? One hears that the number of animals being used rather than using alternatives is 3 million. It was 5 million in days gone by; so the number has gone down. How on earth does one inspect 5 million? The imagination boggles at it. But they are concentrated into only 600 establishments, and I think that there are 17 or so Home Office inspectors. That gives about 30 establishments per inspector. Most establishments are working on a small number of standard procedures which have all been agreed with the inspector in advance. A person plotting his course on a new experimental line always fixes it with the inspector first to make sure that he will get permission to do it within the terms of his licence.

That again comes back to the point of the noble Lord, Lord Airedale, about some beastly scientist, drunk in charge of a mouse, who proceeds to do something horrible to it. Scientific laboratories are not run in that way. We have an immense corpus of knowledge which makes it quite unnecessary to do random experiments.

Lord Airedale

My Lords, I do not remember having said anything like what the noble Earl said just now that I said. But he is not suggesting, is he, that this White Paper does not envisage the deliberate infliction of pain upon animals in certain circumstances?

The Earl of Halsbury

My Lords, we deliberately inflict pain on ourselves in certain circumstances. As a student I used to prick myself with pins to compare one pain with another and one area of my body with another from the standpoint of sensitivity. I think that I shall be answering the noble Lord, Lord Airedale, if I now put my two questions to the Government.

The first is that I think there is a right and a wrong way of introducing a pain clause into the Bill. I should far sooner keep a pain clause out of the Bill and put it in as a licence condition. But there is a half-way house between the two, as represented by the old Schedule A to the Companies Act, which was a model form of memorandum and articles of association which one could follow. There is no reason why there should not be scheduled to the Bill a model licence which would have a model pain clause in it, and then there could be put in the Bill a condition that any licence not issued in those terms should be subject to report to the advisory council and comment thereby. That would be a happy medium.

The reason that I want to keep the pain clause out of the statute in rigid form is that probably another 108 years will go by before we get another Act of Parliament, from a still more enlightened age. In the meantime, all sorts of things can happen. Once that clause is put into the Bill, there is nothing that can be done about it. But if it is put into the Bill as a model licence and it is then required that any variation from the model licence will be reported in exceptional circumstances, that would be a happy medium. I hope that the noble Lord will get that under his belt, forward it to his advisers and see whether something on those lines cannot be agreed.

My other point is the question of the council. Generally speaking, the White Paper follows the lines of the Bill that I piloted through the House twice, unamended, having been previously amended by the Select Committee which studied it. But in my Bill it was a statutory council, and that means that the Minister has to publish its report. If we are to have just an advisory council appointed by the Minister, with no statutory obligations, there is no reason that he should follow its advice, publish its advice or anything. He need not be bound to follow its advice even if it is a statutory advisory council, but at least he would have to report to Parliament once a year that he had overruled his own advisory council for reasons which seemed good to him as a Minister. I attach great importance to having a statutory council and not an unofficial one appointed by the Minister. Again, I should be grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Elton, if he could include a reference to that in his reply.

9.13 p.m.

The Minister of State, Home Office (Lord Elton)

My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Somers, directs our attention to a very sensitive and a very important issue. It is one that has recently been much in the public mind, and not all of the public concerned with animal welfare is as intemperate and irresponsible as the sham poisoners who strutted into the limelight during the last few days.

Responsible supporters of animal welfare are concerned to achieve the best standard of animal welfare achievable in our present and developing circumstances, and that is the Government's aim also. The circumstances include the state of both medical and veterinary science, the identified and unidentified threats to both human and animal health and, in the wider context, the state of the law on such matters in all the European countries.

Within that context, as my noble friend Lord Ferrier has ably pointed out, there is a balance to be struck, and it is the duty of the Government to strike it and to embody it in law. I need scarcely remind your Lordships that the human population of this country was. until quite recently, subject to the lethal scourge of diphtheria. We can remember, too, the crippling and often fatal attacks of polio. If it had not been for medical experiments on animals we should not be able now to protect our children—and adults—from these two killers; nor would this country's 230,000 or so diabetics be alive today, let alone able to lead normal, useful lives. The past contribution of these experiments to human health is therefore a fundamental part of the health of the nation.

And much the same is true of animal health, for it is medical experiment with animals that has enabled us to isolate and counter many animal diseases as well. Before the last world war, I remember as a child being deeply grieved by the death of a puppy from canine distemper, and in 1959 I lost a beloved Airedale—in this case a terrier!—to leptospirosis. But both those diseases have now been controlled as a result of experiments on animals, as have blackleg in sheep and cattle and many other animal diseases.

So, although there are some people who believe that there is no balance to strike because no animal experiments should be permitted, I do not believe that they are among your Lordships. In this House we recognise that governments must ensure—and statutes must permit—that, where human life can be protected or saved by medical experiments with animals, then it should be.

But that bald statement is not enough. There can be no question of the unbridled exploitation of the animal kingdom for trivial reasons; nor is this often distressing kind of work something that should be undertaken by just anyone who feels like it, in any place or conditions they choose. The Government have an overriding responsibility for the welfare of the people of this country but they also have a moral responsibility for the welfare of its animals.

That is a responsibility which we have been pursuing to considerable purpose in recent years, and abroad as well as at home. Our domestic legislation is already ahead of that of the rest of Europe. Your Lordships may also know that we played a leading role in drafting a European Convention which will require other European countries to improve their standards. Even then, I fear, there will be less stringent control over pain levels elsewhere than in the United Kingdom. Nevertheless, it is a start, and I can tell the noble Lord, Lord Mishcon, that we hope it will be agreed early in 1985.

I mention that only in an aside to begin to establish our credentials in this matter. It ought not to be necessary to do that, but from some of the propaganda one sees being generated these days one might think the Government were not seriously concerned and seriously active in these matters. So let me also mention that we are the first British Government to provide government money to fund specific research into non-sentient alternatives to animals as the subject of this sort of experiment; and I gladly acknowledge the valuable work in this field of the Fund for the Replacement of Animals in Medical Experiments, as well as that of a number of individual companies.

In spite of the impressively long list of alternatives which the noble Lord, Lord Somers, gave from the late Professor Smyth's admirable book, we shall never, I fear, find a means of doing entirely without animals for experiment. But the 1983 statistics do show that the number of experiments in that year was again lower than that in the previous year and was in fact the lowest since 1959. Various of your Lordships wanted to know the actual figures. They were 5.6 million in 1971, 4.6 million in 1980, and 3.6 million in 1983, which was the lowest ever. Many factors may have contributed to the decline in numbers but I think that the Government's constant exhortations to licensees to develop and use alternatives and the helpful work that I have spoken of have had a considerable effect.

I turn now to the White Paper. It was published in 1983 as a means both of airing our proposals for further legislative progress and of opening up this whole subject to debate. That, as the noble Lord, Lord Houghton of Sowerby, rightly said, is what White Papers are for; and it seems to have been remarkably successful in both respects.

I should like to start my commentary by acknowledging the considerable help we have received from the Committee for the Reform of Animal Experimentation. My honourable friend the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State has asked me to pay a warm tribute, which I willingly do, to the noble Lord, Lord Houghton of Sowerby, for his ready participation in discussions, and to say that consideration of the pain condition, with which he is particularly concerned, does continue.

It seems to us that what is needed is not so much a definition that will satisfy students of semantics, but something that will give practical help to those in the laboratory who must be able to identify both a threshold of pain and the moment at which it is passed. That is what we are now working on and we are considering, as the noble Lord says, publishing a supplementary document on this and other important developments in Government thinking after Christmas.

I should also acknowledge both the help and the approval of important public bodies, including the British Veterinary Association, the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons, FRAME, and the Royal Society.

Since the White Paper was published we have received the views of thousands of people and we are grateful to them. Their letters covered the whole range of opinions, from the view that all animal experiments are evil, to the belief that increased control would prevent the sort of discoveries that have brought great benefits to both humans and animals in the past. A large number of people who wrote did so in identical words—they had, I gather, been put up to it by animal welfare societies—demanding a total ban on particular types of experiments. Many also suggested—again in identical terms—that the proposals in the White Paper actually relaxed controls which are presently in force under the 1876 Act.

I can assure the noble Lord, Lord Mishcon, that the whole spectrum of comments offered on the White Paper have been read and considered with great care. We are glad to see that many people who do not want to see all animal experiments abolished have welcomed its proposals. There is wide acceptance of the need to tighten controls.

The Cruelty to Animals Act has been sufficiently flexible to control the kinds of research which could not have been foreseen in 1876. But we do now need to give statutory force to controls which are already imposed by administrative means. We also need to embody new additional controls in statute so that all who are concerned can see the framework within which—and within which alone—the Government will permit this very sensitive work to be done.

Anxiety about the White Paper proposals comes mainly from two opposite directions: from those who believe that they do not go far enough, and those who think that they go too far. To start with the latter, your Lordships should know that some scientists have expressed reservations because they feel that administering a tougher system of control will mean an increase in bureaucracy. Even they have generally welcomed the principle of tighter controls with a wider application. They support the continuation of the present pain condition attached to each licence. This is designed to ensure that no animal under experiment may suffer sever pain which is likely to endure.

Some scientists have also taken the initiative in drafting guidelines on pain and its relief. The Biological Council has already issued guidelines on this matter, and the Royal Society is drafting a code of practice which will contain detailed guidelines on the relief of pain or distress in animals. We have studied the guidelines issued by the National Institute of Health in the United States of America about which the noble Lord, Lord Mishcon, asked me, and I understand that the Royal Society is taking into account both them and the Canadian guidelines in this work. Their work will be particularly helpful if the Government decide to issue a code of practice themselves when new legislation comes into force.

My right honourable friend the Home Secretary has conducted a full-scale field trial of the new system proposed in the White Paper. He has been aided in this by a large number of licencees, for whose co-operation he is most grateful. A report of the trial has been considered by his Advisory Committee on Animal Experiments, chaired by Dame Mary Warnock. In the light of the trial, some details of the proposals, notably the requirement for an independent sponsor for every project, are now being reconsidered.

Much of the anxiety about the White Paper proposals which has been aired this evening involves, I believe, a misconception about the proposals. It may be that some of it can even be traced back to misinformation generated by pressure groups. I gladly assure the noble Lord, Lord Somers, that there is no truth whatever in the allegation that curare or similar muscle relaxants, which are at present permitted in some circumstances, would be permitted in place of anaesthetics. The use of curare is not prohibited under the 1876 Act and the noble Earl has made clear why this should be.

Curare or curariform substances may at present be administered with the special permission of the Secretary of State, but only after 48 hours' notice has been given to the local inspector, so that he may attend the experiment if he wishes. Under the new legislation these purely administrative controls will be given the full force of statute law and be put on the face of the Act.

I hope that I can reassure the noble Lord, Lord Somers, that the White Paper will provide positive extra protection for laboratory animals. The proposed system of licensing projects and individuals separately will give us tighter control than ever before over programmes of research work. The new legislation will bring under control for the first time procedures such as those involving the use of animals in the production of serum and antibodies. It will, for the first time, bring under control the use of embryos and foetuses at specified states of development.

Again, as the law now stands animals suffering from potentially painful genetic defects can be bred freely and without control. For the first time they also will be given the protection of the Act. There will, also for the first time, be regulation of establishments which breed and supply normal animals for laboratory use; and the inspectorate will be strengthened to enable them to apply the new controls effectively. I do not echo the words "How long is a piece of string?", but my right honourable friend is determined that the inspectorate shall be sufficiently strong to make its inspection effective.

The White Paper proposes that scientific procedures which may cause distress, suffering or lasting harm to live animals may be permitted for the particular purposes which it specifies. These purposes are those which appear in the draft European convention. Noble Lords, and the noble Lord, Lord Somers, in particular, have criticised the list as being so broad that it would cover virtually any purpose for which a researcher wished to use an animal. Again, I can reassure your Lordships that all research work will require specific authorisation and it will always be at the discretion of the Secretary of State whether or not a project licence to carry out the work proposed is granted.

Research may not always have an immediate application to medical treatment, but it must always have a clearly defined scientific purpose. I hope that that is as reassuring to the noble Lord, Lord Airedale, as the reference of the noble Earl, Lord Halsbury, to mice and sulphuric acid.

A proposed project would have to meet the criteria of permissible purposes. But that would be only the first test; there would be others. The Secretary of State would have to be satisfied of six further things: that the aim of the project was worthwhile; that its design was good; that no non-sentient alternative to animals was practicable; that only the minimum number of animals necessary to achieving an objective was to be used; that there would be no infliction of unnecessary pain; and that appropriate measures would be taken to reduce any pain and suffering which did occur. Not until he was satisfied on all six counts would he be prepared to issue a project licence. In reaching that decision he would be advised by members of the inspectorate (who will, as now, all hold medical or veterinary qualifications).

Nor is that all. Further specialised advice would be sought wherever necessary from a specialist assessor acceptable to both the applicant and the Secretary of State. If the issue was sufficiently important, this advice would come from the Secretary of State's Animal Procedures Committee.

Those are the proposals for legislation which we shall introduce as soon as parliamentary time allows. The noble Lord, Lord Houghton of Sowerby, is an old enough parliamentary hand to know that whatever is in my mind, I cannot say anything stronger than that. We expect to provide substantially increased penalties to see that the law bites. A breach of the guidelines would not, I believe, be an offence, but it would be admissible in evidence in prosecution.

The noble Earl, Lord Halsbury—and I pause to acknowledge the great value of the noble Earl's ability to combine lucidity with direct personal experience—has produced a spread of ideas about the pain clause which I shall certainly undertake to bring forward to my right honourable friend. I can also tell the noble Earl, in regard to the council, that there will be a statutory animal procedures committee whose annual report the Home Secretary will be required to publish, and I refer him to paragraph 17 of the White Paper. I understand that it is virtually identical to what he has himself proposed.

I understand the acute disquiet that many people feel about experiments on animals for purposes such as the testing of new cosmetic ingredients. But the testing of these, as of other chemical substances, is a crucial part of the environmental protection measures for people who work in factories for which the trade unions have rightly campaigned for very many years. Workers who manufacture cosmetics and other goods are exposed to levels of contact with their products scores of times higher than are their eventual customers. The girl who makes cosmetics has to be protected as well as the girl who wears them, and many cosmetics of course are used by their users every single day of an adult life. No Government could contemplate the discovery in 25 years' time that a deodorant, which had not been adequately tested in 1985 or 1986 was in fact a carcinogen when it was accumulated over a lifetime.

For those of your Lordships who nevertheless find cosmetic experiments the least acceptable of this kind of work—and I understand that feeling—I point to the steady decline in the extent to which they are done. There were 31,300 experiments in 1980 and that number has declined in every subsequent year. In 1983 it had fallen to 18,000, a reduction of 13,000 or about 42 per cent.

The LD50 test has been a matter of long-standing public concern, and I am grateful to the noble Earl for his explanation of it. It is on the way out, scientifically speaking, in many areas. There are occasions when it is necessary to have a precise measure of the toxicity of a substance. For instance the therapeutic dose of some anti-cancer agents is quite close to the lethal dose and doctors must know if they are going to kill or cure.

Again, LD50 tests are necessary in order to standardise biological products and living infectious agents for which there are no means of chemical assay. But for many purposes formal LD50 tests are no longer necessary, and, where they can be shown to be unnecessary, the Government are working to get rid of them altogether.

Your Lordships raised the matter of the reuse of animals. I would reinforce what the noble Lord, Lord Airedale, said that there are some procedures such as pyrogen testing where the animals appear to suffer nothing at all, and it seems wrong to order the death of ten animals who have had their temperature taken ten times without showing the slightest concern. In fact the animal may be less concerned the more it becomes accustomed to the procedure. I could give other examples. We do not, however, intend, although these animals may go into private homes, ever to permit their sale from the laboratory which we think would not be proper.

The noble Lords, Lord Mishcon and Lord Hunter of Newington, put before us the idea of ethical committees. I shall refer briefly to this before I conclude. David Britt's intereresting article which I think figured in the researches by the noble Lord, Lord Hunter of Newington, and I see the noble Lord, Lord Mishcon was indeed an interesting article. But the Government do not intend to impose a system of formal reviews either by fellow scientists or laymen on all establishments where animal experiments take place.

We know that it is a growing development for fellow scientists to be involved in reviewing animal experiments. We consider this to be a valuable supplement to the guidance and control of the Home Secretary's inspectors. Although we can well understand the arguments in favour of formal reviews, at the moment we would agree with the views given by Sir Andrew Huxley, President of the Royal Society, in his excellent anniversary address on 30th November last year. If I may quote from him, he said: Apart from the need for the subject's consent and his opportunity to bring an action all experiments on humans in this country have to be approved in advance by local ethical committees, and it is often said by representatives of the animal protection societies that analogous ethical committees should be set up for animal experiments. This has been done in some other countries such as Canada and Sweden, and it seems to me that it can be a satisfactory alternative to a system such as we have in Britain in which approval is given by a government department acting chiefly through a team of inspectors. I continue to quote: But in my view"— Sir Andrew said— it would be superfluous and tiresome to have both. Our Home Office Inspectorate is effective and its rulings are generally accepted as appropriate, so I see no advantage in switching to a totally different method of regulation which has its own pitfalls and which is not supported by the long tradition of satisfactory operation that our present system has". That concludes the quotation.

It would be wrong to leave this reference to Sir Andrew Huxley without paying tribute to his initiative in establishing the Royal Society's Steering Group to compile guidelines on animal experiments to be published jointly by the Royal Society and the Universities' Federation for Animal Welfare. The drafting of these guidelines has already begun.

I return to an earlier theme. Each year, new medicines, new vaccines and new surgical techniques are developed which prolong life, alleviate suffering and protect against illness and infection. Millions of people of all ages benefit from this work; so too do domestic pets and farm animals, but it is the welfare of human beings that gives us greatest concern.

A few moments ago, I mentioned polio, diphtheria and diabetes. Their control represents the merest fraction of what animal experiments have resulted in for the human race. These experiments have also given us the techniques necessary to carry out heart surgery and kidney transplants. The treatment of pneumonia, of heart disease, of cancer, of leukemia and of hypertension have all been developed as a result of experiments on animals. So has the use of anaesthetics and pain-relieving drugs.

The Nobel Prize for Medicine this year went to Dr. Cesar Milstein of the Medical Research Council Laboratory of Molecular Biology in Cambridge, for his work on monoclonal antibodies. This work may revolutionise the treatment of many painful diseases, including cancer, and that work is the result of experiments on animals over the past four decades.

We have been considering questions that are of great moral importance. The right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Bath and Wells has made that clear enough. They are also of enormous practical importance to the millions of users of everyday products and thousands of victims, present and future, of painful and lethal diseases.

There is, therefore, a balance to be struck, and it must be struck responsibly. It is not easy, to strike it responsibly in the environment created by campaigners who too often seem to be determined to look at only one side of the scales, even though, had it not been for the other side, they might not even be alive on this earth to do their campaigning. The noble Lord, Lord Houghton of Sowerby, is right to rebuke those extremists who perpetrate the, to me, disgusting paradox of using violence and causing suffering in support of the good and gentle cause of reducing violence and suffering for animals.

As a Government, we are responsible for the welfare of all members of our society. To protect them we believe that some experimentation must be carried on. We are also responsible for the welfare and protection from suffering of the animal kingdom that Providence has placed in our care. To protect them we believe that this experimentation should be carefully restricted and controlled and rendered, where possible, unnecessary. The balance we now propose gives a perceptibly tighter control than has been on the statute book before.

The noble Lord, Lord Somers, asks whether the Government will withdraw the White Paper. The answer, my Lords, is that we will not; but, as I have said, we are considering adding to it. My right honourable friend the Home Secretary will carefully consider everything said in this debate, and we are grateful to the noble Lord for providing the occasion for it.

House adjourned at twenty minutes before ten o'clock.