HL Deb 07 April 1986 vol 473 cc1-3
Lord Gainford

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

The Question was as follows:

To ask Her Majesty's Government whether they have information from the research councils on the extent to which animal experimentation helps in the prevention of disease.

The Earl of Swinton

My Lords, I understand from the research councils that research involving animals has contributed to the prevention of disease through the development of vaccines, notably against diphtheria, polio, smallpox, measles, tuberculosis and whooping cough. In addition to disease prevention, tests on animals have also led to improved treatments for diseases such as pneumonia, diabetes, leukaemia and some other cancers; to more effective surgical techniques, particularly in organ transplantation and heart surgery; and to establishing the efficacy and the safety of medicines and other products. Animal health, too, benefits from such work.

Lord Gainford

My Lords, I thank my noble friend for that magnificent news. Has he any information as to whether that work is at all handicapped by the pretty apparent British trait of over-sentimentality about animals?

The Earl of Swinton

No, my Lords, I do not think so. As I am sure your Lordships are aware, a Bill is currently going through Parliament; the Animals (Scientific Procedures) Bill. This is supported not only by the research councils but also by a number of the more responsible animal rights organisations.

Lord Mishcon

My Lords, does the noble Earl agree that prevention of unnecessary cruelty to animals by way of experimentation would be the wish of the majority of the people of this country?

The Earl of Swinton

Yes, my Lords, I am sure that that is absolutely right. I should also add that unfortunately some experimentation on animals is necessary to protect the welfare of human beings, too, in this country.

The Earl of Halsbury

My Lords, does the noble Earl agree that so far as some unnecessary experimentation is concerned, it is not only the wish of the majority of this country but the wish of the majority—in fact all—of the experimenters?

The Earl of Swinton

Yes, my Lords, and experimenting with animals is also quite an expensive operation in itself, so there is much to commend not doing more than is absolutely necessary.

Lord McGregor of Durris

My Lords, does the noble Earl the Minister agree that the information he has just given is inadequately known to the public? Would he be prepared to indicate to the research councils and to the pharmaceutical industry the desirability of their providing more and better information?

The Earl of Swinton

My Lords, I should be surprised if that information is inadequately known, because the Bill took up a considerable amount of time in your Lordships' House. I believe that at the present time it has just finished its Committee stage in the Commons, so there is plenty of literature about it. I think that it will be well known, and when it becomes law the measures which it introduces will also be widely known.

Lord Molloy

My Lords, does the noble Earl agree that probably what causes ordinary people most concern is the possibility that animals are unnecessarily used in cosmetic experiments?

The Earl of Swinton

My Lords, I am sure there is a certain amount of feeling about cosmetics. The products must be safe and the safety testing of cosmetics involves a very limited use of animals. This is an EC requirement. Cosmetics account for no more than half of 1 per cent. of all experiments, and when the new legislation comes into force all proposals to test cosmetics on animals will be given special scrutiny by the animal procedures committee.

Lord Leatherland

My Lords, is lipstick one of the cosmetics which is derived from these practices? If so, I shall have to change my mode of life!

The Earl of Swinton

My Lords, I know we have the television cameras on us but, in spite of that, I do not think that noble Lords need to make up with lipstick too much!

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