HL Deb 06 May 1986 vol 474 cc591-3

6 Clause 10, page 8, line 17, at end insert ("but no exception shall be made from the condition required by paragraph (a) above unless the Secretary of State is satisfied that no animal suitable for the purpose of the programme specified in the licence can be obtained in accordance with that condition.")

3.15 p.m.

Lord Glenarthur

My Lords, I beg to move that the House do agree with the Commons in their Amendment No. 6. This amendment touches upon a concern which was very fully debated in this House and in another place. In our discussions in Committee, the noble Lord, Lord Melchett, raised the question of the source of dogs and cats used in experiments. He said that there was concern that stolen pet dogs and cats found their way into laboratories for experiments and he proposed an amendment to Clause 10, as it then stood, to provide for measures to prevent the possibility of stolen pets being used. We had a further useful discussion of this issue at Report stage and I undertook to look at the possibility of amending the Bill to take account of this concern. Noble Lords will recall that I brought forward an amendment at Third Reading which provided that, unless an exception is allowed, all cats and dogs used under licence must have been bred and obtained from a designated breeding establishment. This valuable tightening of the Bill was welcomed on all sides of your Lordships' House.

Not surprisingly, considering the concern which exists about the possible use of stolen pets, this matter was explored further during the Bill's passage in another place. Concern was expressed that the provision in Clause 10(3), which allows the Secretary of State to grant an exception to the control in Clause 10(3)(a), should be tightly drawn so as to prevent the use of non-purpose-bred dogs and cats where there is no clear scientific reason for their use and to prevent their use just on ground of cheapness. There was also concern that the exception provision might provide a loophole through which stolen pets could still find their ways to laboratories. The Government undertook further to amend Clause 10(3) so to accommodate these sensible concerns, and Amendment No. 6, which we are considering, was brought forward and accepted at Report stage in another place.

The amendment has been very carefully worded following considerable thought on our part so as to exclude convenience of supply or cheapness as justifiable reasons for the Secretary of State granting an exception. The wording is, however, such as to leave open the possibility of an exception being granted in circumstances where the supply of purpose-bred animals has dried up. This is an important safeguard. It would clearly be very wrong if important work were to be cancelled or abandoned because of a shortfall in the supply of purpose-bred dogs or cats. Such a shortfall could come about quite easily through, for example, an outbreak of cat influenza. In such circumstances we must retain the flexibility to authorise the use of non-purpose-bred animals, on an exceptional basis, and the wording of the amendment allows this.

I should make it clear that in every case where an exception is to be granted, the Home Secretary will have to be satisfied that there is no animal suitable for the purpose of the programme of work which can be obtained through a designated breeding establishment at which it has been bred. This means that an exception will be granted only where there is a clear requirement for a particular type of animal which is not available in designated breeding establishments. This covers a number of possibilities. The most likely case is where the diseases of a particular type of animal are to be studied. I should like to emphasise, however, that we are very well aware of the sensitivity of this issue, and indeed we share the concern which has led to these changes to the Bill. Because of this, I can assure the House that every application for an exception will be given particularly rigorous scrutiny, and only when we are fully satisfied that an exception is justified will we grant it.

I believe that this amendment provides a valuable tightening to a very worthwhile provision of the Bill. I commend it to your Lordships and I beg to move.

Moved, That this House do agree with the Commons in the said amendment.—(Lord Glenarthur.)

Lord Mishcon

My Lords, I only rise in order to pay tribute to my noble friend Lord Melchett for the part that he played in getting this amendment before the House today.

Lord Melchett

My Lords, as the noble Lord said, I raised this matter when we were considering the Bill. I was still concerned about the two matters that he mentioned—the convenience of supply and the cheapness of pet cats and dogs which had not been specially bred. The Government have very much strengthened the amendment which we made in this House and have probably gone so far as is practical in the Bill to put an end to the very great concern which has been expressed by many members of the public, particularly to the RSPCA, about the problem of stolen pet cats and dogs being used in experiments. I now hope that we can look forward to seeing the Home Office inspectorate and voluntary organisations like the RSPCA implementing this new law as firmly and as effectively as possible to remove completely any grounds for worry by members of the public. But I very much welcome what the Government have done.

On Question, Motion agreed to.