§ Mr. Hancock
To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department (1) to what factors the Animals (Scientific Procedures) Inspectorate attributed the weight loss in the rabbits found being stored at the Charing Cross and Westminster medical school; 
(2) what recommendations for changes in procedure at Charing Cross and Westminster medical school have been made by the Animals (Scientific Procedures) Inspectorate; and what action has been taken; 
(3) what action has been taken by his Department to reappraise the project of cat operations at the Institute of Neurology. 
§ Mr. George Howarth
Between March and June 1996, the inspectorate carried out a full investigation into the allegations concerning the Charing Cross and Westminster medical school and the Institute of Neurology which were made in the National Anti-Vivisection Society's report "Access Denied". We do not have any plans to reopen this matter.
I understand that the inspectorate was satisfied that the weight loss in rabbits at the Charing Cross and Westminster medical school was a minor transient problem which can occur in any laboratory animal population. Although often considered to be stress related, no precipitating factor was found on this occasion. This was determined to have been an intercurrent problem not induced by any experimental protocol. The problem had been recognised and properly managed by the animal care staff.
At Charing Cross and Westminster medical school, the inspectorate identified irregularities in the application of approved methods for the humane killing of animals and deficiencies in middle management. The certificate of designation was revoked. A new certificate was issued when the establishment satisfied the Home Office that:
- (a) a list would be maintained of persons competent to kill by schedule 1 methods, and the people listed would be retrained and reminded of their responsibilities under the Animals (Scientific Procedures) Act 1986;
- (b) suitable standard operating procedures were in place for schedule 1 killing;
- (c) internal controls were in place to prevent the unauthorised killing of animals by other methods;
- (d) changes were made to the day-to-day animal care arrangements to ensure greater communication and clearer lines of management and responsibility between the certificate holder, the director of the animal facility and all other staff involved in animal work.
The programme of work involving cats at the Institute of Neurology was reviewed by the Home Office: the science was found to be sound and the protocols were as refined as possible. The standard of performance of the procedures was reviewed and no breaches of licence authorities were found.
Two post-operative cats had been humanely killed to prevent further suffering. All work was suspended until the cause of the problems could be identified. The named veterinary surgeon had been consulted by the project licence holder at the time and the animals had been appropriately cared for. The causes of the unexpected level of suffering related to technical problems with the procedure. Subsequent changes to the vaccination policy, suggested by the named veterinary surgeon, resulted in no recurrence.
§ Mr. Howarth
We do not consider that a royal commission on the use of animals in experiments is necessary at this time. In the Animal Procedures Committee, the Secretary of State already has an excellent source of independent expert advice on all aspects of the use of animals in scientific procedures. The committee is currently reviewing the operation of the Animals (Scientific Procedures) Act 1986 and I expect to receive shortly a report setting out the committee's deliberations made, interim findings and initial recommendations.
Setting up a royal commission would divert resources from progressing the committee's review, from responding to its recommendations and from other planned Home Office initiatives.
The Government will work to ensure that the highest possible standards of animal welfare are implemented and that animals are used in scientific procedures only where this is fully justified. We will promote alternatives which replace animal use, which reduce the number of animals used and which refine procedures to minimise suffering.
We will pursue initiatives across Europe rather than risk exporting animal experiments to countries with less rigorous controls. The measures we take must also be sustainable and must not unnecessarily disadvantage United Kingdom research, medicine and industry or compromise public safety.
§ Mr. Howarth
The Government will promote alternatives which replace animal use, which reduce the number of animals used and which refine procedures to minimise suffering.
Section 5(5) of the Animals (Scientific Procedures) Act 1986 requires that applicants for project licence give adequate consideration to the possibility of achieving the objectives of the programme of work using methods which do not use animals. In addition, when assessing licence applications, the Animals (Scientific Procedures) Inspectorate ensures that protocols are refined to minimise the suffering to animals and the number of animals used.260W
The Home Office, through the Animal Procedures Committee, sponsors research into alternatives and industry itself has spent millions of pounds each year in the search for alternatives.
The types of replacement alternatives which are available include the use of human volunteers; computer simulation and mathematical modelling; improved storage, sharing and use of results from previous animal experiments to avoid unnecessary repetition; the use of non-protected animals, micro-organisms or plants; the use of non-living tissue; physical and chemical techniques; and in vitro studies.