HC Deb 27 July 1998 vol 317 c40W
Mr. Hancock

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence when he last visited the animal experimentation facilities at Porton Down; and what plans he has for future visits. [50637]

Mr. Spellar

My hon. Friend the Minister for the Armed Forces visited Porton Down on 16 July and inspected animal facilities. I visited on 11 March and inspected new facilities in construction including those for animals. No further Ministerial visits are currently planned.

Mr. Savidge

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence if he will make a statement on his policy on the use of animals in defence research. [53229]

Mr. Spellar

The Ministry of Defence policy on animal experimentation is neither to conduct nor to sponsor experiments on animals for the development or evaluation of weapons for use by UK forces. The MOD research programme involving animals is concerned wholly with providing the UK's Armed Forces with safe and effective protection against hazards they may encounter while carrying out their duties.

Defence research accounts for only a small proportion of all animal experiments conducted in the UK. The MOD is committed to looking at the feasibility of alternatives to animal experimentation and sponsors studies aimed specially at finding other techniques. We also ensure that, as far as possible, research in the defence area that involves the use of animals is not being duplicated elsewhere. There is a rigorous scientific peer review system within MOD. Formal licensing arrangements with the Home Office seek to ensure that any experiments are fully justified and as humane as possible. The MOD complies fully with the Animals (Scientific Procedures) Act 1986.

In addition, an independent panel of experts, the Animal Welfare Advisory Committee, monitors programmes of experimentation to ensure that standards are as high as possible. The Committee make a valuable contribution to increasing awareness of animal welfare issues within the MOD. Their second report is published today and a copy has been placed in the Library of the House.