HC Deb 18 July 2000 vol 354 cc162-3W
Mr. Bradshaw

To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department when his review of section 24 of the Animals (Scientific Procedures) Act 1986 will be completed. [130533]

Mr. Mike O'Brien

Section 24 of the Animals (Scientific Procedures) Act 1986 prevents the disclosure of information about the use of animals in scientific procedures that has been provided in confidence. Under the proposals for the Freedom of Information Bill, all statutory bars are being reviewed, including section 24.

The maintenance of the necessary protection for individual scientists and their research institutions from animal rights extremists is a priority in the review of section 24 and I am considering very carefully how best it can be achieved. The extremists and the violence make openness more difficult than it would be otherwise. In view of this, a decision on whether to repeal or amend section 24 will not now be made until later this year.

Mr. Hancock

To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department (1) if he will take steps to reduce the number of experiments on dogs conducted in UK research laboratories and breeding centres; and if he will make a statement; [130476]

(2) if he will take steps to prohibit experiments on dogs that do not provide researchers with new information; and if he will make a statement. [130483]

Mr. Mike O'Brien

Dogs are primarily used in medicinal drug research and development and in pharmaceutical safety and efficacy evaluations. They are also used, when no other species is suitable, in the evaluation of cardiovascular and cardiorespiratory problems in humans. Such work contributes to advances in human healthcare. Dogs are also used in the development of veterinary medicines and techniques.

In my replies I gave the hon. Member on 17 April 2000, Official Report, column 380W and on 12 July 2000, Official Report, column 595W, I stated that members of the public often find it particularly difficult to accept that species that are kept as domestic pets or companion animals, such as dogs, are also used in research to find cures for illnesses. Such animals must be purpose bred and supplied by designated establishments and can be used only if there is no viable alternative for that particular procedure.

Dogs are used in regulated procedures where their use is justified under the Animals (Scientific Procedures) Act 1986. There are no current plans to change the legislation. All applications to use protected animals in research are subjected to a detailed cost/benefit assessment by Home Office inspectors. The likely adverse effects on the animals concerned must be weighed against the benefit likely to accrue as a result of the proposed programme of work.

We are continuing to work to ensure that animals are only used where it is fully justified and where there are no alternatives which replace the use of animals, reduce the numbers of animals used, or refine the procedures in which they are used.

Figures in recent years reflect a downward trend in the use of dogs in research. I should emphasise that dogs are used only in about a quarter of one per cent. of all procedures.