HC Deb 25 July 2000 vol 354 cc513-4W
Jackie Ballard

To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department (1) what factors are taken into consideration when making the cost benefit analysis under the Animals (Scientific Procedures) Act 1986; and to what extent these include(a) healthcare costs, (b) corporate profitability and (c) status of the individuals carrying out the procedures; [132576]

(2) what plans he has to revise the operation of the cost/benefit test contained in section 5(4) of the Animals (Scientific Procedures) Act 1986; and if he will make a statement. [132577]

Mr. Mike O'Brien

To meet section 5(4) of the 1986 Act, any application to use protected animals in research must be subjected to a detailed cost/benefit assessment by Home Office Inspectors. The likely adverse effects on the animal concerned must be weighed against the benefits likely to accrue as a result of the proposed programme of work. In making this assessment, the general categories of potential benefits that are currently considered are: human, animal and ecological benefits: improved health or welfare, plant protection, food hygiene, safeguarding of the environment; scientific benefits: resolution of controversies, increasing scientific knowledge; educational benefits: meeting educational objectives which cannot be satisfied using non-animal methods; and other benefits: including forensic inquiries.

Cheaper health care for everyone can be considered a benefit, but not the profitability of a company which sets out to provide cheaper health care nor the implications for employment arising from the programme of work in the project licence application. The technical expertise of the project licence holder and the personal licence holders may affect the outcome of the cost/benefit assessment. This can be relevant either to the cost (in terms of the standard to which work can be done) or the benefit, when the likelihood of success may be affected. But the involvement of individuals is regulated by the controls applying to personal licences.

Following its review of the operation of the 1986 Act, the Animal Procedures Committee concluded that the cost/benefit assessment provided a workable and flexible framework in which to decide whether the use of animals is justified (Chapter 2 of Appendix F of the Committee's Annual Report for 1997). However, the Committee felt that there were some areas where further discussion and consideration were needed and it has set up a working group to take this forward. The group plans to issue a public consultation paper later this year and to produce an authoritative statement on how the present cost/benefit system can be improved. The Government will consider what changes are necessary to the operation of the arrangements in the light of the Committee's report.