HC Deb 06 November 2001 vol 374 cc174-6W
Norman Baker

To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department for what reason his review of section 24 of the Animals (Scientific Procedures) Act 1986 is not yet complete; and when he will announce the conclusions.[11804]

Angela Eagle

Section 24 of the Animals (Scientific Procedures) Act 1986 prevents the disclosure by Home Office Ministers and officials of information about the use of animals in scientific procedures that has been provided in confidence. Following the enactment of the Freedom of Information Act 2000, all statutory bars to the disclosure of information are being reviewed, including section 24 of the 1986 Act.

The Government have a clear commitment to freedom of information and are equally committed to the maintenance of necessary protections for individual scientists and their research institutions. I am considering very carefully how these commitments can best be met. A decision on whether to appeal or amend section 24 will not be made until later this year.

John Austin

To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department when he will publish the review of the working of ethical review processes in establishments designated under the Animals (Scientific Procedures) Act 1986; and if he will make a statement.[13248]

Angela Eagle

The Home Office Animals (Scientific Procedures) Inspectorate has completed a thorough review, after extensive consultation with stakeholders, including certificate holders and licensees under the 1986 Act, animal welfare organisations and others.

The findings, which the Government accept, are that the ethical review process has generally worked well and as intended since its introduction in April 1999, in the interests of the welfare of animals used in licensed scientific procedures. There are variations between establishments, more related to the efficiency than the effectiveness of the process, but overall the picture to emerge is positive and encouraging, given that the ethical review process is relatively new and still evolving.

There is increased awareness both of compliance issues and, more importantly, of the need for full application of the 3Rs at all stages of a project—replacement of animal use wherever possible, reduction of the number of animals used when there is no alternative, and refinement of procedures to minimise animal suffering.

The main Inspectorate recommendations are that the ethical review process in establishments should continue to develop on the basis on which it was introduced, with account being taken of observations offered in the review report on best practice. We accept these recommendations.

We shall ensure the widest possible circulation of the review report, within both the scientific and animal welfare communities, with the aim of encouraging all research establishments to examine and improve their own ethical review processes. To help achieve those aims we will, making use of additional resources recently provided to the Inspectorate, initiate a number of awareness-raising activities and events. These will ensure that those involved with local ethical review processes, and those with responsibility for the welfare of animals produced for and used in laboratories, benefit fully from the advice on best practice that the report contains. We will as part of this activity be urging greater use of lay members in ethical review processes.

A copy of the review report will be placed in the Library.

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