§ 3.31 p.m.
§ Mr. T. L. Iremonger (Ilford, North)
I beg to move,That leave be given to bring in a Bill to amend the Cruelty to Animals Act 1876; and for purposes connected therewith.The purpose of the Bill is to implement those recommendations of the Littlewood Committee which require legislation and which, after due consideration, the House may feel ought to, and properly can, be given statutory force. I have no doubt, and I believe that given the opportunity the House would have no doubt, about giving statutory force to many of these recommendations. I believe, therefore, that most of the Bill will be acceptable to the House. But, in so far as any of the Littlewood recommendations might be considered unnecessary or unsuitable, the introduction of the Bill will at least provide a vehicle for thrashing out every such question.
It will be in the memory of the House that Mr. Henry Brooke, as he then was, as Home Secretary, appointed a Departmental Committee under the chairmanship of Sir Sydney Littlewood, in May, 1963. Its terms of reference were:To consider the present control over experiments on living animals, and to consider whether, and if so what, changes are desirable in the law or its administration.The Report of the Committee was presented to Parliament as Cmnd. 2641 in April, 1965. During the four wasted years since then, despite continuous exhortation in and out of this House, the Government have failed to produce a Bill to implement the recommendations in the Report. The latest indications of the view of the Government were given in another place as late as 6th February this year, when the noble Lord the Minister of State, Home Office, actually seemed to be suggesting that the Littlewood Committee had recommended that there was no great urgency about it. Even if that was true in 1965, it will not remain true for ever.
My purpose in asking leave to introduce the Bill is to enable the House emphatically to say to the Government that this continued procrastination will not do and to give an opportunity to the Government to redeem themselves, to buck up and 1173 get a move on, to take over my Bill and give it Parliamentary time, and have it on the Statute Book by August.
Of the 83 recommendations in paragraph 543 of the Littlewood Report, 49 will require legislation. The House would not wish me to summarise them all in a speech under the Ten Minutes' Rule. I will, therefore, single out what seem to me to be the six most important points to be covered in the Bill.
First, the law must be amended to cover all experimental procedure and to take into account not only "pain", but also stress and interference with or departure from an animal's normal condition of wellbeing.
Secondly, the present system of licensing the people who carry out experiments on live animals must be tightened up and there must be closer scrutiny of the purpose and justification of individual experiments.
Thirdly, the Home Secretary must be empowered to make definite regulations governing the transport, care and accommodation of laboratory animals.
Fourthly, experiments on certain species, such as cats and dogs, must be made illegal unless a demonstrably important purpose can be served by experimenting on that species only.
Fifthly, it must be made incumbent upon the Home Secretary officially to publicise full information on the subject of animal experimentation generally.
Sixthly, the supply of animals must be from registered breeding units only and by registered collectors only and must be strictly regulated, controlled and supervised. I am sure that on doctrinal grounds such words can only be sweet music in the ears of the Treasury Bench.
The final point about the supply of animals, is, I am sure, the only way to end the outbreaks from time to time in various districts, such as recently occurred in Ilford, of systematic stealing of much-loved members of many families, which causes such a great deal of genuine sadness and distress to old and young alike.
In conclusion, I should like to put this argument to the House in favour of granting me leave to introduce the Bill. 1174 It is a Bill that could and should be got on to the Statute Book in the way that many other Private Members' Bills have got on to the Statute Book, namely, by being given Parliamentary time by the Government, because it is a Bill which is based on the responsible recommendations of a Committee established by Government and it is universally wanted by the public.
The Government pick and choose among Private Members' Bills and give time to help where they see fit. Kissing goes by favour. Let the Government show favour for once to a Bill which everyone wants. It would be a change. Abortion, abolition of capital punishment, divorce, Sundays—all widely, and many universally unwanted and unpopular Measures have been—[An HON. MEMBER: "Shame."] Many universally unwanted and unpopular Measures——
§ Mr. Speaker
Order. With respect, the hon. Member must speak to the Bill that he is seeking to introduce.
§ Mr. Iremonger
I am commenting that the Bill will be particularly suitable for being given leave to be introduced, because it is one which should commend itself to the public, as a change, as one suitable for the Government to give time to. I say nothing of the sodomy legislation Bill. It is the standing joke in every saloon bar that it will be made compulsory next.
§ Mr. Speaker
Order. In introducing a Ten Minutes' Rule Bill the hon. Member is protected. Only one other speech can be made, and that is a speech against his being given leave. If the hon. Member opens the debate wide of his own Bill the Chair would have to allow the House to debate it equally widely.
§ Mr. Iremonger
Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I will no longer provoke the right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary.
Whatever may be the merits of the Bills which the Government do see fit to select to give Parliamentary time to, the merits of this Bill are less open to argument than the merits of some of those Bills. I hope, therefore, that this might commend itself to the House as a Bill which would be pre-eminently suitable 1175 for that particular favour by the Government.
§ Question put and agreed to.
§ Bill ordered to be brought in by Mr. Iremonger, Mr. Biggs-Davison, Mr. Body. Mr. Buck, Mr. Burden, Mr. Deedes, Captain W. Elliot, Mr. Patrick Jenkin, Miss Quennell, Sir D. Renton, Sir G. Sinclair, and Mr. Weatherill.