HC Deb 16 November 1979 vol 973 cc1666-740

Order for Second Reading read.

11.47 am
Mr. Peter Fry (Wellingborough)

I beg to move, That the Bill be now read a Second time.

I start by thanking my co-sponsors of the Bill. Perhaps I may name one in particular—my hon. Friend the Member for Southampton, Test (Mr. Hill), because he originally wished to bring in his own Private Member's Bill on this subject but, realising that I was slightly higher in the pecking order, he very graciously gave way and allowed me to bring this Bill forward. I pay tribute to him.

Secondly, I pay tribute to the staff of the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, who have given me enormous and invaluable assistance in producing this legislation—particularly Miss Maureen Tomason and Dr. Lynda Burke. Without their help and encouragement, we should not be in the position of presenting this complex but, none the less, comprehensive piece of legislation this morning.

Although it has not always been possible to agree with every point that the RSPCA has put forward, I believe, none the less, that there is a fair degree of agreement on this matter.

I should make clear right from the start that the Bill does not go as far as I, or indeed many other people concerned with animal welfare, would like. However, being a politician, I hope that I am also a realist. I would point out that there are bodies and individuals who wish to oppose my Bill. I sometimes get the impression that they have never even read it in the first instance. They seem to misunderstand and misinterpret its purposes.

Even with any deficiencies there may be in the Bill, I could claim that, if it is passed and comes into force, it will be a decisive step in the direction of greater protection for animals used for scientific purposes. It is a moderate Bill. It recognises the need for essential medical research, whether in the interests of human beings or of animals, but it sets out to restrict the use of so many animals and to require cause to be shown when animals are to be used. Above all, it requires the use of alternatives where they are reasonably available.

As I hope to show, I am not being inflexible. I accept that there are points of difference between supporters of the version of the Bill put before the House today and the various medical and commercial interests. I want to make it clear that I am ready to listen to all representations and suggested amendments, and, if a sufficient case can be made that certain provisions of the Bill are not reasonable or necessary, I am prepared to accept amendments. However, I must make it clear that the core of the Bill must remain, that new legislation is necessary and that further restrictions are needed. Before going through the main clauses, I should like to say why I believe that to be so.

The present law is based on the Cruelty to Animals Act 1876. It is many ways a good Act, one that in many respects is fairly tough. But scientific knowledge, research and practice have moved on since 1876. The Act is now 103 years old. Whole new procedures have been developed, which I understand are totally outside the Act's jurisdiction. For example, the transplanting of tumours from one animal to another seems to be outside its province, as is the implanting and developing of antibodies in animals. I accept that both those procedures may well be essential, especially for cancer research, and they would be allowed, under licence, by the Bill. However, I think that many hon. Members and many millions of people outside the House will be surprised to realise that such practices are not catered for under current law.

Many years ago the House set up a committee to investigate the whole subject. The committee, under Sir Sydney Littlewood, said this about the present law: The Act has been generally effective but in recent years its provisions have not matched up to modern scientific and technological requirements, and administration has not kept pace with recent scientific advances. Those words were written in 1965, since when virtually nothing has been done.

There is a second reason why legislation is needed now. There is a widespread feeling, even among those engaged in medical research, that the present system of granting certificates is often a mere rubber stamp, that they are often much too easy to obtain and that conditions are not sufficiently strict to prevent unnecessary experimentation, either through the failure to use alternatives or through needless repetition.

Thirdly, there is clearly widespread public concern about the present situation and a call both for action and for far greater accountability. The public want to know what is going on, often in their name. As consumers and taxpayers, they want to know what they are paying for.

We have the evidence in the national petition, the inspiration of Mr. Bill Brown, which I had the honour to present to the House earlier this morning. The petition was signed by 1¼ million people, with many thousands more signing each week, asking for action to be taken. The researches of those who have been taking the petition round the country show that between 85 per cent. and 90 per cent. of all those approached readily agreed to sign.

We also have the evidence of the RSPCA's general election survey of parliamentary candidates. Having allowed that those of us who wish to be elected or re-elected are sometimes in danger of making somewhat extravagant promises, we nevertheless find it significant that more than 70 per cent. of the candidates approached regarded the present law as obsolete.

Furthermore, the media—

Mr. Tam Dalyell (West Lothian)

How many of those candidates does the hon. Gentleman suppose had even glanced at the 1876 Act? Many candidates often give opinions off the cuff when they have not studied what they are giving opinions about.

Mr. Fry

A candidate must be responsible for what he says. Most candidates make many statements on subjects that they have not studied in great depth. Is the hon. Gentleman suggesting that therefore no statement by any candidate has any value at the time of a general election? That seems to be what he is hinting, and I do not accept it.

I was about to refer to the media, and particularly the newspapers. They constantly highlight what is going on. They ask why so many experiments are necessary and how they can be justified. Although it is invidious to mention any one newspaper, I should like to mention the Daily Star, which has campaigned vigorously and has had great success in underpinning the national petition with its "Stop the suffering" campaign. The Daily Star has revealed disturbing experiments, particularly at official research establishments.

Today's edition of the magazine Now! contains an article revealing some of the activities at Porton Down, where sheep are deliberately shot in order to discover the effects of wounds upon flesh in a living creature. Information about such experiments is difficult to obtain.

A whole series of questions should be asked and answered. What is the scope for such procedures? How many animals are used? Are there reasonable alternatives? Why do the experiments go on when, apparently, there have been years of investigation in the United States and the results are available?

Those are legitimate questions that the public will want to ask and have answered. In the case that I have mentioned, there would appear to be a minimum of accountability. There is clearly room for disquiet and a need for more information.

The current level of concern is not surprising, because all the matters that I have mentioned have created great doubts in the public mind. The 1876 Act was passed at a time when there were fewer than 50 researchers experimenting, and then only on about 500 animals a year. Last year there were 19,727 holders of Home Office licences and the massive total of 5,195,409 animals was used for experiments, according to the Home Office statistics. The figures do not include the large number of animals clearly being used outside the Act under some of the procedures that I have mentioned. Furthermore, 43,000 of the animals were deliberately subjected to psychological pain or distress, in many cases involving various degrees of electric shock.

Many other animals have been used merely to test substances used as food additives. For example, we are experimenting on animals to try to make our kippers slightly more yellow or our peas slightly more green. It is relevant to ask whether such experiments are essential.

Mr. Dalyell

How does one measure "pain and distress" other than by behavioural evidence? This is not a trick question. It is a substantial question that bothers quite a number of scientists. If the hon. Gentleman is putting forward a serious Bill, as he is, one is entitled to ask that question.

Mr. Fry

Would the hon. Gentleman care to elaborate?

Mr. Dalyell

When we are talking about putting something into law, we should be clear about how we measure "pain and distress". In fact, they can be measured only by behavioural evidence. This is a real problem, and I wondered whether the hon. Gentleman had reflected on it.

Mr. Fry

As the hon. Gentleman listens to my speech, he will realise that I am trying to introduce a more modern version of the 1876 Act, one that is more in tune with the conditions of our time.

I believe that it is probably necessary to have a greater degree of definition. I accept that there needs to be a certain amount of experimentation, even though I may not like the fact that the experiments take place.

I draw the hon. Gentleman's attention to the Littlewood report. It is clearly difficult to define "pain and distress", but the words must be used and presumably must mean something. My Bill does not try to be exclusive. If the hon. Gentleman reads it carefully and listens to the debate, he may be a little more satisfied. If he feels strongly about the matter, I shall be delighted to see him in the Committee, where he will have ample opportunity to expound his views.

Experiments for essential research into cancer amount to about 250,000. More disturbing is that over 300,000 were used for a variety of commercial products, including cosmetics. If industry and commerce must experiment upon animals, they have a real responsibility to explain why that is essential and why nothing else could be used. It is not good enough to try to shelter behind any piece of legislation introduced in the House and to pretend that nothing is wrong with the present position. Those with an interest in the matter have a duty to explain to the public what is going on and how it is controlled.

The so-called LD50 tests involve the force-feeding of a toxic substance to a number of animals until 50 per cent. of the sample die. That is done despite the fact that the dosage which causes death—for example, by swallowing lipsticks—could never be achieved by anyone in any credible situation. Of course, small children must be protected from being poisoned by swallowing their mothers' lipstick. We accept that. However, do we need tests that would be relevant only if toddlers were left to wander around a cosmetics factory when they were very hungry? That is the only possible justification for these tests.

A case has been made out for reform as soon as possible. It should not await the completion of a European convention which is far from agreement. The public clearly demand action to allay their fears, more information, and greater accountability by the Home Secretary to the House. At the same time, I believe that the public do not wish unduly to hinder or hamper essential medical research.

That is the case for my Bill. I hope that the House appreciates that I summarise in the clauses of the Bill the intentions that I have tried to express in my introduction. Initially I had hoped to amend the 1876 Act, but that proved impossible because it was so out of date. A new statute was needed. Many recommendations in the Bill are already 14 years old and come from the Littlewood report.

Despite all the trials and tribulations of the country since 1965, those of us who have been Members of Parliament since that time should be ashamed of ourselves because we have done absolutely nothing since that report was published. A fairly lengthy explanatory memorandum clearly sets out the purpose of the Bill, but I shall take the House through the main clauses.

Clause 1 sets out the general provisions and makes it an offence for anyone to inflict pain or distress on an animal, except subject to the provisions of the Bill. It introduces the term "operative procedure" and explains the purposes for which the operative procedures are permitted. I accept that that widens the scope of legislation on this subject, but it is necessary for the full information that the public are clearly demanding. We need this wider definition if we are to ask the Home Secretary to be accountable to the country through the House.

Dr. Shirley Summerskill (Halifax)

Could the hon. Gentleman clarify an important matter at the outset? Various interpretations have been made of the Bill that differ from the interpretation given by the hon. Gentleman in his brief. Under clause 2(2), will the satisfactory safety testing of commercial products be permitted? Would the Bill permit the testing of food additives, soaps, detergents, toiletries, pesticides and industrial chemicals? I shall not go into the reasons for and against that, but does the Bill permit it?

Mr. Fry

Yes, it does, if there is no suitable alternative. If it is the only way of testing anything that anyone may eat or use upon his person, it will be acceptable under the Bill. Under the system of licensing, stringent questions will be asked before that sort of experiment takes place. One accepts that there are circumstances—rare and unfortunate, perhaps—where such experiments have to be allowed.

Mr. Andrew Bowden (Brighton, Kemptown)

Assuming that the Bill passes unamended through Committee, what estimate has my hon. Friend made of the reduction in the number of experiments on animals from its present rate of about 100,000 a week?

Mr. Fry

I have tried to make it clear that one of the problems is that even the total number of animals being used is not certain. Many operations are carried out outside the Act. From the phrasing of the report, it is not clear how many times an operation is carried out upon an animal. The exact details are not before us. One of the purposes of the Bill is to ask the Home Secretary to make a more comprehensive report. The answer to my hon. Friend's question should then become clear.

I wish to be clear in my own mind, as do the public, that the number of unnecessary experiments and repetitions should be reduced. Under the Bill, there should be a fairly substantial reduction. With the present rubber-stamping of licences, I am certain that much repetition takes place. I hope that my hon. Friend appreciates that these experiments should be justified by those performing them.

Clause 2(1) gives rise to the greatest source of opposition to the Bill. It states that operative procedures are forbidden except for, first, the advancement of biological science in a way which is calculated to lead to the saving or prolonging of life or the preventing or alleviating of suffering in human beings or animals". There is no intention in that subsection that fundamental research should be hindered. It has often been pointed out—as it was in a debate on this subject in another place—that many important discoveries were made by accident, for example penicillin and Watson and Crick's work on the structure of DNA. Both came about in that way.

Both those examples go against the Bill's proposals. Fleming was not using whole animals when he discovered penicillin; nor were Watson and Crick. It is rather strange that they are quoted as examples for the proposition that my proposals are too restrictive when, in fact, neither of them would have been affected if the Bill had been in force at that time.

The other way in which procedures may be allowed is, of course, for teaching purposes, to be shown to students of biological sciences, including trainee vets and medical students. However, only certain proceedings will be permitted for this purpose—namely, those covered by the grade I and II licences specified later in the Bill.

Mr. Dalyell

The hon. Gentleman has kindly invited me to serve on the Committee which will consider the Bill—although that is, of course, a matter for the Opposition Whips—but I raise this matter now because it is not a Committee point but a point central to the whole Bill. I refer to clause 2(1)(a), which specifically requires procedures to be calculated to lead to the saving or prolonging of life". That is the phrase to which the hon. Gentleman referred.

Is that not impossible? Does not good research lead to unthought-of possibilities? I ask hon. Members to consider the enkephalin story. In that case, some research was decided on to look at the effect of mashed rat brains on the twitching of the guinea pig gut. That led to the discovery of the brain's natural opiates, with enormous potential for relieving suffering, better understanding of the body's response to pain and the potential for powerful and safe analgesics. Addicts also would be helped by this research. But could any of these results have been foreseen in the first place? The answer is that they could not. Some of us think that this matter is crucial to the Bill.

Mr. Fry

I accept that point. If the hon. Gentleman will bear with me, he will learn something of interest from what I say on this subject. If, after I have finished my comments on this subsection, he wants to intervene again, I shall be only too glad to give way.

As I said, the greatest source of opposition to the Bill arises on this subsection, and it has been expressed by the hon. Member. But there appear to be two conflicting points of view. Some say that the wording is too restrictive and others that it is too wide. I have had, for example, representations from commercial, industrial and medical research interests to the effect that the insistence that a procedure has to be calculated to lead to the saving or prolonging of life or the preventing or alleviating of suffering, in human beings and animals is too tight. That is the point that the hon. Member for West Lothian (Mr. Dalyell) was making.

The Medical Research Council pointed out recently that there is a need for some fundamental research on the lines that the hon. Member mentioned and that such fundamental research may not always initially and clearly meet the criteria in the Bill. The council further says that the Bill's phrasing could lead to difficulty in the development of vaccines. I take that point on board.

Similarly, the Agricultural Research Council has recently drawn attention to two important areas of research which would fall outside this definition—namely, animal physiology and animal nutrition. Those objections are clearly reasonable. I think we must amend the wording in Committee to satisfy that kind of objection.

However, the biggest source of opposition at this level has been the Research Defence Society, which says that my wording, which is far too restrictive, will stop much basic biological research, particularly in the pharmaceutical industry. In contrast, Mr. Richard Ryder, the well-known campaigner against animal experiments, takes me to task in no uncertain manner for possibly allowing less high-minded procedures under the Bill than are possible under the 1876 Act.

I would say in my own defence to all who oppose the Bill that I have already accepted the Littlewood concept of biological science as more acceptable than the wording of the 1876 Act, which was "physiological research". However, I accept that there are difficulties in the area of fundamental research.

This is an important question and we must search for wording somewhere between the 1876 Act and this Bill. I do not want anyone to believe that the last word has been spoken on clause 2. However, tight wording is needed. Under the interesting and important Bill presented in the other place by Lord Halsbury, the interpretation of this aspect could bring about much more widespread research than exists today. It is not too much to say that the door would be opened very far. That is why I think that some tight wording has to be used.

For example, if one says that almost anything can be done in the name of scientific research, one is putting a tremendous moral obligation on the whole scientific community. That argument would justify even the ghastly experiments in the concentration camps in the Hitler era. No section of the community in a civilised society can be given carte blanche in this way. It is the responsibility of the House to legislate. Those who feel that the legislation is too restrictive should make their representations and suggest amendments. I am willing to look at that sort of approach, but I am not willing to give anyone carte blanche in this area. I do not believe that the House or the public would want that to be done.

Therefore, although we do not want to impede research, we should leave this matter, hopefully, to be dealt with in Committee. By a pooling of minds rather than a conflict of interest, I believe that we shall be able to get over this difficulty in a way which is acceptable to the research interests, to the House and to the public.

Clause 2(2) clearly shows that one of the Bill's intentions is to reduce the number of animals subjected to pain and distress. Particularly, we shall forbid the testing of substances except where the substance is likely to be useful for preventing or alleviating suffering, or where the procedure is required by some other enactment.

I would make it clear to those who are slightly too enthusiastic in the area of animal welfare that we are bound by other statutes. The Health and Safety at Work, etc. Act in particular requires some testing. We have to accept that for the moment, although no legislation need go unamended for ever.

The clause also makes it clear that there will be attempts to restrict the repetition of procedures whose results are already known. We must stop repetition for repetition's sake, which happens at the moment. However, repetition will be allowed, for teaching purposes, provided that no alternative, such as films, is available.

Finally, procedures will be forbidden which are done solely for the purpose of attaining manual skill, except with the permission of the Secretary of State. The 1876 Act forbade that use of animals entirely, whereas Lord Halsbury's Bill would allow it without reservation. I believe that it is better to retain the 1876 wording but to include a provision that the Secretary of State may give permission where it appears essential. I hope that this will meet the criticisms of the veterinary surgeons.

I hope that what I have said about that clause, which is one of the essential parts of the Bill, will make it clear that I am willing to meet moderate criticism. The initial reaction of the Research Defence Society in saying that my proposals were a threat not only to the pharmaceutical industry but to the pesticide, cosmetic and other industries was almost a little too hysterical. I hope that that society will take note of what I have said today, and that it will take the opportunity that I give to it and other interested parties to suggest ways in which their legitimate points of view can be included in the Bill. I hope that its criticism is not because it played a large part in formulating the Bill introduced by Lord Halsbury and that in introducing my Bill I have stolen its thunder. Lord Halsbury's Bill, far from fanning down the current criticism, has increased it. That is regrettable because it contains many good ideas.

Mr. Phillip Whitehead (Derby, North)

Has my hon. Friend been consulted by Lord Halsbury, and has he any better definition of the phrase "improving life" contained in the Halsbury Bill?

Mr. Fry

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman, and I accept his point. The phrase "improving life" will open the door to a range of experiments which do not take place. It is similar, for example, to the current discussions on the European convention. That shows that if we are vague it could lead to dangerous developments.

Subsection (5) requires that only animals bred in, or supplied from, registered premises may be used unless special permission is given. This is important, because it will effectively stop the trade in domestic pets which are taken off the streets and sold to certain research laboratories and establishments. This practice has caused much distress to the public and, if the Bill goes through, I hope that we will see an end to it. I accept that there may be difficulties, particularly in relation to animal research, but we can deal with them in Committee.

Clause 3 limits the use of curare and other muscle relaxant drugs. This is expressly forbidden under the 1876 Act, and I see no reason why we should change that procedure now.

Clause 4 prohibits the making of a recording such as a film or video tape, unless it is for teaching purposes. This clause defines the audience for which such a film is intended. It should be either students of biological science or persons whose job it is, or will be, to be involved with the care and maintenance of animals used for experiments.

I should like to demonstrate how difficult it is to frame such legislation. As I understand, it would effectively stop the showing of films to anyone not directly concerned in research. If the BBC shows a film on the Open University programme, for example, under the definition contained in clause 4, it will be liable for prosecution if someone other than a student watches it. It shows that one has to be very careful.

The sponsors of the Bill are trying to bring in a more up-to-date attitude and make one significant advance. Subject to the consent of the establishment concerned, the clause would allow bona fide organisations to make films of operations and experiments. I believe that this would help considerably to remove the feeling that there is undue secrecy and that terrible things are happening. In other words, the present grey area about admission to research establishments and making recordings, and so on, would be removed if the provisions in clauses 4 and 5 came into force.

Mr. Bowden

I do not know whether my hon. Friend is aware that a considerable number of experiments are carried out on animals at Sussex university. Not long ago, the university stated that it was not using cats for experimentation. As a result of a statement given to a local paper by a member of staff at the university, this was revealed to be totally untrue. It was discovered that a significant number of cats were being used for experiments and were being killed afterwards. Can my hon. Friend see any way in which his Bill, when enacted, will be able to ensure that proper checks are made at universities and that the misleading information which has been given to the public and to Members of Parliament ceases?

Mr. Fry

The Bill lays down the need for a comprehensive report, and it will be for the inspector concerned to see that the report is accurate and that the law is complied with. I hope that the inspectors will take note of what my hon. Friend has said and try to prevent such misleading information from being issued in the future. We can try to establish legislation which will reveal if that sort of practice is taking place and put a stop to it.

Clause 6 deals with the issue of licences for the use of animals for scientific purposes. It will be the duty of the Home Secretary to issue such licences. The Bill defines four different grades of licence. They are cumulative rather than mutually exclusive. For example, anyone holding a grade II licence can carry out grade I procedures. This is less complex than the present system, under which a person has to apply for a licence and certificates to cover particular procedures and/or species. The grade I licence is issued for the simplest procedures. I imagine that injections would fall within a grade I procedure.

I have been criticised by the Research Defence Society for saying that an injection can cause pain. I find it strange, however, that the Bill supported by the RDS—Lord Halsbury's Bill—states that where pain is caused an anaesthetic must be used. If the RDS is saying that an injection causes pain, is it suggesting that each time an injection is given there must be anaesthesia? The RDS took a long time to bring forward its own document. I wish that it had taken longer to read my Bill and in trying to understand it. Pain must be defined, but, as I see it, injections are not considered to be very serious procedures.

Mr. Hugh Dykes (Harrow, East)

Has my hon. Friend considered the possibility of a probationary period longer than one year—possibly two years—to cover intermediate doubts about the running of an establishment?

Mr. Fry

I am grateful to my hon. Friend. I am sure that that point will be amended in Committee. I should like to hear the arguments of the persons conducting research, because they may have practical reasons for thinking that this is difficult.

The grade II licences are similar to a licence alone under existing legislation—surgical operations under anaesthesia from which the animal is not allowed to recover. Grade III licences cover operations in which the animal is allowed to recover after surgery subject to the provision that anaesthesia is used to prevent the animal from feeling pain during any part of the procedures. The subject of grade IV licences is one of the controversial aspects of the Bill. These cover research in which pain is inevitable as part of the experiments. The fact that we must consider grade IV licences is regrettable, but it is necessary. There must be research into pain itself and into pain relief. We have to accept that there are a number of alternatives which could be employed.

Mr. John H. Osborn (Sheffield, Hallam)

Will not people have an incentive to apply solely for grade 4 licences? With many experiments, it would be uncertain whether they were likely to come into grade IV until they actually started. Therefore, will not unusual bureaucracy be involved in applications for the more advanced licences?

Mr. Fry

If a concern intends to apply for a licence anyway, it will make up its own mind whether it should be a grade III or a grade IV licence for which it applies. The sole restriction on the grade IV licence which is different from the others is that it has to be in an area which the advisory committee set up by the Secretary of State advises should be covered by a grade IV licence. I am not suggesting that every operation should go before the advisory committee for approval. The advisory committee will be asked to look at the area and the procedures which require a grade IV licence. It is then up to the establishment concerned to apply for the appropriate licence.

In my discussions with the Imperial Cancer Research Fund, I discovered that that body saw no objection to this. It accepted that many of its procedures were outside even the present legislation. It saw no objection to applying for a grade IV licence because it was satisfied that it would meet the criteria required. I do not think that it would necessarily lead to a greater degree of bureaucracy. As I say, grade IV licences have caused a considerable amount of doubt on both sides. Those who are most vociferous in the cause of animal defence feel that my Bill does not go far enough because I am allowing a certain amount of pain. I know that even a majority of the RSPCA council, of which my hon. Friend the Member for Plymouth, Drake (Miss Fookes) is chairman, feels that a "no-pain" clause should be part of the Bill. However, other interests such as the Research Defence Society feel again that there are too many restrictions imposed by it.

I have found it very difficult to deal with this part of the Bill. But I say quite openly to all those who have the interests of animal welfare at heart that we have to get a form of drafting which has a chance of passing into law. We have to get a measure which is acceptable to Parliament and the country. If we do not do that, to a great extent we are wasting our time. Those who attack my Bill on the ground that it does not go far enough and who say that it should be rejected are among the biggest exponents in anti-vivisection and, in effect, are doing their cause harm. I believe that the public at large, although they are behind the Bill and behind the petition which was presented this morning, accept that in the last resort there may have to be research and experiments to save human life. I believe that to be the public attitude, and I am trying to express that in this legislation.

In reply to my hon. Friend the Member for Sheffield, Hallam (Mr. Osborn), I referred to the advisory committee. It is right that the advisory committee should consider the area in respect of which grade 4 licences are to be granted. It is a very important part of that committee's function, and it is a proposal which has not led to the sort of opposition that I expected. In talking to both the Medical Research Council and the Imperial Cancer Research Fund, I found that neither of them raised any objection to my proposal that the area should be defined by the advisory committee.

The licensing system and the grade IV licence, together with proposals elsewhere in the Bill, will mean that, where experiments are essential, especially those where pain is caused, there will be an onus on those who wish to conduct such experiments to show due cause why they must be continued. This is one of the major advances in my Bill, and it is with this that the licensing system, especially the grade IV licence, is concerned.

As I have said before, if there are any matters which need to be raised about the technicalities of the grade IV licence, I am ready to look at them.

Mr. Dalyell

The hon. Gentleman is probably familiar with the arguments of Lord Halsbury about sponsorship for licence applications. I concede that this is a difficult area. Lord Halsbury quoted Lord Platt, who was helpful to many of us on a number of matters, as saying that there was the problem of bogus protection. Has the hon. Gentleman any thoughts at this stage on this crucial matter of licence applications and how they should be made? The truth is that many busy people sign licence applications without going into detail, and possibly a lot is done in their names that they might not want.

Mr. Fry

I am grateful for the hon. Gentleman's intervention. If he studies my Bill and its provisions about sponsorship, he will discover that it follows very closely Lord Halsbury's Bill, because I believe that this was one of the most valuable parts of that Bill. The hon. Gentleman may find it interesting to learn that, in my discussions with those involved in the medical research world, it was even suggested that the requirements for the second sponsor should be toughened up and that he should be required to be satisfied that the procedures proposed were necessary and to ask the relevant question "How many animals will be used?" Even from that side of the spectrum, there is considerable disquiet and a request that the sponsorship should be much tighter than it is today in order to stop rubber-stamping.

Clause 7 specifies the general conditions of licences and provides that initially a probationary licence shall be necessary for the first year. Here again, I do not expect people who hold other kinds of licences or who have wide experience in these matters to go through the necessity of being probationers for the first year.

One of the interesting aspects of clause 7 does not appear in any other legislation. Throughout, where suffering has been caused, it is suggested that the animal be painlessly destroyed. I am trying to make provisions so that restrictions in that connection can be waived by an inspector if he considers that an alternative home can be found and that the animal is suitable for another home. That applies especially to domestic pets, and I hope that it will meet with the approval of the House.

Clause 8 deals with sponsorship, to which the hon. Member for West Lothian referred. As I indicated to him, there is considerable disquiet about the present system. Under my proposals, the first sponsor should be the person normally responsible for the establishment in which the procedures are to take place. He has to certify that the person applying for a licence is suitable and that the premises are suitable. Certification is also required to state that no suitable alternatives are available. The onus is put on the first person proposing anyone for a licence to show that alternatives do not exist.

Clause 8 goes on to specify the various details, such as applications for more than one set of premises, and then deals with the second sponsor. In the first schedule, I set out the names of the organisations which may suggest names for the list of second sponsors. It is somewhat wider than the present one. I think that the right way to go about it is to allow a wider interest, with experts in other specialities being allowed to become second sponsors. I shall consider whether the requirements in regard to the second sponsor should not be tightened up in Committee, should the Bill get to that stage.

Clause 9 restricts the use of grade IV licences. I confirm what I said previously. These licences can be issued only if the Home Secretary is convinced, on the basis of advice from the advisory committee, that they are warranted. This places a very important responsibility on the Secretary of State. It also places on the advisory committee a very important function which I am sure that it will carry out in a responsible way.

Clause 10 deals with the revocation and limitation of licences.

Mr. Dalyell

Has the hon. Gentleman read the speech of Lord Halsbury? Does not clause 10 imply some kind of threat to what Lord Adrian called speculative research? Should we not listen to distinguished physiologists when they make these remarks?

Mr. Fry

We can expect the Home Secretary to take a responsible attitude and I do not think that he will exercise his powers often. If the Home Secretary is to be accountable to the House and to the country, we must give him certain duties and powers. I do not regard the implied threat as serious.

Part III of the Bill deals with the registration of premises. The Home Office has to keep a register of premises in which procedures are carried out and also a register of premises which breed and supply animals. This is important if we intend to restrict the way in which animals are supplied. I do not think that there will be much serious objection to these proposals.

Part IV covers the care of animals used for scientific purposes, and administration. Clause 16 requires that all animals which are not currently being used should be housed and maintained with due regard to the known needs of the animals. This is similar to a proposal of the Council of Europe. Clause 17 allows the Secretary of State to issue a code of practice in addition to the regulations. This will be useful as an indication of the behaviour of those who run those establishments.

Mr. F. A. Burden (Gillingham)

I am concerned about codes of practice. Too often they have no mandatory power and are completely disregarded by the people to whom they should apply.

Mr. Fry

I take my hon. Friend's point and I hope that he joins us in Committee, when no doubt he will attempt to put sharper teeth into that part of the Bill.

Clauses 18 and 19 deal with the establishment of the inspectorate and set out the duties of the inspectors. These duties comply, more or less, with existing practice. They are not written into legislation and I think that it is important that they should be.

Clause 20 deals with the advisory committee. Pressure has been put upon me to provide for the Secretary of State to determine the exact composition of the advisory committee. As a new chairman of that committee has been appointed only recently, and the committee members are soon to be nominated, it would be wrong to try to change the matter in this Bill. I am sure that the Home Secretary will be careful in choosing the members of the committee, and we shall watch its deliberations with great interest. Representations can be made later if we believe that the committee should be more representative.

Mr. Whitehead

I can see the difficulties facing the hon. Gentleman as the sponsor of the Bill. Does he agree that there should be a general drift in Committee to suggest that there should be a lay element on the advisory committee? The hon. Gentleman has not mentioned that in the Bill, nor has he mentioned it in the House.

Mr. Fry

I agree with that, though I would not like to see a definition such as that in Lord Halsbury's Bill. That seems to be heavily weighted in favour of industrial, commercial and research interests and tends to play down the view that more laymen should be included. However, this is a Committee point.

Clause 21 refers to the annual report. This is an important clause because new aspects of the returns will be imposed. Until we have this kind of return from the Home Secretary, it will be difficult to secure the information that the public need.

Part V of the Bill covers the miscellaneous and supplementary provisions. There is a slight misprint in clause 33 where "animal" is defined. Some unnecessary words have been used. That will be amended in Committee.

The list of animals covered can be added to by the Secretary of State, but he is not empowered to delete species. He would have to come to the House, with legislation, if he wanted to do that. Clause 34 deals with further definitions, and the remaining clauses up to clause 39 deal with technical aspects.

Schedule 1 relates to second sponsors. Schedule 2 deals with minor amendments to other legislation and Schedule 3 deals with repeals. I have a warm regard for my hon. Friend the Minister of State and I hope that he will suggest some amendments.

I have tried to accept most of the representations that I have received. Many ideas have been put forward. One of them suggests that there should be an approved method of killing. That is an interesting suggestion which could well come within the Bill. My hon. Friend the Member for Brentwood and Ongar (Mr. McCrindle) suggests that lists of companies which do not use animals in making their products should be published. That could be an interesting new clause. I welcome suggestions for amendments, especially any that the Government might make.

It will be tempting for the Government to say that perhaps now is not the time for legislation on this issue and that perhaps we should delay it a little longer. It might be said that we should refer this Bill to a Select Committee, as has happened with Lord Halsbury's Bill. It could be said that we should wait for the completion of the European convention, when we shall, at least, have some idea of what other countries are doing, and then bring forward the legislation promised by the Government in their election manifesto. The Government might ask for time to study the legitimate objections to the Bill.

At first sight, that course might appear reasonable. In my view, it is totally mistaken. There is need for further discussion on the Bill, but surely the right way to go about it is to give it a Second Reading followed by a full Committee stage where all these points can be put forward and disagreements hammered out. Waiting for Europe might be like "Waiting for Godot". If there is no agreement in Europe in the next two or three years, the Government could be forced to legislate in any case. So why delay? Why do we not take the opportunity to amend this Bill where necessary, to produce legislation acceptable to the Government and all interested parties? It would be wrong to delay until 1982 or 1983.

The Government and the House must accept that there is widespread public concern and a widespread demand for action now and not in the indeterminate future. I quote to the House from a letter which I received from the Secretary of the Agricultural Research Council, Dr. Riley. His letter was most helpful and responsible. When raising his objections he said: I hope that these points may assist in the task that we all agree to be necessary of devising a satisfactory successor to the 1876 Act. That is the view of a prominent person in the field of research in this country. I commend what Dr. Riley said.

I hope that the Government will accept that there is a wide degree of agreement and that they will assist my Committee.

The effect of man on earth has not been of unqualified benefit even to our own species. The signs are that we are in danger of destroying our whole environment. It is suggested that by the end of the century some 5 million out of 10 million species will have disappeared largely as a result of man's actions. About 1 million species disappeared in the past few years. In a Bill as humble as this, I cannot hope to arrest that trend.

Mr. Dalyell

Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Fry

I am coming to the end of my speech and I have given way on numerous occasions.

My sincere belief is, and has been for many years, that one of the tests of any civilised society is the way in which it treats the other creatures within it. With temerity, I suggest that my Bill takes an important step in the right direction. I hope that I have shown that I am introducing a moderate, reasonable Bill which recognises the legitimate interests of those who are affected by its provisions.

I am convinced of two matters. First, I believe that, with the right co-operation, an acceptable and effective statute can be framed. Secondly, I believe that there is an overwhelming demand for action to be taken now. Our society has a conscience about this activity. It wants to see that conscience exercised and enshrined in law. The time and the opportunity have arrived. The climate is right. I appeal for widespread support outside the House and within it. I have no hesitation in commending the Bill to the House.

Mr. Dalyell

The hon. Member said that 1 million species have already disappeared and that another 5 million to 10 million will disappear by the end of the century. I give him the opportunity to correct that if it was a slip of the tongue.

Mr. Fry

I was quoting from statistics issued recently. In recent years, about 1 million species have disappeared. There are about 10 million species in the world. The danger is that by the end of the century about half of those 10 million species will have disappeared. Those statistics were revealed by the BBC on a programme transmitted at 5 o'clock. I said, not that 5 million or 10 million will disappear, but that 5 million out of the 10 million will disappear.

12.54 pm
Mr. William Whitlock (Nottingham, North)

I congratulate the hon. Member for Wellingborough (Mr. Fry) on the use that he has made of his good fortune in winning in the ballot the right to introduce a Private Member's Bill. I congratulate him on his persuasiveness, cogency and moderation. He has shown his sincerity and his great knowledge of the contents of the Bill and what is behind it. I am happy to be a sponsor of the Bill because I believe that these measures are necessary and because I hold the hon. Member in high regard. In 1964 the hon. Member fought his first general election battle against me. He lost. Since then, as so often happens in our sophisticated democracy, we have been friends.

The Bill undoubtedly reflects the view of the majority of the electorate that there should be greater accountability for the use of live animals in experiments, a substantial reduction in the number of animals so used, an increased use of alternatives to animals in experiments, restrictions on the purposes for which experiments are carried out and greater scrutiny of the work of those who carry out experiments. All those provisions are needed now, not at a vague date in the future.

The Cruelty to Animals Act 1876 was intended to provide for genuine medical and veterinary experiments. However, in much of what is going on today there is no regard for the original intention of the Act. Statistics reveal a horrifying picture of avoidable and unnecessary cruelty which no civilised community should tolerate.

About 200 years ago, about 100 years before the 1876 Act, Robert Burns, in one of his best known poems, spoke of the breaking of "Nature's social union" by "man's dominion" He referred to himself as por earth-born companion An' fellow mortal of the small frightened mouse which his ploughshare had disturbed.

About 200 years ago there was less identification of the animal with the human world. Today, although ever larger numbers of people think of animals as their earth-born companions and fellow mortals, "man's dominion" is increasingly having such a disastrous impact on the animal world that species are being wiped out throughout the world and ever larger numbers of animals are being cruelly treated in ways which are said to be for the benefit of man.

The Cruelty to Animals Act was passed in the middle of the Victorian period. In those days there was public concern about what was going on even though only a few hundred animals a year were involved in experiments. Today, between 5 million and 6 million experiments on an unknown number of animals take place. The trend is upwards and more and more people are being licensed to carry out these experiments in a totally unsupervised way and often for questionable reasons.

We must insist on stronger control and greater accountability. Statistics reveal in Home Office reports that probably less than 3 per cent. of the total number of experiments are carried out within the spirit of the Act. I understand that there has never been a successful prosecution for infringements of that Act. Offenders are merely admonished.

According to a Home Office report, only 2 per cent. of the experiments in 1976 were for diagnostic purposes. A total of 23 per cent. were for testing medicinal products, 8 per cent. for cancer research and 67 per cent. for other reasons. Those other reasons have nothing to do with medical and veterinary research but concern the testing of commercial products. For example, experiments are carried out to test cosmetics for toxicity and irritancy. Shampoos are placed in rabbits' eyes to find at what point that produces blindness. Another example is the smoking dogs experiment, the revelation of which created such a public storm some time ago.

Attempting to keep an eye on a vastly wider field of research than could have been envisaged when the 1876 Act was passed is a tiny inspectorate, with a membership of about 15 people, which obviously cannot adequately enforce the present regulations. Even when infringements of the Act were discovered, legal action was not taken. The chief inspector said that none of those infringements involved a deliberate intention to avoid the requirements of the Act. That is rather like saying that a motorist who knocks down an old lady should not be prosecuted if there was no deliberate intention to inflict injury.

The hon. Member for Wellingborough has made it clear that there is no wish to impede progress of vital medical knowledge that is necessary to safeguard human lives as well as those of animals. The Bill will not hamper necessary research. It is put forward in the spirit of the 1876 Act, which was intended to cover genuine medical and veterinary research. The hon. Gentleman has made it clear that the need for animals to be used in research cannot be eliminated in the near future. However, the number of animals used can be greatly and increasingly reduced, thereby avoiding much cruelty.

The availability of animals for inadequately supervised experiments has led to a failure to pursue on a large enough scale the search for alternatives to living animals. Fortunately, an increasing number of scientists and researchers reject the assumption that no alternative exists. They accept that, apart from the high cost, the use of animals in experiments is often unsatisfactory on humane and scientific grounds. Animals sometimes react in similar ways to humans, but they do not always do so. Therefore, reliance upon the results of tests made on animals can lead to disastrous consequences for humans.

It is often suggested that those who care strongly about animal welfare are misguided cranks, but that view is no longer shared by the majority. Most people wish to see more extensive legislation than that provided in the Bill. The hon. Member for Wellingborough has also expressed such a sentiment. People would like to see banned hare coursing, stag and deer hunting and the export of live animals for slaughter. Such issues, including those contained in the Bill, would have been in a Bill put forward in Government legislation had the election result been different.

However, that does not detract from the value of the Bill. It is a Private Member's Bill and wider-ranging provisions could not have been included. The provisions of the Bill, put forward ably and persuasively by the hon. Gentleman, should be enacted. Like the hon. Gentleman, I hope that the Government will not obstruct the progress of the Bill in Standing Committee and that it will receive the support of the House.

1.4 pm

Mr. F. A. Burden (Gillingham)

I hope that the hon. Member for Nottingham, North (Mr. Whitlock) will accept that I agree with almost all that he said. We welcome his sponsorship of the Bill.

On most aspects of animal welfare there is considerable agreement between all parties. Certain obligations were undertaken in the manifestos of both the Conservative and the Labour Parties. I draw the attention of the Minister to the fact that the Conservative statement on animal welfare in the manifesto said: We shall update the Brambell report, the codes of welfare for farm animals, and the legislation on experiments on live animals. Much gratitude is owed to my hon. Friend for introducing such a comprehensive Bill in a moderate way, and for the manner in which he has put the facts before the House and updated the 1876 Act.

There are fanatics who are interested in animal welfare. There are those who will disagree with any experiments on animals. They are entitled to their view and I understand and accept that. I would be an anti-vivisectionist if I thought it possible to improve animal and particularly human life by experiments on substances that did not involve the use of animals. At the moment that possibility does not exist.

Much reference has been made to the Cruelty to Animals Act 1876. It provided: A person shall not perform on a living animal any experiment calculated to give pain, except subject to the restrictions imposed by this Act. Any person performing or taking part in performing any experiment calculated to give pain, in contravention of this Act, shall be guilty of an offence against this Act, and shall, if it be the first offence, be liable to a penalty not exceeding fifty pounds, and if it be the second or any subsequent offence, be liable, at the discretion of the court by which he is tried, to a penalty not exceeding one hundred pounds or to imprisonment for a period not exceeding three months. At the time that that Act was introduced, there were probably 300 to 500 experiments taking place annually. One hundred years ago there was probably not the care and consideration for animals that there is today, yet that Act was introduced when few experiments were taking place. In addition, the penalties of £50 for a first offence and £100 and imprisonment for a second offence were heavy; the value of money was very different then. Those stiff penalties reflect the views of the people and of this House when the Bill was introduced. The number of experiments is now around 5,500,000 a year.

What is the Government's attitude to this? The Conservative manifesto says that the Act needs updating. I remind the House that the Littlewood report of 1964 stated this emphatically, but it was five years before that report was debated in the House, despite the efforts of many of us to bring it to the Floor for debate.

What is the attitude of the Opposition? I am sure that generally they want to see the legislation on animal welfare updated, particularly the 1876 Act. There is a great deal of agreement between the Front Benches and hon. Members on both sides of the House. I welcome the fact that the hon. Member for Halifax (Dr. Summerskill) is to speak from the Opposition Front Bench on this matter. She is a vice-chairman of the animal welfare group. When she was in office, her wishes to make progress in this area were sometimes restrained by the inhibitions brought about by that office. I am sure that today she will give her general approval to the Bill, and if there are some points on which she has reservations I am sure that she will table amendments in Committee.

I hope that the Government will give their wholehearted support to the general intentions of the Bill. I have no doubt that they would have preferred Government legislation on this issue, but that could have been delayed, and there have been many delays already over legislation for animal welfare.

The Brambell committee report on animal welfare was not debated until five years after it was published. There is no doubt in my mind that any objections the Government may have about this Bill can be discussed in Committee, and I am sure that my hon. Friend the Member for Wellingborough (Mr. Fry) will do everything he can to ensure that reasonable amendments are accepted in order to further the passage of the Bill.

The fact that there is another Bill before a Select Committee in another place emphasises the great interest in this subject shown by Members of both Houses, who have a strong desire to bring the 1876 Act up to date. There is no doubt that there is a great deal of feeling throughout the country. I have had many letters on this subject, and I am happy that my hon. Friend was able to introduce his Bill today.

The point about breeding establishments is extremely important. There should be measures in legislation to ensure that people engaged in research draw their supplies of animals only from the breeding establishments specially set up for that purpose. There must be strict control of these places by the Government and the penalties should be harsh enough to ensure that in future the places that actually carry out experiments are more strictly controlled.

We should have more comprehensive reports from the Home Office each year. That would no doubt help us to understand a little more fully the work that is carried out in research establishments.

The need for this Bill was summed up in the petition presented today by my hon. Friend the Member for Wellingborough. I wish now to put a series of points that are listed in that petition. Is there anyone who does not agree that unjustified suffering by laboratory animals should be eliminated? I am sure there is not. The LD50 test, which causes the lingering deaths of animals which are force-fed for testing cosmetics and oven cleaners, is a matter of concern. I have long felt that this should be stopped. A group of us went to see the Home Secretary in the last Government and we pressed very strongly for this test to be made illegal. He was sympathetic but said that we must "nudge forward" in most matters affecting animal welfare. Generally, we have "nudged forward" for long enough and now we must push along more strongly.

My hon. Friend the Member for Wellingborough told the House what was involved in the LD50 test and therefore I shall not go into it again. If it is to continue, I believe that it must be justified, and it is questionable at present whether it can be justified. The hon. Member for Halifax may have something to say about that. I suspect that the test could be done away with in this country without causing any great hardship or fears to consumers. One must consider the fact that the test continues on the animals until they are eventually killed.

There may be some reason for keeping the test, a reason which is associated with the Common Market or overseas sales of items such as cosmetics. But that is not a good enough reason for continuing the suffering caused by testing new superfluous toiletries and luxury goods. Does anyone really object to bringing it to an end if such toiletries and luxury goods are not really needed? I suggest that there are many toilet goods on the market that are tested and are safe, and there is no need to insert drops into the eyes of rabbits and cause them great suffering and pain simply to bring new lines on to the market.

Mr. John H. Osborn

Is my hon. Friend aware that the producers of these goods are subject to product liability in an immense way? Is he prepared to amend legislation on product liability to make the manufacturers less liable for producing dangerous products?

Mr. Burden

A reason can always be found for stopping anything that is progressive. The same was said about the slave trade. Many were opposed to stopping that because of the commercial interests that suffered. I suggest that there are enough cosmetics on the market to satisfy the needs of every ordinary woman and that we do not need any more. Why introduce new cosmetics which involve testing on animals when the market is already flooded with cosmetics that have already been tested and found safe? Therefore, whilst, like my hon. Friend, I am concerned to ensure that the Bill is reasonable, I do not want to see it emasculated by the introduction of side issues which are basically side issues concerning profit only.

There are more reliable alternatives to the use of animals, and where they exist they should be used. I can quote the tragic example of the thalidomide children to show the sort of care that should be taken in this regard.

The petition asks that animals which have been subject to experiments and which have to be destroyed should be destroyed as quickly as possible. If the experiments are painful and carried out under anaesthetic, the destruction should be done before the animal recovers consciousness and by people who are experienced in their humane destruction.

The inadequate use of anaesthetics also needs examination. There must be a great many cases in which animals are not properly anaesthetised before experiments. I think that is generally accepted. A halt should be called to the causing of severe suffering where no anaesthetic is used—another point made by the petition, which has attracted more than 1 million signatures.

There is also the problem of unintentional suffering caused by improper handling. To overcome that, all establishments in which experiments are conducted and the animals are reared must be staffed by people trained to care for animals. When these poor creatures are subjected to many of the operative procedures that are used, it is essential that they should have reasonable and proper handling before and during the operation and, if they are allowed to recover, afterwards, too.

I am extremely gratified to note the concern which has been shown in many areas for the welfare of animals. I have been a Member of Parliament for many years, and I believe that hon. Members on both sides now show much more concern for the welfare of animals than in the past.

We enjoy a great bonus from animals as friends and as a source of food. They provide us with medical knowledge that improves and saves the lives of humans and other animals. Since we receive such a bonus, it is at all times our duty to ensure that they are treated with the utmost compassion and concern.

1.23 pm
Dr. Shirley Summerskill (Halifax)

I congratulate the hon. Member for Wellingborough (Mr. Fry) on choosing animal protection as the subject for his Bill. There is strong feeling inside and outside the House that, as animal experimentation expands in quality and quantity, adequate protection should be provided for the animals involved. I support any improvement of the 1876 Act. It needs updating so that the legislation is appropriate to 1979. Research today is obviously vastly more complex than it was more than 100 years ago.

I share the curiosity of the hon. Member for Gillingham (Mr. Burden) about the Government's attitude to the Bill. It was the subject of a pledge in the Conservative manifesto which said: We shall update…the legislation on experiments on live animals. It would be interesting to hear whether the Minister regards the Bill, whether suitably amended in Committee or not, as honouring the manifesto pledge. Alternatively, will he propose the introduction of separate Government legislation? It is possible for a pledge to be kept by the Government giving strong support to a Private Member's Bill, a Bill which does not take up Government parliamentary time.

However, the Government are in a quandary because they also have Lord Halsbury's Bill. No doubt, like the Select Committee of the House of Lords, they are considering it. I suspect that the Government, like the rest of us, would prefer to know the Council of Europe's plans for its convention. If satisfactory legislation on the subject is to be passed, it would be preferable for us to have the House of Lords Select Committee report and to know the result of that convention.

Mr. Burden

We are now returning to the old question of delay, delay, delay. This Bill should stand on its own merits in the House and through Committee. The hon. Lady referred to the Council of Europe. Should we not set an example by getting the Bill through quickly and showing how we in this country feel?

Dr. Summerskill

I think that the Council of Europe may take longer than the Select Committee on Lord Halsbury's Bill. The deliberations of that Committee would be extremely useful to us, because that Bill is not as complex as the one now before us. Even so, their Lordships have decided that it merits being sent to a Select Committee for close scrutiny.

A basic requirement, as a background to the Bill, is that alternatives to animals should be used whenever possible. That applies to any experiment or scientific procedure, and an animal should be used only if there is no alternative. The previous Government initiated and circulated a strong exhortation to all licensees to use alternatives wherever possible. I assume that this Government will continue to send it out and not assume that because it has been sent out once or twice it can be discontinued. The practice should be continued so that new licensees are told and current licensees reminded.

Alternatives are cheaper and simpler to use than animals, and any responsible or reasonable researcher would use them if possible. We would certainly expect them to be used whenever possible. However, as the hon. Member for Wellingborough recognises, there are many areas in which alternatives are not an adequate substitute. Cancer of the breast tissue, for example, will grow, not in tissue culture but only as a graft in an immune deprived mouse.

The second requirement, as a background to the Bill, is effective and adequate information about the use of laboratory animals. Legislation cannot be based on circumstances about which not enough is known. In order to obtain facts, the previous Government arranged for the annual returns of information about experiments from licensees to be more detailed and comprehensive, and that proved successful. The return must show the principal species of animals used and the main purpose of the experiment. If it is possible to improve on that, that should be done so that we have the fullest possible information about what is happening in our laboratories.

The hon. Member for Wellingborough to some extent reassured me about the scope of the work that would be permitted under the Bill. Adults, children, consumers of all kinds, employees in factories and people at home or at work, or even in the garden, are concerned that the products that they are using and which are freely available for sale should be absolutely safe—and presumably no hon. Member would wish to ban those products from sale. Those products include food additives, soap, detergents, toiletries of all kinds, pesticides and industrial chemicals. It is difficult to know where to begin to decide what is essential.

Mr. Charles Irving (Cheltenham)

I fully support the Bill and have listened with great interest to the debate, but what are the hon. Lady's views on the diabolical use of animals in the preparation of cosmetics? I know that the hon. Lady is not vain, but these preparations are to satisfy the vanity of women, and some of us feel that these commercial uses are a national scandal and should be stopped immediately.

In defence of the vanity of women, I should say that perhaps they look more beautiful in their natural naked state instead of being tarted up with preparations that require the cruel experimentation on 30,000 animals a year—and that figure is known to be correct. Surely that use of experimentation should be stopped quickly.

Dr. Summerskill

I do not know many women who use after-shave or hair oil, and vanity is not the preserve of the female sex. On the contrary, I believe that it is less prevalent among the female sex. In the widest sense of the term "toiletries", many such products are used by both sexes, and, if one includes powder, it is used for children. It is difficult to say what is and what is not essential. These commodities are sold in shops and bought by every member of the public, and it is essential that they should be safe.

It is another matter to consider whether new products and ingredients should be banned. One answer could be to stop the sale of anything new; but it is not as simple as that. Existing products also come under suspicion. Many products that have been available for years can be found to have dangers. The Food and Drugs Administration and other organisations in America have become suspicious of additives to food and drinks. A product that has been marketed for two or three years without incident cannot necessarily be declared to be totally safe. Suspicions can arise later.

A second important point of principle concerns the limitation of fundamental research in the biological sciences. The hon. Member for Wellingborough said that he was prepared to consider amendments in Committee. Clause 2(1)(a) allows animals to be used for the advancement of biological science only when it is calculated to lead to the saving or prolonging of life, and so forth. The hon. Gentleman thought that there should not be carte blanche unrestricted, unlicensed experiments. I am sure that we all agree. On the other hand, there should not be a blanket restriction. We do not want to give totally unsupervised and unlicensed freedom, neither do we want a total ban on fundamental research in the biological sciences. A balance must be struck, and I hope that we can achieve that in Committee.

Animals are used to add to our sum total of knowledge of biological processes when alternatives are not possible. Out of that knowledge may develop significant medical advances that will help not only man but animals, and that applies to agriculture and the veterinary sciences. A scientist cannot know in advance whether a procedure to extend knowledge will lead years later to a medical advance, and, as it stands, the Bill would prohibit that work.

The Home Office advisory committee, through a sub-committee, especially examined the LD50 test. My hon. Friend the Member for Dearne Valley (Mr. Wainwright) is not here, but he sat on that committee as a lay member. As a result of close investigation, the committee found the LD50 test to be necessary. I understand that under the Bill toxicity and LD50 tests could be carried out but that they would require a special licence issued by order of the Secretary of State under clause 6(2)(e). That is all right by me. I am concerned only that the Government will have to provide a much stronger inspectorate and many more civil servants, which would conflict with another election pledge—namely, that public expenditure will be cut. No doubt the Minister can assure us about that, and it is his problem and not mine.

The licensing of experimenters is covered by a novel set of provisions in the Bill. The hon. Member for Wellingborough said that the present position is more complex than that which he is proposing. If his proposals are more simple, perhaps he will agree that they are also more restrictive, bureaucratic and time-consuming. However, I hope that we can look at that in Committee. Scientific research should not be delayed through experimenters having to go through a laborious bureaucratic procedure.

Under the Bill, the role of the Home Office advisory committee on animal experiments would require vast numbers of people to look at the procedures referred to it and to consider the licence applications. If it is to consider all the matters detailed in the Bill, it would need to be in almost continuous session, and I hope that that will not seriously delay vital research. My fears are unfounded if the hon. Gentleman can assure us that those procedures will be speedy.

Mr. Fry

The responsibilities of the advisory committee are laid down in the 1876 Act. I am asking not for that committee to look at every single application but to consider areas of research. Once an area has been determined, the Secretary of State can give his consent to a licence. I do not believe that it will lead to the sort of delay that the hon. Lady is suggesting.

Dr. Summerskill

I am glad to receive that assurance.

I always envisaged the committee as having a different role than the specific one of looking at individual applications. That was also envisaged by the former Prime Minister, my right hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, South-East (Mr. Callaghan), in March of this year. He felt that the advisory committee on the administration of the Cruelty to Animals Act should be reconstituted with new terms of reference, which would include recommending new legislation where necessary. Unfortunately, that could not be proceeded with after the events of May. However, I should like the committee to continue to look at the broader aspects of principle where research is concerned and not to have its time taken up with looking at individual experiments.

The Minister of State, Home Office (Mr. Timothy Raison)

I assure the hon. Lady that the new committee that we have set up will be able to look at matters of policy when they are referred to it.

Dr. Summerskill

So says the hon. Gentleman. However, I am not sure that the committee envisaged by his hon. Friend the Member for Wellingborough has that role. That is why I state my preference for the committee to have broader terms of reference.

The committee will contain lay representatives, such as my hon. Friend the Member for Rother Valley (Mr. Hardy), who is not present in the Chamber at the moment. There will also be a wide range of scientists and people from industry. I refer to "lay" representatives in the broader sense of the word. The committee can report on controversial or unusual procedures, as was the case with the LD50 test when it produced a valuable report.

The Bill is detailed and contains 39 clauses. It deals with an extremely complex subject. I have referred to what I consider to be the most important issues where I have reservations. However, the Minister has reassured me to some extent. We all want to see the continued advance of scientific research to develop drugs and techniques which will save as many human and animal lives as possible. At the same time, we must protect the interests of the animals used in the work, animals which are unable to defend themselves. We want to see them treated as humanely as possible.

I am sure that the Bill will go to Committee, where we shall give it careful study and consideration and amend it in detail so that it will serve as a worthwhile and workable replacement of the present Act.

1.43 pm
The Minister of State, Home Office (Mr. Timothy Raison)

Like the hon. Member for Halifax (Dr. Summerskill), I accept that this is a detailed and full Bill on an important subject.

I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Wellingborough (Mr. Fry) on his good fortune in achieving a high place in the ballot and in introducing a Bill on a matter of great importance. I thank him for his kind words about myself. More important, I congratulate him on the clear way in which he set out his proposals and the moderate tone which he used. He has tried hard to produce a workable Bill rather than one that simply gives scope for the strong feelings that people have on the subject. Nevertheless, in no sense do I denigrate the importance of those feelings.

My hon. Friend has started a most responsible debate. It is important to note that he firmly states that he accepts the need for animal experiments. The responsible tone set by my hon. Friend was taken up by the hon. Member for Nottingham, North (Mr. Whitlock). He implied that there was no hint of crankiness in the approach of the sponsors to the Bill. His speech justified that comment. I pay the same tribute to my hon. Friend the Member for Gillingham (Mr. Burden). He has a longer record than anybody in the House of interest and concern in the welfare of animals. He made a point which I reinforce about the importance of looking for alternative sources of experiment wherever possible.

The hon. Member for Halifax also raised that subject. I confirm that the injunctions that she caused to be sent out when she was at the Home Office on the importance of looking for alternatives will continue to be sent out annually. The hon. Lady pointed out that it is a complicated subject. Not only are we dealing with a Bill of many clauses, but we must examine many important issues.

The Bill is the second Private Member's Bill of this month which seeks to update the Cruelty to Animals Act 1876. The first was the Laboratory Animals Protection Bill, which was introduced in another place by Lord Halsbury. That Bill was referred in the other place to a Select Committee for detailed examination of the complex issues concerned with experiments on live animals.

My hon. Friend's Bill approaches the subject from a different viewpoint. That approach is reflected in its provisions. He and his advisers have sought to follow some of the recommendations of the Littlewood committee which reported in 1965. They have also drawn on some of the concepts in Lord Halsbury's Bill. In doing so, they have carried out a great deal of work in putting together a draft which they hope will be acceptable and attract support from a number of quarters.

The exchanges today show that there are a number of areas of disagreement on the Bill as it stands. Some of those areas are fundamental. The appearance within a month of two Bills to replace the 1876 Act is by no means a coincidence. The impetus lies in the evident public concern about animal experiments, as was pointed out by my hon Friend. In turn, that has been reflected by the firm commitment that we made in our election manifesto to tackle the problem.

The House knows that we are reconstituting and renaming the advisory committee and giving it wider terms of reference, including the task of considering policy questions that are referred to it. We also stated in the manifesto that the 1876 Act needs updating. The reasons for that are apparent. Although the legislation was drafted over 100 years ago, in an age when biological research was in its comparative infancy, some of the underlying principles have stood the test of time. The Littlewood committee recognised that fact. It also recognised that the provisions did not meet modern scientific and technological requirements and that the administration of the Act has not kept pace with scientific advances.

Mr. Bowden

Does my hon. Friend recall his reply to a question that I tabled in connection with a visit to the Sussex university laboratories by one of his inspectors? He told me that the visit took place on 8 October. Will that report be published?

Mr. Raison

I should like to consider that matter and write to my hon. Friend about it.

It has been possible to take steps to improve matters on the administrative front. We have done that. Such improvements are necessarily limited, and the need to update the law and extend the controls where necessary—for example, to cover the breeding and supply of laboratory animals—has not been grasped. However, not only have there been considerable advances on the scientific front, but there has also been a significant and growing public awareness about the welfare of animals. That is fully recognised by the Government.

Legislation which replaces the 1876 Act must therefore strike the right balance between, on the one hand, the legitimate requirements of science and industry and, on the other, the protection of animals against avoidable suffering. Any significant and unreasonable restrictions in the circumstances in which experiments are to be permitted would have considerable implications for the public in several ways, including considerations of health and safety, agriculture and exports.

That is one side of the equation. But the controls must not be so ineffective that they allow acts on animals which are inhumane and objectionable. It will not be easy to achieve this balance, but we must do our best to achieve it.

Our concern in this country about the control of animal experiments is not unique. The Council of Europe has made good progress in preparing a convention on the use of animals for experimental purposes. We are playing a major part in those discussions, and we are keeping the animal welfare organisations and the research and professional interests in this country informed about them. There is good reason to hope, though there is some way to go, that a convention will emerge to which we can become a party. In that event, we shall have, of course, to make sure that our legislation matches the obligations that becoming a party to the convention would entail.

Valuable as it is to discuss the issues raised by my hon. Friend's Bill, I think that we ought to consider whether it is necessarily sensible to attempt to replace the 1876 Act before the terms of the proposed convention are known. However carefully such legislation was prepared, it would run the risk of failing to meet the convention's requirements. Fresh legislation, within a matter of a year or two, would be needed if we were to give the convention effect.

Mr. David Mellor (Putney)

My hon. Friend says that fresh legislation would be required within a year or two, but what guarantee does the House have that it will be only a year or two before the European convention is finalised?

Mr. Raison

I was saying that within a year or two of the convention coming out fresh legislation would be needed to incorporate any changes that seemed necessary as a result of that convention. I cannot give a guarantee about the future legislative programmes of Governments, but I stress that there must be legislation in this area. The Government are committed to that, but we have to make sure that we get the best possible legislation, and legislation that will endure.

Mr. Burden

The Government must generally be in sympathy with the Bill. If there has to be an amendment to the measure as a result of decisions taken outside this couutry with which we must conform, I would rather that we had an amending Bill than do nothing now.

Mr. Raison

I understand my hon. Friend's view. This is an area in which collaboration with Europe can produce advantages for animals in this country and in those countries that have not thought about the problem as deeply as we have.

I do not say that the convention is the be-all and end-all of the subject, but it will be valuable if we can get agreement and effective implementation on a European basis.

Mr. Burden

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for giving way again. Does he accept that if we set standards in this Bill they could become part of the deliberations in Europe and could result in those in Europe being inclined towards our views?

Mr. Raison

That is possible; but work in Europe is going ahead quite vigorously. I know that it is taking time, and I do not pretend that we shall get results overnight. However, something of potential significance is taking place in Europe and we ought to think hard about the right way of responding to that.

Mr. Peter Hardy (Rother Valley)

As a member of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, I appreciate what the Minister has said, but does he not agree that in this and some other areas Britain has a reputation of leading Europe and that some European conventions, including one that was approved only a couple of months ago, are, to a large extent, modelled on initiatives taken in this House?

Would it not be reasonable for the Minister to say to Europe that this Parliament has approved the Bill before us? If we have to spend a little time in amending the Bill later, so be it. There are countries, particularly in Europe, where concern is generations behind our own. Otherwise, I would not have been taken, without warning, to a bull-fighting establishment in one country in the Council of Europe only a few days ago.

Mr. Raison

I accept what the hon. Gentleman has said. We have taken a leading role in this matter and, whatever our weaknesses, we have a reasonably honourable history. Perhaps the most effective way of transmitting our lead to Europe is by taking a leading part in the formulation of the new convention.

Mr. Iain Mills (Meriden)

Will my hon. Friend give way?

Mr. Raison

I must get on. I am sure that a number of hon. Members wish to take part in the debate.

The convention is likely to establish general principles of control while preserving a measure of flexibility as to method so that each contracting party would have a certain amount of freedom in adopting its own preferred control system. However, there are still a number of key issues to be resolved before we can speak with any confidence about the final outcome.

When we come to considering new legislation, the issues to be examined are wide and cover the legitimate aims of scientists, the interests of the public and, of course, the welfare of the animals. It is against that background that the Bill should be examined.

I have already indicated that my hon. Friend and his advisers have made a sincere attempt to strike what they see as a reasonable balance. However, in our view, the Bill does not, at present, achieve a balance that would be generally acceptable. The hon. Member for Halifax pointed out some of the problems. They are most apparent in clause 2, which is, in many ways, the crux of the Bill, for it lays down the restrictions that are applicable to operative procedures on animals.

Clause 21(a) provides that an operative procedure on an animal shall not be carried out except for the purposes of the advancement of biological science, in a way that is calculated to lead to the saving or prolonging of life or the preventing or alleviating of suffering in human beings or animals. The implications of that are profound, for it would clearly reduce a scientist's freedom in relation to fundamental research.

Mr. Joseph Dean (Leeds, West)

Will the Minister give way?

Mr. Raison


Mr. Iain Mills

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. Some of us are trying desperately to get involved in the debate. I tried to intervene and my hon. Friend was not prepared to allow me to do so. I understand that. Is it in order for self-indulgent and selfish interventions to take place when the hon. Members concerned can easily make their speeches later? Is it not in order that what is fair for one should be fair for all?

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Bryant Godman Irvine)

The hon. Gentleman will find that, much as the Chair would like to arrange matters as he wishes, it is not always possible.

Mr. Joseph Dean

I ought to make clear that I am not noted for intervening in the speeches of other hon. Members. My record will prove that, as the new hon. Member for Meriden (Mr. Mills) will see if he cares to read Hansard backwards.

The Minister referred to human beings and I hope that he will show the same concern for the third Bill on today's Order Paper, which deals with human beings. The Government have decided, quite outrageously, to block that Bill. I hope that the Minister, as the next Opposition spokesman on the environment, is willing to have the loss of that Bill on his conscience.

Mr. Raison

I regret having given way to the hon. Gentleman. I probably should have given way to my hon. Friend the Member for Meriden (Mr. Mills). I did not do so because there had been a number of questions on the point on which he sought to intervene and I thought that, in fairness to the House, I ought to get on.

Many scientific advances that ultimately benefit mankind, including advances leading to the prevention or alleviation of suffering, arise from research work in which that end result cannot be foreseen when the research is being conducted. So I do not believe that the restriction that we have at present will be generally acceptable. There must be recognition of the place of fundamental research in animal experimentation. How this should be achieved will have to be discussed further. I noted my hon. Friend's willingness to rethink this matter.

Clause 2(1)(a) would also have the effect of excluding work done on animals for the purpose of diagnosing physiological conditions—for example, pregnancy testing—as well as work done in connection with the breeding of animals. It is not an uncommon practice for an animal of one species to be used in certain circumstances as a temporary host for ova of another species. Again, I think that the restrictive approach may not be acceptable. We should remember that testing of the safety of products—for example, non-therapeutic household substances, which may include things such as different forms of cleaners—may often also mean testing by experiments on animals.

A point has been made about cosmetics. I think that in this area of testing industrial or non-therapeutic substances it is important to remember that testing is not only for the benefit of the consumer; it is also related to the problem of health and safety at work. In other words, there is the consideration of the people who are working and making these things as well as the users. That has to be borne in mind.

This form of testing is part of the parcel of measures for consumer protection and, as I have said, for the protection of those who work both here and in countries to which we want to sell our goods. It is certainly an area about which there is a great deal of public controversy, but it is unrealistic to suppose that we could either abandon the production of all products which might conceivably have potentially dangerous side effects or reduce the precautions required to make sure that such side effects are not present.

Clause 2(2)(a) is designed to prohibit an operative procedure on an animal for the purpose of the producing or testing of a substance or article which is not intended to save or prolong life or which is not specifically required by legislation both in this country and overseas. As it stands, this clause is not adequate for the purposes I have just mentioned and it will require amendment.

The absolute prohibition in the 1876 Act on the performance of experiments for the purpose of attaining manual skill is dealt with in clause 2(2)(c). We would agree that there is a case for relaxing this total prohibition, particularly for training in micro-surgery. In contrast to other forms of surgery, the trainee is not able to acquire skill first by observation and then by participation. He must work on material seen through a microscope and any error, however slight, may result in irreparable damage. The consequence of the present position is that many students have to complete their training abroad. Clause 2(2)(c) of the Bill would maintain the ban, except with the consent of the Secretary of State. This may be one way in which to deal with the difficulty facing those training in micro-surgery while retaining the general prohibition on using animals to attain manual skill. But the matter requires further study to ensure that the best means of dealing with the problem has been found.

Quite apart from the issues arising from clause 2 which go to the very core of the subject of experiments on live animals, there are other aspects of the Bill which require very careful scrutiny. One such is the provision in clause 6 which provides for the issue of licences. With the exception of those procedures which are concerned with the study of the mechanisms of pain or of the relief of pain, for which special authority involving the advisory committee would be necessary, there is no clear provision for authorising procedures which are likely to cause pain or distress without the use of total or partial anaesthesia or analgesics. This may or may not be intentional.

We certainly accept the need to prevent unnecessary suffering to animals. But it has to be borne in mind that there are a considerable number of procedures in which the object could not be achieved if anaesthesia or analgesics were to be used. The Bill does not seem to us to make proper provision for these procedures, however slight the degree of pain or distress which may in fact result.

Mr. Dalyell


Mr. Raison

I think that I must go on.

One of the accusations regularly levelled at the 1876 Act is its lack of clarity and relevance to the position today. It is of the utmost importance, therefore, that new legislation should both establish the proper ground rules and be free from ambiguity. In addition, we must not overlook the fact that there will be further developments in science. It is preferable that they can be dealt with in accordance with firm principles laid down by Parliament rather than by administrative interpretation.

I have referred to only some of the more apparent difficulties of the Bill as it is drafted. In interventions today, hon.

Members have also indicated their reservations and objections. My hon. Friend has shown a great willingness to consider reasoned amendments to his Bill, but it remains to be seen whether the differences of view, some of which are fundamental, are capable of reconciliation.

Perhaps it is still fair to say that final legislation to replace the 1876 Act should ideally be prepared against the background and the provisions of the European convention when their final form is known. In the meantime, however, the Government recognise the desirability of a fully informed debate about the shape which new legislation should take. The Bill certainly helps to achieve that debate, as does Lord Halsbury's Bill. If examination of both Bills can proceed on a constructive basis, with the result that there is a better understandingg on all sides of the complex issues involved and of how they can best be tackled, this would be a very valuable contribution.

We certainly shall not seek to stifle that discussion by opposing the Bill, but it must be recognised that we cannot regard it, as it stands, as an acceptable way of dealing with a number of issues, some of which are fundamental to the whole question of animal experimentation. The job of replacing an Act which is over 100 years old must be carried out very carefully.

Mr. Fry

If my hon. Friend feels that there are various issues, as he says, of a fundamental nature, will he be prepared in Committee to bring forward the Government's proposals so that they can be examined?

Mr. Raison

When the Bill moves to a Standing Committee, as I believe to be likely, we shall consider very carefully whether we should bring forward proposals of that kind, as my hon. Friend suggested. We should, of course, do all that we could to try to strengthen the Bill and to meet the problems that have been raised.

Frankly, there is something of a problem in that the Bill has come forward perhaps a bit sooner than ideally it might have done, but that is a fact of our parliamentary processes. There has not been time for all the bodies outside the House which have a very strong interest in this matter to give the Bill full consideration. As my hon. Friend will acknowledge, the Bill was printed only a very short time ago and it is a very substantial piece of legislation. However, I can certainly meet him on that point.

My hon. Friend called for action now. I understand his point, but the problem is whether the Bill will be able, after amendment, to provide for the right action. After all, that is what we are all concerned with. All that I would say, in conclusion, is that whatever the outcome of the Bill may be, the debate which my hon. Friend has launched today and which will certainly continue could prove, as I think both sides of the House will agree, to be of very great value indeed.

2.8 pm

Mr. Tam Dalyell (West Lothian)

I am profoundly unhappy about the Bill, as I believe that it constitutes a very basic and fundamental threat to medical research in this country. However, I shall not vote against Second Reading, because, as the Minister says, it would be wrong to stifle discussion. Indeed, I welcome the efforts of Lord Halsbury and the hon. Member for Wellingborough (Mr. Fry) in having raised the subject so that, sooner or later, action has to be taken on the 1876 Act.

We should welcome the educative process that has been started in this House, although, tike the Minister, I must say that I would wish to wait for the European legislation and the disccussion on a wider scale.

A remark has been made during the debate about the vanity of women and the non-medical uses of materials developed as a result of painful experiments on animals. Many of us who are concerned about medical research do not care at all for pain inflicted on animals so that human beings of either sex can beautify themselves. But one must ask "Who wants all these new products that are being developed?" The answer is that the public want them or at least advertising persuades the public that they want them.

We must be very frank with our electors and tell them that they cannot have it both ways. If they disapprove of pain being inflicted on animals, we must all understand that we cannot have some of the new products that we are led to believe we wish to have. Let us take, for example, the development of a new shampoo. It is not because scientists enjoy putting irritants into animals' eyes that it is done; it is because, if a new shampoo is to be developed, the question of safety to the public must be considered. Are we so certain that we want new shampoos? There may be two answers to that question. We cannot have our proverbial cake and eat it. We cannot have the best of two mutually contradictory worlds.

One of my problems about the Bill is that it seems to be telling the Home Secretary how he should do his job in this respect. I would much rather see the Home Office write a report annually on experiments. If we feel that it is inadequate, for heaven's sake let us criticise that report. But I do not think that it serves a useful basic purpose to get into the position of breathing down the neck of whoever is Home Secretary at the time, telling him how he should go about his work and thinking that one can manage these difficult problems in that way.

Mr. Fry

Does not the hon. Gentleman accept that under my Bill we should have the advantage of having it both ways? The Home Secretary would have clear lines within which to operate and there would be a report that the House could debate and the country could question. Therefore, the Bill would supply the answer in a much better way.

Mr. Dalyell

It is precisely those clear lines that seem to me to bring in an element of penology. It is precisely the clear lines that seem to me to put at risk the great traditions of speculative research in this country. Precisely what the hon. Gentleman claims to be the virtue of his Bill seems to some of us to be its danger. I make no apology for returning to clause 2(1)(a), which is crucial. It specifically requires procedures to be calculated to lead to the saving or prolonging of life". That is impossible. Good research leads into unthought-of possibilities.

I refer again, because it is an important example, to the enkephalin story. Some researchers decided to look at the effect of mashed rat brain on the twitching of the guinea-pig gut. Their results led to the discovery of the brain's natural opiates, with enormous potential for alleviating suffering through a better understanding of the body's response to pain and the potential for very powerful, very safe analgesics. Addicts, too, will be helped. None of that could have been foreseen. It is that kind of thing that will be put into a straitjacket by the guidelines of the Bill.

Mr. Fry

What was the purpose of the researchers' activity in the first place? Was it just playing around with animals for the sheer hell of it? Surely, the answer must be "No". Surely, there must have been some intention and the thought that what they were doing was likely to produce significant information.

I do not think that the hon. Gentleman and I are really that far apart. He is taking a slightly too pedantic line. If he is prepared to discuss the matter, I think that we can reach agreement.

Mr. Dalyell

There may be a deep chasm between us, because the phraseology gives away the hon. Gentleman's state of belief, which is shared by many people. The phrase that the hon. Gentleman used was very revealing: "playing around with animals for the sheer hell of it". There are very few scientists doing that kind of work who are playing around with animals for the sheer hell of it. That is not in the nature of the work.

This is an argument about the nature of experimental research. It is basic to experimental research that one must go where the truth leads. Some may call that playing around for the sheer hell of it. I call it serious research, which has brought great good, at any rate to humans and possibly to some of the animal world, too.

Secondly, I am bothered about the Bill because of the lack of any attempt, aside from the clause I have mentioned, to put animal experiments on a sound ethical footing. There is little discussion of the need to perform certain procedures. I hope that we shall return to this matter in Committee. It is one to which the Home Office should give its mind.

Thirdly, like the Halsbury Bill, this Bill does not examine the possibility of separating true experimentation from tests required by statute and largely performed by large businesses. It may be argued that this matter should be developed in Committee. I am under a request from the Whips to be reasonably brief, so I leave it at that. I hope that I may be considered for the Committee.

Fourthly, returns to the Home Office should provide much more information than they do now. This could be dealt with by changes in the present Act. The hon. Gentleman does not spell out the kind of information that the Home Office should require. This is coupled with the fact that we recognise that animals are used in two very different ways. The speculative scientist may have an idea of a result but does not know where it will lead. Commerce and industry, including the pharmaceutical industries, need answers to questions set by legislation and by the need to protect the public.

The way ahead lies in recognising that and separating the two in law. One could then encourage commerce to develop alternatives while allowing science to research freely. Most scientists are not doing their work in order to cause pain as an end in itself.

Whenever I quote an individual, I do so with extreme care. One would be unwise not to. I should like to read to the House a letter that Lord Halsbury, who was in the Gallery earlier, addressed to me as a result of hearing the hon. Member for Wellingborough. He wrote: I have listened with interest to Mr. Fry's speech on the Second Reading of the Bill. I do not feel that it is sufficiently appreciated that medical science derives from the parallel studies of the physiologist experimenting with a view to understanding normal functions and the pathologist studying abnormal functions. Each throws light on the other, and leads to understanding as the prime vehicle of therapy. Whatever halted the progress of the one would in the end halt progress in the other and bring medical science to a standstill. The immediate product of research is knowledge regarded as valuable in its own right. If this aim were abandoned, science itself would come to a standstill. I read the end of the letter because the House must understand that there is a great difference between the Halsbury Bill, which in general terms people like me would support, and this Bill.

I should like to give an example from licensing. It is what must be called the rat paradox. If I want to invent a better poison, I must poison rats in the course of my experiments, and for this I must have a Home Office licence. If I am successful, I can thereafter poison as many rats as I please, as painfully as I please, and sell the product to farmers or municipalities to do the same killing as they were doing in the first place. Perhaps that is a far-fetched example, but it illustrates the basic paradox that we face.

I received a letter from the Home Office dated 12 October in reply to my letter of 28 August. The letter was signed by the Minister and stated: You asked for our comments on the criticism that the Home Office does not collect information about the reasons for such tests. The return which persons licensed under the Cruelty to Animals Act 1876 are required to submit annually to the Department has fairly recently been completely revised. As a result the Department is now able for the first time to provide statistics showing the principal species of animals used, the main reason for the experiment, the special legislative or other reason for carrying out the experiment and information on techniques which may involve unusual or special disturbances of an animal's normal well-being…. In devising the new form of return, which increased the work involved for licensees in completing it, decisions had to be made about classification and about the amount of information which was required. As a result licensees are asked, among other matters, to select from a list of six possibilities a code for the particular type of experiment which they have performed. One of these codes is classified 'acute toxicity tests' and this category includes the LD50 test which is only one of a number of types of acute toxicity experiment. Although the statistics do no give separately the number and purpose of LD50 tests, they do give…the number, primary purpose, and legislative or other reason in respect of acute toxicity experiments performed. The contents of the code lists are of course kept under review, but the time scale which is required to effect changes does not really enable us to respond rapidly to demands for additional information about specific areas of experimentation which are the subject of particular public interest from time to time. The new form of annual return does however provide the public with much more information about animal experimentation…than ever before. I read that letter at some length because I did not wish to be accused of in any way misrepresenting in Hansard the Home Office on a very important aspect of the debate.

The Home Office collects data or the reasons for LD50 tests, as the Minister points out, but does not address itself to the utility of the tests. Despite the Cross report's conclusions, there is no agreement among toxicologists as to whether the LD50 tests are worth while. The vast majority of LD50 tests are conducted to fulfil the statutory requirements.

If the Minister had been winding up, I think that he would confirm that the LD50 tests are conducted to statutory requirements. People are rather careful about that.

I conclude by quoting a very powerful leader in the New Scientist on 15 November by Dr. Jeremy Cherfas: If experience is anything to go by, as it seems to be in this case, preliminary considerations will rapidly give way to strongly polarised opinions. We will gain little from further discussion of the present bills, especially as the initial drafts of the European convention look very promising. Rather than diverting resources to a reworking of the 1876 Act, the Government ought to reconsider the premises on which we use animals, so that when the time comes for legislation we will get an Act that promotes the sensible use of animals. I lay my case against the Bill. I will not vote against Second Reading, but I look forward to the educative process of the House that is provided in Committee. If the Bill reaches Third Reading, and if the hon. Member for Wellingborough (Mr. Fry) insists that he is not prepared to alter the core of the Bill, I will do my best to persuade hon. Members on both sides of the House not to give the Bill a Third Reading.

2.28 pm
Miss Janet Fookes (Plymouth, Drake)

I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Wellingborough (Mr. Fry) on his courage in tackling this very difficult subject. Perhaps the speech of the hon. Member for West Lothian (Mr. Dalyell) illustrates the difficulty involved.

Mr. James Hill (Southampton, Test)

The commercial lobby.

Miss Fookes

As to the commercial lobby—

Mr. Dalyell

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I am not going to be told that I am part of any commercial lobby. As it happens, I have talked to no commercial firm about this matter in preparation for my speech.

Miss Fookes

I return to my theme—

Mr. Dalyell

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I am very reluctant to raise these matters, but I am not going to be told that I am part of a commercial lobby. I am very concerned about the scientific community and medical researchers. I am not part of a commercial lobby.

Mr. Deputy Speaker

The hon. Gentleman has made his point, but it is not a point of order.

Miss Fookes

I am not sure to whom the hon. Gentleman's remark was addressed. I merely picked up a remark made by an hon. Friend of mine.

Mr. Dalyell

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I do not wish to prolong proceedings. If there has been a misunderstanding, I ask not for an apology but for a withdrawal of the remark.

Mr. Deputy Speaker

The hon. Gentleman has made his point.

Mr. Hill

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. How can the hon. Gentleman separate different aspects of the Bill? There is a commercial input and a scientific input.

Mr. Deputy Speaker

If the hon. Gentleman is hoping to intervene later, perhaps he will restrain himself until that opportunity arises.

Miss Fookes

Any consideration of this subject involves a painful and moral dilemma for those who are caring and compassionate about both animals and human beings.

Mr. Dalyell

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. The immediate question is whether I am part of the commercial lobby. I am saying that I am not part the commercial lobby.

Mr. Deputy Speaker

It appears to me that the hon. Gentleman has said that four times. I think that that is enough.

Mr. Dalyell

I am asking the hon. Lady, through you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, whether she thinks that I am part of the commercial lobby?

Mr. Deputy Speaker

The hon. Lady has said that she was not the hon. Member who made that observation.

Miss Fookes

I trust that I may now be allowed to develop my argument without undue interruption. I make the point again that any consideration of the subject must involve painful and moral dilemmas. Animal experiments may, and indeed do, lead to the alleviation of suffering and pain both in animals and in human beings. On the other hand, these experiments may, and often do, involve the suffering and death of the animals.

As in the abortion debate, there are those who say that in no circumstances are any experiments justified on lesser beings. Others say that in the interests of science, or whatever one calls it, experiments should be freely carried out—on demand. Most would try to steer a middle course. That is the point that my hon. Friend has made in presenting his Bill. He has tried to ensure that experiments are allowable only where recognisable good of a serious kind will result. Experiments which are permitted must be carried out as humanely as possible.

I do not want to enter now into the argument about how restrictive clause 2(1) is with regard to the advancement of biological science, but I hope that my hon. Friend will not be seduced into weakening it too much. No scientist has a divine right to experiment in the name of truth or science. That is my strongly held view. His work must be related to some tangible good for human beings or for animals.

Several points are worrying the general public. If one wanted proof of that, the petition presented by my hon. Friend earlier today amply demonstrated the sincerity of the concern felt by more than a million people—and probably by many more who did not have the opportunity to sign the petition.

I want to go through some of the main areas of concern, to see how the Bill measures up. First, most members of the public are revolted by the thought of animals suffering pain with nothing to help them by way of anaesthetics, and so on. Certainly the RSPCA is disappointed that there is no absolute "non-pain" clause—although I recognise that there are difficulties in introducing such a provision.

However, the Bill goes a long way towards meeting objections on that score, even if it does not do so entirely. I am particularly pleased about the grading of licences with grade IV, permitting the infliction of pain, allowable only by the Secretary of State and on the advice of the advisory committee. That is a necessary restriction and I hope that it will be a discipline on such experiments, which concern the public.

There is, however, a weakness in the Bill, inasmuch as the advisory committee, which will have a crucial role in advising the Secretary of State about allowing an experiment which permits pain, will not have a statutory existence. I believe that it should have that status. At the moment, the Home Secretary will use his discretion. There should be a statutory body and its composition should be enacted in the Bill.

Furthermore, there should be a strong welfare element—if I may put it thus—as well as a scientific element on the advisory committee. I believe that the previous advisory committee sanctioned the go-ahead on LD50 tests, which did not reassure those of us who are opposed to them about the constitution of the committee. One wants to be absolutely certain that any future advisory committee is constituted as strongly as possible.

We have heard the arguments for and against the controversial use of animals in the testing of cosmetics. I speak as an enthusiastic user of cosmetics, but I am perfectly willing to trade in any improved ones for the sake of the animals concerned. In other words, I should be perfectly willing to be told "No new cosmetics are to come on the market because we will not use animals to test them and it is not safe to use them without testing on animals." I would accept that, as I think would many other women, and indeed men.

There is always the difficulty of defining a "cosmetic", but it should not be impossible to devise some wording to provide that the primary purpose of a cosmetic is beautification and that it has no particular therapeutic content. That is my strong feeling, which I believe is shared by many other members of the public.

The third area which concerns members of the public is the duplication of experiments. I am delighted that the Bill includes a provision which would lay a duty on those experimenting to ensure that they did not repeat experiments of which the results were already known. That is a major advance, which was not included in the 1876 Act. I can think of nothing more disquieting than to allow such experiments when the results can be found elsewhere.

Members of the public are concerned to see that there is an impetus in the direction of alternatives to the use of animals. Hitherto, nothing in the law has encouraged such an impetus. It is not enough for the Home Office to send our circulars and advice to those doing research. It is far better to embody this provision in law.

I am glad that the Bill requires the sponsor of someone seeking a licence to ensure that no alternative is available. As we learn more about the alternatives, I think that this clause will become more and more important. It can easily be adapted to changing circumstances.

What causes more public disquiet than anything else perhaps is the realisation that much of what happens in laboratories goes on behind closed doors. It is impossible to get accurate information, and there is no proper accountability to the public. We remember, for example, the enormous protests sparked off by the information about experiments on animals at the Institute of Animal Physiology at Babraham. The Daily Star tried to get information on this matter, but its investigation had all the aura of a detective story. This is not good enough. I hope that the Bill will be strengthened on the question of public information and accountability.

I am pleased that the Home Office returns will now give much more detailed and accurate information about what is happening. I suspect that my hon. Friend the Member for Brighton, Kemptown (Mr. Bowden), who raised the question whether cats were being used at Sussex university, will be able to have this verified by the new Home Office returns, in which species will have to be set out. It is a great worry if suspicions are aroused about what is happening but no one can find out the facts.

For that reason, I also welcome the clause which allows the recording of what happens in laboratories. It is a wise precaution that animal experiments should not take place especially for the purposes of recording without a good reason, but one of the main difficulties is that no one can make a recording in a laboratory without being caught by the provisions forbidding public exhibition in the 1876 Act.

Those provisions were intended to prevent morbid public curiosity from being whetted by the showing of experiments for the sake of vulgar entertainment. However, one unfortunate result is that this has prevented people from knowing what was going on. I therefore appreciate the fact that the Bill will allow recordings to be made of what happens in laboratories.

Many people have been very upset when their pets have been stolen, and they fear that it may have been for the purposes of vivisection or animal experiments. There must have been a great deal of worry and suffering to human beings who fear that this is the fate which has overtaken their missing pets. The position should be cleared up by the proviso in the Bill that animals for experimental purposes shall come only from establishments which are licensed for the purpose. With inflation increasing, there must have been an increasing tendency for less reputable laboratories to take animals which have probably been stolen and not obtained from proper sources. This provision is of the greatest importance, and I hope that it will remain firmly in the Bill.

There is one other matter which concerns the public, and that is the general care and treatment of animals intended for laboratory experiments, not only during the experiments themselves but before and after. It is a strong point in favour of the Bill that it provides for regulations which will lay down firmly what the requirements are and possibly a code of conduct which will go into rather more detail. But I believe it is essential that there should be a legislative requirement so that people can be prosecuted if they do not comply.

It is especially important not only that animals should be given the proper food and sufficient water but that they should be kept in conditions appropriate to their species. I can imagine, for example, that a monkey used for an experimental purpose might be more subject to suffering as a result of being kept for months in a small cage than perhaps in an experiment where it is under an anaesthetic. Previously, nothing like this was covered by legislation, so I look forward very much to the proper implementation of this provision.

I do not suggest that the Bill meets all the requirements that I should like to see from the animal welfare point of view. But I recognise that my hon. Friend has had a difficult task in trying to get together a Bill which will be acceptable to the animal welfare lobby and those who have interests in the conduct of experiments.

The Research Defence Society has expressed its strong opposition to the Bill, and I have in my possession a letter from that body addressed to the secretaries of various scientific societies and trade associations saying: we advise that as many individuals and bodies as can be encouraged to do so should write to MPs and to relevant authoritative ministries in order to maximise opposition to the Bill in Parliament when it comes up for its Second Reading debate on 16th November. My hon. Friend should take heart from that.

2.43 pm
Mr. Peter Hardy (Rother Valley)

I commend the hon. Member for Wellingborough (Mr. Fry) and others involved in the considerable effort which clearly has been devoted to the Bill. Although research is necessary, it is obvious that the law needs to be modernised. I wish the Bill well.

As my hon. Friend the Member for Halifax (Dr. Summerskill) pointed out, I served on the Home Office advisory committee until this summer, and I was tempted to make a rather longer comment than I propose to do. However, I am concerned that the Deer Bill should be considered, as should the measure sponsored by my hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, West (Mr. Dean), because they, too, are desirable measures, and I hope that they will not suffer from our extended debate on this Bill.

I hesitated about whether I should speak at all because, as hon. Members will know, these subjects arouse enormous correspondence. With a population of 150,000 in my constituency, I do not really welcome an inrush of mail from outside it. However, experience in my constituency leads me to speak in this debate, although I shall restrict my contributions to the supply of animals for research purposes and offer a welcome to the provisions in clause 2.

I hope that I shall not face the same unjustified, uncalled-for and unwithdrawn comment which my hon. Friend the Member for West Lothian (Mr. Dalyell) experienced when he referred to commercial establishments.

Mr. Hill

I thought that I had made it clear that, when talking about this Bill, commercial and scientific interests cannot be divided.

Mr. Hardy

I hope that that clarifies the position for my hon. Friend the Member for West Lothian. But there is a difference between the hon. Gentleman's comment now, which I welcome, and his comment about a commercial lobby to which my hon. Friend very properly objected.

Commercial establishments nowadays usually act quite responsibly in ensuring that research animals are acquired from proper sources. They are acting properly in response to pressure and encouragement from the Home Office. I am delighted that the Home Office has encouraged commercial establishments to maintain that higher standard. But I am not sure that the same comment can be made of all the research institutions for which the Government have a more direct responsibility.

It is certain that there is a substantial traffic in stolen or dishonestly acquired animals. Recent press reports have aroused considerable concern. The Home Office recognises that concern but, as it said in a letter to me a few days ago, it feels that the practice is not at all common. I believe that it is a great deal more widespread than the Home Office believes.

Official statistics may not be all that accurate. Not all lost dogs are reported. Since half the adult dogs in the country are not licensed, owners will not go to a police station to report that unlicensed dogs are missing. Since it is an offence in many areas for dogs to wander about on major roads unaccompanied, the owner whose dog has strayed is less likely to report it missing since he feels that he will be charged with committing an offence if he does. In many areas, if a dog is missing, the reaction is to suspect that a farmer or gamekeeper in the locality is responsible for its destruction. Thus, far fewer dogs are reported missing than are stolen.

There is proof of the practice in my constituency. During the past year or two, I have received a number of complaints about missing dogs. Fortunately, a good bit of police work by the South Yorkshire police force and the local RSPCA inspector led to a prosecution. The members of a gang were prosecuted and punished in my constituency for stealing a dog. They stole the dog, took it to a dealer not very far away, and received a small sum. The dealer then took the stolen dog to a research establishment in Leeds—I acquit my hon. Friend the Member for Leeds West of all responsibility for that—and, fortunately, the dog was recovered before any experimentation had begun. But that does not explain the fact that quite a large number of dogs have disappeared and never been recovered from my constituency and other parts of South Yorkshire. This is a very disreputable practice.

That experience in my constituency convinces me that the CRAE proposals should be effected swiftly. It should become an offence for dogs or cats to be procured for research other than from reputable, reliable, and accredited sources. I do not believe that the present sources of supply—the network of dealers operating in the country—is in any way satisfactory or estimable.

Experience is not restricted to South Yorkshire. It is a more general problem. I have seen a detailed report of a visit to a rather unsavoury establishment in Surrey. It is clear that there is anxiety about widespread thefts of pet animals in Essex and other parts of the country.

Of course, it is a very profitable trade. A dealer can buy a stolen dog for £5 or £6 and sell it for £50 or more. A research establishment operating on a tight budget—and it may become tighter as a result of the Government's public expenditure policy—and wishing to buy a dog from an accredited breeding establishment will have to pay more than £100. So there is a real incentive for the maintenance of this sordid trade.

Since I doubt whether these dealers are making generous contributions to the Inland Revenue, it seems that society ought to insist on proper activity. I would not object to the Inland Revenue examining the books of some of the dealers whose activities have been properly reported in the national press.

Whether or not the Inland Revenue involves itself in this matter, the hon. Member for Wellingborough is right to take his initiative and to insist that we should establish more reputable arrangements for the supply of research animals. It is not in the best interests of family life or the good name and comfort of those engaged in science that they are associated with this sordid business. I hope that the Bill, and particularly this part of it, reaches the statute book.

2.50 pm
Mr. James Hill (Southampton, Test)

I rise with pleasure to speak on the Bill because this subject was my first choice. My hon. Friend the Member for Wellingborough (Mr. Fry), who drew such a good number in the ballot, was also keen to promote a Bill on this subject and I was only too pleased to give way to him. I realise, from the masterly way that he has tackled this matter, the tremendous amount of work he must have put in over the last two or three months. I was glad, however, to have handed the task over to him. Any attempt to replace major legislation on this issue by a Private Member's Bill is to be applauded. I hope that the Government will give my hon. Friend every assistance possible in Committee.

I became involved in what is known as the animal lobby not long ago. There is no doubt that the British public during the general election campaign was disturbed about the fate of animals in this context. What I have managed to pick up from the various statistics of experiments on living animals has proved to me that the gut reaction of the British public is reflected in the great concern of this House.

One example from the statistics concerns medical interference with the central nervous system in animals. In one experiment in particular, 1,547 cats and 168 dogs were used. The statistics are appalling. In 1977, 8,366 cats and 14,119 dogs were used in such experiments.

Those opposing this Bill will, obviously, quote only the incidence of experiments on less desirable rodents. It is a matter of great concern that so many of our domestic animals not only disappear from the streets but are subsequently used in experiments for which, surely, in this scientific age, there are alternatives.

I applaud that part of the Bill which deals with establishments which breed animals for experimentation. Such establishments in the past have been poorly supervised or not supervised at all. The conditions in which animals were kept did not cater for their needs. It might be asked why they should receive attention considering that they are bred in a black market, as it were, for sale at almost less than cost.

The British public were alerted when these experiments were highlighted in the famous beagles case. We heard of shampoos being dropped into the eyes of animals over many weeks to find out whether those substances should be kept out of the reach of children. We were told of the force-feeding of animals—as in the LD50 test. That test is part of the cosmetics world and merely proves that if one released children in a cosmetic factory they would not kill themselves if they stuffed themselves with lipsticks.

Are these experiments justified? I understand well that researchers and the medical world do not wish to be unduly restricted. I am sure that when the Bill goes into Committee my hon. Friend will bear this in mind and that the question will come up time and time again. Will our so-called compassionate society sit by for ever while commercial experiments on living animals are conducted for the sole purpose of producing new lines which will sell more profitably than the old ones?

The number of animals used in these experiments is horrific My hon. Friend quoted a total of 5 million in one year. That figure must impress even the most heartless people who see nothing but good in experiments on animals. We must experiment more with alternatives. The Humane Research Trust wrote to me and sent a well-explained pamphlet. The trust's experience is that an increasing number of scientists could readily adapt to experiments which do not use animals and find the exercise more accurate and cost-effective.

I am, and will remain, a layman in this context, but surely when the Bill goes into Committee it will be possible to check on that. Are certain science-based lobbies thinking only of cost without examining alternative forms of experiment for commercial purposes?

The argument from the commercial lobby will be dealt with adequately by those in command of the right words such as scientists and Lord Halsbury. The scientists will put forward a case which will sweep the commercial lobby along with them. There is no way of subdividing the Bill. If we listen only to the argument of Lord Halsbury, the commercial interests will remain intact. I sincerely hope that the Home Secretary, when he comes to assist my hon. Friend, will bear this in mind. Many more arguments could be used, but time is running out. I shall vote for the Bill. I hope that the fears of those who oppose the Bill will be eroded in Committee. The House owes a debt to my hon. Friend the Member for Wellingborough.

2.58 pm
Mr. Ted Graham (Edmonton)

In a week in which the House has spent much time on important topics such as Rhodesia, shipbuilding, the economy, steel and espionage, it is fitting that we have been able to find the time to discuss this Bill. The purpose of today's debate is to expose what is happening and to look forward to a better future.

I listened to most of the speech by the hon. Member for Wellingborough (Mr. Fry) but I apologise for one or two absences. I agree that the Bill should be given a Second Reading, but the hon. Member for Wellingborough was wise to say that he recognised that the Bill requires careful scrutiny in Committee.

There is widespread disquiet about animals being hideously exploited. We have the miserable task of sitting here today knowing that the practices of which we have been made aware are continuing. Many hon. Members have demonstrated their knowledge of the subject and have called for a change in the law. My intervention is the result of a gut reaction to the appalling situation for which we, as legislators, carry prime responsibility.

Several hon. Members have used illustrations in their argument. In this case repetition is not tedious. Various organisations have told me of what is going on under the present law, and that is what forced me to my feet today. More than 5 million animals a year are subjected to experiments, and those are authorised under present procedures. About 80 or 90 per cent. of the experiments involve rodents—and they are entitled to consideration—but last year there were 314,000 experiments on birds, 199,000 on rabbits, 13,000 on dogs and almost 8,000 on cats.

I have been told about some of these experiments. Guinea pigs were put into plastic containers and irradiated with fission neutrons. All of them died within six days. Another group was subjected to cobalt gamma rays and died within eight days. Before dying they were bled from the stomach, intestines and lungs.

A number of rabbits were subjected to operations in which most of the brain was destroyed. The experimenter found that those brain-damaged rabbits still learnt to press a treadle to obtain food. Another experiment involved morphine being injected in a certain part of the brain of conscious cats. Their pupils became large, they became excited and made rapid circling movements from time to time. When morphine was injected into another part of the brain, the cats drooled at the mouth, panted, vomited and made vigorous scratching movements.

In another experiment a veterinary surgeon, assisted by other scientists, poisoned pedigreed dogs with the weedkiller sodium chlorate. Those illustrations are authenticated.

Mr. and Mrs. Kline, who are constituents of mine, told me of an experiment which was published in the Journal of Physiology in 1977. In their letter they state that at St. Thomas' hospital Rabbits were taken and subjected to intensive surgery. This involved opening up the chest and implanting a tube while simultaneously implanting a tube into the neck. A metal plate was fixed to the skull through which a probe could later be passed into the brain. After sewing up the extensive wounds and securing the plate to the skull with acrylic cement the animals were allowed to recover. They were kept like this for five days and then placed in stocks so they could not move as they were conscious and would have attempted to struggle at the procedures which were to follow. The ends of the tubes into the chest and throat were opened and fluid at different temperatures was poured through. At the same time a heat probe was passed into the brain. The letter continues: The animals were conscious. What was the purpose of this horrendous suffering? To find out if rabbits have temperature sensors in heart and lungs. Do you think this information was important enough to justify the intense and prolonged suffering of these animals? This work has already been done before but these 'Scientists?' just wanted to check their results! Such illustrations convince many people that the 1876 Act, whose provisions make such experiments possible by licence, should be changed.

Reference has been made to commercial and scientific lobbies. Any cost occasioned by experiments should be borne by the commercial lobby. However, if public funds are required to eradicate those practices, I am prepared to put my hand up and vote public money. I totally agree that, when available, alternative experimental matter should be made compulsory to prevent unnecessary suffering. When I read the information that arrived in my post-bag, I was impressed with the work of the advisory committee on reform of animal experimentation. That committee points out that originally the Cruelty to Animals Act was intended to cover genuine medical and veterinary research.

There are serious defects in the 1876 Act due to the exemption clauses. Under certificate A, 80 per cent. of experiments performed are exempted. In order to remedy that fact, legislation should be passed either in the form of the present Bill or in an amended form. This Bill will, I hope, serve and secure four main objectives.

First, I hope that the Bill will secure the restriction, if not the abolition, of pain. Secondly, the Bill should secure a very substantial reduction in the number of animals used, bearing in mind that 5 million animals were used last year. Thirdly, the development and use of humane alternatives as methods of research must be obtained. Fourthly, research must be open to scrutiny and fully accountable to the public.

I was glad to receive the sponsor's assurance that the Bill is not intended to impede vital medical research. However, one of my constituents, Dr. Sheila Lewis of the North Middlesex hospital, wrote me a letter in which she refers to clause 2 and says: Clause 2, on close reading, is highly restrictive for innovative research, and Mr. Fry's statement that he has sought the views of the scientific community seems difficult to substantiate as he has not discussed this Bill with the Research Defence Society the Physiological Society, or the Royal Society. I think we would all agree with that first sentiment. I appreciate that the hon. Member for Wellingborough has undertaken wide consultations, but I should like to know whether he has attempted to consult some of the opposition.

Mr. Fry

Many discussions took place, but many of those involved in the medical profession do not want to be named, for obvious reasons. If the Bill is given a Second Reading, I shall be happy to talk to any who wish to discuss it with me before the Committee stage.

Mr. Graham

That is a genuine and honest statement of intent. I shall send my constituent a copy of Hansard should she wish to pursue the matter.

If the Bill is pressed to a vote, it will have my support.

3.10 pm
Mr. John H. Osborn (Sheffield, Hallam)

First, I should like to congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Wellingborough (Mr. Fry) on having the good fortune to be lucky in the ballot and on the way in which he has presented his case today.

I should like to follow some of the remarks of the hon. Member for West Lothian (Mr. Dalyell). I shall not vote against this Bill and I hope that the House will give it a Second Reading. However, I have grave personal reservations about it in its present form. I thank my hon. Friend for some of the reassurances that he has given during the debate.

However well the existing legislation may be working, and I believe that in the circumstances it is working reasonably well, I still believe that the Government and Parliament must look at this issue and move now because of widespread public feeling.

I introduce a personal note. A distant relative of mine, the late Sir Kenneth Robson, when he was president of the Royal College of Physicians, aroused my interest in this matter. He invited me to meet many doctors who were concerned about the ethics and morals of what they were doing, particularly in the area of experiment and research. Subsequently a Sheffield citizen, Professor David Smyth, who died recently, and who was emeritus professor of physiology at Sheffield university, wrote a book entitled "Alternatives to Animal Experiments". I believe that the House is unaware of the extent to which those who carry out these experiments want to improve and maintain a good code of practice for such experiments. Therefore, it is wrong to imply that, because of the errors of the minority, the majority are not intensely interested in this matter. My hon. Friend the Member for Southampton, Test (Mr. Hill) talked about commercial objectives and the other side, but the use of experiments has been given considerable thought by doctors and we should not forget this.

In the foreword to Professor Smyth's book, written by Mr. Gowans, secretary of the Medical Research Council at the time, the dilemma is emphasised. Mr. Gowans said: The public demand for medical advances which will alleviate the suffering and premature death caused by disease finds its expression in the provision of larger sums of public and private money to finance medical research. In the UK organisations collect money for work on a range of particular diseases, notably research on cancer. This social pressure for continuing medical advances would appear to imply an acceptance of the methods employed for medical research including the use of experimental animals. My hon. Friend the Member for Plymouth, Drake (Miss Fookes) said that public esteem for medical research is balanced by public concern for animal welfare. The Parliamentary and Scientific Committee concerned itself with this matter and had a seminar on 15 November 1977. I should like to read the words Dr. Edward Paget used in addressing that committee: I am going to begin by stating some assumptions which I don't propose to debate here. First of all, something we must assume as the basis of our discussion is that the taking of animal life and the infliction of suffering on animals for human benefit is justified. Having listened to this debate, I have my doubts about that as relating to opinion in the House today. He goes on: I assume that useful knowledge is gained by an animal experiment and some useful knowledge can only be gained on whole animals. His third point is: On the general matter of safety evaluation, I propose the thought that not only does medicine make important contributions to human life but also that all modern society depends on a very high level of chemical technology, retreat from which is now completely inconceivable. That is the background against which I came to the subject. Obviously the British people have hit at the commercial lobby and the multinationals, and obviously they are lovers of animals.

Mention has been made of a campaign in The Star, which I read with great interest. Of course, my hon. Friend the Member for Plymouth, Drake is chairman of the RSPCA.

The dilemma is in deciding what sort of legislation will solve the problems Parliament wants to tackle. The Bill may seek to provide a charter to protect man's dumb friend the animal, and it is a worthy purpose. I recognise that that is the object of the petition. However, the Bill must not obstruct medical science and progress in this matter. It must not obstruct pure research, and it must not be allowed to increase risk to health and human life. That is the dilemma Parliament faces today.

I did not state clearly that I came into this issue as an adviser of the Research Defence Society, and as such I have received an instructive education. I am glad that it was made clear in the figures on experiments of animals that of the 5 million conducted, 3 million concerned mice and 1 million concerned rats. In addition, 0.25 per cent. of all experiments are on dogs and 0.14 per cent. on cats. Although we are a nation of animal lovers, we tend in certain industrial areas, I regret to say, to neglect our pets, although that is another issue.

I turn back to the question of commercial pressures. The Medicines Act applies to human and veterinary products. The Health and Safety at Work etc. Act applies in this area, and there is provision for increased testing under pressure from Government agencies and trade unions. The Health and Safety Executive has a new notification scheme for chemicals. There is also the pesticides safety protection scheme. All those measures demand that those making these products should carry out a reasonable standard of care in their production. It is for that reason that I raised the question of product liability in an intervention.

It is obviously appropriate to discuss the present working of the law relating to experiments on animals. In this respect one has to consider the registration of premises and the existing grade certificates. I have here the 1876 Act, which emphasises provisions in respect of pain and the use of anaesthetics in the case of cats and dogs. Lord Halsbury's Bill in the House of Lords is supported by one group of people who are concerned to secure a balance of conscience in the conduct of these experiments.

In the House today, and in the other place on 25 October, there has been reference to the Council of Europe. I hope that the work that the Council is doing will not be used as an excuse for delaying the determination of the attitude of this country, in this House and in the other place, on this matter. Many people in this country have reservations about the way in which the French, Germans and Belgians will put into practice what is contained in the Council of Europe's convention, particularly after a display of different attitudes towards the export of live animals. I believe, in the light of that, that this country should go ahead on its own.

My hon. Friend the Member for Wellingborough has undertaken a mammoth task. He has obviously taken advice from some group and has perhaps been unable to obtain it from others. I was disappointed to hear such an attack on the Research Defence Society. It is inevitable that some people believe that it represents the vested interests of the doctors. My association with the group is based on trying to work with inspectors, people at universities and others, who want to deal with the problem facing those conducting experiments on animals.

I could elaborate on many of the points that have been raised. However, I shall concentrate on considering the number of inspectors who may be required to implement the Bill.

The Home Secretary should realise that the medical profession, the technicians, the universities and even the professional managers with technical qualifications would be willing to stand by recommendations and a code of practice and to a certain extent monitor their own work. They wish to maintain their professional integrity in these fields as well as in others.

Lord Halsbury's Bill is before the House of Lords and will go to a Select Committee, and I hope that my hon. Friend's Bill will go before a Standing Committee of this House within a few months. Lord Houghton, who at one time represented the constituency of Sowerby, and many senior surgeons and physicians supported Lord Halsbury in another place. I hope that my hon. Friend will encourage the Committee in that other place to consider his proposals together with those put forward by the scientists, inspectors and others, as the Act is over 100 years old.

There is one additional aspect. There is to be created a Select Committee on Education, Science and the Arts. It may well be wise to leave this issue with that Committee, if differences between the attitudes of the two Houses cannot be resolved.

If Parliament—both houses—cannot reach agreement this year, I hope that a future Home Secretary will see these matters through. I trust that my hon. Friend can make progress and put me in a position where I can vote for the Bill on Third Reading. At present I should have to vote against it.

3.25 pm
Mr. David Mellor (Putney)

I welcome the Bill, which has been ably and clearly presented by my hon. Friend the Member for Wellingborough (Mr. Fry), and I pay tribute to him for what must have been hours and days of hard work.

The Bill has been brought forward early in this Parliament, notwithstanding many major preoccupations, and that is a proper reflection of the importance that the public attribute to animal welfare. Our experiences during the election and our post-bags today confirm that concern. The manifestos of the two leading parties contained provisions on animal welfare, and that represents a genuine feeling by the party leaderships that action is required. However, it would be regrettable if the issue became a cause for party dog fights, but that is unlikely, as has been demonstrated by today's cross-party agreement.

The area of dispute, although important, is a narrow one. The 1876 Act was passed in a different era when totally different forms of research and numbers of experiments were undertaken. No one has suggested that the Act does not need reform, and what we are debating is the shape of the reform. In order to move forward in medical research, animals are needed in experiments, and no hon. Member would wish to impede progress. However, rules and restrictions are needed for even the most desirable of practices and we must re-examine the present restrictions.

I have two crucial reasons for saying that the Bill should become law—and the sooner the better. First, whatever anybody may say about medical research, far more experiments are carried out for commercial products than for medical research. We must examine that area. As has been pointed out in the debate, that matter is closely bound up with the future of the Bill. The argument cannot be taken totally into the sphere of medical research.

Secondly, there are alternatives to research on animals. I have been greatly assisted in preparing my thoughts on this subject by learning more about the work of the Humane Research Society. It has established that if the will exists to carry out and find alternatives to procedures that presently involve experimenting on animals, considerable success may be achieved. However, for commercial enterprises—and some pure scientific research—animals are a cheaper and easier form of carrying out experiments than the trouble and fuss of looking for alternatives. Unless the House decrees that the effort must be made to find alternatives, human nature being what it is, they will not be found.

The hon. Member for West Lothian (Mr. Dalyell) thoroughly mastered the points that can be made in opposition to my hon. Friend's Bill, as we would have expected of him. He put forward a view which it would be wrong to ignore. I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Sheffield, Hallam (Mr. Osborn) on doing the same. However, given the recognition expressed by my hon. Friend the Member for Wellingborough that major changes are needed in some of the key clauses, it is essentially a job for Committee. No doubt all of us here today are prepared to offer our judgment and time to that Committee. Given the underlying agreement about the need for reform, sensible changes can be made. If I am chosen to serve on the Committee, I would be prepared to play my part in that process.

Mr. Raison

I should like to clarify the response that I made to my hon. Friend the Member for Wellingborough (Mr. Fry). I should make clear that I cannot give an unconditional undertaking to make all efforts to further the progress of the Bill in Committee. There are a number of important problems. Nevertheless, I shall not be obstructive in Committee or decline to give the Committee constructive advice. That is the Government's stand.

Mr. Mellor

It is apposite that my hon. Friend should have intervened now. I was about to deal with some of his remarks.

The Government raised expectations in their manifesto that something would be done about the problem. My hon. Friend should not underestimate the degree of public cynicism. He should recognise that the talk about "waiting for Europe" may not be accepted at face value by people outside. Of course, I accept unequivocally that he and his Department sincerely hold that view, but he is open to criticism for taking such a stance. Sadly, I am bound to offer one or two points of criticism in the time that remains to me.

In the time that will elapse before the Bill goes into Committee, and in Committee, the Government should be able to put their views, given the research that was carried out some years ago.

The House should not give great weight to the European consideration. It is not acceptable for the House to be in a state of legislative paralysis because a European convention is being considered. That will not enhance our reputation as a powerhouse rather than a gasworks. I have not spent today waiting to contribute to the debate to improve the heating in the building by the hot air that I exude during my speech. I believe this to be the first stage in bringing forward an important legislative change that millions of our fellow citizens wish to see made. That is the light in which I should like my contribution to be considered.

The attitude of waiting for Europe reminds me irresistibly of the French revolutionary Roland, who, while the mob was rampaging through Paris in the 1848 revolution, was wringing his hands and saying "I must follow them, for I am their leader". Surely the point about Europe is that we are there to show an educated view on these matters. The view of the hon. Member for Rother Valley (Mr. Hardy) is irresistible. We should tell Europe "We have reformed our legislation and it is about time that you did likewise".

We have all travelled widely through Europe and we know that the standards of animal welfare in many European countries leave a great deal to be desired. One-half of the birds in Italy are slaughtered each year, and anything that moves, including human beings, is slaughtered in France during the hunting season. We shall not be able to bring them up to our standards within a period that will be acceptable to my electors or to the electors of most other hon. Members. It will take years. I am dissatisfied that the Minister is unable to say when he expects the European convention to emerge. That says more about his honesty than about the progress being made in Europe.

We have turned legislation on its head too often in recent years to believe that there would be anything preposterous in changing our minds five or six years from now and going back on actions that may not, with hindsight, seem as well considered as first thought.

It has been well said in another context that there is no force so irresistible as an idea whose time has come. The time has come, in the public view and, I suspect, the view of most hon. Members, for action to be taken in this area. I hope that everything possible will be done, particularly by the Home Office, to ensure that we have this major Bill on the statute book before too many months have passed.

3.32 pm
Mr. Iain Mills (Meriden)

I shall be brief. I have enormous sympathy with hon. Members on both sides of the House whose Bills follow this Bill on the Order Paper. I should like to support a number of them, and, if I am brief, it may be possible for some of those Bills to be presented. That was the reason for my earlier intervention in the debate.

I am a long-time worker for animal welfare, and as such I was pleased to see the petition brought before the House today because two years ago I was one of those who collected signatures on that petition. The subject of the Bill of my hon. Friend the Member for Wellingborough (Mr. Fry) is near to my heart.

For the sake of brevity, and because my hon. Friend presented the Bill so brilliantly and comprehensively, I shall touch on only two or three desperately important issues.

The issue is presented as one of morality. There are huge moral issues involved, particularly the rightness of using animals in the furtherance of human purposes. The Bill copes admirably with the moral aspects where human purposes are justifiable.

However, I suggest that the questions are related more to cost than to morality. Is it moral to say that the development of new shampoos—fundamental, far-reaching, technologically advanced shampoos—requires the use of animals? The truth is that there is little fundamental research in this area. The vast majority of animals used in cosmetics, shampoo and, indeed, medical research are so used because they are cheaper than any alternatives, and because most of that development is for better marketable products. The reason for the development is not the furtherance of humanity but the furtherance of the market share of that commercial concern.

The moral issue is whether we are prepared to allow animals to be used just to save money. I am a prime exponent of private enterprise, but my answer to that question is "No". The percentage of animals required for essential human beneficial research is small.

I support what my hon. Friend the Member for Putney (Mr. Mellor) said about the attitude of Europe towards legislation. We have seen how chauvinistic the Community's views can be. I can say, at least on behalf of my constituents who are interested in animals, that we are not prepared to see millions of animals suffer and die during the years of prevarication and negotiation that will be necessary with our difficult European partners. Does my hon. Friend the Minister realise that in the time it will take, even if it is one or two years, millions of animals will suffer and die? If we take action here today, the numbers will at least be limited.

Mr. Burden

The Littlewood committee was set up in order to look into this matter, and it reported. However, it was five years before we could even get that report discussed on the Floor of the House. Therefore, the time for delay has gone.

Mr. Mills

I welcome my hon. Friend's comments. I hope that we manage to avoid that terrible five-year delay and five years of suffering.

The alternatives are there. I come from an industry which is not one of very high technology, yet the use of micro-chips and computers in the motor car industry is well known. Surely, sophisticated programmes producing model simulations are much more a part of medical research than are, in 1979, mashed rabbit brains. Is this really the true basis of medical and scientific research in 1979? I can hardly believe it.

The Bill deals admirably with the first stage of reducing abuse. I greatly commend it.

3.36 pm
Mr. Andrew Bowden (Brighton, Kemptown)

I add my congratulations to my hon. Friend the Member for Wellingborough (Mr. Fry) on having brought forward the Bill. He described it as a moderate Bill. If I were to criticise it in any way, I might say that it is perhaps a little too moderate. I have for a long time believed that this House should have had presented to it many years ago a completely new Bill on animal welfare in order to update legislation right across the board for the protection of animals, for those that are exploited or ill treated under the old but existing legislation. However, this Bill is a major step forward.

We should not underestimate the deep public feeling about the treatment of animals and the number of experiments. A Gallup poll was taken two years ago. That showed some very remarkable results, in that 79 per cent. of those interviewed said that they believed that the Government should set up a Royal Commission to have another look at all aspects of the use of animals for experiments. I think that that proposal is now in the past, because it is too late. No less than 82 per cent. of those polled wanted a ban on the use of live animals for research not essential to the welfare of mankind, including the testing of cosmetics and food colouring agents.

When 82 per cent. of the population indicate, through a highly reputable poll, that they are prepared to accept the implications of that, this House will ignore that at its peril. The rest of the poll showed how strongly the public feel.

Of course, many members of the public do not realise even now the extent to which animals are exploited. If that were fully understood, millions would erupt with fury. I personally find it totally unacceptable that there are 100,000 experiments every week, but there is only a tiny handful of inspectors to check the uses and the operations by 20,000 licence holders. That tiny handful of inspectors cannot do that job properly.

Earlier this year the authorities at Sussex university made a statement in which they claimed that only experiments on pigeons, rats and chicks were undertaken at the university. Then, in September of this year, a Dr. Lennie of Sussex university admitted that cats were being used and killed as a result of experiments.

What was said by Dr. Lennie reveals his mentality, as I think it reveals the mentality of what I hope to be only a minority of those engaged in experiments on animals. The university had been attacked because it was alleged that kittens were being used for experiments. What worries me is that Dr. Lennie said, according to a report in the local newspaper: We have never used kittens here—for obvious reasons. It is not a nice thing to do if you want to avoid bad publicity. Such a statement greatly disturbs me, because it shows his true thinking and attitude towards animals. He is really saying that the only reason why kittens are not used is that their use might give the university a bad name or it might obtain bad publicity.

When a large number of experiments are carried out by a comparatively small number of people, they will inevitably, after a time, become callous and uncaring about the animals that they are handling. There are not enough inspectors to check such operations adequately.

We rightly hear a great deal about human rights. I believe that compassion and mercy should be extended to all living creatures on God's earth.

Question put and agreed to.

Bill accordingly read a Second time.

Bill committed to a Standing Committee pursuant to Standing Order No. 40 (Committal of Bills).

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