§ Consideration of amendments on Report resumed.
Lord Melchett moved Amendment No. 10:
Page 8, line 6, at end insert—
(" ( ) The conditions of all project licences shall include a condition to the effect that all animals subjected to a regulated
procedure likely to result in substantial pain or distress or death shall be subject to surveillance and monitoring throughout each 24 hour period.").
§ The noble Lord said: My Lords, again we come back to something that we discussed at Committee stage but in a more restricted area. Noble Lords will remember that at Committee stage we had a number of amendments down to this clause of the Bill aimed at ensuring that all animals that were subject to experimental procedures were kept under watch and monitored and a number of other approaches were used to try to see that animals were not left, particularly through the night or at weekends, suffering and dying without anyone being aware of what was happening. A number of objections were raised, by the Government in particular, to the different amendments. The suggestion was made that the amendments were too sweeping, that they would be impractical and so on.
§ Having reconsidered the matter, a number of us felt that there was still a need to ensure that, in particular circumstances, the Bill made certain that animals were not left to die without anyone being conscious of it, or left in distress without anyone being around to alleviate that distress.
§ I am not sure whether this amendment is the right way to go about it. But it is a genuine attempt to meet objections raised at Committee stage, to try to make the requirement much more specific and therefore limited, and to ensure that animals subject to a procedure which will result in substantial pain or distress, or death—for example, animals-that are being subjected to an LD.50 test—would be subject to surveillance and monitoring throughout the night, over the weekend, and so on.
§ I accept that there will be animals, like Lord Glenarthur's dog, that would be happier left to sleep all night without being disturbed. But there will be circumstances when the analogy with one's dog is not apt. I do not believe that the noble Lord would wish to subject his dog to an LD.50 test any more than I would mine. In those circumstances, it is important that there is someone, not necessarily in the room, who has the animals under surveillance and who is monitoring the climatic conditions, the heat, the humidity and so on. This can be done outside the laboratory or the room.
§ It has been pointed out to me that in most modern laboratories, certainly in the pharmaceutical industry—this is my own experience having visited such a laboratory—environmental monitoring of such matters as temperature and humidity would be carried out on a 24-hour basis. It is clearly not possible to monitor an animal's physiological state by mechanical means. It is therefore important to insist that where animals are likely to die or, as this amendment says, to suffer very severely, someone should have to be on the premises throughout the night, during a 24-hour period, all week. That is what this amendment would achieve. I beg to move.
§ Lord Prys-Davies
My Lords, once again, I should like to support my noble friend Lord Melchett. Once again, he is drawing a distinction between procedures that are likely to lead to pain or distress or those that are likely to lead to substantial pain or distress. I am 1228 sure that the public at large draw that distinction between pain and suffering and substantial pain and suffering. My noble friend suggested Amendment No. 8 to meet this difficulty. That was not acceptable to the House, although we did receive a valuable assurance from the Minister. However, here again, another safeguard is suggested by my noble friend. It is that where you can foresee that the procedure is likely to result in substantial pain or distress, or death, there ought to be surveillance and there ought to be monitoring throughout each 24-hour period.
My noble friend is right to draw the distinction. It may be one weakness of the Bill that it does not draw a distinction between pain and substantial pain. I would have thought, as a layman, that when we approach substantial pain we are arriving at the threshold—the noble Earl, Lord Halsbury, shakes his head in disapproval—which should trigger off certain safeguards. On that basis, I support fully my noble friend's amendment.
§ Lord Auckland
My Lords, this amendment was discussed in Committee. It has quite reasonably been brought back at this stage. I have visited a number of pharmaceutical companies. I have seen animals that are most likely to need 24-hour surveillance such as monkeys and marmosets, some of which come from climates very different from our own. On a recent visit to a pharmaceutical company with two honourable friends from another place, this was one of the questions that we put to those who were showing us around. In fact, this company has 24-hour surveillance.
In any large organisation such as the Services, there is always a duty officer. Under Clause 9 there are sufficient provisions for this procedure to be carried out. My noble friend can perhaps confirm my belief that the Home Office inspector himself or herself could call at any time within the 24 hours to see that all is well. I believe that there are already within Clause 9 the guidelines for adequate protection here.
§ Lord Airedale
My Lords, I support the amendment; but I would like to see it strengthened by not saying merely,likely to result in substantial pain or distress",but "liable" to result in substantial pain. If we only say "likely", that lets off the person who may say, "Well, I appreciated there was a chance of substantial pain but I did not think it was likely, and so I am not in breach of this subsection". If substantial pain is contemplated at all, it is covered by the word "liable". I hope that the amendment can be strengthened in this way.
The Earl of Halsbury
My Lords, I am in mild pain now. I am not a cry baby and I am not making a fuss about it. I had an operation on my foot last week to remove a mole. I do not find it other than painful to stand on it at this moment. The type of milksop attitude—I am sorry to use such a word—which the noble Lord, Lord Airedale, is advocating has no counterpart in nature.
When I first involved myself in this business, I did not particularly want to do so. I had seen experiments on animals; I did not particularly like them. But 1229 somebody had to take this on. Who am I to keep my hands permanently clean while other people are getting theirs dirty? I took the job on therefore but with a pledge. I said that I would never defend in public for the sake of solidarity with my colleagues what I would condemn in private. I also said that I would never defend in public what I had not seen myself; and this has taken me round all sorts of laboratories. I have patted smoking dogs—they have licked my hands; they have wagged their tails at me. I knew quite a lot of smoking dogs at one time.
I shall say a few words about a visit I made to Rentokil. What was the object of the exercise? It was to invent a poison for rats which was less poisonous to dogs than the current one was. Let the animal lovers think about the kind of strange moral dilemma we are in when one is trying to do something like that. They were doing what your Lordships talk about so much and of which—with the greatest respect to your Lordships—you have seen so little. They were doing LD.50 tests. I went round in the afternoon with the individual in charge. He showed me a large cage of rats, 50 per cent. of whom were going to die. At this time in the afternoon, he picked them out to an assistant, saying, "That one, that one, and that one. Kill them quickly". He said "I know enough about rats and the symptoms which they exhibit when they are poisoned to know that those will not survive the night". The others would have survived the night, and probably did.
We live in a most anomalous and strange world in which we have double standards of value for almost everything under the sun. You may poison as many rats as you like in the sewers as pests provided that you do not contravene the Animals (Cruel Poisons) Act which specifies certain poisons which may not be used. Throughout the entire agricultural economy a very tasty mixture of earthworms and strychnine is put in mole tunnels to poison moles—and strychnine is a very painful poison from which to die. Are we not therefore looking for too much in the way of counsels of perfection in trying to strengthen in the Bill in this way the idea that one must, under all circumstances, have 24-hour round-the-clock management of animals which might be in pain or distress? It is emptying the baby out with the bath water. I do not have 24-hour surveillance to make sure that I am not in distress. I have to cope as best I can with my own life. Sometimes I am suffering from influenza and in very great distress indeed but I see the thing through. As I say, I do not shed any tears about it.
I think that this is one of those typical counsels of perfection drafted by people who have no experience in this field at all, and who have never seen any of these experiments. I believe that this is merely imposing an extra cost on research with no corresponding advantage to the animals whatsoever.
§ Baroness Ewart-Biggs
My Lords, I cannot accept the milksop accusation from the noble Earl. We must point out straightaway that the noble Earl has himself decided to have an operation on his foot and is suffering pain as a consequence. We are talking about animals who presumably did not themselves choose to suffer extreme pain but for our convenience they are doing so. I do not think that those two arguments should be mixed up together.
The Earl of Halsbury
My Lords, if the noble Baroness would give way, do they consent to being caught in a rat trap?
§ Baroness Ewart-Biggs
My Lords, I do not see why we have to bring that argument in either. We are talking about animals which are undergoing scientific experimentation which will be to the benefit of human beings. All of us who are taking part in this debate have presumably put ourselves to some kind of a test where we accept that pain has to be inflicted on animals. Say, for example, that our own child is suffering from an illness, and we know that great progress has been made in overcoming the illness as a result of animal experimentation. That is the only test that one can put to oneself and accept that animals are put to extreme pain.
However, having said that, surely it is quite right to do everything we can in this Bill to ensure that animals do not have to endure unnecessary pain. I should like to think that it was possible for someone to be there for 24 hours a day in order to see that an animal who is suffering intolerable pain should be killed or dealt with in some other way to relieve that unnecessary pain. I think it is quite right that we should contribute this to the Bill. We owe it to the public at large who care very much about that. I think it is wrong to talk about milksops. I will not accept that from the noble Earl.
§ 8.15 p.m.
§ Lord Glenarthur
My Lords, we entirely accept the need for proper and adequate supervision of animals at times when they are exposed to a significant risk of pain, distress or other kinds of harm. Where supervision is required we shall insist upon it. However, I am afraid that the amendment, while laudable in its aim, is not an appropriate way of regulating these matters. It is however a subject on which we accept the need for more explicit guidance to those carrying out procedures.
I should first of all explain briefly the general framework for the care and supervision of animals. Establishments must be designated by means of a certificate. The certificate conditions will lay down the general requirements relating to all establishments, and any which are specific to the place in question. Of crucial importance will be the roles of the named person responsible for day-to-day care of the animals, and of the veterinary surgeon who must be available to give help or advice at any time—if necessary, urgently in the middle of the night. These are new provisions; the requirements for the named person and the vet formalise the existing arrangements, but for the first time these arrangements will be given statutory effect. Responsibility for caring for animals does not stop there, however. The care of an individual animal subject to a scientific procedure is first and foremost the responsibility of the personal licensee engaged on the work. And caring for the animal does not simply mean reacting to events and putting right things which go wrong: it also means planning ahead to minimise the risk of suffering or harm. That is part of the force of Clause 10(2)(a) in the Bill, which specifies that there shall be a condition in every personal licence requiring the holder to take precautions to prevent or reduce to the minimum consistent with the purposes of the 1231 authorised procedures any pain, distress or discomfort to the animals concerned.
In order to carry out procedures in accordance with that condition, so as to minimise the risk of suffering, it is necessary to plan ahead, to ensure, for example, that the personal licensee is not going to have to leave the laboratory at a critical period when his animal is most likely to need his attention. A licensee who failed to do this would quite clearly be in breach of the condition. So the spirit of the noble Lord's amendment, I suggest, is already contained in the Bill in this provision in Clause 10(2)(a).
However, the amendment is more specific. Let us examine what happens in practice. There are many situations in which an animal is at risk of suffering. What the degree of risk is can often not be qualified in advance: indeed, to assess the risk of suffering is very often the purpose of research. Nevertheless, through common sense and through the experience and knowledge of those engaged in this work it is possible to know that, for example, the risk of suffering will be high at a certain point, and a great deal less at some other stage. We may be talking about the same procedure, but the risk will vary. Evidently an animal subject to general anaesthesia needs to be watched all the time, just as a human patient would. Again, an animal recovering from substantial surgery is extremely vulnerable to suffering and indeed to all kinds of adverse effects: complications might set in, wounds might not heal properly, infection may occur. Obviously close attendance on the animal during this period is essential and fundamental.
There are, of course, procedures where the risk of suffering exists over a longer period. An example is some lethality testing, such as the noble Earl described. There are certain precautions which can be taken to minimise the risk of an animal suffering excessively at a time when help is least readily available. That is precisely the point which the noble Lord described in relation to rat poison. At the beginning of a lethality test very little may be known about the likely effects of the substance being tested. Therefore, you do not begin an LD.50 test, for example, immediately before a weekend. You administer the first dose at a stage when it is possible to pay close attention to the initial effects of the test substance on the animal concerned. After that, regular monitoring is clearly necessary but constant attention is not required once an expected pattern of effects has emerged.
These are routine, sensible steps taken by researchers as a matter of course. The exact requirements vary from case to case. Where there is a high risk of suffering the inspectors insist on an appropriately high level of supervision. There are critical periods in the recovery phase in some procedures where close attendance is essential. At other stages, the risk will have reduced and the level of supervision can be relaxed accordingly. The inspectors will expect at least the basic requirement of daily monitoring to be observed. I fear that the effect of the amendment would be to deny the flexibility which is inherent in it. A licensee who fails in his duty of care towards an animal which is obviously at risk of substantial suffering will be exposed to the severest sanctions.
1232 We are very conscious of the quite understandable concern about the whole question of the care and supervision of animals. It is a subject upon which more could and should be said in the draft guidance note. The Universities Federation for Animal Welfare has written to us recently with some suggestions as to how this point might be amplified in the guidance. We are happy to adopt those suggestions. The draft guidance will be revised so as to make it clear to licensees that they should always plan their work so that they are present in the laboratory during the critical recovery period from a procedure and the phases when the animal is most likely to be in pain or distressed.
We shall expect those responsible for monitoring the animals at times when the personal licensee is not present to be able to recognise unexpected problems and to know how to deal with them or else summon assistance. As I have said, this will be backed up by the detailed requirements of the inspectors in particular cases and, I have no doubt, by the good sense and judgment of researchers themselves. I reassure my noble friend Lord Auckland, who asked whether the Home Office inspector can call at any time, that the answer is, "Yes, he can".
In conclusion, I would remind your Lordships again of the provision in Clause 10(2)(a): it requires all personal licensees to take precautions to prevent or minimise suffering. That is a very important requirement and we intend it to be applied very seriously. The measures which I have outlined are part of the spirit of that. I hope that what I have said will have reassured your Lordships and that the noble Lord will not press his amendment.
§ Lord Melchett
My Lords, I should like to begin by commenting on what the noble Earl, Lord Halsbury, said in the debate on this amendment, although it was not entirely about it. First, I am well aware that the noble Earl has been involved in this subject for a very long time. However, to suggest that those who drafted the amendment, or others, know nothing about the subject is, if I may say so, a little arrogant. There are many other people as well as the noble Earl, both in this House and outside it, who know just as much as the noble Earl about animal experimentation and who are quite capable of drafting amendments to the Bill. The fact that a number of amendments have been met one way or another by the Government during the course of the Bill's passage through this House gives some support to that suggestion.
Secondly, although the noble Earl has been involved in this subject for some time, I find it extraordinary that he is as insensitive as he is to the views of people who hold a different attitude from his about experimentation on animals. His story about patting pathetic smoking beagles who gratefully wagged their tails and licked his hands, I found deeply offensive. I find it strange that the noble Earl does not recognise that those kinds of remarks are deeply offensive not only to some people in this House at least, but to a great many more outside it.
Thirdly, the logic of suggesting that, because it is legal for rats to be trapped or, despite the long campaign against it, for moles to be poisoned by strychnine, random cruelty to other animals in other circumstances is thereby justified is something which I 1233 find to be an extraordinary and quite unacceptable assertion.
I turn to what the noble Lord, Lord Glenarthur, said. In sharp contrast, I found the noble Lord's remarks extremely welcome and I am grateful to him for the trouble which he took in answering in such detail the points raised by the amendment and, indeed, the very welcome assurances he gave about the steps which the Government are taking to meet some of these legitimate concerns. Indeed, I am grateful to the noble Lord for recognising that they are legitimate concerns. I was particularly interested to hear that UFAW—the Universities Federation for Animal Welfare—has written on this point and that the Government are to respond positively to what it has suggested. That meets a great many of my concerns which led me to put down the amendment.
I accept, and was grateful for, what the noble Lord said in great detail about the need for some flexibility, and the different circumstances both as to particular cases and particular times, and about the varying degree of supervision and surveillance that will be needed. That was a good argument. Therefore, I am grateful to the noble Lord for his response and I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Lord Beaumont of Whitley had given notice of his intention to move Amendment No. 11:
Page 8, line 6, at end insert—
("( ) In all circumstances where a licensee is aware that an animal is in severe pain or severe distress which cannot be alleviated, he shall ensure that the animal is painlessly killed forthwith by a method appropriate to the animal specified in the list attached to this licence or by such other method as may be authorised by the personal licence under which the animal is killed.").
§ The noble Lord said: My Lords, in view of Amendment No. 9 and its acceptance by your Lordships' House, I do not intend to move this amendment.
§ [Amendment No. 11 not moved.]
Lord Melchett moved Amendment No. 12:
Page 8, line 7, leave out subsection (3) and insert—
("(3) The conditions of a project licence shall, unless the Secretary of State considers that an exception is justified, include a condition to the effect that no cat or dog shall be used under a licence unless it has been bred at a designated breeding establishment and shall, unless the Secretary of State considers that an exception is justified, include a condition to the effect that no other protected animal of a description specified in Schedule 2 to this Act shall be used under a licence unless it has been bred at a designated breeding establishment or obtained from a designated supplying establishment.").
§ The noble Lord said: My Lords, we again return to a matter which was discussed at considerable length in Committee. Again it is a matter about which there is very great public concern; namely, the feeling about the use of lost or stolen pet dogs and cats in animal experimentation. The Bill will introduce some measure of control which would, it is hoped by the Government at least, lead to some diminution of this problem, if it exists on any great scale.
§ The concern which I expressed in Committee, and which a number of other noble Lords echoed, is that at present, as the Bill is drafted, and as the mechanisms under the Bill will be operated, it does not seem to me 1234 that there is any guarantee that the use of stolen pet cats and dogs could be detected. I take that view because, of course, tracing where any particular cat or dog came from and proving its origin—either where it was born and from what parentage, or its origin if it has been bought or it is claimed to have been bought from some third party—is in practice impossible. There is no system of licensing or registering individual cats and dogs. It is extremely difficult to recognise them, particularly after they have been experimented on and killed, which is the condition in which, if ever, they are likely to be identified at all. If it does happen, it is almost impossible to detect.
§ However, as noble Lords will be aware, this is a subject about which there is great public consternation. In Committee I think that our argument—and we had a lengthy one—came down to the circumstances in which the Secretary of State may grant an exemption from the general provisions which are laid down in Clause 10. The amendment tries to ensure that the discretion of the Secretary of State to grant an exemption, to which the noble Lord, Lord Glenarthur, attached great importance in Committee, is retained.
§ Therefore, the first point which is different about this amendment as against anything we discussed in Committee is that the Secretary of State retains complete discretion to issue an exception if he feels that it is justified. However, if the Secretary of State does not issue such an exception, any cat or dog used for procedures under the Bill would have to come from a licensed breeding establishment. The difference between that effect of the amendment and what is in the Bill is that at the moment a dog or cat could come from either a breeding or a supplying establishment, and it would be via a supplying establishment that a stolen pet could, I suppose, be "laundered"—which is probably the right phrase to use.
§ I simply do not believe that the checks which will be imposed under the licensing provisions on supplying establishments have any hope whatever of detecting the passage of a stolen pet dog or pet cat through a supplying establishment. All that would be needed is for some third party, who is a party to the criminal offence, to say that he had bred a dog or a cat or that he had sold it or acquired it legitimately, and there would be nothing more that the Home Office, the police or anyone else could do to identify the problem.
§ 8.30 p.m.
§ The justification for suggesting that some tightening of the Bill in this respect is required seems to me to be twofold. First, there is widespread public fear and suspicion that this actually happens. Unfortunately, cats and dogs are regularly lost, as all of us know who visit places like Battersea Dogs' Home or who have seen stray cats on the streets. Many of them will not be captured and used for animal experimentation; they will die, be found by someone and adopted, as I have done—in the last few years I have adopted at least two cats—or they will end up in a dogs' home and either be taken by someone as a pet or killed.
§ Nevertheless, many people believe that when their pet disappears, it is taken for experimentation, and that causes great distress and suffering to many people. 1235 I believe that that is one justification for saying that we should make the law as tight as is reasonable in this respect.
§ Secondly, there have been some examples where stolen cats and dogs have been identified. This does not happen very often because, as I have said, the chances of a crime of this sort being detected are extremely slim. I have been given details of some cases by the RSPCA inspectorate where cats and dogs have been found to have been stolen and used in animal experiments, and people have been convicted for offences and in some cases sent to prison or fined. Among the cases which I have before me at present, one involves the supplying of at least five cats to Birmingham hospitals for experimentation. There is another case of a university establishment where someone identified a pet dog and was able to recover it before experiments were conducted on it.
§ Therefore, despite the very great difficulty of ever detecting this offence, there are some examples of it happening. As the noble Lord, Lord Glenarthur, will know, the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals receives a very large number of inquiries—some 45,000 each year—concerning missing animals, and underlying many of those inquiries is a real fear—a terror to some people—that their pet has gone to a laboratory to be experimented upon and to suffer.
§ Having studied very carefully what was said by all those at the Committee stage, I hope that this amendment (I dare say that it is not perfectly drafted) attempts to overcome the difficulties which the Government saw in the way of tightening up the protection for pet cats and dogs, while at the same time offering much greater reassurance than the Bill does at present to pet owners who fear for the future of their own particular pet. I beg to move.
§ Lord Glenarthur
My Lords, I may be able to be very brief as regards this amendment and hence reassure your Lordships. The noble Lord, Lord Melchett, has made clear his concern to ensure that, so far as possible, the dogs and cats supplied to laboratories for use in licensed experimental procedures are purpose-bred and not stolen pets. The Government have the utmost sympathy for that objective, and indeed that is one of the reasons why we have included the requirement now contained in Clause 10(3).
The noble Lord, Lord Melchett, has suggested in his amendment a means by which the safeguard of Clause 10(3) may be tightened. We agree with the noble Lord that it would be appropriate to make a more specific provision in respect of cats and dogs. As the noble Lord foreshadowed, there are some aspects of the drafting of the amendment which we would wish to consider further, and we will do so with a view to bringing forward an amendment on this point at the next stage of the Bill. I hope that with this assurance the noble Lord will feel able to withdraw his amendment.
§ The Lord Bishop of Birmingham
My Lords, I find myself rather surprised at speaking in this way, but I hope that the noble Lord the Minister will consider very carefully before introducing an amendment at the 1236 next stage. It seems to me that the Bill is not about our feelings about our pets, but has a different purpose altogether. It is to make new provision for the protection of animals used for experimental or other scientific purposes. I find it very difficult to understand how our feelings about pets are involved in the protection of animals used for experimental or other purposes. Although I heard what the noble Lord the Minister said, I believe it would be very much better if we limited the Bill to the purpose for which it was introduced.
§ Lord Glenarthur
My Lords, with the leave of the House, I think that the thrust of the remarks of the noble Lord, Lord Melchett, was to prevent cats and dogs being used for scientific experiments. That is the whole argument that we had in Committee. I agree with the noble Lord that we do not want the wrong animals to end up in laboratories. I had hoped that that would be welcomed by your Lordships. I hope that the right reverend Prelate now understands what I am driving at.
§ Lord Airedale
My Lords, I am sure that the Minister's remarks are a great reassurance to the House. However, perhaps I may be permitted to say that when he is considering the amendment which he intends to introduce, I hope he will not think it satisfactory to say, for instance, that a supply establishment can obtain an animal, provided that it has no reason to suppose it is a stolen pet. I hope that the amendment, if it is upon those lines, will go further and say that no such animal shall be accepted by a supply establishment unless the establishment is certain, in so far as certainty can apply in any human affairs, that this animal has not come from a source which could mean that it was someone's stolen pet. The noble Lord, Lord Melchett, has spoken eloquently about the terrible anxieties of elderly and lonely people whose only friend, or whose closest friend, is their pet animal. They have these terrible fears and nightmares when their pets go astray, believing that they have ended up in laboratories.
This is a very important matter. The noble Earl, Lord Halsbury—who I hope will shortly recover from his painful foot—thinks that I am speaking again in milksop terms; it is unfortunate that whenever the noble Earl and I take part in a debate I am always reminded of Kipling's poem about the sons of Cain:Wherever they beThey will never agree,Jubal and Tubal Cain".Whether or not I am a milksop, I regard this as a very important matter indeed.
§ Baroness Ewart-Biggs
My Lords, I very much welcome what the Minister has said. I spoke on this particular amendment at the Committee stage and I expressed anxieties passed on to me by other pet owners. Therefore, I very much hope that the Minister will keep to the sort of formula which my noble friend has established in his amendment. This is a very real worry. I know of it simply from hearsay; the RSPCA know it for fact, although it is a very difficult fact to prove. They know that many pets find their way into laboratories. Having spoken at the Committee stage on this subject, I very much welcome what the 1237 Minister has said and I hope that his amendment will more or less be in the same light as the one before us at the moment.
§ Lord Glenarthur
My Lords, I am most grateful to the noble Baroness. With the leave of the House, may I say that we certainly agree with the noble Lord, Lord Airedale, that the amendment must go further than belief in good faith that the animal is not a stolen pet. The noble Lord's point is well made.
§ Lord Melchett
My Lords, I very much welcome what the noble Lord has said, and I feel sorry for him, having made such an excellent response to something about which there was genuine concern, then to be criticised and complained to. I have had that experience myself occasionally on the Front Bench, and it is rather disappointing. I can assure him for myself and for the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals and many other animal welfare organisations, and literally millions of people in this country, that we are all grateful to him for what he has said this evening.
I disagreed with the right reverend Prelate at Second Reading on something, and I could not disagree with him more in what he said this evening. The Bill has a clause, if not more than one clause, on breeding and supplying establishments. This amendment that I have suggested, the spirit of which the Government have accepted, is on all fours with the provisions of the Bill, which are designed to ensure that animals that are used for experimental purposes come from legitimate sources. The Government have taken a major step forward, and it is welcome. I am most grateful. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Lord Melchett moved Amendment No. 13:
After Clause 13, insert the following new clause:
§ ("Availability of information to the public
§ .—(1) The Secretary of State may provide for the availability to the public, subject to any condition that he considers appropriate, and to payment of such reasonable fees for furnishing copies as he may with the consent of the Treasury determine, of information supplied for the purposes of section 5, 6 and 7.
§ (2) In determining any provision to be made by virtue of this section the Secretary of State shall have regard to the interests of persons supplying information to which that provision would relate.")
§ The noble Lord said: My Lords, I want to take this briefly because we had some debate at Committee stage about the provisions which affect the Animal Procedures Committee, or its members, and their right to disclose information, or at least, as the Bill is currently drafted, a complete prohibition on them from disclosing any information. It seemed to me that there must be some precedents in other legislation of a similar nature for a rather more open attitude to disclosing information to the public than is the case in this Bill.
§ In particular I looked at the Food and Environment Protection Bill which passed through Parliament last year and is now the Act of 1985. In one part that Act deals with the introduction of a new statutory system of controls on the use of pesticides. It provides for manufacturers who have developed a new pesticide of some sort to furnish the results of research—much of it no doubt using animals—and the detailed formula 1238 with which the pesticide is made up, as well as a range of other information on, for example, its environmental effects and its effects on human beings, and so on. All of this, of course, is subject to great commercial confidentiality in many circumstances; and that information has to be given to a statutory body which then determines whether a licence will be given for the new pesticide to be used.
§ We had many debates about the extent to which the information under that Bill should be made available to the public. There was clearly a conflict between the need for strict commercial secrecy, on the one hand, because if another manufacturer found out that you were about to launch a new pesticide with a particular formulation he could rapidly copy it, and indeed copy the test data on which you planned to get clearance for it; and, on the other hand, there is a legitimate public concern to know in some detail what tests have been done on the new pesticide, what the results were, the environmental effects, and so on. This new clause is taken straight from the Food and Environment Protection Act, and it was a provision drafted by the Government as a result of pressure in your Lordships' House to enable the Secretary of State, in that case the Minister of Agriculture, to provide information to the public where it was appropriate to do so.
§ It seems to me that, in the case of experiments on animals, for quite understandable reasons, and particularly in the light of recent violent (and I find them wholly unacceptable and inexcusable) actions against scientists involved in animal experimentation, there has been a natural desire on the part of those involved in experimentation to keep the whole process as secret as possible. Often the unfortunate consequence is that, because of that lack of information, subsequent ignorance and subsequent suspicion of those not privy to the information increases by leaps and bounds. The two sides get driven further and further apart and deeper and deeper into the trenches. There is little doubt that that was largely the case until recently in the field of animal experimentation. It is largely due to the efforts of my noble friend Lord Houghton and others—and the noble Earl, Lord Halsbury, is included in this—that we have started to move away from those positions, and this Bill is one of the results of that.
§ However, I do not think that we are going to continue that movement towards a greater understanding of what is happening, and hopefully eventually a greater trust between people of opposing views, unless more information about what is going on, and why it is going on, is made publicly available. This amendment would not require any information to be made public. It lays no duties on the Secretary of State. As was the case with test information on pesticides, it simply gives the Secretary of State power to make things available to the public subject to the interests of the people who provided the information in the first place. It seems to me that the interests of people applying for a project licence, for example, would be not identical but similar to the interests of a commercial company applying for the clearance of a new pesticide product.
§ I hope that the amendment will not only be acceptable but will also be seen as a positive attempt to move this debate forward in a more constructive way 1239 than has sometimes been the case in the past. I beg to move.
§ 8.45 p.m.
§ Lord Glenarthur
My Lords, the effect of the amendment would be to encourage the Secretary of State to provide for a fee if he wished, copies of information supplied to him in support of applications made under Clauses 5, 6 or 7; that is, applications for project licences (but not personal licences) or for certificates of designation of scientific procedure, breeding or supplying establishments. The Secretary of State would be able to put a condition on the disclosure, and in deciding what to disclose he would, by virtue of the proposed subsection (2), be obliged to take into account the interests of the people who supplied the information; that is, the applicants. The effect is that the Secretary of State may provide this information to the public on request: he has some discretion in the matter, but there is a clear presumption in favour of disclosure.
I respect the strong feelings of the noble Lord, Lord Melchett, and the noble Lord, Lord Beaumont of Whitley, who put his name to this amendment, on this point about openness. There is a commitment in the Bill itself to open to public scrutiny the way in which the controls over live animal research are operated, the standards that are applied, and the nature of the work being done. The Secretary of State will publish guidance on the way in which he will exercise his powers. He will publish annual statistics, and will issue or approve codes of practice. The Animal Procedures Committee will submit an annual report on its work, and that, too, will be published and laid before Parliament.
All this will provide a fuller and more detailed public view of the system of controls than has been available until now. I hope very much that it may lead to an improvement in the quality and style of the public debate about animal experimentation, just as I hope that the passage of this Bill and the public debate surrounding it is helping to increase public awareness and understanding. The amendment goes much further than this. It is based on a fundamental assumption about the way the controls work—the only way they can work—and I have to oppose it most strongly.
The information which applicants for licences and certificates provide to the Secretary of State has always been, and will continue to be, supplied on a confidential basis. It will include details of research plans which are, in effect, commercial details. It is commercial "in confidence" material. It will also include details relating to named individuals, their places of work, the kind of research they are engaged on, even the accommodation of the animals and the layout of the rooms. Some of this information will be extremely sensitive. Much of it would help to provide ready targets for those bent on abusing the cause of animal welfare by their use of violence and intimidation. It is a real threat. I need hardly remind your Lordships of that real and continuing threat: only the other day the planting of a number of explosive devices highlighted the danger posed by these criminal elements.
1240 This information is supplied in the trust that it will be seen only by those who need to see it; those who are charged under the law with determining applications for licences and certificates. If there were any question about that, there is no doubt that the quality of applications and the relationship between applicants and inspectors, on which so much depends, would suffer immeasurably. There is no justification for a public right of access to this information. It is not as if knowledge of these details might directly affect the health and welfare of members of the public or the quality of their environment.
We try to help the public as much as possible. The Home Office deals with thousands of letters each year from members of the public on the subject of animal welfare. If there were a requirement to supply every person who asked for it with copies of this or that information, and to decide in each case whether disclosure was acceptable, the department's task would become more or less impossible. This amendment is impracticable and unacceptable. I have to say that if it were to be accepted, it would be likely to destroy the trust which the scientific community has placed in our system of controls, and upon which their entire effectiveness depends. I hope that the noble Lord will see the force of that argument and will feel able to withdraw his amendment.
§ Lord Melchett
My Lords, I do not entirely accept the force of the argument because, as is often the case in trying to draft an amendment which does not place a firm duty on the Secretary of State, one nevertheless receives an answer that suggests that that is what the amendment actually does and that the Secretary of State would have sufficient discretion not to be drawn into providing the sort of details, of which the noble Lord spoke, in response to inquiries. I am afraid that in this country we still live in an extremely secretive society compared to many other democracies and in particular the United States. I regret that, for I believe it lowers the standard of public debate about important issues such as this.
I accept that, as the noble Lord says, a measure of this sort would in practice be unacceptable to the scientific community. I take the noble Lord's word for that. I have no wish to try to make the Bill unacceptable in that way, because I want to see it improved and reach the statute book. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Clause 14 [Re-use of protected animals]:
Lord Adrian had given notice of his intention to move Amendment No. 14:
Page 10, line 24, at end insert ("except where the further procedure is one in which the animal is subject throughout to general anaesthesia from which it is not allowed to recover and the consent of the Secretary of State has been obtained.").
§ The noble Lord said: My Lords, at Committee stage I moved an amendment on re-use which was well received by some of the Committee and by the Minister of State. I am extremely grateful to the Government for proposing an amendment on the same subject as mine. I understand that though these two amendments are slightly different in form, their 1241 effect is the same, and the Government's version is, perhaps not surprisingly, preferred by the draftsmen.
§ The purpose of my amendment is to allow an animal which has undergone some procedure or series of procedures and which otherwise would be killed or put down to be killed in a way which would save another animal being used in another experiment. The animal to be used would be anaesthetised, an acute surgical experiment would be done—there would have to be a separate project licence for that experiment—and the animal would be killed by a further lethal dose of anaesthetic without any recovery. My object in this amendment is to reduce the numbers of animals used.
§ Because we recognise the possibility of improper re-use, this is to be made subject to the specific consent in each case of the Secretary of State. This was a point that was suggested by the noble Lord the Minister during our Committee deliberations before Christmas. It is also indirectly incorporated in the Minister's amendment.
§ I emphasise that no extra suffering is involved in what I propose, since the animal on re-use will be anaesthetised and not allowed to recover from the anaesthetic. There were misgivings in Committee both about the length of time between use and re-use and the length of time that an animal might remain alive under anaesthetic, and both of these matters would be subject to the direct control of the Secretary of State. He would also be able to satisfy himself that the animal to be re-used was an animal which would otherwise be destroyed.
§ I can understand the hesitation about accepting such a proposal, but it is one—I stress this—which is designed to reduce the number of animals used in experiments. Admittedly, I do not hold out a very large reduction, but we should surely achieve a reduction even if it is a small one. I believe that the fact that specific permission is to be sought for this re-use will add a procedural barrier and quite specific control beyond the existing necessity for an appropriate project licence. I do not think that re-use will be entered into lightly, but it may on occasion be important, especially on work on species which are in short supply.
§ However, I believe it will be for the convenience of the House this evening if, with permission, I withdraw Amendment No. 14 as it stands. I look forward to the proposing by the noble Lord, Lord Glenarthur, of Amendment No. 15.
§ The Deputy Speaker (Lord Ampthill)
My Lords, the noble Lord has spoken at some length on the amendment. Is he moving the amendment?
§ [Amendment No. 14 not moved.]
Lord Glenarthur move Amendment No. 15:
Page 10, line 31, at end insert ("; or
(c) the animal is under general anaesthesia throughout the further procedures and not allowed to recover consciousness.").
§ The noble Lord said: My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Adrian, has foreshadowed a little of what I intended to say. When we debated the re-use of animals at the Committee stage I promised to consider 1242 the matter further, saying that I had sympathy with the proposal which the noble Lord had raised. This amendment proposes that an animal which has previously been used in regulated procedures for any purpose, and for any of those procedures has been given an anaesthetic, may be re-used in further regulated precedures for a different purpose—but only both with the consent of the Secretary of State and provided that the animal is under general anaesthesia throughout the further procedures and not allowed to recover consciousness.
§ As I see it, there are three sound advantages in this proposal. Some of them were referred to by the noble Lord, Lord Adrian. The first advantage is that it will be tightly controlled. It would only be allowed if the Secretary of State consented to it. He would certainly not consent to it if the animal, having recovered from the first operation, was then going to be kept for days or, even worse, for years, before the second, terminal operation is started. That would be quite unacceptable, and the noble Lord, Lord Melchett, rightly drew attention to it when we discussed this matter earlier. If the Secretary of State did give his consent, he would give it subject to any conditions he thought were necessary or desirable in the interests of the animal.
§ The second advantage is that during the second and final operation the animal would not suffer any pain or distress at all. That of course is the effect of the requirement that during the further procedures the animal must be under general anaesthesia all the time and not allowed to recover consciousness. This Bill is about pain and suffering of animals used in scientific procedures, but the terms of this amendment are tightly drawn so as to ensure, by this means, that no pain and no suffering would be caused.
§ The third advantage—a very significant one—is that the numbers of animals that have to be used in procedures would be reduced. We all agree that we want to reduce the unnecessary use of animals in procedures. We referred to it on earlier amendments this evening. In this instance the numbers involved would probably not be very large. What is important is that we are involving here a principle, and it is the principle which I believe is extremely important. It underpins the Bill and is a central element of our approach.
§ In 1984, there were 1,919 primates used in experiments where anaesthesia was used for part of the experiment. In some of those, 1,900 primates could have been re-used and it would not have made a large dent in the statistics of the total number of animals used but it could have reduced notably the number of primates that were used. I really believe that any reduction in the use of animals is worth striving for and in the way that I have described they would not be capable of feeling any pain; they would be fully anaesthetised. What is suggested here seems a reasonable approach to the need that we described earlier to cut down on the use of animals.
§ 9 p.m.
§ I know too that it is a particularly emotive subject, although I believe that some of what is said on the matter is perhaps rather irrational or draws in rather irrational remarks. I say with considerable conviction 1243 that those who work on animals are thoroughly responsible people. They are as concerned as we are to see both that the animals are not used unnecessarily and that suffering is not caused unnecessarily. Suffering would not be caused here. I beg to move.
§ Lord Houghton of Sowerby
My Lords, I must say that I am astonished at the turn of events. It is evident that the noble Lord, Lord Adrian, has spiked everybody's guns. I want to tell the noble Lord, Lord Glenarthur, that in no way is his amendment acceptable to those of us who were part of the collaboration on this consensus Bill. The Minister is fully aware of that. The noble Lord, Lord Glenarthur, has not said a single word about the history of this matter. Anybody would think that it had just come up, that the debate during the Committee stage was the beginning of something and that he had promised to give further thought to it and led the noble Lord, Lord Adrian, to repeat his amendment.
May I remind the House that this started with a White Paper of May 1983. The contents of the White Paper of May 1983 were certainly the subject of consultation but they were not the subject of collaboration. That stage had not come. What happened in May 1983 was that the Government were in a great hurry to get out a White Paper before the election to indicate their credibility as a Government to fulfil a pledge given at the general election of 1979. They were already four years behind and they wanted to make sure that they could continue seeking the confidence of the electorate on the basis that they were still going to do something.
The reaction to the May 1983 White Paper was swift and sure in regard to this particular matter. The noble Lord knows full well that the reaction of widespread public opinion and indignation was against the two respects proposed in the White Paper of May 1983, which a lot of people thought were retrogressive measures going back to 1876. And this was one of them.
With what result? With the result that after the period of collaboration began, when the prospects of getting a consensus Bill emerged, and when the prospects of getting any Bill at all depended on a degree of consensus and collaboration with responsible elements both in the animal welfare and in the professional movements relating to animals, we got a new White Paper, in May 1985. The Government at that time said that there had been widespread misunderstanding about the earlier proposals for the re-use of animals that had been used once in experiments. I will quote just one sentence regarding what the Home Secretary now proposes:The Home Secretary now proposes however, having considered the representations made to him, to continue the present prohibition on the reuse of animals anaesthetised and allowed to recover consciousness in a previous procedure. The use of surgically prepared animals will continue to be allowed".He continues:Animals which have been used in procedures under anaesthesia need not necessarily be killed at the end of the procedure. If they have regained normal or near normal health they may, for instance, be returned to the farm or the wild or be found suitable homes as pets, depending on the species".1244 In short, the provisions of the 1876 Act in this particular regard were to be maintained. That was clearly understood, firmly established and, for my part, irrevocable at this particular stage.
I know the arguments but the fact is that there is a reaction to a matter of this kind—which is being revived, incidentally, by a piece that appeared in the Guardian newspaper only two days ago—which has already started. This proposal is going into highly contentious politics very soon indeed—as soon as this Bill arrives in another place. In these circumstances it is absolutely essential from the point of view of continued goodwill and collaboration that this be dropped here and now. Let us have discussions about this for the future. Let us see whether we can rationalise the situation; let us see whether we can get proposals for the re-use of animals, if that becomes a feasible political proposition, and consider under what conditions it may be done. Let us have the whole story about the second use of animals in laboratories.
Let us also discuss what I would call the proprietory element in this situation. To whom do these animals belong? They are entrusted to those who are using them by the public, by Parliament, largely financed by the public. In my opinion, the scientists do not have proprietory rights over the animals that are in their hands. They can only do with them what the law will allow them to do. The law represents public opinion and may not be rational, but it has nothing to do with the scientists, if they have pointed out the anomalies of the existing situation, that ethical considerations, emotive considerations, may well be paramount politically.
We have just done something about dogs and cats which is a concession to sentiment about dogs and cats. Public sentiment about dogs and cats existed very deeply at a time when they cared nothing about primates. They did not give a damn about monkeys: they cared for cats and dogs. We have broadened the basis of our protection for different species since then, but we do have to cope with the irrational and the emotional response of public opinion. Politics is based on irrational and emotional responses to public opinion. We are all subject to it and we all understand it very well.
Therefore I must ask that, whatever the conditions upon which this amendment may be withdrawn, it should be withdrawn. It should not be pressed. If it is pressed then certainly I shall divide the House and make my position, and I hope the position of others, absolutely clear on this subject. I believe that it would be a great mistake for the Bill to be changed back to what the Government originally intended and departed from under the pressure of public opinion. Now, at this hour of night and at this stage of the Bill, we are asked to reinstate it. That is not on, my Lords, and I sincerely hope that we may come to an understanding: otherwise we had better go on for a long time because this is not going to be disposed of by any shuffling around.
So far as I am concerned, I am quite prepared to go into conference on this matter. I have approached this Bill with probably more rational feelings than I have ever approached a Bill on animals before because I want to see business done. We want to end this period of emotional exhaustion which brings no tangible 1245 results, no additional protection and no change in the law. Now we can get a change in the law, and we are after it and we want it. We do not want it held up. So I am bound to say that if there is a political fight on this the other place is where it should take place, not here. We have kept party politics out of this Bill throughout its several stages in your Lordships' House. We have not had a single Divison on this Bill so far. Party politics have not entered into it and we have got along in a spirit of co-operation and exhaustive examination, but goodwill. And now we are on the brink of breaking it all up for the sake of something which, from a political and public point of view, is a game not worth the candle.
However irrational it may be and however difficult it may be to justify, even in ethical terms, let us at least refrain from trying to reverse the understanding that was reached in collaboration on the consensus Bill; let us refrain from doing that now. If we can consider it and if there is a desire to consider it in calmer circumstances, that might well be done before the Bill reaches another place. But I very strongly appeal to the Government to meet this situation. I cannot rest if we are going to get into an unholy muddle, with misunderstandings and ill-feeling created all round. I want to know why this situation arises in this form, after spending two and a half hours with the Minister this morning.
§ Lord Melchett
My Lords, I am delighted to find myself wholly at one with my noble friend. I will not say "for a change" but it has not always been the case on this Bill. As the noble Lord, Lord Glenarthur, said in introducing the amendment, I had some very strong objections to the move that the noble Lord, Lord Adrian, made at Committee stage to reintroduce the concept of re-use, after it had been dropped from the second White Paper. As my noble friend has said, it really was one of the two major changes which started to make it possible for legislation to be introduced which would not be virulently and consistently opposed by a large number of people in both Houses of Parliament. I really think it would be a great pity, as my noble friend has said, to start to re-open the whole question of whether the Bill can proceed unopposed, for example, on Second Reading in another place. I firmly believe that if this amendment were to be moved into the Bill that would be one of the consequences.
There are still a large number of very severe worries I would have about a measure of this sort being introduced into the Bill; for example, questions such as the length of time between one procedure and another. If the amendment were to be written into the Bill I would want to see cast-iron guarantees, if not in the Bill then in some other absolutely cast-iron form, about the length of time between the two procedures and about the condition of the animal between the two procedures. If, for example, the animal was suffering at all from the first procedure, no re-use could possibly be contemplated. I think it is very dubious indeed to suggest that even administering an anaesthetic would cause no suffering to an animal which has already been through one procedure. I think it is very likely to cause severe suffering. It is not just a question of giving the anaesthetic but it is all the handling and the keeping of the animal, and so on, which would go on before that.
1246 Of course one of the major reasons why the abolition of re-use was so welcomed was because many people felt there would be animals which would be capable of being kept as pets, living out the rest of their lives relatively free, happy and peaceful after going through the suffering of one experiment. That would be removed, as I see it, by the amendment as it stands.
It is a pity—and it may be that if it had been slightly earlier in the evening one or two of us would have risen from our seats—that we did not have this debate on the amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Adrian, which he withdrew at greater length than I have ever heard an amendment withdrawn before. I hope that in those circumstances, and in view particularly of what my noble friend Lord Houghton has said, the noble Lord, Lord Adrian, might agree and also advise the Government that it might be better not to press this amendment into the Bill at this stage but to have some discussion, because on his initiative we are entering onto extremely dangerous ground which may see the end of everyone's efforts on this Bill come to naught.
§ The Lord Bishop of Birmingham
My Lords, I am happy on this occasion to find myself in full agreement with the noble Lord, Lord Melchett. I should like to add one point to what the noble Lord, Lord Houghton, said. I do not think it is a purely irrational feeling of revulsion on the part of the public against this. As I indicated last time in Committee to the noble Lord, Lord Adrian, this is really a matter concerned with the dignity of animals. It is derogatory to their dignity to keep them in a kind of suspended animation before further procedures are carried out. There is an ethical point here, not just an irrational point, and I hope that the noble Lord the Minister will bear that in mind in responding.
§ 9.15 p.m.
§ Lord Prys-Davies
My Lords, we adopt the powerful argument advanced by my noble friend Lord Houghton, without descending into details about whether any further amendments ought or ought not to be canvassed. My noble friend has delivered a powerful warning to the Government that, if they insist on this amendment, they are moving into a critical and highly contentious area of policy.
My noble friend appears to have been taken by surprise with this amendment. As I understood him, he had an entirely different understanding of the Government's position earlier in the day. So I think we are entitled to ask the noble Lord the Minister whether there has been another misunderstanding about what may have occurred in a discussion earlier in the day. Will he tell the House what discussions have taken place in the course of today about this amendment? The Minister shakes his head.
I am not sure of the procedures of the House, and whether my noble friend Lord Houghton can come back on this. But we know that my noble friend Lord Houghton has worked to achieve an agreement, a consensus, between the scientists and the animal welfare workers. In arriving at a consensus, there has to be a measure of give and take, but it appears to me from what my noble friend has said that the Government may be withdrawing from a position 1247 which they adopted after the publication of the White Paper—indeed, a position which, apparently, they adopted earlier today.
§ Lord Adrian
My Lords, though this is not my amendment I should be perfectly content were the Government to withdraw this amendment as it stands. We could discuss the matter at greater length later on, and possibly a more improved, detailed version could be brought forward at Third Reading either by myself or by the Government.
§ Lord Glenarthur
My Lords, we have had a useful debate on a subject which I recognise is one which generates a great deal of concern. I also recognise the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Houghton—who, after all, has been very much the driving force behind the Bill and has been an enormous help to the Government—that what we are trying to achieve is a consensus. That has been the whole history of the Bill, and I know that the noble Lord, Lord Houghton, is aware of it. All the amendments to the Bill have been with general agreement, although it is quite clear that we have not found general agreement on this proposal.
In answer to the noble Lord, Lord Prys-Davies, on the question of whether or not there has been some misunderstanding, the noble Lord, Lord Adrian, tabled an amendment at Committee with which I expressed some sympathy, and this is the result of that sympathy. The fact that the noble Lord, Lord Houghton, sadly could not be with us on that day may be part of the reason why the views that have been expressed this evening were not expressed so forcibly then.
In view of what has been said for and against the amendment—and some very sincere views have been expressed by the right reverend Prelate, the noble Lord, Lord Houghton, and the noble Lord, Lord Adrian, when he did not move Amendment No. 14—I sense that it may be prudent not to press this amendment today. The last thing that I want to do is raise the temperature of this debate. While it is of course for another place to consider this aspect, I am only too aware that your Lordships' House is full of a great deal of expertise and wisdom and therefore that there is no reason why this matter should not be discussed here. Indeed, this particular amendment has been discussed, albeit briefly.
There may be a possibility of achieving agreement. I should like to take up the generous suggestion of the noble Lord, Lord Houghton, which the noble Lords, Lord Adrian and Lord Melchett, share, that before the next stage all those concerned—the noble Lords, Lord Houghton, Lord Adrian, Lord Melchett, and others (and that can be discussed)—might meet to explore common ground and try to establish whether there is some acceptable way forward designed to meet the concerns that I expressed when introducing this amendment.
There are real concerns. I realise that there are other sides to this argument. I share much of the concern that has been so widely expressed on this subject, and it is important that we should get it right. If your Lordships, and the noble Lord, Lord Houghton, in particular, are content that such a meeting would be a 1248 suitable and sensible way forward, then I shall gladly arrange such a meeting and will be happy to withdraw the amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Clause 16 [Prohibition of public displays]:
Viscount Davidson moved Amendment No. 16:
Page 11, line 15, leave out ("in") and insert ("as an exhibition to the general").
The noble Viscount said: My Lords, this is a straightforward amendment designed to remove a possible ambiguity in Clause 16(1), which provides that:
No person shall carry out any regulated procedure in public or carry out any such procedure which is shown live on television for general reception".
The object is to prohibit the deliberate public exhibition of procedures on live animals that are controlled by the Bill. There is a comparable provision in Section 6 of the 1876 Act, prohibiting the exhibition to the general public of painful experiments.
§ During consultation with scientific bodies on the Bill, it has been brought to our attention that the use of the term "in public" without further qualification might have the unintended effect of placing some legitimate work outside the law. A considerable amount of valuable scientific work is carried out in the wild—for example, by the Nature Conservancy Council—and this will sometimes need to be licensed under the Bill. However, it will not always be possible to ensure that members of the general public do not accidentally observe such work. I should add that what the public might accidentally witness in the wild would not be anything severe or distressing but is likely, rather, to be work of a straightforward, monitoring kind. An example might be the regular blood sampling of birds to monitor constitutional status.
It was never our intention in Clause 16 to penalise a licensee carrying out legitimate work that might be accidentally overseen in that way. The offence is of course aimed at the person who deliberately performs procedures as an exhibition to the public. The amendment before your Lordships would remove any trace of doubt about the intention of Clause 16(1), without weakening it in any way, by substituting for the words "in public" the more specific expression,
as an exhibition to the general public".
That is a clearer and more accurate way of putting it, and I commend the amendment to your Lordships. I beg to move.
§ On Question, amendment agreed to.
§ Clause 17 [Neuromuscular blocking agents]:
Lord Beaumont of Whitley moved Amendment No. 17:
Page 11, line 25, at end insert—
("(c) use an anaesthetic during a procedure where a neuromuscular blocking agent is used unless he is fully competent to achieve and maintain total anaesthesia.").
The noble Lord said: My Lords, when we discussed this matter in Committee the Minister said, as reported in Hansard, col. 764, on 17th December:
Permission to administer an anaesthetic during a procedure where neuromuscular blocking agents are used will only be granted to licensees who are fully competent to achieve and maintain the appropriate level of anaesthesia.
When the Minister said that, he really met the main point that we were trying to argue at the time. We feel that that statement needs to be in the Bill. Therefore, I have tabled, with the noble Lord, Lord Melchett, an amendment using what amount to the Minister's own words in the hope that we may get them in the Bill.
§ The only possible open question is whether, in the last line of the amendment, there should be the word "total" or the words "the appropriate level of", which were the words used by the Minister. I include the word "total" because it goes further, but it could be withdrawn and the alternative substituted at the next stage if necessary. I beg to move.
§ Viscount Davidson
My Lords, the noble Lord has a worry—I know that it is a quite common worry—about the safeguards applying to the use of neuromuscular blocking agents; that is to say, substances which are used to prevent normal muscular reflexes from interfering with some surgical procedures. When the noble Lord raised this question with an amendment in Committee I explained the substantial safeguards which are already in the Bill to ensure that procedures involving the use of these substances are carried out only by appropriately qualified licensees and subject to tight conditions, as the noble' Lord quoted.
First, Clause 17(a) prohibits the use of neuromuscular blocking agents unless there is specific authority in both the personal and project licences. That means that the precise circumstances in which the blocking agents are to be used, including the use of anaesthesia, will have been the subject of detailed scrutiny. Secondly, Clause 17(b) provides that neuromuscular blocking agents may never be used as a substitute for an anaesthetic. Thirdly, a standard condition in the personal licence—I refer your Lordhips to paragraph B.12 in Annex C to the draft guidance note—makes provision, where necessary, for the inspector to be notified of the intended use of substances of this kind by a first-time applicant. The inspector can then attend the procedure if he thinks fit, or offer advice, or make further checks on what is going to be done.
This amendment is intended to add another safeguard, but it is not necessary. The amendment requires a person administering an anaesthetic during a procedure where neuromuscular blocking agents are used to be fully competent to achieve and maintain total anaesthesia. Under the Bill the administration of an anaesthetic will for the first time be a regulated procedure; and all personal licensees who intend to use that technique will have to satisfy the Secretary of State that they are qualified to do so. There will thus be no question of a person using an anaesthetic in the way described unless he has proved his competence to achieve and maintain the level of anaesthesia appropriate to the procedure.
I should also draw attention to the effect of the amendment in making the administration of an anaesthetic in these circumstances by an incompetent person an offence, by virtue of Clause 22(3). If the 1250 offence relates to an unlicensed person, there is no need for it: by acting without the authority of a licence he is already committing an offence under Section 3 and is quite rightly liable to the much more substantial penalties prescribed in Clause 22(1). If, however, it is a properly licensed person who is doing these things without being fully competent then, in that unlikely event, the fault would lie not with the licensee but with the Secretary of State. It would surely be oppressive to expose a licensee to prosecution in these circumstances.
The Government are fully aware of the anxieties that have been expressed about the use of neuromuscular blocking agents. For that reason we have provided, in this area, some of the tightest safeguards in the Bill. They will be applied most rigorously. I do hope that what I have said will persuade the noble Lord that there is no need to pursue his amendment.
§ Lord Beaumont of Whitley
My Lords, the Minister has produced extremely cogent arguments as to why this amendment is unnecessary. I did not detect in what he said any real argument as to why there would be any harm in passing it; I did not detect any argument that the amendment itself would do any harm. Nevertheless, it is clear that the Minister is right in saying that in this area there are very considerable safeguards. I shall therefore beg the leave of the House to withdraw the amendment, but not with any particular guarantee that others may not take it up on another occasion and maybe in another place. I do not regard this argument as having been settled; but I think that, for this evening, I shall beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ 9.30 p.m.
§ Clause 19 [The Animal Procedures Committee]:
Lord Glenarthur moved Amendment No. 18:
Page 12, line 28, at end insert ("; and in making appointments to the Committee the Secretary of State shall have regard to the desirability of ensuring that the interests of animal welfare are adequately represented.").
§ The noble Lord said: My Lords, I hope that your Lordships will welcome this amendment, which is the result of the strong feeling voiced in Committee that there should be an express reference in Clause 19 to the contribution of those concerned with animal welfare to the work of the Animal Procedures Committee. We have been impressed by the argument that the balance in Clause 19, as it stands, is expressed in rather negative terms. We agree that there should be a specific and positive reference in the clause to the interests of animal welfare.
§ The amendment is designed to remedy that shortcoming. It does not attempt to put a number on the representation of animal welfare interests, since it would clearly be a misconception to suggest that animal welfare was a concern of only certain members of the committee. But it is intended that this provision, which requires the Secretary of State in appointing the committee to see that animal welfare interests are adequately represented, should assure members of animal welfare groups of a distinct voice on the new 1251 committee. The new provision would also encompass the sort of appointment, which the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Birmingham suggested in Committee, of someone with a background in moral or ethical philosophy. I am grateful to him for his most helpful letter.
§ The Animal Procedures Committee will have a fundamental role to play under the new legislation. It must combine the best advice from all perspectives, and the clause which establishes it in the Bill must announce clearly what kind of body this is to be. This amendment will enhance the definition of the committee and I commend it to your Lordships. I beg to move.
The Earl of Selkirk
My Lords, I welcome this amendment very much. I think it is admirable in every way. I wonder whether I may take a liberty with the noble Lord? I made two suggestions in the course of the Committee stage and I should like to refer to them if I may for a moment. The first question I asked was this: what exactly do the words "biological subject" include? Do they include, for instance, a professor who studies animal behaviour? I think they probably do, and I only ask that question.
There is, however, a more important point that I should like to make. I wonder whether the Government have tied themselves up a little too tight in the definitions under subsections (3) and (4). I do not propose to say much about that except to suggest that a chairman should be free of any qualifications. The qualifications of a chairman are quite unique. He need not be clever or know about the subject. It is a perfectly unique qualification that he should possess. I suggest that it is in the interests of the Secretary of State to be absolutely free to appoint anyone to be chairman, without considering subsections (3) and (4).
Perhaps I may add that for reasons of mathematics it may be better to change the number 11 into 12, because it divides more easily into two-thirds. Three into 11 is rather a difficult sum. I throw that out to the noble Lord because I think it may make the committee stronger, which I believe is the intention of the House, and leave the Secretary of State with a slightly freer hand.
§ Lord Melchett
My Lords, I welcome the noble Lord's amendment without asking him any awkward questions. It is a significant and important amendment, and I am again grateful to him for bringing it forward at this stage. While I am on my feet I would add that I agree with him that it would be undesirable to put a number on those who are to represent the interests of animal welfare. This is the best way of ensuring that the concerns that a number of us expressed in Committee are met. I think that the amendment is just right, and I congratulate the Government on it.
§ Baroness Ewart-Biggs
My Lords, as I brought this point up strongly in Committee I should also like to thank the Minister very much. I welcome the amendment. The balance of the Committee will now be established. At the same time it will have a link with ordinary members of the public, who will feel that they 1252 have an understanding with someone on the Committee.
§ Lord Glenarthur
My Lords, with the leave of the House, I simply say that I am grateful to all those who have responded so warmly to the amendment. The two questions of my noble friend Lord Selkirk perhaps go slightly wide of the amendment, but I give him the assurance that the term "biological" includes a professor of animal behaviour, which I hope is the point about which he is concerned. He raised an important point about the chairman. The chairman can be anyone; obviously someone competent, but not necessarily with qualifications that others may need. I was most interested to hear his comments, and I should like to study them further. Whether the 11 should be extended to 12 may be worth considering. It is a valuable point, and I shall certainly take it away and look at it. I commend the amendment to the House.
§ On Question, amendment agreed to.
§ Clause 20 [Functions of the Committee]:
Lord Glenarthur moved Amendment No. 19:
Page 13, line 28, at end insert ("and unnecessary use in scientific procedures.").
The noble Lord said: My Lords, I need be only brief in moving this amendment. Clause 20(2), as it stands, requires the Animal Procedures Committee in considering any matter to
have regard both to the legitimate requirements of science and industry and to the protection of animals against avoidable suffering".
This is intended to sum up the balance which underlies this whole Bill and to charge the committee with having regard to that balance or combination of interests. The term "avoidable suffering" is meant to be interpreted widely. However, in Committee the noble Lord, Lord Melchett, made the point that the formulation
the protection of animals against avoidable suffering
would not cover in all respects the desirable goal of avoiding the use of animals in scientific procedures. The noble Lord suggested that this should be more clearly highlighted.
§ We have reflected on the noble Lord's proposition and believe that the statement in Clause 20(2) could indeed be improved by making an express reference of this kind. The result is this amendment, which adds to the existing provision a requirement for the committee to have regard to the protection of animals against unnecessary use in regulated procedures. The equally important concerns of the legitimate requirements of science and industry, and the protection of animals against avoidable suffering in the widest sense, remain in the provision in their original form.
§ I believe this amendment strengthens the provision in Clause 20(2) by signalling more clearly what the full range of proper concerns of the Animal Procedures Committee should be. I am grateful to the noble Lord for bringing to our attention the need for such a change. I beg to move.
§ Lord Melchett
My Lords, I should like to welcome this amendment as well, although slightly less 1253 enthusiastically. I certainly do not oppose it, and I believe that it represents a considerable improvement on the provisions that were previously contained in Clause 20. I still think that it would be worth giving further thought to the matter. And, no doubt, another place will be doing that in any event.
The wording of the amendment that I moved at Committee stage, as the noble Lord has mentioned, was that the Animal Procedures Committee should have regard to the need to reduce and, where practical, eliminate the use of animals in regulated procedures. I do not wish to go into too much detail, but I believe that that amendment had a rather more forward-looking and positive note about it than the Government amendment. It is, however, the case that the Government amendment goes a great deal further than what is in the Bill at the moment. I am grateful to the noble Lord for bringing forward the amendment. It is a considerable improvement. I hope, however, that some further thought will be given to it to see whether it cannot be improved a little more.
§ On Question, amendment agreed to.
§ Clause 21 [Guidance, codes of practice and statistics]:
Lord Melchett moved Amendment No. 20:
Page 14, line 3, leave out ("may issue") and insert ("shall issue one or more").
§ The noble Lord said: My Lords, I say at once that I intend to withdraw this amendment. The noble Lord, Lord Beaumont, and myself, and also my noble friends who have added their names to the amendment, when we originally tabled it had not seen a letter that the Government sent to the noble Lord, Lord Beaumont, on 13th January, in which they commented on the debate that had taken place on two amendments when we were trying to replace "may" with "shall" at the Committee stage. I had a success on that occasion. The noble Lord, Lord Beaumont, came up against some difficulties. We thought that we had overcome them. However, on studying what the Government have said, both of us recognise, as no doubt all noble Lords will recognise, that we have not overcome them.
§ It may help if I explain this, although if I am wrong the noble Lord will correct me, and we can leave the matter there. It is my understanding that under Clause 21 the Government will wish to be able, if it is appropriate, under subsection (2), simply to approve codes issued by other persons and not necessarily issue any codes of practice themselves.
§ I still believe, as I think also does the noble Lord, Lord Beaumont, that it would be better if subsection (2) made it clear that the Secretary of State will either issue a code of practice himself or approve a code issued by other people. What are needed therefore are two "shalls" and an "or", rather than the "shall issue one or more" that we have at the moment. It will then he clear that the Secretary of State will either issue a code of practice or approve one issued by other people. We have not got it quite right. Unless any other noble Lord wishes to speak, having moved the amendment and having had the Question put to the House, I shall immediately withdraw it so that we stick within the procedure this time.1254
§ The Lord Bishop of Birmingham
My Lords, I find myself in a difficult position in speaking to something that will be withdrawn. I appreciate that the wording may not be correct. It is, however, desirable that there should be freedom of information and that the codes that are used should be published, not least because there is some around concerning the Bill. Unless the facts are known, things are made very difficult.
The whole Bill does not make sense without codes. We therefore need to know about the codes. I do not see that this imposes any restriction on the Secretary of State's action or discretion. I see that it is important that he should keep his discretion. I find it hard to see what damage would be done. I appreciate that the amendment could be differently worded and that it may have to be withdrawn as it stands. Secondly, so far as the proposed subsections (6) and (7) are concerned—
§ Lord Melchett
My Lords, if I may interrupt the right reverend Prelate, we have not yet reached Amendment No. 21. We are on Amendment No. 20.
§ The Lord Bishop of Birmingham
My Lords, I apologise to the House. I am greatly helped by the noble Lord, Lord Melchett.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ 9.45 p.m.
§ Lord Melchett moved Amendment No. 21:
Page 14, line 12, at end insert—
(" (5) The Secretary of State shall cause any information published or codes issued or reused under this section to be printed and distributed, and may make such arrangements as he thinks fit for its distribution, including causing copies of it to be put on sale to the public at such reasonable price as the Secretary of State may determine.
(6) A failure on the part of any person to follow any guidance contained in a code issued under this section shall not of itself render that person liable to proceedings of any kind.
(7) In all criminal proceedings any such code shall be admissible in evidence: and if any provision of such a code appears to the court conducting the proceedings to be relevant to any question arising in the proceedings, it shall be taken into account in determining that question.").
§ The noble Lord said: My Lords, this is a more substantial amendment and we can take a little longer on it. We had a considerable debate at Committee stage on the nature of the codes and, as the right reverend Prelate has just said, their importance under a Bill of this sort. It is an enabling Bill where all the detail is contained in the codes of practice either issued by the Home Office, as a number of them will be, or produced by other people and endorsed or approved by the Secretary of State.
§ On thinking about what had been said on this at Committee stage, it seemed to me that it would be useful to look at another Act of Parliament, the Food and Environment Protection Act, where exactly the same legislative framework was used. It was an enabling measure. All the details of the controls—in that case on pesticides—were to be contained in a number of codes of practice.1255
§ It seems to me that there are two issues taken together in this amendment which are particularly important where codes of practice are relied on to the extent that they are in this Bill. First, Parliament should insist that the codes of practice will be available to the public, albeit if necessary at a cost. Secondly, because the codes of practice do not form part of the statute law it should be perfectly clear on the face of the Bill what part they play, if any, in criminal proceedings taken under the Bill.
§ I dare say that the provisions contained in subsections (5), (6) and (7) are to some extent certainly within the Secretary of State's power; and as far as subsection (7) is concerned, within the power of the court. But it was felt necessary by the Government and by the parliamentary draftsmen in the Food and Environment Protection Bill to put these provisions in what is now that Act of Parliament. I think it is right that they are in the Act of Parliament, because it is then clear to everyone exactly what is the force of the codes of practice.
§ First, subsection (5) would make clear that the codes of practice and so on should be made available to the public. There would be no question of their not being made available. That would be clear on the face of the Bill. Secondly—and I accept the force of this argument raised in Committee—codes of practice, because they are general guidance and not specific requirements—should not, if they are broken, in themselves involve the committing of a criminal offence. Thirdly, because they are very important, because they are intended to be taken seriously and act as guidance, and to be observed by those experimenting on animals under this Bill, if the code of practice appears to be relevant to a court in trying a case which arises under the Bill it should be clear to everyone in advance that the code of practice can be taken into account in those proceedings. It seems to me that all those are important points. I hope that they will be acceptable to the Government. I beg to move.
§ Lord Airedale
My Lords, I should like to say a few words about the proposed subsection (7) in this amendment. This is one of that class of amendments which have come to be colloquially known as trigger clauses; that is to say, clauses which make codes of practice where they are relevant admissible in evidence in civil criminal proceedings.
Yesterday we had a debate on codes of practice initiated by the noble Lord, Lord Campbell of Alloway. In that debate I took the opportunity to mention that in our Committee stage I had moved an amendment in similar terms to subsection (7) in this amendment: a trigger clause of that kind. I said that in Committee I had received a good deal of sympathy for my amendment from the noble Lord, Lord Glenarthur, but that subsequently he had considered the matter and had written to me in great detail a letter for which I was extremely grateful. In that letter he set out at some length his reasons for thinking that such a trigger clause was not appropriate to this Bill.
I do not need to trouble your Lordships with the reasons of the noble Lord, but he then came to the following sentence:In addition it is in any case unnecessary"—1256 that is to say, my amendment—'since there is nothing in the Bill which bars the admission of codes of practice [as] evidence in civil or criminal proceedings, and if they are relevant to an issue arising during proceedings they could be taken in evidence".I said that I supposed that the noble Lord, Lord Glenarthur, was laying down a general principle that all codes of practice authorised by an Act of Parliament were admissible, wherever relevant, in civil or criminal proceedings before any court. I went on to say that if that general principle existed, then it was positively confusing to have particular trigger clauses in particular Bills, like this Bill or like the Police and Criminal Evidence Bill (or Act as it is now), because that would simply confuse people. People would think that only in those cases where trigger clauses existed were the codes of practice to be admissible in evidence. They would argue that if some other Act allowed codes of practice but contained no trigger clause, then those codes surely should not be given in evidence because if Parliament had so intended, it would have introduced a trigger clause into the Act. So I said that there was a confusion.
The debate yesterday was answered by the noble and learned Lord the Lord Advocate. He referred to the point which I had raised; however, he then said that he was very sorry but he was reluctant to enter into a field which was already occupied by the noble Lord, Lord Glenarthur. Therefore, this gives me the opportunity to raise the matter again.
I gave the noble Lord as much notice as I could that I was going to take this course. However, the debate took place only yesterday. I believe that this is an important matter which has led to confusion. I hope that I shall be able to receive an answer from the noble Lord, if not now at rather short notice, as soon as may be, because this really is a matter which needs to be cleared up.
§ The Lord Bishop of Birmingham
My Lords, I apologise to the House for having spoken about this matter under the wrong amendment, but I hope that I shall be allowed to take up a little of your Lordships' time to make two points. First, under subsection (5) it seems to me essential in a Bill which is really dependent upon codes of procedure, and without which the Bill makes no sense at all, that justice not only should be done, but should be seen to be done. I cannot see—and I hope that the noble Lord the Minister will tell us—what objection there can possibly be. It does not—as I was beginning to say earlier—impinge on the discretion of the Secretary of State at all; it is merely a question of publishing what is the case. I should have thought that that would help people to have confidence in the Bill.
As regards subsections (6) and (7), as I pointed out in Committee, precisely the same kind of provision applies to animals in intensive farming under the Farming (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act. I find it very difficult to see why this kind of provision should be included on behalf of animals in intensive farming, but not when it comes to laboratory experiments. As I see it, there seems to be a kind of lack of logic in having it in the one case and not in the other. I hope that the noble Lord the Minister will either make a strong case or perhaps be open to accepting this amendment, because it does not seem to me to impinge upon any 1257 of the principles involved. We have happily co-operated to this point. I should be very interested to hear what answer he makes in objection to the amendment.
§ Lord Prys-Davies
My Lords, I fully support the three subsections of the amendment. Of course the codes of practice should be published. Indeed, I should have thought that their very purpose requires that they be published. The people who will be affected by the code must have the means of knowing its contents. This amendment does not require any particular form of publication. That is a matter to be left to the Secretary of State.
However, on the issue of publication, surely the amendment must be right. We would accept that the failure to observe the provisions of the code should not of itself render a person liable to prosecution. However, we must know what status the code enjoys. Three times since five o'clock the Minister has referred to and has relied on the code of practice. He relied on the code of practice when we discussed Amendments Nos. 6, 7 and 11. Therefore, we are entitled to ask: what status does it enjoy? Are the courts to pay any regard to this code?
As the Bill stands, the code will have no legal effect. That is unsatisfactory. This particular amendment is modelled on the provisions to be found in a number of Acts. In particular, I would refer to the Agricultural (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1968 for the welfare of the livestock sector—not animals used for experimentation, but animals in the livestock sector. I could refer the House to the Health and Safety at Work Act which was passed for the protection of persons in work. Why do we not have a similar provision for the protection of animals used for experimentation?
Yesterday in your Lordships' House there was an important discussion about the codes of practice authorised by other Acts of Parliament. There is an admixture of codes, but the principle of this amendment is, as I understand yesterday's debate, to be found in most of the codes. This is the common type of provision. Therefore, if the Minister is unwilling at present to accept this amendment, I think that he must convince the House why this sector is an exception. I invite the Minister to have another look at this amendment in the light of the important debate in your Lordships' House yesterday.
§ Lord Glenarthur
My Lords, as the noble Lord, Lord Melchett, has explained, the text of this amendment is taken from Section 17 of the Food and Environment Protection Act 1985 which provides for the issue of codes of practice to guide the suppliers and users of pesticides in meeting their statutory obligations. The noble Lord, Lord Melchett, is certainly extremely inventive, if that is not too strong a word, in spotting correspondences between all kinds of legislation and transplanting bits from one statute to another. However, I am afraid that the operation is not always a success. What may be necessary in a section dealing with codes of practice about pesticides cannot be assumed to be appropriate in a provision dealing with information and codes of practice concerned in various different ways with the use of animals in scientific procedures.
1258 To begin with, the Secretary of State is to be required by the new subsection (5) to print and distribute the various documents he issues under this clause, and to arrange for its sale to the general public. I should make it quite clear that of course the Secretary of State will ensure that these things are done. The annual statistics provided for in Clause 21(3) are already published and distributed for sale each year by Her Majesty's Stationery Office. We shall ensure that the guidance note—this important note to which the noble Lord, Lord Prys-Davies, referred, and to which he correctly said I had referred on more than one occasion because it is an important adjunct to the Bill that we are discussing—will be distributed in its final form to all those who need to use it. We shall see that it is available for purchase by members of the public if they wish to do so. The codes of practice now being prepared by the Royal Society, which we hope to adopt, will be printed and distributed for sale by the originators. The Secretary of State is not intending to do that for them.
Whatever is published, issued or approved under Section 21 will be available to all those who need it and to members of the public who are interested. There need be no anxiety about this since the inspectors will be in regular touch with all those whose work will require them to refer to the guidance and the codes of practice.
I turn now to the proposed new subsections (6) and (7). Subsection (6) is of course linked to subsection (7). Taken on its own, it says only that failing to comply with a code of practice is not in itself an offence. That of course is already quite self-evident in the Bill and it is not necessary to spell it out. Indeed, the noble Lord, Lord Prys-Davies, said precisely that. Subsection (7) deals with the admissibility of codes of practice as evidence in criminal proceedings. Your Lordships have already given this question some attention in Committee, when we discussed the similar amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Airedale. The Government said then that we would give some thought to the implications of making such a change. I have to tell your Lordships that after very careful consideration we remain of the view that it would be inappropriate to include a provision of this kind in the Bill.
The position in relation to codes of practice under this Bill is rather different from that under the Police and Criminal Evidence Act or the Agriculture (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act, or indeed under the Food and Environment Protection Act. Codes of practice issued under the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 are directly relevant to the conduct of the police in circumstances described in the main provisions of the Act. Likewise, codes under the Agriculture Act 1968 are linked to the general offence created by Section 1 of that Act. The Food and Environment Protection Act provides for codes of practice which will amplify the requirements imposed by the Act and by regulations made under it.
The codes of practice which we shall issue or approve under the Animals (Scientific Procedures) Bill do not have such a direct link with the Bill's penalty provisions. It is not necessary, since under the Bill 1259 there are other means of dealing with failure to care for animals properly. Revocation of a licence or certificate can mean loss of livelihood. Those sanctions are not available in dealing with (to take an example) a farmer who keeps his animals in substandard accommodation. In that case the codes are the cutting edge of the offence provision in the relevant legislation.
In this Bill, codes of practice have a quite different status. They are in the spirit of the Bill, but they complement rather than amplify its other provisions. The codes are most unlikely to be relevant, and therefore admissible in evidence, in relation to any offence created by the Bill itself, although they might be relevant in proceedings for an offence under the Protection of Animals Acts.
Those are the legal arguments, but I should add—because I believe it is reassuring—that the absence of the provision suggested in this amendment would not in any way preclude the admission of codes of practice as evidence in criminal or civil proceedings, and if they are relevant to an issue arising during proceedings they could be taken in evidence. The new subsection is therefore unnecessary as well as being inappropriate.
The noble Lord, Lord Airedale, drew attention to yesterday's debate, which of course is relevant to the discussion that we are now having. May I reassure him that we shall consider this matter further in the light of yesterday's debate on the Motion of my noble friend Lord Campbell. We shall look particularly, with all those appropriate advisers, at the valid point of general principle which he has raised. But I am afraid that I cannot comment further on this tonight.
I shall carefully consider the points which have been raised by all those who have spoken in this debate. But I hope that the explanation I have given, and what has been said about the preceding subsections proposed by this amendment, will persuade the noble Lord who proposed this amendment that it will not be necessary to press it further tonight.
§ Lord Melchett
No, my Lords, I shall not. I am very grateful to the noble Lord for taking up this suggestion, which I believe was originally made by my noble friend on the Front Bench, that in the light of yesterday's debate it would be desirable to consider this question again. I take the Minister's point about the first of the three subsections, but I totally disagree with him about the need for subsection (7). Frankly, it may be self-evident to a lawyer, as those who advise the noble Lord the Minister and my noble friend might be, but I do not think it is self-evident to most people. Most of the people implementing this Bill will be working in laboratories and not in the courts of law. It does not seem to me to be self-evident that a failure to follow guidance contained in a code does not give rise to any offence. It would be desirable for that to be made clear in the Bill for the sake of those who will be operating it.
Even more strongly may I say that, if it is the fact that a code could be used in evidence, then the people who operate under the codes ought to be told that. The noble Lord is not saying that that is self-evident from the Bill because I do not think anyone would advance 1260 that argument; it is not. It is only, as the noble Lord, Lord Airedale, said, when one gets some considerable way into a lengthy letter that this gem emerges, that nothing in the Bill precludes the codes from being used as evidence in a court of law were they to be relevant. But once again it is important that people operating under these codes should be told that. It seems to me that the place where they should be told is on the face of the Bill. I personally think that it is extremely important that the last two subsections of the amendment should be included.
Although the analogy with the farm animals may not be precise, I think that the analogy with the Food and Environment Protection Act is rather better, because a number of sanctions are available to the Minister of Agriculture short of prosecution under that Act, as there are, as the noble Lord said, to the Home Office under this Bill. Nevertheless, the Government and the parliamentary draftsmen working on that Act thought it was necessary just a few months ago for these provisions to be included, and I suspect, in the light of yesterday's debate, that that is the way we are likely to go in future Acts of Parliament. I hope we shall do so in this one, when the noble Lord has had a chance to consider it. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Clause 24 [Protection of confidential information]:
Lord Melchett moved Amendment No. 22:
Page 15, line 17, after ("he") insert ("recklessly").
§ The noble Lord said: My Lords, I shall move this very shortly. Noble Lords will remember that we had a considerable debate and there was considerable anxiety about the provisions in Clause 24(1) regarding the protection of confidential information. Some assurances were given at Committee stage which to me seem to go beyond the wording of the Bill. It was suggested, I think from memory by the noble Viscount, Lord Davidson, although I do not have Hansard in front of me, that if somebody simply asked for information he would not be guilty of an offence. That did not seem to me, or to some of those who would be affected by this provision, to be all that clear.
§ I hoped it would be possible to find a word and I took a limited amount of legal advice—I am sure not enough—to see whether it would not be possible to qualify this offence so that it was a case of somebody quite deliberately doing something that he knew he should not and that he knew would damage the person from whom information was received. That is my intention. I hope I have satisfied the draftsmen—I rather doubt it. I beg to move.
§ Lord Prys-Davies
My Lords, I agree with the principle of the amendment, but I am not so sure about the form of words. Clause 24 is very widely drawn and it appears to me that it ought to be qualified. Clause 24 creates a criminal offence. Lord Melchett suggests that recklessness be an element in that offence, but I am not sure what is the meaning of recklessness, certainly in the context of this clause. The word can have more than one meaning. It can mean irresponsibility, but it has other meanings. It can be 1261 defined to mean a statement made without consideration to all the relevant interests.
It seems to me that unless the amendment defines the meaning to be given to the word "reckless" we may be introducing confusion or uncertainty into the clause, which, after all, creates a criminal offence. I am sure that there should be no room for uncertainty in the criminal law; so I go along with the principle expressed by my noble friend that this clause ought to be qualified but I am not happy about the word "reckless"
§ Lord Clitheroe
My Lords, I must declare an interest, albeit a very small one, in that I am a member of the Council of the Chemical Industries' Association. I should like to comment on this amendment, with your Lordships' agreement. It is a matter of considerable importance to the industry. I believe that the introduction of the word "reckless" would be wholly counter-productive. From the industry's point of view, when trade secrets are often of significant importance, any amendment giving the impression to industry that information provided by it in confidence might not be kept confidential would be a very regrettable step. It would inevitably tend to inhibit openness of discussion with relevant authorities, and that would be a most retrograde situation.
I am not suggesting that there should be any greater secrecy in industry than there is now. Indeed, I believe that substantial efforts should be make to reduce the amount of secrecy within industry. It is very important that the public have as wide a knowledge of what happens within industry as possible. But the greatest understanding by the public is not necessarily afforded by this kind of amendment. Anyway, that is another issue.
The serious point remains that industry has to try to ensure that its commercial interests are not hurt by its competitors and that it can rely upon a clearly understandable legal framework. I think that perhaps I am touching on the other side of the same point as that which the noble Lord opposite has just touched upon. This amendment does not offer any assurance to industry that the position would be a stable legal framework.
Listening to your Lordships, I thought of an even broader issue than the chemical industries issue. There has been considerable reference this evening to the question of codes of practice. There was a very interesting debate that I listened to yesterday, a short debate on the subject of codes of practice. I reflected on that, and it drew my thoughts to the problems of codes of practice in a more general sense. It seems, with respect, that there are certain codes that we should all attempt to practise. One of these is that of treating confidential information with confidence. Any variation from this seems to me to be intrinsically dishonourable, and with that in mind I would be bound to take exception to this amendment in any Bill which would qualify and make ambiguous the meaning of the word "confidential".
I believe that the interpolation of the word "reckless" into this clause is such a qualification. It would not be appropriate for me to argue about semantics and what the word "reckless" means in this 1262 context, but it certainly is open to wide interpretation and certainly seems to me to wreck any clear construction of the meaning of this clause of the Bill.
§ 10.15 p.m.
§ Viscount Davidson
My Lords, I am sure the House will be most grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Clitheroe, for his contribution to this debate. I must say that when I first saw this amendment I was not sure whether it was reckless or wrecking; but I am afraid I must say to the noble Lord, Lord Melchett, that this is not an amendment which the Government can receive with any enthusiasm at all.
The amendment would alter the terms of the offence created under Clause 24(1), so as to make only the reckless disclosure of confidential information unlawful under this Bill. As I explained to your Lordships in Committee, the effect of Clause 24(1) is not oppressive. Its chief purpose is to protect commercially sensitive information, personal details and other sensitive information from wilful abuse. Of course none of the people it applies to, such as the Secretary of State, his inspectors and other officials, assessors, and members of the Animal Procedures Committee, is at all likely to commit the offence. The clause is a safeguard, a longstop. It is not a provision we expect will need to be applied. The clause makes plain that the offence does not relate to information which is disclosed by someone in the course of discharging their functions under the Act. The offence is aimed at the person who discloses information in a damaging way, knowing quite well that it was given on a specific in-confidence basis.
The amendment is therefore unnecessary, it would certainly exclude the inadvertent disclosure of information, but, provided due discretion had been observed, would not conceivably be the subject of prosecution in any case. What the amendment does succeed in doing—although I am sure it is not intended to—is to remove from Clause 24(1) the central target of the offence. By confining the offence to reckless disclosure, it means that confidential information would no longer be protected from deliberate, calculated abuse: passing on one firm's research plans to another, for example. The whole purpose of the provision is thereby destroyed.
The offence as it stands needs no further qualification, it catches deliberate abuse, or indeed reckless disclosure, without in any way preventing members of the Animal Procedures Committee or others with responsibilities under the legislation from discussing information to the extent that their duties require it. The present balance in Clause 24 is in our view right, and I must urge the noble Lord to withdraw his amendment.
§ Lord Melchett
My Lords, I must say I had not realised that this applied to the Secretary of State. In the light of recent events, I can see why the Chemical Industries Association and others are so anxious that a Secretary of State disclosing confidential—private and confidential, is it?—letters should be immediately locked up. I now see why the clause is worded so strongly. More seriously, as my noble friend has said 1263 and as the noble Viscount has said, I accept that "recklessly" is not the right word. Perhaps I may say to the noble Lord, Lord Clitheroe, that there is really great concern about the wording of this part of Clause 24, and I know that some of those who may be in the position of serving on the Animal Procedures Committee are worried that they may be placing themselves in a position where they may well find themselves committing a criminal offence quite inadvertently.
The noble Viscount has twice tried to reassure us on this point. I do not think he has entirely succeeded, and I hope it may be possible, before the Bill becomes an Act, for all those involved to see whether there is not some way of protecting the legitimate requirements of commercial confidentiality which, helicopters aside, I think is generally accepted to be worth safeguarding; and, on the other hand, ensuring that people who are serving on the committee do not feel they are going to be so inhibited as to place them in a quite impossible position. I am not entirely convinced that the balance is quite right. I hope it is something which the Government and others involved, particularly the commercial sector, will approach with that in mind. However it is clear that "recklessly" is not going to do, though it might well apply to some of the Secretaries of State whom this clause will affect in future. In the meantime, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Clause 25 [Powers of entry]:
Lord Adrian moved Amendment No. 23:
Page 15, line 35, at end insert—
("( ) Persons entering a place which has been designated as a scientific procedure or breeding and supply establishment in pursuance of a warrant issued under subsection (1) above shall comply with such precautions as may be specified by the person in charge of the establishment to prevent the spread of infections or contagious disease within or outside the establishment.").
§ The noble Lord said: My Lords, I beg to move Amendment No. 23. In Committee, I drew attention to the potentially grave hazard a policeman might face if he forcefully entered registered premises on his own. I also indicated that he might release from containment facilities pathogens and especially viruses which are highly infectious both to man and to animals. May I take this opportunity to thank noble Lords who supported me from all sides on that occasion in Committee.
§ I accept the requirement of the noble Lord the Minister of State that the right of unaccompanied entry is a necessary reserve power, and in the amendment I have proposed it is not in question. The noble Lord reassured me in Committee that all can be left to the good sense of local magistrates and the police, and that the Home Office will issue guidance to the police in particular cases. The purpose of my amendment is to reinforce that guidance with an obligation on the part of the police to heed any special precautions in force at a particular registered establishment, and to give strength to the arm of anyone at that establishment who may have a responsibility for disease security there. My Lords, I beg to move.1264
§ Baroness Ewart-Biggs
My Lords, I should like to support this amendment. I remember thinking at Committee stage that the amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Adrian, seemed to have a great deal to be said for it. I remember also that the noble Earl, Lord Halsbury, who has now gone, supported it as a way of safeguarding what was going on inside a laboratory and trying to prevent any untoward accident happening through somebody, who was ignorant of the procedures going on inside, entering it. I should have thought this was a very good compromise amendment and that it could have the support of the Minister, who I hope will look at it favourably.
§ Lord Airedale
My Lords, I agree about this amendment. Surely a police constable finding himself in an animal laboratory is as much out of his depth, if that is the right epithet, as a bull in a china shop.
§ Viscount Davidson
My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Adrian, has raised again the important point concerning the possible spread of infection as a result of the entry of a constable following the issue of a search warrant. When he raised this at Committee stage, the noble Lord suggested that Clause 25 of the Bill should require that where a constable enters premises using the power of a search warrant issued under that clause he should be accompanied by a member of the Cruelty to Animals Inspectorate. At that time it was our view that the need to ensure access urgently in a situation where an inspector may not be quickly available was too important to warrant a change to the Bill of the sort proposed.
I have been thinking about all this further since we last debated the matter. The 1876 Act provides a power of entry under warrant, but only into premises not registered under that Act. This Bill does not make that distinction. In practice, if a power of entry is needed at all, it is much more likely to be needed to give access to places which are not designated establishments under the Bill. If we can reintroduce that distinction, I do not think there should be a problem in finding an inspector to take part in entering the premises. The noble Lord has given us further arguments for the objections to entry by a non-expert on his own into some scientific establishments.
In view of this, we propose to bring forward an amendment at the Third Reading of the Bill in this House to alter Clause 25 of the Bill so as to require a constable who exercises a search warrant issued under that clause, if he is entering a designated establishment, to be accompanied by an inspector, but not if he is entering a location which is not designated. Such a change will be of benefit not only in the prevention of the spread of infection but also in removing any other difficulties which might arise because of a constable's lack of knowledge of scientific matters or of the work of the establishment in question. In all the circumstances, I feel that this is a preferable course to the amendment which is proposed tonight.
In practice, the need for warrants for entry to designated establishments, if it arises at all, is likely to be very rare, because the inspector will be able to go freely into the establishment at any time. As noble Lords will appreciate, we would find some difficulty in accepting the noble Lord's present amendment, since 1265 it gives a person other than the constable some statutory control over the circumstances in which a warrant may be executed. I hope that in the light of what I have said the noble Lord, Lord Adrian, will not feel it necessary to press his amendment, and feel that my reply today is more helpful than the one I gave him on the last occasion.
§ Lord Adrian
My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Viscount for that reply. I am entirely happy with it, and gladly beg leave to withdraw the present amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Schedule 1 [Standard methods of humane killing]:
Lord Beaumont of Whitley moved Amendment No. 24:
Page 19, line 27, after ("fishes") insert ("and by the immediate exsanguination or immediate destruction of the brain in rodents and birds.").
§ The noble Lord said: My Lords, I owe an apology to your Lordships' House for introducing this amendment at Report stage. As your Lordships know, it was down for Committee stage, but, faced with the choice of moving the amendment or catching my last train home, I am afraid that I chose to catch the last train home.
§ The reason for this amendment is that I am advised that breaking an animal's neck or striking it on the head, particularly in the case of rodents and birds, may not be sufficient to produce long-lasting unconsciousness or certain death in every case, and to ensure that further drastic action is not required while the animal is unconscious. I am therefore putting this amendment forward as a probing amendment at this stage. I beg to move.
§ Lord Glenarthur
My Lords, this is the first time that we have discussed anything to do with Schedule 1 to the Bill. In view of the lateness of the hour I shall resist the temptation to go into a further description about other parts of the schedule that have not been raised. I will simply say to the noble Lord that our advice is that the suggested additional safeguard that he proposes is not necessary.
We have consulted the Universities Federation for Animal Welfare specifically on this question, and they agree with our view. Destruction of the brain is a necessary safeguard in the case of fishes, because they 1266 are cold-blooded vertebrates whose dislocated head may continue to experience sensation for some time after severance. That is not the case with rodents, lagomorphs—that is, hares or rabbits—or birds, which are all warm-blooded vertebrates. Ex-sanguination or destruction of the brain is specified for warm-blooded vertebrates in respect of four other methods of killing permitted under the schedule—those in paragraphs 2, 3, 5 and 7. That, however, is for the quite separate reason that each of those four methods carries a risk of incomplete effectiveness.
Had we proposed to allow dislocation of the neck in the case of larger animals, the noble Lord would undoubtedly have been right to raise this question, since it is possible that in the case of, say, a large rabbit the method might not be immediately and completely effective. However, we have intentionally restricted the use of this method to animals of a certain body weight—1 kg in the case of rodents and lagomorphs, 5 kg for birds, and 250 grammes for fishes. That, in our view, will ensure that the method is used only where its effectiveness can be guaranteed. For larger weights the method would only be allowed if we agreed to license it, for which we should need to be fully satisfied of the operator's competence. By imposing those restrictions on body weight we have gone further than the authoritative textbooks, which, incidentally, do not suggest the safeguard of ex-sanguination or destruction of the brain where dislocation is used, except for fishes.
I hope, that what I have said has helped to clarify the reasoning behind the specific instance that concerns the noble Lord. In general, our safeguards go slightly further even than those proposed in the authoritative practice guides; and, as I have said, our scheme has the general approval of the expert bodies in this field. Having considered the noble Lord's amendment very carefully we are satisfied that it is not a necessary addition. I hope that he will feel reassured.
§ Lord Beaumont of Whitley
My Lords, the noble Lord the Minister sounds thoroughly convincing. I shall report what he said to my advisers in order to see what they say. In the meantime, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ House adjourned at twenty-nine minutes before eleven o'clock.