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Government new clause 12Penalty for offences under sections (interference with contractual relations so as to harm animal research organisation) and (intimidation of persons connected with animal research organisation).
Government new clause 14Extension of sections (interference with contractual relations so as to harm animal research organisation) and (intimidation of persons connected with animal research organisation).
Caroline Flint: As with the previous group of amendments, we had extensive discussions in Committee on animal rights extremists and I said that the Government would table amendments on Report to tackle more effectively unlawful campaigns by animal rights extremists that are aimed at causing economic damage to organisations involved in animal research through pressure on third parties to break commercial or other links. I hope that hon. Members on both sides of the House will recognise that these amendments fulfil that commitment. I have met Opposition Front-Bench spokesmen to discuss them in more detail.
We believe that properly regulated research on animals is essential to make progress in treating diseasefor example, Alzheimer's disease, which affects more than half of those aged over 85. The abnormalities of Alzheimer's disease have been shown in primates and
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certain strains of mice, and animal studies provide opportunities for understanding Alzheimer's disease and studying potential new treatments. We need animal research if we are ever to discover a cure for Alzheimer's disease.
We have perhaps the most rigorous system of regulation of animal experiments of any country. Licences may be granted only when experts in the animals scientific procedures inspectorate are persuaded that the likely benefits of an experiment outweigh the likely harm to the animals concerned and that no alternatives can replace the use of animals, reduce the number of animals used or refine the procedures to minimise suffering.
Many people believe that animals should not be used for research and I respect that view. They have every right to express it and the great majority of them do so wholly peacefully and properly to try to persuade people to change their minds and to change the law. However, some of those who are opposed to research on animals have not used lawful methods of persuasion. They have sought to impose their views on others through harassment, threats and physical attacks. The purpose of the Government amendments is to tackle those campaigns.
The amendments introduce five new clauses which create two new offences. New clause 10 creates a new offence of a criminal or tortious act against a person that causes loss or damage with the intention of harming an animal research organisation, when the act is likely or intended to cause the person not to perform a contract or similar arrangement, to end a contract or not enter into one.
Mrs. Janet Dean (Burton) (Lab): Can my hon. Friend assure me that "animal research organisation" includes establishments where animals are bred for experimentation? She will know of the problems in my constituency and that of the hon. Member for Lichfield (Michael Fabricant) concerning a guinea pig farm. Many of our constituents have been severely affected. I thank the Minister for this legislation and her hard work, but I would like the assurance that I have requested.
Caroline Flint: I can assure my hon. Friend that the provision extends to breeding establishments. I commend her and others who supported the Hall family at Darley Oaks during many years of terrifying attacks and protests against them. Many hon. Members are aware of the attack on the grave of a family member not so long ago.
We broadly welcome the new clauses, but new clause 10(3)(a) contains the slightly curious phrase "amounting to a criminal offence", instead of an act which is a criminal offence. There is no such qualification in paragraph (b) in which a tortious act is apparently self-explanatory. Why was that form of words used in paragraph (a)?
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