Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, after the Animals (Scientific Procedures) Act 1986 (Amendment) Regulations 1998 and before the NATO debate, my noble friend Lord Whitty will, with the leave of the House, repeat a Statement that is to be made in another place on the roads review.
Moved, That the Baroness Nicol be appointed to serve as a member of the board of the Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology (POST) in the place of the Lord Renfrew of Kaimsthorn.--(The Chairman of Committees.)
Moved, That the Lord Burnham be appointed to serve as a member of the board of the Parliamentary Broadcasting Unit Limited (PARBUL) in the place of the Lord Chesham, and that the Lord Morris of Castle Morris be appointed to serve as a member of the board.--(The Chairman of Committees.)
Clause 1, Schedule 1, Clause 2, Schedule 2, Clauses 3 to 6, Schedule 3, Clauses 7 to 19, Schedule 4, Clause 20, Schedule 5, Clauses 21 to 23, Schedule 6, Clauses 24 to 32, Schedule 7, Clauses 33 and 34, Schedule 8, Clauses 35 and 36, Schedule 9, Clauses 37 to 44.--(Lord Whitty.)
The noble Lord said: My Lords, the schedule before your Lordships is designed to amend the Animals (Scientific Procedures) Act 1986. This gives effect to certain requirements arising from European Directive 86/609 on the protection of animals used for experimental and other scientific purposes.
Baroness Anelay of St Johns: My Lords, from these Benches, we welcome the making of this order subject only to the points of view to be put in a moment by my noble friend Lord Soulsby of Swaffham Prior. My welcome is made from the policy viewpoint. I am aware that my noble friend brings his professional expertise of the highest order to the points that he will make. I shall listen to those with interest.
Lord Beaumont of Whitley: My Lords, on these Benches, we certainly welcome these regulations and the noble Lord's introduction of them. As he says, they deal mainly with matters which are already happening.
However, I have three questions. The first is about Section 5(5) of the Act. There is no central information source on alternative methods that can be consulted by project licence applicants, although they are required to sign a declaration that in their opinion there are no suitable alternatives to the use of animals. It would seem to be a good thing if one could be furnished. An easily accessible and comprehensive database of alternatives is therefore needed urgently to assist in the enforcement of the Act.
The second question relates to the provision of "exceptional justification" which the Secretary of State may use to make an exception when dealing with Section 10(3)(d) and the project licences. The question of what is "exceptional justification" seems to be completely arbitrary. The call for a total ban on the use of wild caught primates is justified on the grounds that the animals exported from their country of origin are often in a bad state of health when they arrive in Europe and a large proportion die before reaching research laboratories. Their age and background are generally unknown and they may be carrying unknown pathogens. Further, many primates must endure journeys of up to 48 hours before they arrive in the UK. Surely the benefits from research of that kind can never be outweighed by the suffering caused to the animals.
My third question concerns the ban on the testing of cosmetics which is now possible under current legislation. The Home Office could adopt a policy which stated clearly that tests on cosmetics products or ingredients does not meet the interpretation of Section 5(4) of the Act. Indeed, last year the noble Lord, Lord Williams, said that the suffering to animals is not justified in the safety testing of cosmetics finished products. The question needs to be put concerning what progress has been made towards a total ban on the testing of cosmetics ingredients on animals.
Lord Soulsby of Swaffham Prior: My Lords, I should, first, declare an interest in that I am patron of the fund for the replacement of animals in medical experiments. But, as such, the amendments that are proposed in these regulations further consolidate the relevance and the value of the Animals (Scientific Procedures) Act 1986, which has served us well over the past 10 years or so. The proposed amendments do not represent any fundamental change but reflect the developments which have taken place since 1986. The regulations on the re-use and the identification of animals, and especially the regulations on the education and training of individuals who use and care for animals,
The amendments do in fact extend, advocate and advance the welfare of animals and in particular the three Rs--that is, replacement, reduction and refinement--as regards animals in medical research. However, I have one concern, and that relates to the use of animals from the wild, as mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Beaumont of Whitley. It is the interpretation of what is "from the wild" that worries me. My concern is with ponies which are used in equine research. I have no difficulty if this refers to truly wild animals, that we generally accept are born and live in the wild; but, so often, ponies from the Welsh hills, from Dartmoor and elsewhere are regarded as "wild" when they should more reasonably be referred to as "feral". I hope that the regulations will not encompass animals such as these ponies.
The Minister may be aware that there have been attempts to place horses or equines in general under Schedule 2 to the Act which demands that all animals should be bred specifically for experimental purposes. That applies to dogs, cats, mice, guinea pigs, and so on. Were that requirement to be made for horses, it would very severely compromise research on, for example, equine thoroughbreds and performance horses, which are never bred specifically for experimental purposes.
Of course, the regulations do not go that far; indeed, I am not complaining that they do. However, I merely wish to bring to the Minister's attention the fact that, were they to go that far in the future, we might then have a serious problem with respect to experimental work on horses such as thoroughbreds and performance horses. Other than that, I welcome the amendments, as, indeed, does the fund for the replacement of animals in medical experiments.
Lord Williams of Mostyn: My Lords, I am grateful for the welcome which has been given to these regulations by all those who have spoken. Perhaps I may now deal with the particular questions that have been raised. The noble Lord, Lord Beaumont of Whitley, raised three distinct questions. The first was about access to alternatives. This is an important matter. I recently went to ECVAM, which is the European centre for validation of alternative methods in Italy. I can tell the House that the organisation is in the process of establishing a database of the sort described. It is extremely important that, if available, alternatives should be identifiable in the way that the noble Lord mentioned. Moreover, it is important that one can to some extent, I hope, avoid duplication of these experimental procedures.
The noble Lord then raised a further question under Section 10(3) of the Act as regards "exceptional justification", which I believe was echoed by the noble Lord, Lord Soulsby. We take this as being a very severe constraint indeed. I am happy to give the assurance that that will continue to be Home Office policy. I should point out that "exceptional justification" is intended to mean that there is a high hurdle set and that is the way we intend to continue.
As regards cosmetics, four licences were still subsisting in May 1997 for the testing of finished cosmetic products. My officials negotiated the surrender of those licences so that there is no presently extant licence in this country for the testing of finished cosmetic products. I subsequently announced that no licences would be given for the testing of alcohol or of cigarettes on the basis of finished-product testing. So I reiterate that that, too, will remain Home Office policy.
I turn now to the specific question about wild-caught ponies. While Dartmoor ponies have been used in the past, as the noble Lord indicated, and it is still the position that they will fall within the relevant part of Section 10(3) of the Act, the conditions of a project licence shall, unless the Secretary of State considers that an exception is justified, include a condition that no protected animal taken from the wild shall be used under the licence. Therefore, if the use of wild-caught animals is essential, a licence can still be given and authority provided.
I note the point made by the noble Lord about the use of horses generally. I shall certainly bear that in mind and transmit it to my successor who is taking over these responsibilities. We are certainly extremely conscious of the fact that, if animals come into this country from abroad, they must be humanely treated at all times, especially bearing in mind the stress that travel can impose upon animals being transported over long distances. That is certainly something of which officials in the relevant unit are very conscious. I commend the regulations to the House.