Previous Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page

Lord Sainsbury of Turville: My Lords, clearly the decision about the particular situation in Cambridge was for Cambridge University to make. However, I have already had a meeting with the MRC and the Wellcome Trust to examine alternative ways to expand and develop the world-class neuroscience research taking place at Cambridge. We are also looking at how we can ensure that the facilities for this expanding area of research are available on a national basis. I have met the Director General of the Research Councils, the head of the MRC, Colin Blakemore, and Mark Walport of the Wellcome Trust to initiate work in this area.

Lord Campbell-Savours: My Lords, on the question of primate rights, has my noble friend had a chance to examine the work of Sue Savage Rumbeau and Duane Rumbeau in Atlanta, Georgia, which shows that primates, and apes in particular, are capable of intelligent communication with the use of voice synthesisers? If that is the case, does it not have implications for this whole policy area?

Lord Sainsbury of Turville: My Lords, I do not know about that research. As far as using animals or non-human primates for this work is concerned, I direct the noble Lord to the report by the Select Committee of this House that considered this very question and came up with three conclusions:

24 Feb 2004 : Column 111

Having said that, I will certainly look at the research although, from my rather limited knowledge of this area, what is being suggested is rather unlikely to be the situation.

Lord Smith of Clifton: My Lords, given that my Select Committee report to which the Minister referred also suggested the establishment of a national centre for the pursuit and development of the 3Rs with a view to reducing the amount of animal experimentation, what progress has been made towards the creation of such a centre since we last debated the matter in October?

Lord Sainsbury of Turville: My Lords, we are very supportive of that idea and I hope within a few days to make an announcement of our plans.

Baroness Miller of Hendon: My Lords, could the Minister tell the House tell us whether there are any statistics on, or whether any information has been collated about, the number of people who oppose experimentation on animals for medical research—and, indeed, of that number, how many are prepared to take the medicine and receive the medical procedures that result from that testing?

Lord Sainsbury of Turville: My Lords, it should always be pointed out that the number of people involved in the harassment and violence is in fact rather small. The great majority of people in this country are very supportive of work in this area, when they know about the stringent regulations of the Animals (Scientific Procedures) Act 1986. Whether those people who resort to that violence and harassment take medicines, I do not know; it is quite likely that they do so, regardless of the fact that major medical advances in the area require work to be done with animals.

Lord Walton of Detchant: My Lords, I am aware of the work being done at the Yerkes primate centre in Atlanta, Georgia. Would the Minister agree that it is precisely because of the development of the primate brain that work on such animals, with the appropriate precautions, is essential for the improvement of the treatment of diseases such as Parkinson's, Alzheimer's and many more? In that circumstance, will he ensure, as seems to be implied by his Answer, that such work is protected in the United Kingdom?

Lord Sainsbury of Turville: Yes, my Lords, it is quite clear that such work is necessary, and necessary for the very reasons that the noble Lord mentioned. It is an essential part of studying diseases such as Parkinson's and Alzheimer's that primates are used. We in this country are world-class leaders in neuroscience, and I am absolutely determined that we shall continue to be world-class leaders in that field. Therefore, we shall take all the action that we can to support that work.

24 Feb 2004 : Column 112

Fire Deaths

2.51 p.m.

Baroness Gardner of Parkes asked Her Majesty's Government:

    How many deaths due to fire occurred in 2003; how many of these were in private residences and how many were in other buildings; and, of the latter, how many buildings were fitted with a sprinkler system.

The Minister of State, Office of the Deputy Prime Minister (Lord Rooker): My Lords, the latest figures available for the United Kingdom are for the calendar year 2002, when in incidents attended by the fire and rescue service there were total deaths of 578, of which 443 were in dwellings and 25 in other buildings. There was a total of 64,635 fires in dwellings. A water sprinkler system was present in 22 of those fires. There were 40,537 fires in other buildings, and a water sprinkler system was present in 691 of those fires.

For the avoidance of doubt, so that I am not accused of misleading the House, earlier today very provisional figures were published for the financial year 2002–03, but I thought it best to use the figures that we had already prepared for this Answer.

Baroness Gardner of Parkes: My Lords, I thank the Minister for that Answer. Is he aware that the Answer that I was given when I raised the matter of sprinklers in relation to schools on 7 January has been acknowledged as wrong by the Lancashire Fire Brigade, which plays a leading role in the National Fire Sprinkler Network? That brigade wrote to the Minister at that time on that question. We were told that sprinklers would not have saved a particular school, whereas the sprinkler people say that it definitely would.

Does the Minister agree that, whatever numbers have died, there would have been fewer deaths if sprinklers had been available? Would they not be particularly important in buildings where people are so vulnerable that they are incapable of getting themselves out, such as in the Scottish incident? I hope that the Minister will not tell me that that is a devolved matter, as it is the principle that I am talking about. A number of people have died very recently in those circumstances.

Lord Rooker: My Lords, I shall not hide behind the point that it is a devolved matter, because the figures that I gave were United Kingdom figures and this is a UK issue. Our thoughts are with the families of the victims of Rose Park. However, I cannot say any more about that matter because there is an ongoing inquiry into it.

In April 2001, a research project was funded and organised by the predecessor department to the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister for the Building Research Establishment to consider fully the effectiveness of sprinklers in residential buildings across the piece. It is quite clear that in many situations sprinklers would be

24 Feb 2004 : Column 113

useful, particularly when people are vulnerable, whether in homes for children, the elderly or disabled people, and higher-risk houses such as houses in multiple occupation and very tall buildings—including, obviously, high-rise flat developments.

The building regulations are being reviewed and, probably next year, a provisional consideration will be put forward. In 2006, an approval will be made of the document. Those regulations are reviewed on a regular basis. Those issues must be taken into account, as will the new system of the abandonment of fire certificates in favour of a risk-based system relative to the particular premises, which will be much more useful in those circumstances than the present arrangements.

Lord Harrison: My Lords, would my noble friend agree that there is now very powerful evidence that sprinklers in schools are cost-effective, especially if installed at the time of refurbishment or refenestration? Would he also acknowledge that the problem of schools with considerable roof voids can be tackled effectively with the installation of sprinklers?

Lord Rooker: Yes, my Lords, that is self-evident. The issue will be part and parcel of the review of the building regulations that will take place. The research that has been funded has already been published on the ODPM website and will shortly be in the Library. The research occupies a large volume—I think it is 700 pages—but people can get a CD and look at it. A lot of work is being done on the issue, which will inform the new building regulations.

Baroness Greengross: My Lords, I have long been very concerned about fire doors. Many people dislike them; many frail people cannot shut or open them properly, and therefore leave them open, which negates their value. Have the Government or the Health and Safety Executive, for example, investigated alternative fire prevention methods, or will they do so? That is a matter of some urgency, given the comments that the noble Baroness and the Minister have made about recent events.

Next Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page