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Animal Experiments

Volume 406: debated on Tuesday 10 June 2003

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To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department when he expects the interdepartmental group on the 3Rs to report on the recommendation, contained in the House of Lords' report on the use of animals in scientific procedures, that an administration centre for the 3Rs be set up. [116190]

In our response to the report of the House of Lords Select Committee on animals in scientific procedures, published on 20 January 2003 (Cm 5729), the Government agreed to explore further the recommendation that a centre should be set up for research into the 3Rs—advanced methods which replace animal use, reduce the number of animals used or refine the procedures involved to minimise suffering. The Interdepartmental Group on the 3Rs, led by the Home Office and comprising members from the Department of Health, the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, the Department of Trade and Industry, the Office of Science and Technology, the Health and Safety Executive and other agencies, has been tasked with taking this forward. I expect to receive a progress report on its findings in the autumn.

To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department how many licences have been granted for experiments involving animals sponsored by government departments since 1997; and if he will make a statement. [116351]

Licences for programmes of work involving scientific or other experimental procedures on protected animals are granted under the Animals (Scientific Procedures) Act 1986.

The number of such licences granted over any period is not indicative of the amount of animal research and testing work in progress in any sector or category, since licences are granted for varying terms up to a maximum of five years. More informative is the number of licences in force at the end of each year. Both sets of data have since 1998 been published in the annual Statistics of Scientific Procedures on Living Animals Great Britain, copies of which are placed in the Library (the latest one, covering 2001, was published as Command 5581).

For ease of reference the total number of project licencesin force at the end of each year, from 1998 to 2001, is shown in the table, with an indication of the percentage of licences operative in Government establishments:

Year

Total number of project licences in force at end of year

Percentage of total project licences held in Government establishments

19983,6505
19993,3785
20003,4815
20013,6504

Many other licensed programmes of work are financed from public funds, for example in higher education establishments, but collated data on funding and sponsorship sources is not readily available.

To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what his policy is on the proposal to establish a 3Rs administration centre as recommended in the report of the House of Lords Select Committee on animals in scientific procedures, HL Paper L50-I; and if he will make a statement on the funding to establish such a centre. [117363]

In our response to the report of the House of Lords Select Committee on animals in scientific procedures, published on 20 January 2003 (Cm 5729), the Government agreed to explore further the recommendation that a centre should be set up for research into the 3Rs—advanced methods which replace animal use, reduce the number of animals used or refine the procedures involved to minimise suffering. The inter-departmental group on the 3Rs, led by the Home Office, has been tasked with taking this forward. Issues of funding will form part of its review. I expect to receive a progress report on its findings in the autumn.

To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what steps are being taken to consult on the proposed centre for the 3Rs in respect of animal experimentation and what timescale has been set out for the consultation process. [117609]

In our response the report of the House of Lords Select Committee on animals in scientific procedures, published on 20 January 2003 (Cm 5729), the Government agreed to explore further the recommendation that a centre should be set up for research into the 3Rs—advanced methods which replace animal use, reduce the number of animals used or refine the procedures involved to minimise suffering. The Inter-Departmental Group on the 3Rs, led by the Home Office, has been tasked with taking this forward.

As a first step, the Inter-Departmental Group has conducted a survey to gather information on what is currently being done by way of research and development of methods and strategies allied to the 3Rs, what more scientific stakeholder; would like to see done, and how best further action might be pursued. I expect to receive a progress report on the Inter-Departmental Group's findings, including any proposals for further consultation, in the autumn.

To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department (1) what assessment he has made of the effectiveness of the Animals (Scientific Procedures) Act 1986; and what plans he has to amend it; [116074](2) if he will amend the Animals (Scientific Procedures) Act 1986 to prevent the duplication of experiments. [116350]

The 1986 Act provides a strong regulatory framework. It regulates any experimental or other scientific procedure applied to a "protected animal" that may have the effect of causing that animal pain, suffering, distress or lasting harm. It provides an effective means by which to balance the need to protect animals from unnecessary suffering with the legitimate requirements of the scientific community (and the public) for medical and other essential research and safety testing. The system set up under the 1986 Act is flexible and responsive to changing circumstances and requirements and its enabling provisions allow changes to be made quickly and easily by administrative means, or using secondary legislation.The Animal Procedures Committee (ARC) review of the operation of the Act, published in its Annual Report for 1997, concluded that the Act provides a good framework for a well-regulated and responsible use of animals in scientific procedures in the United Kingdom. A number of recommendations arising from the ARC review to enhance the effectiveness of the Act have subsequently been implemented and further improvements are continually being sought. Further reviews are currently in hand of the cost benefit assessment (by the ARC) and of section 24 of the Act. A review of the format and content of the statistics of use of animals in scientific procedures has also recently been announced.We have no evidence that unnecessary duplicate testing takes place.

To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department how many prosecutions there have been in each of the last 10 years for breaches of the Animals (Scientific Procedures) Act 1986. [116352]

During the 10 years 1992 to 2001 one prosecution is known to have taken place under the Animals (Scientific Procedures) Act 1986 involving persons licensed under the Act. This was in 1998. However, prosecutions can be brought for carrying out scientific procedures on animals by persons not licensed under the Act but reliable information is not available on such cases.