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Animal Welfare

Volume 456: debated on Tuesday 6 February 2007

To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department pursuant to the answer of 24 January 2007, Official Report, column 1822W, on animal welfare, in what ways animal welfare stakeholders will be actively involved in the development of the Animals Scientific Procedures Better Regulation Programme; and what effect the programme will have on (a) the procedures licensed under the 1986 Act and (b) the codes of practice for the housing and care of animals. (117529)

A steering group has been convened to advise on strategic and cross-cutting issues arising from the Animals Scientific Procedures Better Regulation Programme to ensure that any changes to the regulatory system do not compromise animal welfare. The steering group has representation from the Home Office and other Government Departments, industry, academia and organisations focused on animal protection and the reduction, refinement and replacement of animal procedures.

We are also currently setting up a working group of operational level practitioners to help identify and prioritise the key regulatory requirements and administrative processes to be improved, compliance costs to be reduced, and to help devise and test practical solutions. The maintenance of animal welfare standards will be a key consideration for the working group. In addition, aspects of the programme will be subject to a public consultation to which all stakeholders, including animal welfare groups, will be encouraged to contribute.

We have no intention of introducing measures that will weaken the protections afforded by the Animals (Scientific Procedures) Act 1986 or harm animal welfare. The programme will not result in changes to procedures permitted under the Animals (Scientific Procedures) Act 1986, or to the housing and care of animals bred and used under the Act.

To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department which of his Department's advisory non-departmental public bodies are directly or indirectly connected with animal health and welfare; whether an animal welfare specialist is represented on each; and if he will make a statement. (117675)

The Home Office has one advisory body concerned with animal health and welfare, the Animal Procedures Committee. The role of the Animal Procedures Committee is to advise the Home Secretary on matters concerned with the Animals (Scientific Procedures) Act 1986 and his functions under it.

All members of the committee share a common concern for the welfare of the animals used in scientific procedures, and in considering any matter must have regard both to the legitimate requirements of science and industry and to the protection of animals against avoidable suffering and unnecessary use.

Under section 19 of the Act, excluding the chairman, there must be a minimum of 12 members, one must be a lawyer and at least two thirds must be medical practitioners, veterinary surgeons or have qualifications or experience in a biological subject. At least half of the members must not have held a licence to carry out procedures on animals within the last six years and animal welfare interests must be adequately represented.

Members are selected on personal merit, and not as nominees, delegates or representatives of any organisations or pressure groups.

Current membership includes one member employed by the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals and one employed by the National Centre for the Replacement, Refinement and Reduction of Animals in Research.