Animal Welfare Legislation

Oral Answers to Questions — Home Department – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 5 May 1983.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Mr Colin Shepherd Mr Colin Shepherd , Hereford 12:00, 5 May 1983

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department when he expects to bring forward his proposals for the amendment of animal welfare legislation.

Photo of Mr David Mellor Mr David Mellor , Wandsworth Putney

In the very near future.

Photo of Mr Colin Shepherd Mr Colin Shepherd , Hereford

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for that answer. Is he aware that the subject has been under discussion for about four years, and can he be a little more precise on whether we are talking about days, weeks or months? Will he assure the House that the proposals will strike a reasonable balance between the proper protection of animals and the reasonable needs of research, which is very important today?

Photo of Mr David Mellor Mr David Mellor , Wandsworth Putney

I give my hon. Friend that assurance, but the achievement of that objective is not easy. That is why the matter has been subject to considerable deliberations not only in Britain, where we have received the report of the Advisory Committee on Animal Experiments, but in Europe, where we are working for common standards. I am happy to tell the House that work on the Council of Europe convention on such matters was completed last week.

Photo of Dr Brian Mawhinney Dr Brian Mawhinney , Peterborough

Does my hon. Friend accept that the time for deliberation has now passed and that the House and the public expect reform proposals that will not only benefit animals but remove some of the burden from legitimate scientists and doctors whose work is being hampered because they are working under what is perceived to be a cloud of suspicion?

Photo of Mr David Mellor Mr David Mellor , Wandsworth Putney

I know of my hon. Friend's distinguished work on the Medical Research Council, and I take his point. I assure him that the Government's thoughts on that matter are at an advanced stage.

Photo of Mr Nigel Forman Mr Nigel Forman , Sutton Carshalton

Is my hon. Friend aware that his original answer will be welcomed by all those who work in the research laboratories in my constituency, such as the Medical Research Council and the British Industrial Biological Research Association? Is he further aware that proposals such as those that he has suggested are long overdue and will be welcomed by my constituents?

Photo of Mr David Mellor Mr David Mellor , Wandsworth Putney

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for what he has said. It is clear that, although the 1876 Act has worked well, there is a need for modernisation. I think that hon. Members on both sides of the House recognise that. There is also a need to widen controls and to bring into play new concepts that reflect the tremendous changes in experimentation that have taken place over the decades.