Animal Rights Activists

Oral Answers to Questions — Deputy Prime Minister – in the House of Commons at 11:30 am on 16th May 2007.

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Photo of Evan Harris Evan Harris Science, Cross-Portfolio and Non-Portfolio Responsibilities 11:30 am, 16th May 2007

What steps he is taking to co-ordinate Government policy on animal rights activists and schools.

Photo of John Prescott John Prescott Deputy Prime Minister, Deputy Prime Minister, Deputy Prime Minister and First Secretary of State, Deputy Leader of the Labour Party, Member, Labour Party National Executive Committee

I chair the Cabinet Committee that co-ordinates the Government's strategy to tackle animal rights extremism. The Government are committed to tackling extremists who harass or threaten those involved in vital, life-saving scientific research. Our strategy is making a difference, as 25 individuals have received custodial sentences and the number of visits by extremists to private homes is down to fewer than five a month. I wrote recently to the police national co-ordinator for domestic extremism to congratulate him.

Photo of Evan Harris Evan Harris Science, Cross-Portfolio and Non-Portfolio Responsibilities

I thank the right hon. Gentleman for that answer. Given that it is both Government and Opposition policy to support well regulated animal research, does he agree that it is vital to win the battle for the hearts and minds of young people, who should be exposed to arguments that are at least balanced? Given that there is underfunding of some of the non-governmental organisations working in this area in comparison with the anti-vivisection organisations, could he look further into the co-ordination and funding of efforts in schools to put balanced arguments about animal research?

Photo of John Prescott John Prescott Deputy Prime Minister, Deputy Prime Minister, Deputy Prime Minister and First Secretary of State, Deputy Leader of the Labour Party, Member, Labour Party National Executive Committee

The hon. Gentleman makes a sound point and I congratulate him on the courage that he has shown in tackling animal rights extremism. His views on that issue are well known in the House. In the Cabinet Committee, we have been discussing how we can do more to continue the education in schools about such extremism. We are working to provide materials for teachers to help them to approach these topical issues in the classroom. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Education and Skills is leading work to provide training for teachers through a national network of science learning centres and the Government are also funding the production of a DVD of the play "Every Breath", which addresses animal rights issues, for distribution to teachers. The forces involved in apprehending the extremists have done an excellent job and that is why I wrote to express that view on behalf of the Committee, although I am sure that I was writing on behalf of the whole House.