Motion to Take Note

Part of EU: Directive on the Protection of Animals Used for Scientific Purposes (EUC Report) – in the House of Lords at 3:58 pm on 10th February 2010.

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Photo of Lord Addington Lord Addington Spokesperson for Defence, Spokesperson for Culture, Media and Sport , Deputy Chief Whip 3:58 pm, 10th February 2010

My Lords, when it fell to me to respond to this debate from these Benches, I felt that I was once again dipping my toe into traditionally choppy waters in which I had never thrashed before. However, I was rather relieved when I started to prepare for the debate, because the basic principle that research on animals should be kept to a minimum and carried out as humanely as possible seemed to run through the report and the responses to it. The concepts that you should not do anything more often than you need to and should avoid duplicating experiments ran through the report and reassured me as I read it. I think that theme has been reiterated by everybody who has spoken. Having said that, the noble Lord, Lord Winston, rightly asked what the minimum standard would be and how much of this you have to do at any one time. We do not know. As regards scientific research, sometimes we do not know what we do not know. We have to carry on working. Because something has worked once, it may work better next time. The need for expertise and a revaluation of evidence was at the centre of what the noble Lord said. However, I still felt that data sharing may well cut this over time. The idea of looking at that to make sure that we can reduce testing over time, as the number of models and the base of knowledge are increased, can be taken on.

I considered the interesting definition under which certain types of seafood are included or not included, and my attitude to crustaceans and octopuses. We went through the report discussing the various types of procedure. I can understand how people would find distressing the acceptance of the various types of suffering that an animal must undergo in certain types of experiment. I should be reassured if the Minister stated the Government's attitude towards reuse and said that they would give as much support as they could to the idea that an animal should not have to suffer at any level more than once. That would make me feel a little more comfortable about what is said in the report about continuing experimentation.

There is not too much that we disagree with on care and accommodation standards. Whether the use of non-human primates, which is more distressing, is logical or not, I do not know. I would enhance the position that work on primates should be looked at very closely. As the noble Earl, Lord Arran, has said, the idea of what is acceptable to society must go hand in glove with scientific evidence.

However, I find myself in total agreement with the noble Lord, Lord Sewel, on authorisation and enforcement. Unless you are going to be rigorous about the directive and enforce it, there is no point in having directives. Unless the Community is prepared, at whatever level of direction you do it from, to be slightly irritating to people or very intrusive, there is no point in having these directives. Unless we have some standards across the Community, there is not much point in having the Community. Unless we are prepared to interfere and occasionally cause trouble, there is no point in being there. This is a bit like health and safety-everyone thinks that there is too much of it until it is their son on the scaffolding. Unless we try to ensure that these standards can be enforced and the Government give their full weight behind making sure that they are enforced, and that inspection takes place at realistic intervals to make sure that those undertaking experimentation have a realistic idea that there will be control and punishment if they do not conform to a standard, there is no point in having the standards.

I should be very interested in what the Minister says on that for the simple reason that, unless there is enforcement, it does not really matter what we put down in any form of legislation. We have to be prepared to annoy people sometimes.