My Lords, I thank all noble Lords who have taken part in today's debate, which was enriched by the highly authoritative and informative contribution from the noble Lord, Lord Soulsby of Swaffham Prior. He set out clearly what has been achieved in this country by a control regime of many years' standing. He talked at length about the three Rs-replacement, reduction and refinement-as have many other noble Lords. The committee took evidence from the UK's NC3Rs and we were clear that it offers a model for wider application throughout Europe.
The noble Lord, Lord Sewel, and the noble Earl, Lord Caithness, both made powerful points. The noble Lord, Lord Sewel, as my predecessor, gave a clear and compelling explanation of the risks and gaps that we see in the proposed requirements for inspection and monitoring-a recurring theme. The noble Earl, Lord Caithness, with his depth of understanding and recall of things past, highlighted some of the recurring issues that we will have to continue to tackle and keep an eye on.
I was pleased to hear the welcome that the noble Lord, Lord Winston, gave to the committee's report. The important part of his remarks related to the possibility of a reduction in the use of animals in scientific procedures. He gave several compelling examples of important research to which animals were essential. It is relevant to note that such research has been possible within the UK regime of controls. We should be concerned that a new directive will ensure that similar controls-this theme again-apply across the whole of the European Union. The noble Earl, Lord Arran, spoke eloquently about the importance of the NC3Rs, the UK's national centre, and, importantly, about the continued need to search for alternatives to the use of animals.
The issue of consistent implementation of the directive's requirements was raised by the noble Lords, Lord Addington and Lord Skelmersdale, and was addressed by the Minister, the noble Lord, Lord West, in setting out the Government's view. We were pleased to hear the points that the Minister made, but the whole issue of risk-based assessment and the need constantly to monitor how it is being applied will be a matter of great focus going forward.
In our debate today, we have again brought out the strength of arguments surrounding the use of animals in scientific procedures and the importance of agreeing a regulatory framework that strikes the right balance-a point that many have made- between animal welfare and the interests of scientific research. As our report makes clear, the proposed revision of the EU directive provides an opportunity to get that balance right across all member states. We urge all those involved not to waste this opportunity.