As this is the first time today that I have made a speech, as opposed to an intervention, I join the welcome given to you as Chairman of our proceedings, Mrs. Adams, by the Minister and my hon. Friend the Member for North-East Hertfordshire.
This debate is perhaps the Committee's most significant, certainly in terms of the public and media attention on the Bill, which is not surprising given the seriousness of the issues. I make no apology for saying that I propose not only to discuss new clauses 14 and 15 but to deal at length and in detail with the issues raised. The Minister rightly spent some time outlining the Government's approach, and the Conservatives strongly support what the Government are doing. Our criticism is that they are not going far enough—but it goes further than that.
The Minister has been in his statesmanlike mode this morning to give the Government's line. We know that he is something of a Jekyll and Hyde character. Today, we have seen the reasonableness of Dr. Jekyll, but had you been chairing our proceedings last week, Mrs. Adams—the Minister described them as acrimonious—you would have seen his Mr. Hyde approach. The provisions are not only necessary but vital—and I include new clauses 14 and 15—because of the climate of opinion that the Labour party helped to create when in opposition. I shall explain the evidence that I have for saying it, but I specifically exculpate from my criticisms the many Back Benchers who were first elected in 1997—that may be no coincidence—and who have served only in this Parliament. I respect them, as they have always supported the cause of scientists. I have far less respect for the many others who, in Parliament and outside, have actively spoken in favour of animal rights protests of the most extreme form.
I shall give the Committee an example of that. I asked the Library to do some research, and it has come up with many examples, but the clearest is an early-day motion in 1995 that was signed by 43 Labour Members—and by members of the Labour party only. They included the hon. Member for Rossendale and Darwen (Janet Anderson), now the Minister for Tourism, Film and Broadcasting; the hon. Member for West Ham (Mr. Banks), an ex-Minister; the hon. Member for Southampton, Itchen (Mr. Denham), now the Minister of State, Department of Health; the hon. Member for Lewisham, West (Mr. Dowd), now a Whip; the hon. Member for Weaver Vale (Mr. Hall), now a Whip; three who have now become what we might describe as Tony crony peers; the hon. Member for Mansfield (Mr. Meale), another ex-Minister; and the right hon. Member for Makerfield (Mr. McCartney), now the Minister of State, Cabinet Office, who was one of the Labour party's campaign directors at the last election and who is now one of the leading Members of the Scottish Parliament.
That Labour party early-day motion was headed ``Animal welfare protests'', and it said of that each of those 43 Labour party members
``believes that all citizens have a right to defy laws and regulations which have no moral basis whilst at the same time accepting the full consequence of such acts of civil disobedience''.
The motion went on to refer to animal experimenters,
``however provocative and loathsome they may be''.
``Her Majesty's Government must listen to the overwhelming expressions of public opposition and take immediate steps to halt this offensive and immoral trade''.
Although the Government seem belatedly to understand the importance of defending research science and medical research, the Labour party does not come to this legislation with clean hands. It is not enough for Ministers to sound statesmanlike—they helped to create the present climate of opinion. The Government should listen not only to us but to organisations such as the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry, the Research Defence Society, various organisations involved in biotechnology and the National Farmers Union, all of which were supported by the Conservative Government.
I feel strongly about the matter, and not only because research facilities in my constituency have been attacked by terrorists. My parents had careers in research science. It happens that neither of them ever worked on animal research, but one of them worked for a research facility elsewhere in the country that was attacked by the Animal Liberation Front. These animal activists are the most extreme kind of terrorist: they are the sort of people who put bombs under scientists' cars—bombs that explode sideways and injure innocent mothers walking by with young children in pushchairs.
Well-known members of other political parties have been prominent in demonstrations at which my constituents have been attacked, but not members of the Conservative party. That is not surprising, because no Conservative would ever be involved in such terrorism. I do not want to hear that hon. Members of other parties are coming to the issue afresh and with clean hands. However statesmanlike the Minister's remarks, and however strongly we support him, I must make it clear that he is not going far enough. I make no apology for stating that.