I speak on behalf of Bob Dillon, a prominent Labour party activist in Kettering. Rather than write to me, he chooses to correspond with me through the letter pages of the Kettering Evening Telegraph. This week, he urged me to table amendments to modify controls on laboratory research. Why would that not be appropriate? Do the Government have any plans to alter legislation on the subject?
Good afternoon to you, Mr. Gale. I very much welcome the hon. Gentleman’s point, because those of us who are concerned about animal welfare—I take that to be everyone in this room—are naturally concerned that the welfare of animals held for research purposes be properly considered, and that suffering be kept to a minimum within the terms of the Animals (Scientific Procedures) Act 1986. The relevant point is that that Act was passed 20 years ago. We have since identified further measures to improve animal welfare and have more information about how that can be best delivered. It would be helpful if the Minister could say whether any of the advances made in understanding those issues could be applied to the 1986 Act. I recognise the special position of that Act, but are there any plans to bring forward amendments to improve the lot of animals held for research purposes?
As the hon. Gentleman suggests, the reason why animals kept for scientific purposes are not included in the remit of the Bill is that they are dealt with under separate legislation, which is in turn informed by EU legislation. The EU directive is currently under review, and I would not want to pre-empt the outcome.
The hon. Member for Kettering (Mr. Hollobone) can assure his Labour-voting constituent that the Government have tightened up procedures governing the way in which animals are held for scientific procedures. A lot of people do not realise that the cruelty offences in the Bill will also apply to animals kept for scientific procedures if that cruelty is outside the scope of the licence that applies to the animals concerned.