We wish to announce changes in the way the Home Office handles certain types of project licence application made under the Animals (Scientific Procedures) Act 1986.
The types of application in question are publicly recorded as being automatically referred to the Animal Procedures Committee (APC) for advice, before decisions are taken by or on behalf of the Secretary of State. For some types this is in accordance with pledges given when the 1986 Act was passing through Parliament, while others are referred through arrangements agreed subsequently. Details are set out in various APC annual reports laid before this House.
The APC has recently been considering which applications should be referred to it in future, and the chairman has put a number of recommendations to us.
The APC recommends that three types of application, on which it is currently committed to give advice, no longer need to be among those listed as routinely referred to it. First, it no longer sees value in considering applications to use terminally anaesthetised rats for microsurgery training, since such cases are few and usually raise no particularly difficult or contentious issues. Secondly, it now sees no point in including in the automatic referral category applications to test tobacco products, since the established policy and practice has long been not to license such testing. (Tobacco is used in licensed animal studies investigating diseases, but its use in such cases is not itself regarded as a reason for referral.) Thirdly, the requirement to refer applications to test finished cosmetic products and ingredients has been similarly overtaken, in that the industry has agreed to make no further applications for this purpose, as it is Home Office policy not to license it.
We have accepted the APC's recommendations as regards all these types of applications. They will with immediate effect no longer be regarded as ones to be automatically referred or to be recorded in that category. This change will make no significant or practical difference, other than saving processing time in the microsurgery training cases and avoiding unproductive use of Home Office and APC resources.
The APC has also recommended that it should continue its current practice of advising on all the other applications which are by agreement referred to it as a matter of course. These are applications to use wild caught non-human primates, and to use any non-human primates in scientific procedures of substantial severity. It also wishes to keep the requirement that it should offer advice on applications of any kind raising novel or controversial issues, or giving rise to serious concerns. Although there are relatively few of these applications, they are all of high or potentially high public concern. We fully accept that they should continue to be referred to the APC before licensing decisions are taken.
Finally, the APC has indicated its view that it could usefully see other project licence applications, although it could consider only a very small number each year and is mindful of the need not to hold up unduly the processing of applications. Which additional applications it should be asked to advise on is a matter to be discussed further between the Home Office and the APC. Once that has been settled, we will make a further statement.