Animal Welfare (Hansard, 2 March 2004)
HC Deb 02 March 2004 vol 418 cc909-12W
Mr. Hancock

To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department pursuant to his Answer of 20 January 2004,Official Report, column 1205W, on animal welfare, ref 147328, with reference to recommendation 14, when the Inspectorate will be reviewed; and by whom. [155934]

Caroline Flint

In its report, published in July 2002, the House of Lords Select Committee on Animals in Scientific Procedures recommended that the Home Office Animals (Scientific Procedures) Inspectorate should be subject to periodic review, by a body other than the Inspectorate itself. The Committee went on to describe the Inspectorate as a "trustworthy, professional body" and also acknowledged the valuable role that it has played in creating a culture of care in establishments licensed under the Animals (Scientific Procedures) Act 1986.

In the Government's response, published in January 2003, we welcomed the Select Committee's endorsement of the integrity of the Inspectorate and of the important contribution that it has made to the welfare of animals in designated establishments. However, we recognise that public awareness of the valuable job done by the Inspectorate is poor and agree that this needs to be remedied. We have, therefore, concluded that there would be value in the Inspectorate publishing an annual report on its work. The Inspectorate's first annual report will be published in the autumn of 2004.

As to the periodic review of the Inspectorate, under Section 18 of the 1986 Act, Inspectors are responsible directly to the Secretary of State who is, in turn accountable to Parliament for their work. Inspectors are all medical or veterinary practitioners, as well as being civil servants, and are bound by medical or veterinary codes of professional conduct. In addition, in common with other Home Office staff, the Chief Inspector and members of the Inspectorate are subject to the civil service code and annual performance reviews as part of routine personnel management arrangements. In the light of these comprehensive arrangements, we do not believe that any further form of performance review is necessary. Members of the Inspectorate are highly professional and dedicated and have the complete confidence of Government Ministers.

Mr. Hancock

To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department pursuant to his Answer of 20 January 2004,Official Report, column 1205W, on animal welfare, ref 147328, with reference to recommendation 11, which Government department is taking the lead on the systematic and visible search for 3Rs methods in toxicology; where that Department's progress can be viewed; and if he will make a statement. [155971]

Caroline Flint

In its report, published in July 2002, the House of Lords Select Committee on Animals in Scientific Procedures recommended that the Government and the scientific community should engage in a systematic and visible search for methods involving the 3Rs—the replacement of animal use, reduction of the number of animals used and the refinement of the procedures involved to minimise suffering—in toxicology and that the Government should nominate one department to take the lead on this.

In the Government's response to the Select committee's report, published in January 2003, we agreed that a systematic and visible effort is required. As a first step, the Home Office is currently leading a review of the scope for improving the application of the 3Rs and promoting research into alternatives through the Inter-Departmental Group on the 3Rs. Membership of the Inter-Departmental Group is drawn from the Home Office, the Department of Health, the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, the Department of Trade and Industry, the Office of Science and Technology, the Health and Safety Executive and other agencies.

The work of the group includes exploration of the case for a United Kingdom centre for research into the 3Rs, which was also recommended by the House of Lords Select Committee, a review of the implementation of the Inter-Departmental Data-Sharing Concordat, announced in August 2000, and the review and revision of the Guidelines on Regulatory Toxicology and Safety Evaluation Studies. published in February 2001, and the statement of principles concerning animal welfare endorsed by the Home Office and other regulatory authorities in 1990—Annex 1 to the Regulatory Toxicology Guidelines.

I am currently considering the Inter-Departmental Group's further advice on the proposed United Kingdom centre for research into the 3Rs. I expect to receive the findings of the Inter-Departmental Group on the other two issues shortly and will then consider what further steps are required.

Minutes of the meetings of the Inter-Departmental Group are published on the Home Office website at http:// www.homeoffice.gov.uk/docs2/interdept3rs.html.

Mr. Hancock

To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department pursuant to his answer of 20 January 2004,Official Report, column 1205W, on animal welfare, with reference to recommendation 12, what steps the Government have taken to urge EU member states to make replacements a priority. [155972]

Caroline Flint

In its report, published in July 2002, the House of Lords Select Committee on Animals in Scientific Procedures recommended that the United Kingdom Government should use their influence to urge the European Union to make the development and validation of replacements for animal experiments a priority, particularly in toxicology.

In our response, published in January 2003, the Government noted the Select Committee's view and agreed that replacement should be the ultimate goal. We also explained that we do not believe that it should be made a priority at the expense of reduction or refinement, as these are where progress can be made more quickly. We are instead fully committed to the furtherance of all of the 3Rs—the replacement of animal use, reduction of the number of animals used and the refinement of the procedures involved to minimise suffering.

United Kingdom Government Departments and agencies are involved in a number of specific initiatives in the European Union to develop, validate and incorporate more advanced test methods into regulatory practice. The Government also continue to support the work of the European Centre for the Validation of Alternative Methods (ECVAM) and the head of the Home Office Animals Scientific Procedures Division is now the United Kingdom representative on the ECVAM Scientific Advisory Committee and is contributing to discussions about the future direction of ECVAM's work. The Government also warmly welcome the liaison between ECVAM and its United States counterpart, the Interagency Co-ordinating Committee for the Validation of Alternative Methods (ICCVAM), as a means of achieving greater progress, more quickly and ensuring commitment from more than one economic region. Quick gains cannot necessarily be expected, but we shall continue our efforts to persuade other member states of the importance of progress on the 3Rs.

Mr. Hancock

To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department pursuant to his answer of 20 January 2004,Official Report, column 1205W, on animal welfare, what factors underlay the decision not to invite expert scientific opinion opposed to primate experimentation to take part in the forum, with particular reference to (a) Animal Aid and (b) Europeans For Medical Advancement. [156017]

Caroline Flint

The aim of the stakeholder forum, which was held on 9 January 2004, was to hold informed debate on the recommendations contained in the Animal Procedures Committee's (APC) report entitled "The use of primates under the Animals (Scientific Procedures) Act 1986—analysis of current trends with particular reference to regulatory toxicology". This in turn was to assist preparation of a ministerial response to the issues which the APC has raised.

The Home Office and the APC agreed that, in order to hold a focused debate, attendance at the forum should be limited to organisations with practical experience in the use of primates in scientific procedures, or with other particular expertise relevant to the report's recommendations.

Consequently, invitees included holders of related project licences issued under the Animals (Scientific Procedures) Act 1986, from both the commercial and academic sectors, as well as individuals from funding and regulatory organisations and other Government Departments. Groups with expertise in alternatives to animal experiments were also invited to send representatives.

It was decided that representatives from animal protection organisations such as Animal Aid and Europeans For Medical Advancement should not be invited to comment through this forum. Places at the forum were limited and the Home Office and the APC primarily wanted to test the technical basis and the practicalities of the recommendations with those experts in the use of primates best placed to contribute to such an exercise.

A report on the forum will be placed on the Home Office and APC websites in the near future, and I would be pleased to receive informed comments from any other source before I further consider all the issues raised.

GLOBAL ISLES COURT OF RECORD