I am very pleased that on 21 May 2004, the Government announced that they would be setting up a national centre for animal research and welfare to help replace, refine and reduce the use of animals for scientific purposes.
The centre, which will be known as the National Centre for the Replacement, Refinement and Reduction of Animals in Research, will report to the Office of Science and Technology. The Centre for Best Practice for Animals in Research will form the core of the new centre. The announcement has been welcomed by Naturewatch, a non-profit animal welfare campaigning organisation, whose campaigns a number of my constituents regularly support. For more details, the following link takes you to the text of the Written Ministerial Statement to Parliament.
I support the Government ban on the use of Great Apes - gorillas, chimpanzees and orang-utans - in any research and the law that higher mammals, including primates, can only be used when research is justified and no other species is suitable. I am not opposed in principle to animal research but it has to be justified and I have pressed the Government to improve the scrutiny of license applications and the information available to the public. I was encouraged when the Government increased the capacity of the Home Office Inspectorate and now further important progress has been made with the announcement of the proposed new Centre referred to above. Please click here for more detail on my views on animal testing.
I support a total ban on hunting with dogs, as do a majority of MPs. The Prime Minister has pledged to resolve this issue before the next General Election and I look forward to the will of the elected Chamber being made law. I have pressed ministers to use the Parliament Act if opposition from the House of Lords threatens to prevent the will of the Commons again (the Lords failed to complete consideration of the Bill that the Commons passed to ban hunting with dogs last Parliamentary Session).
I know that promises on animal welfare issues have persuaded many people to vote Labour in 1997 and in 2001. Unfortunately, many pressure groups are now accusing the Government of going back on its election promises. Although I would like to see things move faster, I would argue that the Labour Government did more in its first year of office than the Conservative Government managed in eighteen years and that since then progress continues to be made. The UK signed up to the Council of Europe Convention on the protection of animals during international transport last November (2003) and I am pleased that the Government is proposing an Animal Welfare Bill - for more information on this, please see the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs website:
(DEFRA is responsible for policy on general animal welfare, which covers the welfare of all domestic and captive animals.)
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