Animal research still plays a role in providing vital safety information for potential new medicines. It is worth remembering that, as a result of findings from animal studies, a large number of potential new drugs never get as far as being tested in humans. Some aspects of the toxicological assessment of new medicines cannot be adequately assessed in humans, and animal data will be the only kind available.
Without animal testing it is highly likely that a large number of potentially dangerous new medicines would be tested in healthy volunteers and patients in clinical trials, and I know Ministers believe that this would be quite unacceptable. However, animals are only used when there are no suitable alternatives, and by encouraging new cutting-edge approaches to science we will ensure that standards of animal welfare are improved. I am opposed to animal tests where alternative approaches could be used.
I am proud that the UK has consistently led the way on animal welfare, recognising in law that animals can feel pain and suffering through the Animal Welfare Act. The Animal Welfare (Sentience) Bill, which is making its way through Parliament, enshrines the recognition that animals are sentient in domestic law. I am encouraged that this Bill will create an Animal Sentience Committee with experts which will produce reports on how well policy decisions have paid all due regard to the welfare of animals.
I appreciate that there are concerns regarding the licences issued for animal experiments. I hope I have explained why animal research is undertaken when alternative approaches are not available. However, I will pass on the concerns raised regarding this issue to the Home Office, in order to ensure these views are heard at the top of Government.
Please be assured that I fully support all steps to establish new methods and to support the life sciences and research industry. Since 2017, the Government has invested around £1 billion through two Life Sciences Sector Deals, helping to generate significant levels of industry investment in the UK. I am committed to making the UK the leading global hub for life sciences.
The Life Sciences Investment Programme (LSIP) aims to unlock the potential of the UK’s best health and life science innovations, allowing companies to grow in the UK. This investment programme consists of up to £600 million of joint Government and industry investment.
Finally, it is important to remember that existing scientific research methods ensure that, by the time medicines reach clinical trial, risks are significantly reduced.