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MPs shirk investigation into Imutran animal testing scandal

29 April 2004

The House of Commons Home Affairs Committee has decided not to investigate the Home Office's misconduct revealed by the Diaries of Despair . Despite Uncaged's intense lobbying, supported by hundreds of members of the public and several MPs, the Committee has turned its back on its duty to hold the Government to account for wrongdoing. The Home Office has not been cleared, and the scandal remains unresolved.

Time wasters

The Committee's reasons for not proceeding with an inquiry included its existing workload and the complex task of investigating events that happened a few years ago. However, the Committee has been considering this issue for almost a year now, so it has been in a position to manage its workload, and the nature of the events that require investigation have been known throughout that long period of time. To withdraw from the process at the last minute effectively wastes an enormous amount of time and effort that has been expended by Uncaged, for reasons that could have been made clear several months ago.

Rewarding wrongdoing

By pointing to the time elapsed since the wrongdoing took place, the Committee effectively rewards the abuse of power indulged in by both Imutran/Novartis and the Home Office as they have sought to delay and prevent independent scrutiny. Extraordinarily, one of the principal culprits the former Chief Inspector Jon Richmond has since been promoted by the Home Office. The policy of cruelty and disregard for the law is stronger than ever and it is disturbing that the Committee has chosen to turn a blind eye to this.

Ineffective scrutiny

The main task of Parliamentary Committees is to hold Government to account for its conduct. The Committee's refusal to investigate quasi-forensic issues effectively removes vivisection policy from democratic scrutiny and overestimates the complexity of the issue. It would surely have been a straightforward process to ask the Home Office how experiments that literally left primates found dead or in a collapsed state' could possibly be consistent with a moderat' severity assessment. Contrary to the Committee's excuses, this would have added important evidence regarding the way in which the Home Office assessed and regulated the Imutran experiments.

The Committee's retreat from an investigation reinforces wider concerns about the ability of Parliament to ensure democratic control over the Government, particularly the weakness of the Committee system and the control exerted by the Government over appointments to Committees. The Chair of the Home Affairs Committee is John Denham MP, only recently a Home Office Minister himself, can be vociferously loyal to the Government.

Home Office bias

The Committee also cites the inquiry into animal experiments conducted in 2002 by a House of Lords Committee. However, the Lords Committee were denied access to the unique Imutran documents, and the Home Office has been roundly condemned for ignoring the findings of the Committee. Without a specific investigation into the Imutran case, the Home Office's undemocratic contempt for public concern over vivisection remains unchallenged.

The Home Affairs Committee has not exonerated the Home Office over the Imutran affair. There remains an urgent need for Parliamentary scrutiny of these matters and the Home Affairs Committee has let down the public, the rule of law, and innocent animals vulnerable to the most intense cruelty imaginable. It is significant that the only independent body to examine the case thus far the Legal Services Commission' Public Interest Advisory Panel agreed that our case against the Home Office is probably justified and raises particularly serious matters of public interest. This adjudication led to the award of legal aid for Dan Lyons, director of Uncaged Campaigns and a co-defendant in the case.

The struggle continues

The Parliamentary Ombudsman is currently deciding whether to hold its own inquiry into the Home Office's behaviour. At the same time, Early Day Motion 685 - calling for an independent inquiry has already attracted the signatures of 95 MPs. (Click here to find out how to lobby your own MP to sign the Motion.) Uncaged will continue to press for justice and to educate the public, the media and political representatives about the reality of vivisection and the Government's current appalling and illegal bias in its policy on this issue.

Whatever happens in the future, by winning the historic court battle against Imutran/Novartis, Uncaged has opened a door that can never be closed and has proved the unlawful nature of the research and the Home Office's conduct. This evidence of Imutran's xenotransplantation experiments is a unique testament to the horror and futility of vivisection and a resource for every anti-vivisectionist to help reveal the truth and press for changes. You can be assured that Uncaged will continue to be at the very forefront of the struggle.

Dan Lyons
Campaigns Director
Uncaged Campaigns
9 Bailey Lane
Sheffield
S1 4EG
Tel: 0114 272 2220
Fax: 0114 272 2225
Email: info@uncaged.co.uk
Websites: www.uncaged.co.uk & www.xenodiaries.org