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7.24 pm

Mrs. Anne Campbell (Cambridge): I am pleased to have an opportunity to speak in the debate. I want to concentrate on the Bill's provisions for combating crime and disorder. In an earlier intervention, I mentioned that some of my constituents work at Huntingdon Life Sciences, although the company is in the constituency of the right hon. Member for Huntingdon (Mr. Major). I want to consider the harassment and intimidation suffered not only by the workers and shareholders of that company, but by other scientists who work with animals.

There may be more medical research staff in Cambridge than in any other constituency in the United Kingdom. They do valuable work, which enables us to find drugs that alleviate suffering from crippling diseases and helps us to make progress in many other spheres. For many years, Huntingdon Life Sciences has tested drugs and chemicals. Such testing is required by law. I wish that we could test drugs in other ways, without using animals. New methods are becoming available, but the law currently requires drugs to be tested on animals before they are used on humans. I do not believe that there is much choice about the matter. If a new drug is not tested on animals, it must initially be tested on humans. It is difficult to convey that message to some animal rights protesters.

I am pleased about our progress in the past three years on the use of animals in scientific procedures. There have been recent developments, and the Home Office has an excellent website that promotes the three Rs. They are:

There will be an end to testing cosmetics, tobacco or alcohol products on animals. Animals will not be used to develop or test offensive weapons, and the use of great apes, gorillas, chimpanzees, pygmy chimpanzees and

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orang-utans will not be authorised. A great deal of progress has therefore already been made. I hope that animal rights protesters will listen to my comments and to those of the right hon. Member for Huntingdon, who gave an excellent description of the stringent precautions that are taken to safeguard animals in testing.

Despite those comments, many of my constituents believe that animal testing is wrong. One lady, who speaks to me regularly, declares that she will refuse drugs because she does not want animals to die so that she can be cured. That is a consistent position, which I respect, although I do not share it. Many others believe that drugs should not be tested on animals, and they protest against the use of animals in tests although they take the drugs that have been developed as a result. I do not condemn that group of people, as long as their protests are peaceful. I believe that everyone has a right to make their opinions known, even if their behaviour is inconsistent. Whatever amendments are made to the Bill, we should ensure the preservation of the right to peaceful protest.

However, the people whom we are discussing are the others; those who use harassment and intimidation to force their views on workers and shareholders at Huntingdon Life Sciences and other scientific research establishments. I should like the Bill to tackle the activities of that group. It is wholly unacceptable for people who work within the law, carrying out work that is required by Government, to be subject to the harassment that they currently suffer.

In this financial year, Cambridge police authority has spent £2.6 million on policing demonstrations by animal rights protesters. My right hon. Friend the Home Secretary has recently authorised a special payment to Cambridgeshire police and I have received a letter from the chief constable of Cambridgeshire that expresses his gratitude for the extra resources.

I should like to thank the officers of Cambridgeshire police who have been almost unbearably stretched in the past few months. Leave has often had to be cancelled at short notice. The demonstrations have not been easy to police and officers have become involved in ugly incidents as tempers have frayed. Officers have policed those demonstrations extremely well, although many more of them suffer stress and illness as a result of constantly working with insufficient breaks.

At present, the Bill does not offer much protection from the activities of animal rights protesters, so I am pleased that my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary intends to introduce amendments to make such activities illegal. For instance, at present, it is not illegal for protesters to demonstrate outside the homes of people whom they decide to target. During the past few weeks, that has happened to some of my constituents. In one case, the protesters believed--mistakenly--that one of the companies of which my constituent is a director is a customer of Huntingdon Life Sciences. That is not true, but even if it were, my constituents should not have to suffer harassment and intimidation in their home.

Not only scientists are being targeted. Protesters have obtained the names and addresses of shareholders in Huntingdon Life Sciences. Last year, a group of members of the British Union for the Abolition of Vivisection--calling themselves the BUAV reform group--wrote to 1,700 individuals who hold shares in Huntingdon Life Sciences. The letter stated that, from 5 April onwards,

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the group would start to hold 24-hour demonstrations outside shareholders' homes unless they sold their shares by 3 April and sent the reform group a copy of the contract note. That is appalling.

As a result, the share price of Huntingdon Life Sciences collapsed. That is one of the reasons why the organisation had so much difficulty in raising the finance to continue. Surely, such practices are wholly unacceptable. People should not be intimidated such that they feel that they have to sell their shares. We need to introduce legislation urgently. The legislation should allow company directors and shareholders to use service addresses to prevent activists from obtaining their home addresses.

It is not only demonstrations outside the homes of scientists and shareholders that cause anxiety. My constituents have suffered from abusive telephone calls, abusive letters, cards, leaflets and graffiti, and posters and stickers on their homes and cars and around the area in which they live. They have also suffered from abusive telephone calls to their relatives, friends and even to their children's schools. Some have been threatened by telephone and letter. A few months ago, cars were fire-bombed in the constituency of the right hon. Member for Huntingdon.

The law should clearly define what peaceful protest is. It should be an offence to protest in an intimidatory manner. Shouting abuse and veiled threats, such as, "We know where you live", are unacceptable.

I understand that the extremists have turned their attention to some of the large drug companies that use Huntingdon Life Sciences--one of which is Glaxo Wellcome. The world is a large place, and if companies experience harassment and intimidation, they will simply move to another country. I am concerned that those extremist protesters will drive medical research abroad. That is ironic indeed, because we have the best regulated research in the world. Less distress is caused to animals in this country than in any other. If the animal rights protesters are successful in their aims, that will result in more distress--not less--and we in Britain will have lost an extremely valuable facility that is important for human health and for the quality of life.

I conclude by reading a paragraph from a letter from one of my constituents. He writes:

I could not agree more.

7.34 pm

Mr. Tony Baldry (Banbury): For a number of years, my father was research secretary of the British Tuberculosis Association. I entirely agree with everything that the hon. Member for Cambridge (Mrs. Campbell) has just said. I hope that one thing that emerges from this debate is the united voice of the House telling some people that the demonstrations and behaviour in which they engage are not acceptable in a mature, democratic society.

That is where my consensus politics finish, however. At the previous general election, Labour candidates in my constituency and in other constituencies went around with

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pledge cards--rather like blood donor cards. There were several pledges on the cards, described as early promises. My electors thought that was because they would be delivered early. However, we discovered that it was because they were promises that had been made early in the election campaign.

The promises were pretty modest. The crime promise was not that Labour would increase police numbers or reduce crime, but a modest pledge that it would reduce the time between the arrest and sentencing of young offenders. That pledge--[Interruption.] The hon. Member for Lincoln (Gillian Merron) scowls, but it was an extremely modest pledge and her party has not managed to deliver it. I suspect that many people in Lincoln and in other constituencies will produce those pledge cards at the next general election and ask why the Labour Government have not delivered that pledge.

The Government realise that as they are approaching a general election they need to be seen to be doing something about crime. This measure is very much a "We are approaching a general election and we need to be seen to be doing something about crime" Bill. I say that because if we consider the Crime and Disorder Act 1998, we would be entitled to describe it as a "We have just been elected and we need to be seen to be doing something about crime" Bill.

The first part of that Act deals with antisocial behaviour orders. I wholly agree with the hon. Member for Liverpool, Garston (Maria Eagle) who said that those orders seem to be being used only as a last resort. Since their introduction, they have been used on only two occasions in the whole Thames valley area.

Since the debates on the Queen's Speech, I have done some research on that matter. Everyone tries to blame someone else. Magistrates express their concern that human rights legislation would mean that they could not introduce ASBOs. They say that if the police and local authorities had proposed ASBOs, they would have considered such cases on their merits. The chief constable of the Thames Valley force, Sir Charles Pollard, tells me that the police find the use of ASBOs difficult because of the need

We are entitled to point out to the Government that the 1998 Act is a dead-letter for my constituents--it simply does not work. As the chief constable acknowledges:

In his speech, the Home Secretary said that the Bill would bear down on yobbish behaviour. However, if legislation already introduced by the Government fails to bear down on such behaviour and is a dead-letter because the police and local authorities are not using it, what hope is there that the provisions in the Bill will be implemented?

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I suspect that one reason why the police and local authorities do not use ASBOs is that they have to pay for the orders. The Crown Prosecution Service has no role. If a prosecution is brought for other offences, the CPS has a budget to pay for it. There is still some confusion about who bears the cost of bringing cases involving antisocial behaviour orders before the courts and about who bears the cost if there is an appeal. ASBOs are not being obtained, and the Government are sadly neglecting other aspects of the youth justice system.

This week, I received a letter from the clerk to the Oxfordshire magistrates that makes rather sad reading. She tells me that on 19 January--just 10 days ago--

There is little point in the Government introducing further measures to deal with young people if comparatively recent legislation simply is not working. It is pointless introducing legislation on curfews if no curfew order has yet been implemented. There seems to be no suggestion that local authorities are keen to introduce curfews. Indeed, all the representations that I have received from local authorities state that they have considerable reservations about introducing curfews.

Although some parts of the Bill may well be worth while and commendable, the Government have to accept that there is considerable scepticism--

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