MPs shirk investigation into Imutran animal testing scandal
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.
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.
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.
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 'moderate'
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.
Uncaged Campaigns, 29 April 2004