Saturday 3 January 2004, 1:00 GMT
Legal action accuses Blair, Sainsbury, and Prescott of interference and errors in Cambridge monkey laboratory case:
The National Anti-Vivisection Society (NAVS) and Animal Aid have launched a High Court challenge to the decision by First Secretary of State John Prescott to allow a massive primate research laboratory to be built in the Cambridgeshire green belt. The appeal descibes Prescott's decision as perverse, unreasonable and unfair.
Moreover, his ruling dismisses the clear advice of his own Planning Inspector, and the evidence presented to a public inquiry staged at the end of last year. This was held to determine if special circumstances would allow the building of the controversial monkey laboratory in the Green Belt.
At the two week hearing, the NAVS and Animal Aid presented extensive scientific evidence to show that the primate lab would produce no benefits for human medicine. By contrast, the Planning Inspector concluded that Cambridge University had failed to show that there was a "national need" for the laboratory. John Prescott simply ignored this finding.
In the historic appeal, lodged this week, it is noted that:
- Prime Minister Tony Blair made public statements, in speeches and in letters, that supported the proposal, but that these were issued outside of the planning process and before the Inquiry had even been held;
- the decision to grant permission for the monkey laboratory was a forgone conclusion, predetermining the result of the inquiry;
- the Deputy Prime Minister's decision was based on little fact and flawed information;
- letters from DTi Minister Lord Sainsbury, supporting the application to build the monkey lab, influenced the decision, but contained shortcomings. For example, he erroneously claimed that the findings of the recent House of Lords Select Committee Inquiry on animal experiments supports the proposal for this laboratory;
- the denial of information to the objectors (NAVS and Animal Aid) during the inquiry constitutes interference under the Human Rights Act.
Said says Norna Hughes of Nabarro Nathanson, solicitors for NAVS and Animal Aid: "We are saying in this appeal that the intervention by the Prime Minister and the DTi Minister in this case, amounts to an abuse of the planning process. The only way for my clients to get a fair hearing is to go to court".
"NAVS and Animal Aid believe that the Government is not prepared to give anti-vivisectionists a fair hearing because to do so might be interpreted as giving in to the animal activists. The inevitable consequence is that effective debate is stifled; any form of public hearing including this planning inquiry are only going through the motions.
"The only independent assessment of this planning application in this case was by the local planning authority and the Inspector, both of whom turned it down but the government still approved it. Significantly, the planning inspector thought there was something in the objectors' complaint that the outcome was a forgone conclusion. Commenting on the University's refusal to present evidence of need for the proposed development and therefore the inability of the Inquiry to test the evidence, the inspector said 'Without this, the fears of some objectors that the outcome is a foregone conclusion is granted credibility'."
Jan Creamer Chief Executive of NAVS, and Andrew Tyler, Director of Animal Aid, said in a joint statement: "The Prime Minister, John Prescott, and Lord Sainsbury appear to be riding roughshod over public opinion and the facts of this case. We can have little faith in the Prime Minister's current listening exercise if this is an example."
Notes to Editors:
Photos of primates undergoing neurology experiments and video, available on request.
- Both NAVS and Animal Aid are opposed to all violence to humans and animals, using only peaceful and lawful means to influence policy and opinion.
- Cambridge University plan to build a huge monkey laboratory in the Cambridgeshire Green Belt where monkeys will be used in neurology experiments.
- For over three years the proposals have been opposed not just by NAVS and Animal Aid, but by South Cambridgeshire District Council and Cambridgeshire Police:
- The University's proposal for the laboratory was first rejected by South Cambridgeshire District Council in 2001, because of the impact it would have on the green belt.
- In February 2002 the University's appeal was rejected, this time because of recommendations by the police.
- For two weeks from 26 November 2002 a Public Inquiry was heard by Planning Inspector Stuart Nixon.
- Concluding statements were made to the Inquiry on 8 January 2003, and the Planning Inspector subsequently delivered his report to the Deputy Prime Minister, John Prescott.
- John Prescott delivered his decision to overrule his own Inspector on 21 November 2003.
- The House of Lords Select Committee on Animals in Scientific Procedures; Volume I - Report, 16 July 2002, HL Paper 150-1.
- The Government Reply to the Report of the House of Lords Select Committee on Animals in Scientific Procedures, Session 2001-2002, HL150-1; January 2003, Cm5729.
Distributed by PR Newswire on behalf of National Anti-Vivisection Society Ltd