A number of constituents have raised concerns with me regarding the ASRU Change Programme, and the impact it might have on animal welfare standards. Let me reassure that I, and my colleagues, take the issue of animal welfare extremely seriously and I am proud to have supported a legislative agenda so focused on further raising standards for the treatment of animals.
I welcome that there are stringent provisions already in place to ensure compliance with the Animals (Scientific Procedures) Act 1986 (ASPA). This Act makes provision for the protection of animals used for experimental or other scientific purposes. It also adopts the 3Rs principle which seeks to use experimental procedures which either replace the use of animals, reduce the number of animals used, or refine how the animals are treated during the process.
The ASRU is responsible for the administration and enforcement of ASPA, which includes providing advice on the regulations, operating the licence system, and ensuring the compliance of licence holders and the terms of their licenses. Regarding the Change Programme, I have been assured that its core aim is to better align ASRUs activities to deliver its purpose of protecting animals in science by maintaining compliance with ASPA. The benefits of the programme include increased efficiency and more effective delivery of outcomes and services.
Furthermore, the Animal Welfare and Ethical Review Body (AWERB) is an essential part of establishment governance to ensure compliance with ASPA. All applicants for a new project licence must be evaluated by the local AWERB which is constituted to advise on how effectively the applicant is applying the 3Rs (Replacement, Reduction and Refinement).