Home Office forced to apologise over complaints about spin
The Home Office has been forced to apologise for ignoring formal
complaints that it had misled members of the public over its role
in controversial animal experiments.
The complaints followed a historic legal victory this April for
Sheffield-based campaigners Uncaged. The anti-vivisection group
won the right to publish leaked confidential documents after successfully
arguing that the Home Office had deliberately failed to enforce
animal welfare regulations and had a collusive relationship with
The secret papers revealed severe primate suffering and hundreds
of mistakes. Government officials referred to the 'rubber-stamping'
of research applications and tried to get severe experiments classified
as moderate, to make it easier to obtain permission and conceal
the real levels of suffering.
Uncaged have been campaigning for an independent inquiry into the
affair, which involved Ministers personally authorising severe and
unsuccessful pig-to-primate organ transplant experiments. The procedures
were conducted by a subsidiary of Novartis at Huntingdon Life Sciences.
Members of the public had filed formal complaints, accusing the
Home Office of misleading them by:
- denying its central role in the legal proceedings
- falsely accusing the media of making "serious allegations
about the Home Office which are wholly misleading"
- claiming that it "strictly regulated" the experiments
- defending a narrow, internal review that was conducted by the
very Inspectors implicated by the documents
In response, the Home Office had issued an identical statement,
without even acknowledging that a complaint had been lodged.
However, the Home Office has come under intensifying pressure over
the evidence of misconduct and a subsequent cover-up. 109 MPs have
signed a Motion calling for an independent inquiry and the Commons
Home Affairs Committee has written to the Home Office to demand
an explanation about the deficiencies in its enforcement of welfare
Following a letter from Uncaged to Home Office Minister Caroline
Flint MP, accusing her of breaching the Ministerial Code of Conduct,
officials at the Home Office have re-contacted complainants. The
letter states: "It has come to our attention that our further
response did not deal properly with the issues raised in your letter
of complaint. Please accept our apology for this error."
Uncaged director Dan Lyons comments:
"This was no 'error', unless the Home
Office is staffed with illiterate civil servants, which is unlikely.
In reality it's part of a deliberate policy of spin, evasion and
contempt for due process. This appalling misconduct reinforces the
urgent need for an independent inquiry into the Government's rotten
and cruel practices."
Uncaged Campaigns, 10 September 2003