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 animal researchers.

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 laws.

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


Pig in cage
Credit: Organ Farm

More than 100 MPs have signed a Motion calling for an independent inquiry into the Diaries of Despair scandal.


















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