Ministers want to take action to protect firms doing business in the UK with animal research facilities. What exactly is the government planning?
What new laws are planned?
Ministers want new powers to prosecute people for "economic damage" brought about through campaigns of intimidation against companies which are supplying, or considering supplying, animal research facilities. This can include couriers, cleaners and charity shops. The maximum sentence could be five years in prison.
Are these new plans?
Yes. They take the form of an amendment to the Serious Organised Crime and Police Bill. The bill already includes a range of measures targeting people harassing or intimidating animal research facilities and their employees directly.
Why is the law being changed?
Suppliers to animal research facilities and firms have been targeted by animal activists. Last July work on Oxford University's new testing centre had to be halted after building contractors complained of harassment and intimidation. A number of City firms stopped working with Huntingdon Life Sciences after they were targeted by protesters. Trade and Industry Secretary Patricia Hewitt says such action is a threat to the £3bn bioscience industry and medical research in Britain and "puts breakthroughs in areas like Aids, cancer and Alzheimer's directly at risk".
What would the changes mean?
Police would get extra powers to tackle intimidation or attacks on companies in the supply chain and also give protection to company employees and their relatives and charities and universities. The amendment would also cover intimidation aimed at businesses thinking about supplying or working with animal research facilities.
What do protesters say?
Some groups have vowed to continue their campaigns regardless of the law, arguing it is the activities in laboratories that should be looked at. They say that laws banning legitimate protest are not justified.