Bank of England agrees to bail out animal testing company

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Indy Politics

The Bank of England is to provide financial support to Huntingdon Life Sciences, the drug-testing company at the centre of an intimidation campaign by animal rights activists.

The unprecedented move by the bank comes as HLS's support from commercial institutions has withered in the face of a fierce campaign by animal welfare protesters.

The Bank of England normally offers its facilities only to government departments and commercial banks.

In an attempt by the Government to support HLS, the Department of Trade and Industry has arranged to set aside one of its accounts with the Bank for the company's use. It will enable HLS to process more than £100m in receipts and payments a year.

HLS had warned that the withdrawal of support and services by City groups would mean it would be forced to move operations outside the UK.

The arrangements are expected to be announced today in the Lords by Lord Sainsbury of Turville, the DTI parliamentary secretary.

The move signals the Government's determination not to allow animal rights activists to shut down testing facilities.

The relentless pressure and threats by the group Stop Huntingdon Animal Cruelty (Shac) led to the majority of Huntingdon's backers, including Royal Bank of Scotland, Barclays and Credit Suisse First Boston, severing their links. The Bank of New York is the latest target of Shac's widespread campaign.

Two weeks ago the British Bankers' Association said it would take a firmer stand against this type of intimidation.

The government initiative was welcomed by the Defence Society for Medical Research, which represents groups involved in experimentation. Dr Mark Matfield, the president, said: "This is a hugely important decision. Not only does it allow HLS to continue its work but it shows that the Government is prepared to stand up to the intimidation by these extremists."

Whitehall sources said ministers were aware the move would be criticised by some. One DTI source said: "All we are doing is providing the Bank of England's services. Huntingdon will continue to seek commercial support but there is no time limit on the facility being offered by the Bank."

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