Bank prepares to abandon Huntingdon

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Ministers last night remained confident that a financial solution could be found to save Huntingdon Life Science, the controversial animal testing facility, despite indications from the company's banker that it was preparing to pull the plug.

Ministers last night remained confident that a financial solution could be found to save Huntingdon Life Science, the controversial animal testing facility, despite indications from the company's banker that it was preparing to pull the plug.

Banking industry sources said that whatever eleventh hour deal was stitched together, it was unlikely that the Royal Bank of Scotland, which had given the company until today to come up with alternative financing proposals, would be involved. The bank refused to comment, citing client confidentiality, but City sources said that a decision not to renew loans to Huntingdon had been made on purely commercial grounds.

At Westminster, it was suggested that the animal-testing laboratory was still in talks with "a number of bodies", with a view to replacing the loan facility to prevent the laboratory - which has been the subject of a determined campaign by animal rights groups - from closing. The Department of Trade and Industry was being kept informed about progress in the talks.

Last night the Government said that it remained optimistic about the laboratory's chances of staying open, although it is unlikely to provide guarantees for the laboratory. "We are still hopeful of securing an acceptable outcome to ongoing negotiations," said a senior source.

Earlier, Jack Straw told the Cabinet that Huntingdon was "a very important research establishment", which the Government wanted to see continue in business.

"It's a very mobile industry and its important that we do whatever we can to protect jobs," he said.

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