Thank you for contacting me about EDM 929, the Westminster Hall debate on the 11th July and for contacting me about the bearskins used for the Queen’s Guard’s caps .
The Ministry of Defence conducted tests on a fake fur fabric commissioned by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals as a potential alternative to the existing bear pelts used to make the Queen’s Guard’s ceremonial caps.
This material was assessed against five requirements and, as I understand it, while it met the basic standard for water absorption, it showed unacceptable rates of water shedding and performed poorly on visual assessment.
Sadly, as the man-made fur did not meet the standards required for a ceremonial cap which is worn throughout the year and in all weathers, the Ministry of Defence has not progressed to take this man-made fabric forward or change the present arrangements.
However, during the debate on the 11th July, the Minister outlined the Government's position including on the extensive testing of alternative products and indicated that "If there is a faux fur alternative that works and overcomes the hurdles I have described, we will look quickly at affordability, sustainability and the other boxes that we need to tick. There is no opposition at all to the idea of using faux fur if it can be proved to work. As I say, in other circumstances we have actively and willingly embraced faux fur alternatives. We would be keen to see whether faux fur works in this instance.
The hon. Member for Linlithgow and East Falkirk said that there are questions to answer; if PETA helps us to answer those questions by providing to the experts in the Ministry of Defence the material—the faux fur bearskin—that PETA has created, we will without doubt have a look and consider the results seriously.
The House can rest assured that we will continue to keep these matters under review and, as I say, if PETA or any other body wishes to share the details of any tests with us, those details will be analysed. The best way to help to make us use faux fur in future is to share with us the data. If the data proves to be right and we can genuinely believe that there will be a viable faux fur alternative, we will be happy to take it forward and then test it against sustainability, affordability and other criteria.
At the moment, however, the jury is out. We need to see the results of the tests, which have not yet been shared with us, and evidence that faux fur can be made to work and can hit our five criteria. If we have that evidence, we will happily take faux fur on, but that is the hurdle that we need to get over, and it is in the hands of others. We are willing to receive any information.
Thank you again for contacting me.