Ken Livingstone has spoken for the first time about his previous life experimenting on live animals at a research laboratory in Belmont.

The Mayor of London conducted tests on rats, rabbits, sheep and goats in the late 1960s but omitted the episode from his autobiography.

The approved medical procedures were performed at the Chester Beatty Research Centre, now the Institute of Cancer Research in Cotswold Road.

Former colleagues claimed Mr Livingstone, known as a newt fancier, was often distressed at having to inject rats with cancer cells for research into childhood leukaemia.

He would cultivate tumours in the smaller rodents before they were given treatments to see how their immune systems fought disease.

In an interview at our North Cheam offices last week, Mr Livingstone denied ever being unduly worried by his work as a lab technician at X block.

He told the Sutton Guardian: "Every day you went for lunch in the main building at the Royal Marsden and there were these angelic children, all of whom had a death sentence.

"I was quite prepared to use rats and mice and sheep and goats to save the lives of children. I do not consider there is an equivalence of life between a rat and a human.

"Scientists would often want to push beyond what you needed to do. And, as a technician, you had the legal power to say no I think this animal is obviously going to die today, there's no need to continue the unnecessary pain'."

  • Earlier the London mayor had risked his reputation as a champion of public transport, by insisting on being chauffeured to the Sutton Guardian offices.

Over his eight years in office Mr Livingstone has repeatedly been the architect behind some of the toughest anti-car policies in Europe.

He seemed to preserve his green credentials after taking a Southern train to Sutton and returning home on the Northern Line from Morden.

But a reporter was actually enlisted to drive Mr Livingstone over the extra 10-minute journey, even though the 93 and 293 bus services pass our London Road offices every 15 minutes.

The episode recalled revelations that the mayor once lavished £260 of taxpayers' money on a cab to take him home from a Labour conference in Blackpool.

Asked about possible hypocrisy, Mr Livingstone said: "I wanted to be on time to answer your answers. I take the bus to work every day because it provides invaluable reading time."