Contractor in talks with Downing Street after animal rights organisation causes £250,000 of damage to site
Contractor Montpellier is in talks with the government in an attempt to gain compensation for damage on one of its sites carried out by animal rights protesters.

Activists have tried to undermine work being carried out by Montpellier subsidiary Walter Lilly at Oxford University's £18m animal testing laboratory.

A senior Whitehall source said that Montpellier and its suppliers had been talking to officials from 10 Downing Street over the attacks, primarily acts of vandalism.

The source added that Home Office and DTI officials had also been contacted and that negotiations were continuing.

The source said: "The government is keen that the protesters do not win. It is felt that they want Montpellier to stay on the project and it looks like there may be an incentive offered to cover damages."

A DTI spokesperson reiterated that the government was determined to protect organisations carrying out their daily business.

There may be an incentive offered to cover damages

Whitehall source

The spokesperson said: "Implicit threats of intimidation and harassment against shareholders in a publicly quoted company are intolerable. The police are investigating."

However, he added that the issue of compensation would be a "matter for the company".

Montpellier shareholders have received letters threatening to post their details on the internet if they did not sell their shares in the firm. This week, non-executive director John Biles resigned from the company after just three weeks on the board.

Montpellier declined to comment. However, a company insider added that "talks were ongoing" and that suppliers on the site, such as concrete firm RMC, were looking to recover more than £250,000 from the government in damages to property.

According to a posting on the Arkangel animal rights website, the attacks damaged a large number of tractors, bulldozers and a crane.