Baroness Mallalieu debates involving the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs during the 2019 Parliament

Mon 13th Dec 2021
Mon 6th Dec 2021
Animal Welfare (Sentience) Bill [HL]
Lords Chamber

Report stage part three & Lords Hansard - part three
Mon 6th Dec 2021
Animal Welfare (Sentience) Bill [HL]
Lords Chamber

Report stage part two & Lords Hansard - part two
Mon 6th Dec 2021
Animal Welfare (Sentience) Bill [HL]
Lords Chamber

Report stage part one & Lords Hansard - part one
Tue 6th Jul 2021
Animal Welfare (Sentience) Bill [HL]
Grand Committee

Committee stage & Committee stage
Wed 16th Jun 2021

Land Use in England Committee Report

Baroness Mallalieu Excerpts
Tuesday 25th July 2023

(10 months, 1 week ago)

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Baroness Mallalieu Portrait Baroness Mallalieu (Lab)
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My Lords, I remind the House of my interests as president of the Countryside Alliance and as a very small-scale farmer up on the Exmoor National Park. I have the privilege of being one of the members of the Land Use in England Committee, chaired expertly by the noble Lord, Lord Cameron of Dillington, to whom we are all indebted for today’s debate. It is something of a rarity, in that there is no advisory speaking time—perhaps it is not necessary because, once we stop, we can all go on holiday.

I admit that, before I sat on this committee, I had considerable cynicism about the need for a land use framework. I was aware that Scotland and Wales already had them, but I felt that we did not need yet another body to tell farmers and landowners how to conduct their operations. I thought we did not need another quango, or a body that might well impose national targets without taking into account local conditions or views, and that might well be at the mercy of powerful lobby groups in the way that the strong environmental lobby, in my view, has had its hands around the throats of government during some recent legislation. Having heard a great deal of evidence on some of those things, I have changed my mind.

Thirty-two million acres sounds like a lot of land, but England is a small country and the brutal reality is that it simply does not have enough land to meet the demands of all those who wish to use it in the ways they wish to use it. This Government have already made commitments, as future ones no doubt will—some of them even statutory, such as those on nature recovery and net zero—and they have set targets to apportion a frankly inadequate cake. The noble Lord, Lord Cameron, has already reminded us of some of these, but among them are the promises to maintain our current self-sufficiency in food at over 60%, to increase woodland by 1 million acres, to build 300,000 new houses every year and to enlarge our national parks by 1.8 million acres—not to mention the solar farms and wind turbines necessary to obtain net zero, plus major transport infrastructure and the need to increase nature provision and access to the countryside. It is all very well, but each of those things needs land, and land is finite.

If ever there was an orchestra of different and completely incompatible demands in need of a conductor, it is England’s land use at present. Some body needs to monitor and keep tabs on what is going on, and alert government and local authorities if the balance is moving dangerously out of kilter in one direction, or to give information, encouragement and advice, especially on innovation and to landowners and farmers, and to collate and broadcast that data.

It cannot just be Defra that devises and maintains such a framework; it must involve the other major government departments that need access to land to fulfil their remits. Some have already been mentioned: the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities, which has housing, local government and some industrial and commercial infrastructure within its remit; DCMS, which deals with access to nature and tourism; the Department for Transport, which deals with infrastructure; and the departments dealing with business, energy self-sufficiency and so on. Defra is only one part of government which needs to be involved in the creation and work of an effective land use framework.

While I give the Government full marks for recognising and accepting the need for such a framework, I am afraid I have to give them nul points for their response to this report so far. In paragraph 1 of their response, they said that

“it may be necessary to assemble a group of experts to oversee the application of the Land Use Framework once published”.

Surely you need the expertise first, before the framework is published, and not after Defra officials have drawn it up alone. If this framework is to be effective, it must be cross-departmental. It needs to be independent and set up in a way that reflects the concerns of each government department that needs to use land to fulfil its role. The Government have so far turned their face against creating a commission, as the report recommended. If it is seen merely as a small part of the portfolio of one Defra Minister, it will not be able properly to fulfil a much-needed role.

As I have said, I readily understand the reluctance to create another quango, but the evidence we heard about how well the Scottish Land Commission works and how well received it is by landowners, who readily seek its advice, shows that a cumbersome and costly body is not necessary to fulfil this important function.

Another of my fears was that a land use framework might dictate. I am pleased that the Government accept—I think they do; I hope for reassurance from the Minister on this—that it will not prescribe or tell people what must be done or not done and where, unlike Natural England does too often. I want it to be about gathering and publishing existing data, promulgating best practice, giving advice in an open and user-friendly way, and working closely with stakeholders—if it is to be effective, not just with landowners and managers and not just in a Defra silo but across departments—local authorities and the relevant public bodies, taking account of and responding to local conditions.

When changes are needed—they could well be needed urgently, for example in relation to food security; we have seen some of that already—that body must be ready to advise Governments and land managers on what needs to be done to encourage greater production. Where trees are being planted on highly productive farmland—for example, as unhappily I know, down in the West Country by the National Trust, and in Wales, as those who listened to “Farming Today” would have heard—if future adjustments need to be made to the ELM scheme to ensure the survival of small family farms, which I suspect will have to be done, an effective land use framework has a vital job to do in monitoring the trends, and on occasion, advising government on the incentives needed to meet changing needs, not to mention the encouragement of innovation. Could the Minister please give us reassurance that this framework will be truly cross-departmental? If not, I fear it will be a missed opportunity.

National Farmers’ Union

Baroness Mallalieu Excerpts
Wednesday 2nd March 2022

(2 years, 2 months ago)

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Lord Benyon Portrait Lord Benyon (Con)
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The common agricultural policy and the basic payment scheme were, and to an extent still are, not small-farmer friendly. We want to make sure that the environmental land management scheme is much more focused on supporting smaller farms. I have visited farmers on the edge of Dartmoor who rent 100 or 200 acres and have grazing rights on Dartmoor. I realise the difficulty they have in gaining a living from their activities. We want to make sure that they have a living, and that the whole support network that we are providing and the addition of green finance will help them as much as it will help other farmers.

Baroness Mallalieu Portrait Baroness Mallalieu (Lab)
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My Lords, does the Minister agree that what has happened in Europe in the last week should be a warning for us, because the environmental schemes that we have just passed through this House in two Bills are inevitably going to lead to a reduction in the amount of land actually used for farming for food? What is happening indicates that we cannot rely simply on being able to buy cheaper food from other countries. Will he commit to maintaining the amount of land still used for farming and to encouraging food as the primary enterprise of farmers?

Lord Benyon Portrait Lord Benyon (Con)
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The noble Baroness makes a very good point and it was well made in Minette Batters’s speech at the conference. I entirely agree with her that we do not want to create some sort of idyllic garden in the countryside and export our carbon and other footprints to other countries with worse livestock and environmental standards. We want to continue to see farmers producing food of the highest possible quality, and that is what underpins our reforms.

Animal Welfare (Sentience) Bill [HL]

Baroness Mallalieu Excerpts
Lord Robathan Portrait Lord Robathan (Con)
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My Lords, I pay tribute to my noble friend the Minister who, with good humour throughout, has defended what is frankly almost indefensible. He has done extremely well, and I hope that he is congratulated by the higher ranks of the Government. I associate myself entirely with the excellent points made by my noble friend Lord Herbert. I will not repeat them, but I will repeat that this is a shockingly bad piece of legislation which should be an embarrassment to the Government.

Baroness Mallalieu Portrait Baroness Mallalieu (Lab)
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My Lords, I remind the House of my interests as a member of the RSPCA and president of the Countryside Alliance and the Horse Trust. I too thank the Minister for his patience and courtesy during the passage of this Bill. Given the opposition from parts of the House, this cannot have been an unalloyed pleasure for him.

It gives me no pleasure to support the amendment tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Herbert, but I must. I cannot understand how a Government who were elected in no small part promising to reduce bureaucracy, especially that which came from Europe, can have taken the wholly uncontroversial subject of putting animal sentience on the statute book, something which nobody would disagree with, and now seem bent on turning it into a textbook bureaucratic nightmare.

When the former Master of the Rolls, the noble and learned Lord, Lord Etherton, told us during the passage of the Bill that it creates a magnet for judicial review; when the foremost vet in this House, the noble Lord, Lord Trees, who supports the Bill, tells us that its scope needs definition and its focus sharpened on to future policy decisions; when the former Leader of the House, the noble Lord, Lord Strathclyde, the former leader of the party opposite, the noble Lord, Lord Howard, and many others, tell the Government that they need to think again, yet they resist and reject all amendments, save for a small number of government ones, it makes me wonder whether this House has actual value as a scrutinising House when they have the comfort of a large majority in another place and know that they are able to push defective Bills through almost unamended there.

Animal Welfare (Sentience) Bill [HL]

Baroness Mallalieu Excerpts
Moved by
7: Clause 1, page 1, line 7, at end insert—
“(4) No person may be appointed a member of the Committee unless they have confirmed that they—(a) are not affiliated to an organisation promoting animal rights;(b) are not a member of an organisation promoting animal rights;(c) are not currently employed and have never been employed by or been a consultant of an organisation promoting animal rights;(d) are not in receipt of, nor have ever been in receipt of, payments or funding, whether directly or indirectly, from an organisation promoting animal rights.”
Baroness Mallalieu Portrait Baroness Mallalieu (Lab)
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I am the lucky recipient of yet another of the amendments tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Mancroft. He did not indicate to me why he had decoupled it from the previous group. I think the Minister has, in effect, already replied by saying that he is not prepared to put in the Bill who should be on the committee. The amendment tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Mancroft, effectively sets out who should not be, and I assume that the same answer will come to me.

However, I would like to say, literally in a sentence, that one of the reasons for widespread disquiet about the Bill is concern about who may or may not find places on the committee. I come from an area where the animal rights movement has been particularly virulent, especially during the badger cull, with people with balaclavas damaging farm property, threatening people, letting livestock out and so on, and, more recently, damaging all the tents at the local country fair by painting Animal Liberation Front logos on everything. As a result of that, a lot of us are concerned that some well-known public figures who purport to be friends of animals and campaign on their behalf do not condemn this terrorism. We are concerned that, whoever comes on to this committee, they should be, as the Government have indicated is their intention, people with proper scientific experience and knowledge who can contribute—not from a neutral point of view, because that is impossible, but whose judgement can be relied on—rather than people who are merely from pressure groups. I beg to move.

Baroness Hayman of Ullock Portrait Baroness Hayman of Ullock (Lab)
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Very briefly, I think the concerns on this amendment were answered in the response to the previous group. As it is not necessary to have in the Bill who should be on the committee, it is not necessary to have in it who should not be on the committee.

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Baroness Bloomfield of Hinton Waldrist Portrait Baroness Bloomfield of Hinton Waldrist (Con)
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I am afraid I am not able to give that reassurance. All I can say is that they might not be considered to be experts.

Baroness Mallalieu Portrait Baroness Mallalieu (Lab)
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I thank the Minister for her reply. I just hope that the reassurance she has given us will be followed by future Secretaries of State. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment 7 withdrawn.
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I hope my noble friend will do a lot more this evening to reassure me that pests and pest control will not be affected by this Bill. I beg to move.
Baroness Mallalieu Portrait Baroness Mallalieu (Lab)
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My Lords, Amendment 45 in my name is in this group. I have listened to crocodiles and in the next group we will get crabs and lobsters, so I will introduce the fish. If the Minister thinks it right to put crabs and lobsters in the Bill, he might consider my amendment.

There is a very significant body of scientific evidence that fish feel pain and are sentient animals. Individuals are capable of experiencing pain and feeling emotions such as fear. Under the Animal Welfare Act 2006, a fish may be a protected animal if it is under the control of man, but the Explanatory Notes on Section 59 read as follows:

“This section provides that anything which occurs in the normal course of fishing is not covered by this Act … The term ‘fishing’ should be understood as applying to ordinary activities of fishermen and anglers, and also the ordinary activities of those who own and run stocked ponds in allowing fishing activities to take place on their ponds.”


My amendment proposes that precisely the same provision be placed in this Act as was put in the Animal Welfare Act 2006. It would give reassurance to a great many people who enjoy fishing.

Lord Teverson Portrait Lord Teverson (LD)
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My Lords, I echo the point of the noble Earl, Lord Caithness, about biosecurity. The implications of not taking care of biosecurity, which is mentioned in his amendment—I do not necessarily agree with all of the amendment—are fundamental; it is an ongoing threat to biodiversity and the ecological strength of this nation. I re-echo that point on biosecurity in terms of this Bill. As we know, at the moment we have few protections for biosecurity in our current arrangements, but, hopefully, that will change in the new year when there are greater controls on imports to this country. I just wanted to re-emphasise that point in the noble Earl’s amendment.

Animal Welfare (Sentience) Bill [HL]

Baroness Mallalieu Excerpts
Let us consider what this committee will do. We are told that it will be independent, so it can produce reports on anything that it wants. My noble friend Lady Fookes says that it cannot produce a report on the whole question of ritual slaughter, basically because that has already been taken care of in legislation. Is that true? If the committee is completely independent, presumably it can produce a report on anything that it wants. It could put pressure on the Government to say, “Actually, the existing legislation that covers ritual slaughter is inadequate, therefore something should be done about it.” This committee is either independent or it is not. Presumably, it can produce a report on the poisoning of rats. They are sentient creatures—the Bill covers both animals in the wild and domestic animals. Their poisoning is not very pleasant in the absence of terriers which, let us face it, kill rats rather more cleanly and humanely than any other way. Nowadays they invariably get poisoned; presumably, a report could be produced on that. We are creating a monster here and in the long term we will live to regret it.
Baroness Mallalieu Portrait Baroness Mallalieu (Lab)
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My Lords, can I add to what the noble Lord, Lord Hamilton, has just said? I remind those in the House who have not looked closely at the terms of reference of the relationship that is anticipated between this new committee and the excellent existing Animal Welfare Committee. They are to have a joint secretariat with Defra, a joint website, a joint point of contact and the same Defra budget. Both will give views and advice about the effects on animal welfare of policy decisions, including prospective future policy and policy currently being formulated, and they will consult one another. The same people can be members of both committees and on occasions give joint advice and attend one another’s meetings. I repeat: I still do not understand why, with a powerful and excellent committee already in existence, we are spending time on the Bill in this House today.

Earl of Caithness Portrait The Earl of Caithness (Con)
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My Lords, I have listened with care to what has been said and find the arguments convincing. However, I am slightly concerned about the proposition put forward by the noble Earl, Lord Kinnoull, and supported by my noble friend Lord Strathclyde. As I understand the procedure now, if the Minister agrees to such a meeting but then decides to do nothing, we can do nothing at Third Reading. I would like clarification that we could not bring forward an amendment at Third Reading unless there was an indication from the Government today that it would be accepted. I think that is the new procedure.

I have two questions for my noble friend that are relevant. Does he agree with the situation north of the border and the attitude taken by NatureScot that:

“The death of an animal, at an individual level, is not a welfare issue but the manner in which an animal dies is”?


If he agrees with that, will he give an instruction to the committee to follow that same principle? Does he also agree with the thoughts of the National Animal Welfare Advisory Committee in New Zealand, which distinguishes between societal ethical values and public opinion? Again, if he agrees with that animal sentience committee’s thoughts, would he give the same instruction to the committee that he proposes to set up?

Animal Welfare (Sentience) Bill [HL]

Baroness Mallalieu Excerpts
Lord Trees Portrait Lord Trees (CB)
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My Lords, I declare my interests as co-chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Animal Welfare and a former president of the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons, so it will come as no surprise to noble Lords that I broadly support the Bill. Moreover, in 2018 I tabled an amendment to the withdrawal Bill to bring Article 13 of the Lisbon treaty into UK statute. That was rejected by the Government at the time, but I suspect that if Her Majesty’s Government look in the mirror of history, they may feel that they should have accepted that amendment then; it would have addressed the issue of sentience at that time and given us a foundation to build on and make changes if so wished.

Article 13 had considerable scope for unintended consequences, and this Bill, which is Article 13 with bells on, has considerably more—hence the number of amendments, particularly from the Government Benches. The Bill goes considerably further than Article 13: for example, it sets up an animal sentience committee; it covers all government policy; it has no exceptions for cultural, historical or religious practices; it includes certain invertebrates; and it specifically allows for the retrospective consideration of government policy formulation. The considerable widening of the scope of Article 13, yet at the same time the lack of detail in many places, has led to the large number of amendments that we see today.

Amendment 1 in my name and those of the noble Lord, Lord Moylan, and the noble Earl, Lord Kinnoull, to whom I am grateful for their support, makes two key points. Clause 1(1) of the Bill establishes an animal sentience committee. Our amendment seeks to define, at the start of the Bill, two key aspects of that committee’s remit. The first aspect, which seeks to make explicit what I understand is Her Majesty’s Government’s intention, would introduce the word “process” with regard to the committee’s function in scrutinising the formulation and implementation of policy. It would make it very clear that the ASC did not have a function with regard to commenting on policy per se but, rather, on the degree to which the Government had taken animal welfare into account in developing that policy.

I suggest that that is a critical aspect of the Bill. For example, one of the briefings that we received says that the Bill entrusts responsibility to the animal sentience committee for considering the impact of its policies on animals as sentient beings. But it does not; it requires the ASC to consider whether the Government have considered the impact on animal welfare of the policies that they are developing. I submit that this is not mere semantics but a substantive difference, which introducing the word “process” in respect of the function of the committee makes clear. I note that other recent amendments—for example, Amendment 2 in the names of the noble Lords, Lord Mancroft and Lord Marland, and Amendment 9 in the name of the noble Viscount, Lord Ridley, have also included the word “process” with regard to the function of the committee and its scrutiny of the formulation and implementation of policy.

The other key point in Amendment 1, which is a feature of other amendments in this group—I think that is largely why it has been put there—is to exclude retrospective examination of policy formulation and implementation. It is exceptional that any legislation allows retrospective evaluation of actions, and I find it difficult to understand the justification of that. The ASC will exist alongside the current Animal Welfare Committee, which is advisory, and, if some historic legislation appears no longer fit for purpose or inadequate in any way, the AWC is perfectly placed to point this out and to make suggestions for either new legislation or the revision of existing legislation. That is totally within its remit. However, I would be interested to hear from the Minister of the justification for these retrospective powers, which—to judge from the number of amendments on this issue—a number of noble Lords find problematic. I beg to move.

Baroness Mallalieu Portrait Baroness Mallalieu (Lab)
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My Lords, Amendments 12, 14 and 16 in this group are in my name. However, I will first support Amendment 1 in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Trees, which seems to be both sensible and necessary to be made to the Bill if we are to have a committee in this form at all. I also support the amendments in this group in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Howard of Rising.

I have one query about the amendment in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Trees, which I will come to in relation to my Amendment 16. The first two, Amendments 12 and 14, underline the requirement in those amendments for the committee to deal with only future policy and when it is being formulated. Surely the value of this committee if it is to have any real effect is to perform a role not already covered by other committees, to draw attention to failures of consideration if it finds them when policy is being formulated or has just been formulated and before implementation, so that the defects can if necessary and possible be remedied before the policy is enacted.

In the Bill at present there is no limit as to how far back the committee can go. The draft terms of reference, which the Minister kindly sent us, express a hope—no more—that it will concentrate on more recent policies, but there is nothing to stop the committee going back as far as it chooses. Ministers come and go—so do civil servants. An examination of whether a past Secretary of State gave all due regard to the effect of a policy on animal welfare, possibly long enacted, will be difficult if not impossible in many cases. The additional cost of this committee, according to the terms of reference, is to be no more than half a million pounds from Defra’s budget. However, there is no calculation of how much time will be needed to be spent by other departments trying to answer the inevitable investigation into how decisions were made. It must take time from the work of those departments in each case, and of course be at public expense too. This committee surely cannot be intended to be a quasi post-legislative scrutiny committee, yet the Bill is without any limit as to its remit.

My Amendment 16 removes implementation from the committee’s remit. After Committee I looked forward to seeing the draft terms of reference because, as it stands, the purpose, remit, scope and any limits on the powers of the committee are not clear in the Bill. I hoped they would be remedied, at the very least, in guidance. Sadly, they are not. Instead, in a number of respects, the Bill and the terms of the reference are in direct conflict.

Animal Welfare (Sentience) Bill [HL]

Baroness Mallalieu Excerpts
Baroness McIntosh of Pickering Portrait Baroness McIntosh of Pickering (Con)
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I support many of the amendments in this group but will speak specifically to Amendment 3 in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Trees, and Amendments 16 and 35 in the name of the noble Earl, Lord Kinnoull. I regret that the department and the Government have failed to make a case for the need to go further than what we had already agreed and accepted historically from our membership of the European Union. I do not think that that case has been adequately made. Also, I am struggling to understand why we need to create a whole new committee, which we are seeking to do in Clause 1: the animal sentience committee.

As probing amendments, the entire group will be helpful to enable my noble friend in summing up from the Front Bench to explain why the animal sentience committee needs to exist at all and why it could not either be absorbed into or be a sub-committee of the Animal Welfare Committee. The whole relationship of how those two committees are to coexist needs to be given some justification, and some consideration must be given as to how that will work.

The attraction of Amendment 3—coming from the noble Lord, Lord Trees, who is steeped in working with animals and qualified as a veterinary surgeon—is that it is a prospect, looking ahead, and not retrospective. The explanatory statement

“makes clear that the Committee’s remit relates to the process of the formulation and implementation of policy but only that which has been formulated and implemented after the Committee’s formation”.

That leads very neatly on to Amendments 16 and 35 in the name of the noble Earl, Lord Kinnoull. Amendment 16 would set out what is generally understood to have been the remit to which we had all agreed; I have not heard any strong case as to why we need to go further than that which we had already accepted and practised in this country for the last number of years. Amendment 35 again underlines the effect that this would be only prospective and that the Bill and the remit of the committee would not seek, in any shape or form, to go back over and address issues that have been agreed as our policy in this country for a significant period. With those few remarks, I look forward to what my noble friend has to say in summing up on this group of amendments.

Baroness Mallalieu Portrait Baroness Mallalieu (Lab) [V]
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I remind the Committee of my interests, as set out in the register. My name is down to Amendment 54 in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Forsyth, in this group, but I also wish to support a number of others—in particular Amendment 1 moved by the noble Lord, Lord Hamilton, as well as Amendment 3 proposed by the noble Lord, Lord Trees, and Amendment 34 proposed by the noble Lord, Lord Howard of Rising.

At the start of the Bill, I am still mystified as to what the Government want it to do, because so little of the essential detail is contained in it that the end result could equally be a damp squib or a bolting horse which this and successive Governments will come to regret having mounted. Surely it is not good enough to say that the deficiencies apparent in the Bill will be supplemented later by guidance. Proper parliamentary scrutiny is necessary—indeed, essential—not mere guidance, which can be changed at the whim of any future Secretary of State, so I strongly support Amendment 1.

The Government have got themselves into this unenviable position by declining, as others have said, to incorporate the policy that was covered by the aspects of the Lisbon treaty into our law, which would probably have been the sensible course. Their first attempt at a Bill was wisely withdrawn when it was pointed out that they were laying themselves open to multiple and expensive judicial reviews. I am a mere retired criminal barrister; others are involved in this Committee who are far better qualified than I am in relation to this aspect of the law but, if the department has been advised by its lawyers that the Bill poses no such threats, I would strongly advise an early outside expert opinion.

There is a long list of what we need to know from the Minister at this stage of this Bill. First, we need to know what animal sentience actually means in the Bill; we need a clear definition—and I support the one advanced by the noble Lord, Lord Forsyth, when he spoke at Second Reading, which is contained in Amendment 54.

Secondly, we need to know the remit of this committee. Do the Government really want to set up a running post-legislative scrutiny committee, or do we follow the line sensibly taken by the noble Lord, Lord Trees, in Amendment 3, which suggests that the committee should concentrate solely on policy that comes into effect after the committee is established? If it is to roam across every government department and every policy, which would include aspects of defence, medicine and trade, quite apart from agriculture, it has the makings of a giant and very expensive quango. Does it pick up and choose for itself what it examines? How many reports would it have to produce in a year, if that were the case? Can it commission research in itself—and, if so, who is going to pay for it? This has already been mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Howard, but does the policy have to be delayed while all this is done? All these questions need answers before something is created which could easily run out of control. There must be a clear remit of what it can do, a proper means of setting a programme, and a proper budget to cover it.

Baroness Bakewell of Hardington Mandeville Portrait Baroness Bakewell of Hardington Mandeville (LD)
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My Lords, I shall speak to Amendments 15, 39 and 45 in the name of the noble Baroness, Lady Hayman of Ullock, to which I have added my name. I am grateful to the Wildlife and Countryside Link for its briefings. Clause 2 currently allows the animal sentience committee to prepare reports on any government policy that

“is being or has been formulated or implemented”.

The scope is wide, but some rationalisation is required. Government policy is extensive, and the committee could be overwhelmed in attempting to take a strategic and prospective approach to its work.

Amendment 15, especially proposed new subsection (4A), would create a category of government policies that the committee must report on: policies that can reasonably be expected to have a significant effect on the welfare of animals, judged by the duration and severity of effects and the number of animals affected. The committee would, however, retain the freedom to report on any other policy that it felt may have impacts on the welfare of animals as sentient beings, including medicine, trade and, possibly, defence.

It is crucial, for the ASC to be successful, that it does not dilute its activity by spreading itself too thinly and investigating policies that will have no effect whatever on animals. The whole thrust of the Bill is about preventing harm and mistreatment of animals as sentient beings, but it is also important that the committee can look at policy that will make a positive improvement to the welfare of animals, not just minimise adverse effects, important though that is.

Amendment 39 would place a duty on the Minister to inform the ASC of any policy that is in preparation that comes within the remit of its work. This duty should not be onerous, as Ministers will know in advance of any policies likely to arise with an animal impact—for instance, trade deals involving shipment of live animals, or the import of meat from animals reared in a country with very different animal welfare standards from our own.

Lastly, I turn to Amendment 45, which would introduce a new clause after Clause 3 and should ensure that the ASC had a strategy that it was working to. The Secretary of State should produce an annual statement to Parliament on the progress of this strategy. Parliament, and indeed the public, will want to know how many welfare impact assessments the ASC has carried out over a 12-month period and what the outcome of that work has been.

Following Second Reading, it is clear that a wide divergence of opinions on the Bill is likely to be expressed this afternoon, most coming from the Minister’s own Benches. The Conservative manifesto made it clear that the Government would be bringing forward an animal sentience Bill in the new Parliament. This is an important matter for the voting public. However, it seems that some members of the Conservative Party did not quite understand what this would involve, or perhaps thought that the Government would quietly ignore this pledge. In all events, there is clearly a degree of disappointment in the Bill. I do not envy the Minister his role this afternoon as he seeks to negotiate a passage through some quite choppy water on the Bill, but I fully support it and look forward to his comments.

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Lord Mancroft Portrait Lord Mancroft (Con)
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My Lords, my noble friend Lord Forsyth’s Amendment 2 addresses the likely conflict between the proposed animal sentience committee and the existing Animal Welfare Committee by subsuming one into the other. My later Amendment 43 addresses any conflicts that undoubtedly will occur between the two committees if they remain—if my noble friend’s amendment is rejected.

The other amendments in this group seek to add flesh to the bones of the Government’s committee, about which there is no information in the Bill—as I think every other noble Lord speaking to this group has mentioned. Whether or not one agrees with the detail of these amendments—I have concerns about some of them—they all seek to fill the gaps in the Bill that my noble friend Lord Forsyth talked about. They have been tabled from all sides of the Committee, because the Bill as drafted is completely inadequate and is in effect a Henry VIII Bill—one with no content creating a creature, the animal sentience committee, with a skeleton remit and limitless ability to range across government.

I cannot support my noble friend Lady McIntosh’s Amendment 13 because it sets up a new quango—there are already far too many of those—or Amendment 62 from the noble Baroness, Lady Jones, for the same reason. While I have some sympathy with the proposal from the noble Baroness, Lady Hayman, some of the detail does not stand up to scrutiny. She volunteers a pretty extensive list of expertise that members of the committee should have, including “animal welfare science”—but, of course, animal welfare is not a science. In practice, it is really a discipline. Why such a committee would benefit from expertise in “animal welfare advocacy” is unclear, but it seems to me an invitation to invite animal rights promoters on to the committee—something I strongly oppose, for reasons I shall explain when we reach my Amendment 12.

Much of what the noble Baronesses, Lady Hayman, Lady McIntosh and Lady Jones, propose is more simply resolved by my noble friend Lord Forsyth’s Amendments 11 and 40. If Parliament has the power to set the

“composition … budget, and … terms of reference”

and the Secretary of State has the power to approve or veto the committee’s programme of work, the issues raised by the noble Baronesses will be adequately resolved. For that reason, I will support Amendments 11 and 40. I very much hope my noble friend the Minister accepts them.

Baroness Mallalieu Portrait Baroness Mallalieu (Lab) [V]
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My Lords, my name is to Amendment 40 and I support Amendments 2 and 11 in this group. I was a little alarmed to hear the Secretary of State say that he will allow the committee to choose what policies it examines. He also said that the money would come from the Defra budget, but surely the Secretary of State must retain some control over the work programme, or the runaway horse would certainly start to gather speed approaching something of a precipice. It is well known that the Defra coffers are scarcely overflowing and are unlikely to be topped up greatly in the immediate future. An unlimited work programme, or one that targeted matters perhaps not seen as generally important, would lead to money running out pretty quickly and fail to satisfy anyone, so I would like the Minister to reassure us that the Secretary of State will exercise proper control over both the committee’s work programme and the funds necessary to meet it.

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Earl of Caithness Portrait The Earl of Caithness (Con)
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My Lords, I put my name to Amendment 8. Very briefly, the reason for this, as has been said by my noble friends Lord Moylan and Lady McIntosh of Pickering, who has a similar amendment, is that we need some practical experience on the committee. Amendment 5, in the name of the noble Baroness, Lady Hayman of Ullock, sets out some useful ideas for the more theoretical side of animal sentience, but it is equally important to have representatives of those who do these practical jobs in everyday life. Sentience cannot be defined by a single word or sentence; it is much more complicated than that. Therefore, one needs that practical experience besides the theory. I hope my noble friend will tell us a little more of his thoughts on that.

Baroness Mallalieu Portrait Baroness Mallalieu (Lab) [V]
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My Lords, I shall be brief and wish to ask for further reassurance from the Minister. I totally understand that he does not want to be too prescriptive in the Bill as to the composition of this committee, but I was troubled by a word he used earlier—“balance”. The composition of the committee is crucial to its success. The people he puts on it surely need to be independent, expert, properly qualified and not drawn from pressure groups on either side of the animal welfare debate.

They also have to be brave, because they are highly likely to be heavily lobbied at some points in their careers on the committee. The Minister will know that the animal rights movement in this country, limited though it is in number, is very well financed and expert at using bullying online, making people’s businesses suffer and mass lobbying. In extreme cases it is proficient at criminal damage and serious violence.

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Baroness Mallalieu Portrait Baroness Mallalieu (Lab) [V]
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My Lords, I think there are crossed wires. I certainly do not want to extend matters; the email that I sent to the clerk was asking to withdraw from making three further points for which I had put down my name. I have no further questions for the Minister on this one.

Baroness McIntosh of Pickering Portrait Baroness McIntosh of Pickering (Con)
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I should remind the Committee of my declaration of interests in this area—sadly, none of which are remunerated, but I am very grateful to have the honorary positions as set out in the register. I also wanted to thank the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, for his support on the earlier group, and for setting out so eloquently the reasons why it is necessary to have candidates of calibre and experience across the piece.

I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Marland, for suggesting that perhaps we could bend the Minister’s ear in a more face-to-face and private way. I express disappointment that there is a clear lack of consistency in the detail in the Bill and, I regret to say, in the response from my noble friend the Minister. There is some merit in the idea put forward by my noble friend Lord Howard of Rising of a sunset clause in connection with this part of the Bill. But we will have other opportunities to explore that later in the proceedings and on Report. For now, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

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Lord Russell of Liverpool Portrait The Deputy Chairman of Committees (Lord Russell of Liverpool) (CB)
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The noble Lords, Lord Hamilton, Lord Moylan and Lord Sheikh, have all withdrawn from this debate, so I call the noble Baroness, Lady Mallalieu. Has she withdrawn as well?

Baroness Mallalieu Portrait Baroness Mallalieu (Lab) [V]
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I am still going.

Lord Russell of Liverpool Portrait The Deputy Chairman of Committees (Lord Russell of Liverpool) (CB)
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I am sorry, I was told you had withdrawn. I beg your pardon. Please go ahead.

Baroness Mallalieu Portrait Baroness Mallalieu (Lab) [V]
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Perhaps I should make clear that I emailed to withdraw from groups 7, 8 and 10. This is my last shot, noble Lords will be glad to hear.

The animal rights movement believes, as we have just been told, that animals have rights, it is wrong to kill animals and, in some cases, it is wrong to use them in any way for the benefit of humans—whether that is for food, research or, in extreme cases, sport or even pets. The animal welfare movement, to which I suspect everyone who has spoken in this debate belongs, believes in a duty, where we can, to improve the welfare of animals and not to cause unnecessary suffering to them.

Parliamentarians, not just in this House but in the other place when the Bill comes to them—they have other animal welfare Bills in front of them—should be aware that the animal rights movement seeks to gain respectability for its views under the cover of mainstream charities. Many noble Lords may be aware of a document released at the end of May by the RSPCA, of which I am a member, entitled Act Now for Animals. It contains 40 recommendations for changes to animal-related legislation and calls itself a “green paper”. It was introduced with a foreword from Mr Chris Packham and at the back are the logos of 50 organisations, among them well respected animal welfare charities such as the Horse Trust—of which I am president—the Dogs Trust, the Donkey Sanctuary and World Horse Welfare. However, also there are the logos of a number of animal rights organisations, among which are those that oppose legal trail hunting, horse racing, shooting and even catch-and-release fishing.

Animal Welfare (Sentience) Bill [HL]

Baroness Mallalieu Excerpts
2nd reading
Wednesday 16th June 2021

(2 years, 11 months ago)

Lords Chamber
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Baroness Mallalieu Portrait Baroness Mallalieu (Lab) [V]
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My Lords, I declare my interests as president of the Horse Trust, president of the Countryside Alliance, a member of the RSPCA and a farmer. I admit that I probably spend more time in the company of animals than I do with your Lordships.

If this Bill proceeds in its present form, I have a strong premonition that future Governments will look back on it and ask, “Why on earth did we do this?” As the noble Lord, Lord Herbert, has just indicated, for 200 years animal sentience has been accepted by all—or all other than complete nutters—and the result has been animal welfare legislation enacted on that basis. I have no objection at all to it being explicitly stated in legislation or to future legislation being animal-proofed, although I hope that it would work better than rural-proofing—but it is strictly unnecessary. What I am not clear about is why it is being done in the way in which it has.

Like the first Bill, which Michael Gove, the then Environment Minister, wisely withdrew, it is likely to benefit lawyers, at the taxpayers’ expense, and to be a bureaucratic nightmare with no limit to its remit, unlike the EU animal sentience provision, no provision for adequate funding for such wide scope, and a real danger of a committee composition dictated by animal rights pressure groups. Why do the Government not simply insert their animal sentience clause by a simple amendment of the Animal Welfare Act? If they want a committee to look at legislation, they already have one in the Animal Welfare Committee, whose remit could easily be expanded, as it has been in the past.

Gesture politics, which I fear is some little part of the motivation of this Bill, to enable the Government to say to the electorate, “This is what we did for animals”, is sadly not just a waste of parliamentary time when real animal welfare proposals just cannot get time but, as history has shown, often does little or nothing for the animals directly affected. I will give two short examples. The first is fairly recent: the Wild Animals in Circuses Act, which is proudly trumpeted by the present Secretary of State as being one of the party’s animal welfare achievements, actually worsened the position of the only animals involved. As I recall, there were under 20 of them, and no new licences were going to be granted in any event; they were not lions or tigers, as you might imagine, but a few zebra, an African cow and several others that I think I remember were some kind of llama. All had been born in captivity, licensed and regularly inspected, and it was agreed that all were superbly looked after and much loved by their owners, with whom they travelled in state of the art horseboxes to prearranged extensive grazing at sites. They did not perform degrading tricks; they were, effectively, pets. That Act forced their owners to leave them behind when they travelled to perform. There was no animal welfare gain to them or any other animal, and a good routine of care and affection was destroyed.

My party spent more than 200 hours of parliamentary time on the Hunting Act, which brought no benefit at all to the fox population—quite the contrary. A method of control that was selective, with a closed breeding season, and left no wounded, was replaced with snaring and night shooting with none of those features, which killed and wounded far more. So was it good electorally for Labour? I suspect that that is part of the Government’s motivation behind this Bill. If so, Labour should have won general election after general election after all that effort—and the result we know. Of 100 rural seats that Labour held under Tony Blair, only 17 remain now.

Yet under successive Governments, nothing has been done about the elephant in the room—and I am sorry to say to the noble and learned Lord, Lord Etherton, that I do not agree. In this country, every year, 40 million farm animals are slaughtered without pre-stunning. The expert view is that many of them suffer unnecessarily. We are not world leaders here: other countries in Europe and around the world have stopped this practice and more are doing so. I pay special tribute to the noble Lord, Lord Trees, who will speak later, and to those working with him, who are looking at ways of pre-stunning that are acceptable to the religious communities for whom it is important. I also pay tribute to the Muslim community, which is working with them, and I hope the Jewish community will follow. There are ways in which religious sensitivities and stopping unnecessary suffering at slaughter can be combined. So I ask the Minister for a commitment that there will be real and urgent progress on this, because that would be a real advance in animal welfare, and not just a gesture.

We rightly call ourselves a nation of animal lovers and we feel strongly about animal suffering, but the Government need to recognise that the majority of people own no animal, and those who do in the main have a cat or dog which they regard as a member of the family. For most, the experience of farm animals or wild animals is drawn largely from television, and it is too often sentimental, anthropomorphic and presented by animal rights activists. That is their template for expressing their views about what they feel is right or wrong in the treatment of animals. Yet too often, some who would say that they were the greatest of animal lovers do not recognise that, by keeping a lone rabbit in a small cage or a dog with deformed facial features because it looks more appealing, or leaving one alone in a small flat with inadequate exercise, they are themselves denying a much-loved pet its natural needs.

The Government have to be alerted to the dangers of campaigns with apparent public support that is often uninformed or misinformed, and to distinguish real animal welfare measures from the priorities of some of the vocal and well-funded animal rights groups. If there is to be a committee, as others have said, it must be independent and also be composed of qualified experts from the field of animal welfare and animal behaviour—not pressure groups or popular TV presenters—and it must make its findings on the basis of evidence and science, not emotion.

The Minister has come to this Bill at a late stage. I ask him to look very carefully at what has been said today. It is not an uncontroversial Bill, and there must be better ways of putting animal sentience on the statute book without the dangers that are clear for all to see here.

Agri-environment Schemes: Permissive Access

Baroness Mallalieu Excerpts
Thursday 27th May 2021

(3 years ago)

Lords Chamber
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Lord Benyon Portrait Lord Benyon (Con)
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I echo the noble Baroness’s tribute to Lord Greaves. Alongside the crisis of species decline, a crisis of lack of engagement with nature by large proportions of the public is of equal concern to me and to this Government. I do not believe they are mutually exclusive; I think we can find an increased permissive paths system which does not compromise the desperate desire to find improved habitats for vertebrates, insects and wider species. So I can only assure her that we are looking at this as part of the tests and trials process.

Baroness Mallalieu Portrait Baroness Mallalieu (Lab) [V]
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My Lords, I remind the House of my interests as set out in the register and am very cheered by the Minister’s response to the noble Baroness, Lady Quin. Many rural roads were not designed for the volume and types of traffic that they now carry and are becoming increasingly dangerous, especially for walkers, cyclists and riders. So what plans do the Government have to increase and finance access for off-road recreation and to provide facilities to increase the areas that the number of people who we now encourage to visit the countryside need to use to access those footpaths and bridleways?

Lord Benyon Portrait Lord Benyon (Con)
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Under what we hope will be an increasing network of permissive footpaths that can be used by not just walkers but cyclists and horse riders—with greater access, as I said, for disabled people— it is hoped that we can design them with farmers and land managers. We will be taking people who are currently walking on roads into a safer place for them and rewarding the farmer for providing that facility. There is an opportunity. I am aware of the problems that have been caused, particularly in recent months, with increased access, where road users are not safe, and we want to make sure that farmers and land managers are helping us solve that problem.

Environmental Land Management Schemes

Baroness Mallalieu Excerpts
Monday 24th May 2021

(3 years ago)

Lords Chamber
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Lord Benyon Portrait Lord Benyon (Con)
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I am grateful for the kind comments of welcome. I am living proof that you can boil cabbage twice: it is very nice to be back at the department. We are introducing three schemes that reward the delivery of environmental benefits: the sustainable farming incentive, the local nature recovery scheme and the landscape recovery scheme. The noble Lord is entirely right to talk about the importance of soils. They are fundamental to the first two schemes. As far as carbon credits are concerned, this is a huge opportunity for the farming community, particularly in getting some private sector investment to supplement farm incomes. I hope that we can have a clear system that will operate very soon for farmers to access.

Baroness Mallalieu Portrait Baroness Mallalieu (Lab) [V]
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My Lords, I, too, welcome the noble Lord, Lord Benyon. I do not know about his cabbage, but he certainly knows his oats, and he is particularly welcome for that reason. I remind the House of my farming interests. A recurring theme in the feedback from the ELMS trials so far is the need for free advice about eligibility, especially for smaller farms. Will the Government make that a priority and also ensure that the requirements of the scheme are written in plain English rather than in environmental jargon, which has contributed to low take-up in some of the earlier schemes?

Lord Benyon Portrait Lord Benyon (Con)
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My Lords, we recognise that our changes will be challenging for some farmers. I know that Exmoor farmers, in particular, are close to the noble Baroness’s heart. The scheme that we have introduced will provide funding so that farmers can access support provided by organisations with relevant experience which are already known and trusted in the farming community. The scheme will focus on assisting farmers to make the right decisions for themselves, their families and their business through effective discussion and planning. I hope that we can keep that in clear English.