Lord Howard of Rising debates involving the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs during the 2019 Parliament

Tue 20th Jul 2021
Tue 6th Jul 2021
Animal Welfare (Sentience) Bill [HL]
Grand Committee

Committee stage & Committee stage
Wed 16th Jun 2021
Lord Howard of Rising Portrait Lord Howard of Rising (Con)
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My Lords, many heartfelt arguments have been put forward in favour of the Bill, and I respect them greatly. My sympathies are with the animals. I have been hugged by a fully grown tiger, walked with gorillas and had close contact with other large animals. I have no wish at all to ever hunt one, let alone import a trophy, but, however much anyone might be emotionally in favour of the Bill, I do not believe that it will contribute to the preservation of wildlife.

As was said, there is clear evidence that, where controlled hunting of wild animals is permitted, there is considerably enhanced conservation—more wildlife and more habitats. The payments for hunting are such that it enables an area to be properly patrolled and for the animals to be properly protected and not overhunted. As was said, it is obvious that, where this income and livelihood exist, steps will be taken to ensure that animals are preserved so that they continue.

I had first-hand experience of this when I lived, for a year, one mile away from the northern part of the Kruger National Park, over 100 miles away from the nearest tarmac road. Within the boundary of the heavily patrolled park, where there were strict controls on entry, there was very limited poaching. Outside of that boundary, poaching was rife, not just for trophies but for the meat, which was considered highly desirable by the local residents.

There is also the question of whether we in this country should take action that could go against how the Governments of other countries wish to run their affairs. Representatives of countries where hunting is permitted are here today, and I hope that they will realise that not everyone wishes to impose their own values on the countries concerned but are happy to leave them to manage their own affairs. It might be possible to understand and sympathise, but there is a clear danger of the loss of the species. Under the present rules and the way things are managed, there is no danger of such a loss. As many pointed out today, allowing big-game hunting in a controlled fashion works to preserve the animals concerned.

Animal Welfare (Sentience) Bill [HL]

Lord Howard of Rising Excerpts
Viscount Trenchard Portrait Viscount Trenchard (Con)
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My Lords, I am pleased to be able to move Amendment 17, which my noble friend Lord Forsyth of Drumlean had intended to move, but he is unable to be in his place today. I was unable to speak at Second Reading due to my incompetence in failing to put my name on the speakers’ list on time.

I was able to take the Animal Welfare (Service Animals) Act through your Lordships’ House in spring 2019, rightly removing the argument of self-defence from those who attempted to escape arrest by attacking and harming police dogs and horses. Finn’s law received unqualified support from all sides of the House, and I think it is highly desirable that, in this field, the Government should support legislation which is similarly supported by all parties.

Her Majesty set out the animal welfare programme in her gracious Speech with these words:

“Legislation will also be brought forward to ensure the United Kingdom has, and promotes, the highest standards of animal welfare.”—[Official Report, 11/5/21; col. 3.]


I fear that, whatever the Government’s intentions, this Bill will add nothing to our excellent standards and is likely to be counterproductive.

My Amendment 17 seeks to restrict the activities of the committee to policies that are in course of formulation, or at least have not been formulated. I support Amendments 18 and 23 in the name of my noble friend Lord Howard of Rising, which seek to ensure that the committee is not required to review policies that are already being lawfully implemented. I also support his Amendment 29, which ensures that on any further formulation of a policy already being applied the committee is not expected to report. All these amendments are designed to remove retrospectivity from the workings of the committee and its reports and recommendations.

Retrospective laws which upset legally compliant settled patterns of life and expectations are not good policy. They undermine the security and continuity of a way of life consistent with the values of the community and a sense of its continuity. Legislation which retrospectively changes a legal activity into an illegal one is likely to have adverse repercussions on decisions made reasonably and in good faith by citizens in the past. In the context of this Bill, that might cover farming or other business plans and investment or the purchase of property in order to carry on a particular activity or country sport.

I also support Amendment 35A in the name of my noble friend Lord Caithness. Measures which support conservation or biodiversity may very well not support crop protection or indeed human health. How to balance these conflicting policy areas while having to have regard to animal welfare for reasons different from those for which we look after animals so well in this country is an extremely complicated subject. Indeed, most policies that the Government might develop may well have negative consequences for at least one of the excluded areas in my noble friend’s amendment.

I am grateful for the support of my noble friend Lord Howard of Rising, and I beg to move.

Lord Howard of Rising Portrait Lord Howard of Rising (Con)
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My Lords, I commented earlier in Committee on the potential problem which would be created if existing policy could be reviewed by the committee. The trouble that could be caused by reviewing existing policies is as nothing compared to the turmoil which could come from the ability to go backwards and review existing law. This would be an enormous power which very easily could, and almost probably would, get out of hand. It would require almost unlimited resources and place intolerable burdens on other departments of state.

In addition to that, unlike European countries, Britain has had animal welfare laws for 200 years. Allowing the committee to recommend repealing or amending already implemented law would be a recipe for unimaginable chaos and expense. I cannot believe that this is what this Bill intends. If the Bill is to have any sensible purpose, it must be limited to recommending on future policy and legislation which, by itself, would be a monumental task, without the potential of causing almost unlimited trouble by going back historically.

Lord Hamilton of Epsom Portrait Lord Hamilton of Epsom (Con)
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I support my noble friend Lord Howard of Rising’s amendment, to which I have put my name. It strikes me that the Government have not really thought this through very carefully, because if this is going to be retrospective and it will be possible for this committee to review all legislation that has already been passed, then this will provoke a need for massive new legislation stretching into the future. The Government have the option, I suppose, of ignoring recommendations from the animal sentience committee, but if they do not ignore its recommendations, then of course that means they will inevitably get involved in more legislation in the future. I am not sure that that was really the intention of the Bill in the beginning. Surely, the original point of the Bill—not that I am a great supporter of it—was that there should be some form of oversight of government legislation to ensure that the sentience of animals was being taken into account, but if it works retrospectively, then of course it has unlimited capacity for creating ever more work and expense, as has been mentioned by my noble friend. Therefore, I very much support his amendment.

Animal Welfare (Sentience) Bill [HL]

Lord Howard of Rising Excerpts
Lord Moylan Portrait Lord Moylan (Con)
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My Lords, I have tabled three amendments in this group. The first is Amendment 19, supported by the noble Baroness, Lady Deech, and my noble friend Lord Mancroft, which seeks to exclude from the scope of the committee any policy related to the advancement of medical science.

British medical science is at the forefront of the world, as we have seen over the last year or so, as it leads on genomic sequencing, vaccine development and large-scale randomised trials for therapeutic purposes. It must be a cause for concern that the actions and inquiries of this committee could create a degree of inhibition in the advancement of medical science and the actions of medical scientists in continuing to promote medical science, because in some cases, and under the strictest controls and with the greatest degree of humanity, it is necessary for animal experimentation to be undertaken in order for drugs to be established as safe and for other processes, which are beyond my medical knowledge but I think what I am saying is well understood, to be validated and found to be safe.

The difficulty with having a committee that can go roaming around, checking all these things in advance, which this committee in practice could, is that it trespasses on a well-worn, established set of mechanisms for ensuring that those experiments, where they are absolutely necessary, are carried out with a proper purpose and in proper circumstances.

We lead in medical science with the full support of the Government, not primarily because we see it as a source of great lucre flowing into the country—the Government’s insistence that the vaccine developed under their sponsorship should be available at cost is a good instance of that—but for the benefit of humanity as a whole. The whole human race will benefit from what we do. I think most people would recognise that that is a worthy objective and certainly one that could be settled on alongside any claims that may be made on behalf of animals and their rights. I would therefore strongly recommend, suggest and hope that this amendment can be made and medical science excluded so that the current position remains as it is. That is all I am really asking.

Moving on to the two other amendments, Amendment 26 has the support of my noble friends Lord Trenchard and Lord Hamilton of Epsom, while Amendment 33 is merely consequential on Amendment 26. Amendment 26 needs a little explanation. Clause 1 requires the committee and the Government to have regard to “the welfare of animals” and then adds the words “as sentient beings”. It is worth reflecting on what that adds to the claim. When you think about it carefully, it does not add anything at all; it actually subtracts. It is perfectly possible to do harm to animals and to damage their welfare in a way that does not affect them as sentient beings.

The example that most readily comes to mind is to do with background radiation. We know that parts of the country have high levels of background radiation, which can affect humans and, I assume, animals—mammals, at least—detrimentally, but you do not know that it is happening to you. You do not feel anything. You feel neither pleasure nor pain; there is no interaction with the concept of sentience. Your health may be deteriorating, but you have no sentient knowledge of it. It would simply be plainer, and would allow the committee to look at things in the round, if it did not have to be excluded, which it would be, from considering something such as the effects of background radiation on animals. It would simply not be permitted to look at that under this legislation. I thought there might be some support from those who thought that perhaps it should. The deletion of those words would restore us to a more common-sense position of looking at the welfare of animals in general.

Those are my other two amendments, but, before I finish, as this is such a large group I shall comment briefly on three others. Amendment 31, in the name of my noble friend Lord Forsyth, seeks to ensure that the committee at least gives due account to, or respects,

“legislative or administrative provisions and customs relating to religious rites, cultural traditions and regional heritage.”

That is an important point. On Second Reading, I tried to say that there is definitely an attempt here—one may support it, one may not—to shift the hierarchical balance, if you like, between humans and animals to put us more on the same level. I do not think that is too outrageous a claim to make. Of course, part of being human—not for everybody, but for many parts of humanity—is an awareness of, an adherence to and a sensibility about religious belief. With religious belief inevitably comes community adhesion and a certain amount of ritual practice. It takes things too far for the committee to be able to trample over that in the interests of animal welfare, with or without sentience being taken into account. That area should be preserved. The amendment tabled by my noble friend Lord Forsyth has that effect. I think that Amendment 35 tabled by the noble Earl, Lord Kinnoull, would have a similar effect but, as he explained, he approached this more on the basis of restoring the balance that existed in the previous legislation. I am glad to be able to support that as well.

That leads me to what is in some ways the most important amendment in the group, put forward by the noble Earl as Amendment 16. I have heard it said informally by Ministers that all the Bill seeks to do is to carry forward into current legislation the legislation that previously existed that has almost been dropped by accident as a result of the legal manner in which we left the European Union, which he explained, so all that the Government are doing is restoring that position. That, of course, is not the case, because the previous position had clear limitations. If the Government were to take Amendments 16 and 35 from the noble Earl into account, a great deal of the legislation, although not all of it, would cease to be controversial or difficult. In some ways, those amendments are the key to the whole thing. If the Minister were able to say that he would accept them, we could all have a fairly short afternoon and declare victory on all hands.

Lord Howard of Rising Portrait Lord Howard of Rising (Con)
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My Lords, I have a number of amendments in the group. Amendments 24 and 30 both probe why “all” is required. Would not “due regard” by enough, as in other legislation? The extra word may risk the committee not reporting on whether due process has taken place but instead starting to opine or comment on the merits of policy and government decision. That is not its role, but it has the potential to create unnecessary delays and complications for legislation, as the remit of the committee is widened to such a degree that there is almost nothing on which it cannot express views.

Amendments 25 and 32 would give the committee a further remit—the power to consider both a positive and a negative impact on the welfare of animals. That is crucial when we consider policy that relates to pest control. The formulation and implementation of policy, having all due regard for the welfare of animals as sentient beings, must consider the particular circumstances of all animals, the welfare of which the committee is considering. Lawful pest control activities are undertaken to stop the spread of diseases and to protect livestock. The positive effect of those actions should be noted if the policy is to be reported on.

As I am sure the Minister knows, the animal world can be pretty brutal. If some of the gentler species are to survive, there needs to be control of predators. It is no accident that, where there is such control, there is a far broader range of species. I hope this will be recognised by the committee. How it seeks to balance the demands of the various sentient species is of great importance.

Amendment 34 would limit the remit of the committee to future policy and prevent it considering existing law. Amendments 18, 23 and 29 in my name, to which I shall speak later, cover the point of existing law. Limiting reports to future policy would be a sensible limitation, because if the committee was suddenly given the job of reviewing all existing policy, large amounts of government business might have to be stopped for review by the committee. Such a standstill could cause severe disruption and would place a huge burden on government departments and the committee. It is difficult to think how the committee could possibly cope from scratch with looking at large swathes of policy. The potential damage and the massive cost of stopping government work would be immensely onerous and impractical.

Amendment 36 probes why the Bill does not cover the devolved Administrations. There seems to be somewhat of a blind spot in that reports of the committee may not include any policy falling within devolved competence. After all, this debate on animal sentience only began with our departure from the European Union, as there would no longer be an explicit reference to law applicable in the United Kingdom on the sentience of animals. Should the Bill therefore not apply to the policy of all Governments?

Baroness Young of Old Scone Portrait Baroness Young of Old Scone (Lab) [V]
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My Lords, I declare an interest as chair of the Royal Veterinary College and speak to Amendment 47 in my name and that of my noble friend Lady Hayman of Ullock. Basically, what the Bill does is set up a committee. For the animal sentience provisions to be effective, the committee has to be effective. Both my amendments, one of which is in a later group, would ensure that committee could do a good job.

Amendment 47 would ensure that committee could call witnesses, commission research and get proper access to information across government, and make sure that all government departments co-operated. It is very straightforward, and I hope the Government will accept it.

On Amendment 39, in the name of my noble friend Lady Hayman of Ullock and the noble Baroness, Lady Bakewell of Hardington Mandeville, the remit of the committee and the range of policy on which it can report must remain wide if it is going to spot animal sentience challenges. I disagree with the noble Lord, Lord Trees, and the noble Earl, Lord Kinnoull, about restricting the scope of the committee. I do not often fall out with the noble Earl, but I find it slightly quaint that we are harking back to the Lisbon treaty. I was very much against Brexit, but it seems rather strange that we are clinging to the terms of the Lisbon treaty.

The range of policy on which the committee can report has to remain wide, but it needs a helping pointer from government departments to areas of policy which they are beginning to develop which could have animal sentience implications. Such a heads-up by government departments needs to be especially early in the process for the committee then to do its work to help the Government in good time and before things become too wedded within the department. The amendment therefore aims to be helpful to government departments rather than to hinder. It would have a beneficial effect in encouraging departments to think in advance about the animal sentience implications of policy right at the start of the policy process.

I also support Amendment 45, which would enable the committee to work with government on a framework for forward planning and review. It would mean that government was not offshoring all thinking on animal sentience to the committee and avoiding its responsibilities for being at the centre of that process.

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Lord Howard of Rising Portrait Lord Howard of Rising (Con)
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I am sorry but I thought I had withdrawn from this group of amendments.

Lord Russell of Liverpool Portrait The Deputy Chairman of Committees (Lord Russell of Liverpool) (CB)
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In that case I call the noble Lord, Lord Carrington.

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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 Lord, Lord Hamilton of Epsom, has withdrawn from this group, so I call the noble Lord, Lord Howard of Rising.

Lord Howard of Rising Portrait Lord Howard of Rising (Con)
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My Lords, I apologise for not declaring an interest, in that I have a farm. It is just that farming seems to be so much about shuffling paper now, rather than anything to do with animals, that I forgot—but I apologise. Since putting down my name to speak on this amendment and listening to noble Lords, I have revised my opinion of the time limit applying to members of the committee, and wonder if the Minister agrees that a sunset clause on the whole Bill would be even more appropriate.

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Lord Mancroft Portrait Lord Mancroft (Con)
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My Lords, the purpose of this Bill is to promote and advance animal welfare, which is something that we all want to do, and no one opposes. Animal welfare is based on science and evidence; it is well understood but, in casual conversation, it can be confused with animal rights, which are a very different thing and often in conflict. It is a political ideology not concerning the care and welfare of animals but rather their legal status. I am one of those who are absolutely clear that animals do not enjoy the same rights as human beings and should not be granted them. I share with others the view that you cannot have rights without responsibilities and that to impose on animals responsibilities that they cannot possibly fulfil is wrong and is in itself a form of cruelty.

The late Lord Jakobovits was strongly of the view that the enhanced status of animals in Nazi Germany allowed that regime to reduce and ultimately ignore the rights of human beings, and thus contributed to the Holocaust. It is something that my noble friend Lord Moylan touched on earlier in our debates. Those who support animal rights often deliberately seek to muddle up the rights of animals with their welfare, knowing that most people are in favour of promoting the welfare of animals. But animal rights is an extreme doctrine; those who believe in animal rights are opposed to all use of animals for food, science, medicine and sport and the ownership of pets.

Only last month, activists targeted a game farm to release some young pheasants into the wild. They presumably believed fundamentally and ideologically that pheasants should be free and that it is the pheasants’ right to roam—but what happened last month when a lock was deliberately broken to release 400 pheasant chicks was that all 400 chicks were killed by a fox. In their pen they were fed, watered and looked after. The animal rights activists thought they knew better, and their actions caused the suffering, stress and death of 400 pheasant chicks.

How could anyone who held such beliefs be in a position to report to Ministers on the welfare of animals in consequence of any government policy that condoned continued use of animals in the fields of farming, science or sport? Their beliefs would inevitably lead them to condemn all such policies, regardless of the welfare aspects. It is important to remember that animal rights is not a mainstream doctrine. It is by its very nature the territory of extremists. These are not people with whom one engages in rational debate. Violent discourse and physical violence are never far beneath the surface in the world of animal rights, as my family and I have been on the receiving end of that on more than one occasion.

The reason why so many amendments have been tabled to define the parameters of the proposed sentience committee is that many noble Lords are concerned about where the committee might venture in the future, way beyond the remit set out by this Government. Your Lordships need only to venture a short way on to social media and the platforms of the animal rights movements today to see that they are already rubbing their hands with glee at the prospects held out by this committee. These are, as the noble Baroness, Lady Mallalieu, said, people who excel at entryism, as we saw in the case of the RSPCA—a much-loved institution almost brought to its knees by extremists with an animal rights agenda, all of whom got themselves voted on to the ruling council as reasonable people. Those same people are aiming their sights at this new sentience committee.

We have spent a lot of time this afternoon talking about who might go on to this committee. My amendment talks about people who should not be allowed on it and allows my noble friend the Minister to explain how the Government are going to ensure that political extremists who do not share his higher purpose are not in the future able to wheedle their way on to the committee for their own purposes. I beg to move.

Lord Howard of Rising Portrait Lord Howard of Rising (Con)
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My Lords, I do not think that I could improve on what my noble friend Lord Mancroft has said, but people in the animal rights movement are extremists and do not have respect for the animal kingdom. They have an agenda, but the respect for animals themselves is not included. It would be detrimental to allow people like that on to the committee, which would then devalue its work to which the Government attach importance.

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?

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Lord Moylan Portrait Lord Moylan (Con)
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My Lords, I have a few slightly disconnected remarks that fit in well here. It is a delight and a pleasure to follow my noble friend Lady McIntosh of Pickering and to support her in this course of inquiry.

The first is that noble Lords might be under the impression, from references made earlier in the debate and at Second Reading, that we are under the cosh of the 2019 Conservative Party manifesto. My recollection of that manifesto is compendious but, in case noble Lords did not believe that, I have looked it up in the course of the afternoon. All it says on this is:

“We will bring in new laws on animal sentience.”


That is a very fine pledge but nothing at all committing us to a committee, or indeed to laws that did not abolish animal sentience. As far as the manifesto is concerned, we are under no obligation to take forward any particular measure in the Bill; we just have to pass some legislation.

The second thing is—as I say, these are slightly disconnected points—that I have heard Ministers involved in this, although not my noble friend, say that this committee will roam across Whitehall, holding the Government to account. There is a real constitutional question here. I am very new in this House, but I was brought up to believe that it was Parliament’s job to hold Governments to account. Although I have every sympathy with my noble friend Lord Hannan of Kingsclere, I have a slightly different take on this topic. It is not that I am worried that this committee will go off making decisions that the Government have delegated to it, but I am really dispirited that it is going to go off to hold the Government to account on the basis of something that we have effectively delegated to it as a Parliament.

The right role and location and the proper place for this committee, if it is to exist at all, is not as a statutory body holding government to account; this committee should be a creation of Parliament reporting to us and giving us expert advice on how we should do our job holding the Government to account. I very much hope that my noble friend will take that on board and pursue it, because it would certainly allow us to get rid of Clause 1 very easily and put in place something that was much more constitutionally reputable.

I come to a third slightly disconnected point, which will be my last, more or less. The Minister has correctly stated the position—and, no doubt, I can already hear him preparing to state it correctly again a number of times before we rise this evening—that this committee will not make or change any laws and that that is entirely for Ministers and Parliament and, therefore, we need have no fear because Ministers will always have the final decision—or at least Parliament will, or some combination of the two—and they can be trusted to hold everything in balance. But of course, although that is the correct constitutional position, I suspect that my noble friend the Minister is perfectly aware that that is not the point of this Bill at all.

The noble Baroness, Lady Jones of Moulsecoomb, who is a seasoned campaigner and activist, does not support this Bill because she thinks that it will allow the committee to make laws that we will all live under. She is perfectly well aware that this Bill in itself does nothing for animal welfare. She wants it because she wants to see a group of like-minded people—I am not saying violent activists—installed at the heart of Whitehall, going round, summoning Ministers and holding them to account. What she wants is to shift what I think is called the Overton window so that we all have to discuss animal welfare the whole time and it becomes impermissible not to discuss it every time a Bill comes up.

My noble friend may not understand that that is what drives concerns—not that we are worried that the committee will itself go and make laws and impose decisions on us, since we are perfectly well aware that it will not have the power to do that, but that Ministers will find themselves constantly on the back foot on topics like this, constantly giving ground and accepting what is still a relatively narrow agenda. That is what we are worried about. Sadly, I do not believe that my noble friend, to whom I have listened with great attention in the course of this afternoon, has so far either today or at Second Reading made the case as to why this committee, which is there to advise him and other Ministers, needs to be on a statutory footing at all. Therefore, I am very comfortable in supporting my noble friend Lady McIntosh in suggesting that this clause be removed from the Bill.

Lord Howard of Rising Portrait Lord Howard of Rising (Con)
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I support what my noble friends Lady McIntosh and Lord Moylan have said, especially on the role of the committee. Having listened to the Minister speak confidently about the committee just reporting and having no other role, he underestimates the inherent growth of any form of Whitehall committee: it never reduces its power; it constantly expands it and its role, and interferes in things in which it does not necessarily have a place. The efforts that have been made to concentrate on reducing the role of the committee and placing its remit statutorily, so that it cannot expand outside of what it was set up to do, are of fundamental importance. I urge the Minister to consider the many very good points that have been made.

Lord Hamilton of Epsom Portrait Lord Hamilton of Epsom (Con)
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I join my noble friend Lady McIntosh in opposing this clause standing part, because any Conservative—and, I think, any sensible parliamentarian and the Minister—should be concerned about setting up committees, per se. We have a proliferation of committees everywhere and, here we are, creating yet another one. If this committee were doing something uniquely special that was not being done by anybody else, it might have more to say for itself, but we already have the Animal Welfare Committee. Does my noble friend not consider it possible to amalgamate the activities of both committees, so that we do not end up with two doing similar things, but with one?

As my noble friend Lord Mancroft said, there could easily be conflict between the two committees anyway. Which advice would the Government take if the advice between the two varied? This is a recipe for chaos. To constantly set up committees is not the right way to run government. As my noble friend said, they develop a life of their own, get bigger and bigger, and more officious and difficult. This is not the way to deal with problems of cruelty to animals. We all want to see people punished for being cruel to animals, and I do not think an animal sentience committee is the way forward at all. I would like to see this clause voted down and the whole idea of an animal sentience committee dismissed. We already have a committee dealing with this and should not have two, because that is a recipe for chaos.

Animal Welfare (Sentience) Bill [HL]

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Lord Howard of Rising Portrait Lord Howard of Rising (Con)
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My Lords, it is a privilege to follow my noble friend Lord Forsyth, even if it is, I am afraid, going from the sublime to the ridiculous. As your Lordships know, the intention of the Bill is to form a committee to make Her Majesty’s Government aware of the impact of their actions on the animal kingdom. I fear that the Bill, as drafted, is so broad—as my noble friend Lord Forsyth pointed out—that there is a danger that, with a little imagination, anyone wishing to act in a vexatious manner could use its good intentions to stray into unintended areas and clog up government business in ways that no one has yet thought of. As the Bill is presently drafted, the committee may be able to review matters retrospectively, which I would suggest is another recipe for disaster.

So far as I can see, there is no restriction on anyone initiating a request for a report by the committee. While it will be up to a Minister whether or not to accept a report, there is huge scope for deliberately trying to place Ministers in awkward or embarrassing situations. I suggest that the Minister looks at amending the Bill to give the committee a well-defined remit, so that it can focus on the laudable aims for which it was set up and not get distracted. I further suggest that the process for initiating an investigation is clearly set out. I am concerned that, if the Bill is not more precise, Her Majesty’s Government might find that their ability to carry out their business was severely hampered. It would be interesting to hear the Government’s view on whether a decision by a Minister, or government department, not to accept a report from the committee could be subject to a judicial review.