David Rutley debates with HM Treasury

There have been 41 exchanges between David Rutley and HM Treasury

Wed 15th July 2020 Covid-19: Future UK-EU Relationship 3 interactions (3 words)
Wed 24th July 2019 Kew Gardens (Leases) (No. 3) Bill [Lords] 17 interactions (2,362 words)
Tue 23rd July 2019 Animal Welfare (Sentencing) Bill (First sitting) (Public Bill Committees) 10 interactions (848 words)
Tue 23rd July 2019 Animal Welfare (Sentencing) Bill (Second sitting) (Public Bill Committees) 14 interactions (2,978 words)
Wed 10th July 2019 Animal Welfare (Sentencing) Bill 13 interactions (2,451 words)
Tue 2nd July 2019 Religious Slaughter of Farm Animals (Westminster Hall) 8 interactions (845 words)
Tue 2nd July 2019 New Covent Garden Market (Westminster Hall) 4 interactions (2,195 words)
Mon 24th June 2019 Kew Gardens (Leases) (No. 3) Bill [Lords] 21 interactions (2,956 words)
Mon 17th June 2019 Pet Identification (Westminster Hall) 7 interactions (2,641 words)
Wed 5th June 2019 Animals 29 interactions (3,245 words)
Tue 4th June 2019 Wild Animals in Circuses (No. 2) Bill 23 interactions (3,700 words)
Wed 22nd May 2019 Wild Animals in Circuses (No. 2) Bill (Third sitting) (Public Bill Committees) 57 interactions (4,084 words)
Tue 21st May 2019 Wild Animals in Circuses (No.2) Bill (First sitting) (Public Bill Committees) 10 interactions (1,312 words)
Tue 21st May 2019 Wild Animals in Circuses (No. 2) Bill (Second sitting) (Public Bill Committees) 15 interactions (1,051 words)
Tue 7th May 2019 Wild Animals in Circuses (No. 2) Bill 26 interactions (3,432 words)
Tue 23rd April 2019 Waste Water Treatment Works: Odour Nuisance (Westminster Hall) 2 interactions (1,321 words)
Wed 3rd April 2019 Non-stun Slaughter of Animals (Westminster Hall) 17 interactions (1,719 words)
Tue 2nd April 2019 Puppy Smuggling (Westminster Hall) 12 interactions (1,543 words)
Mon 18th March 2019 Exiting the European Union (Agriculture) 12 interactions (2,145 words)
Thu 7th March 2019 Dangerous Dogs (Westminster Hall) 9 interactions (2,567 words)
Tue 5th March 2019 No-deal EU Exit: Public Sector Catering (Westminster Hall) 7 interactions (2,504 words)
Tue 26th February 2019 Animal Rescue Homes (Westminster Hall) 4 interactions (1,952 words)
Thu 21st February 2019 Dog Meat in the UK (Westminster Hall) 5 interactions (1,979 words)
Wed 20th February 2019 Horse Tethering 6 interactions (1,650 words)
Wed 16th January 2019 Animal Welfare (Service Animals) Bill (First sitting) (Public Bill Committees) 15 interactions (1,299 words)
Tue 11th December 2018 Cat Welfare (Westminster Hall) 14 interactions (1,758 words)
Tue 4th December 2018 Animal Rescue Centres (Westminster Hall) 9 interactions (1,775 words)
Mon 12th November 2018 Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations 6 interactions (1,727 words)
Wed 31st October 2018 Leaving the EU: Timber Industry (Westminster Hall) 12 interactions (1,736 words)
Mon 15th October 2018 Racehorse Protection (Westminster Hall) 5 interactions (2,472 words)
Tue 9th October 2018 Food Labelling and Allergy-Related Deaths 44 interactions (2,003 words)
Wed 4th July 2018 Ivory Bill 32 interactions (3,138 words)
Thu 28th June 2018 Improving Air Quality 21 interactions (1,523 words)
Tue 19th June 2018 Ivory Bill (Fifth sitting) (Public Bill Committees) 44 interactions (4,651 words)
Tue 19th June 2018 Ivory Bill (Sixth sitting) (Public Bill Committees) 28 interactions (2,637 words)
Thu 14th June 2018 Ivory Bill (Third sitting) (Public Bill Committees) 94 interactions (6,313 words)
Thu 14th June 2018 Ivory Bill (Fourth sitting) (Public Bill Committees) 63 interactions (5,039 words)
Tue 12th June 2018 Ivory Bill (First sitting) (Public Bill Committees) 7 interactions (1,135 words)
Tue 12th June 2018 Ivory Bill (Second sitting) (Public Bill Committees) 9 interactions (1,163 words)
Wed 24th January 2018 Carillion and Public Sector Outsourcing 3 interactions (7 words)
Thu 11th January 2018 Finance (No. 2) Bill (Third sitting) (Public Bill Committees) 1 interactions (11 words)

Covid-19: Future UK-EU Relationship

David Rutley Excerpts
Wednesday 15th July 2020

(2 months, 1 week ago)

Commons Chamber
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HM Treasury
Ian Blackford Portrait Ian Blackford - Hansard

Where are they, indeed. Members should not worry, because the SNP will provide an effective Opposition.

I am respectfully asking my friends in the Labour party who are present to stand with us. We went through the Lobby together to establish devolution, and devolution is now under attack from this Tory Government. There is a question to be asked of the Labour party: will they stand with us? [Interruption.] It would be helpful if they would turn up, but I hope when it comes to votes —and there is going to be a fight over the coming months—that we stand shoulder to shoulder against this attack on devolution in Scotland, in Wales and in Northern Ireland.

What is now taking place is nothing more than an undignified attempt to neuter the Scottish Parliament. Let me put the Tories on notice that we will stand up for the sovereign rights of our Parliament enshrined by the referendum result and by the establishment of our Parliament. Let me remind the Tories: our Parliament was established by overwhelming numbers in 1997. It belongs to the people of Scotland.

David Rutley Portrait The Lord Commissioner of Her Majesty’s Treasury (David Rutley) - Hansard

Not the SNP!

Ian Blackford Portrait Ian Blackford - Hansard
15 Jul 2020, 1:15 p.m.

“Not the SNP!” Do I really have to take that? I know the hon. Member represents an English seat and perhaps he does not pay much attention, but if he looks at every one of the results of elections to the Scottish Parliament since 2007 and to Westminster since 2015, as well as the European results, he will see that the people of Scotland have put their trust in the SNP to defend them from the kind of attacks that we have from the Tory Benches. [Interruption.] I hear, “What about a referendum?” so let me say this. We went to the people of Scotland last December and we stood on the principle of Scotland’s right to choose. We got 45% of the vote. There is a bigger gap between us and the Tories than there is between the Tories and Labour in the United Kingdom. We won that election, by any definition. The people of Scotland elected us in 48 of the 59 constituencies. There are six Tories from Scotland. We won that election. I accept that the Conservatives won the election in the UK, but that means that it is incumbent on the Conservatives to recognise that the SNP won in Scotland.

Kew Gardens (Leases) (No. 3) Bill [Lords]

(3rd reading: House of Commons)
(Legislative Grand Committee: House of Commons)
David Rutley Excerpts
Wednesday 24th July 2019

(1 year, 2 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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HM Treasury
Sir Lindsay Hoyle Portrait The Chairman - Hansard
24 Jul 2019, 3:36 p.m.

With this it will be convenient to consider clause 2 stand part.

David Rutley Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (David Rutley) - Parliament Live - Hansard

Kew is a scientific institution of huge importance. As the global resource for knowledge of plant and fungal diversity, it plays a critical role in addressing the unprecedented scale and pace of threats facing the natural world, and indeed humanity, including the threat of climate change. It is fitting that our Secretary of State delivered his flagship environment speech last week at Kew. The fundamental purpose of the Bill is to help Kew to invest and support its vital mission in a way that also maintains and enhances this outstanding world heritage site.

The Bill amends restrictions on leases on the Crown land on Kew Gardens estate. Currently the Crown Lands Act 1702 limits leases at Kew to just 31 years; the clause amends those provisions, allowing leases up to 150 years, in line with provisions made for the Crown Estate in 1961. Clause 1(2) disapplies the 1702 Act in relation to leases granted under this Bill. The change will allow Kew to generate revenue to improve the quality of its estate and thereby to support its vital scientific mission and retain UNESCO world heritage site status. All proposals for granting long leases will be in line with Kew’s world heritage site management plan, and Clause 1(3) goes further on this point.

Clause 1(3), as amended in the other place, requires that before granting any lease the Secretary of State must be satisfied that the lease, and anything that the leaseholder is permitted to do with the property under the terms of the lease, would not have any adverse impact on the functions of the board of trustees, as set out under the National Heritage Act 1983. The Secretary of State must also be satisfied that the lease would have no adverse impact on the world heritage site status. The changes do not allow the sale of the freehold of Kew land. Furthermore, the Bill will not change the freehold position of the land, which remains with the Crown; it simply provides the ability to grant longer leases on the land.

Proposals for leases will be subject to scrutiny by Kew trustees and finally signed off by the Secretary of State. Proposals for the development of existing properties and new developments will require permission from the local planning authority advised by Historic England in consultation with local residents and other stakeholders, as well as the Kew trustees. That is unchanged from the existing governance processes.

Clause 2 is a standard provision. Subsection (1) sets out that the Bill extends to England and Wales only, this being the legal jurisdiction for property in Kew. However, the Bill applies only to Crown land at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. Subsection (2) sets out the arrangements for the commencement of the Bill, two months following the day on which it is granted Royal Assent. Subsection (3) sets out the Bill’s short title once it has become an Act on Royal Assent. This provides the abridged title as opposed to the long title found in the preamble. The short title of this legislation will be the Kew Gardens (Leases) Act 2019. For the reasons I have set out, I urge that these clauses stand part of the Bill.

Luke Pollard Portrait Luke Pollard (Plymouth, Sutton and Devonport) (Lab/Co-op) - Parliament Live - Hansard
24 Jul 2019, 3:40 p.m.

I am pleased to speak in support of this Bill. I will start by restating what my hon. Friend the Member for Stroud (Dr Drew) said on Second Reading—that Ministers can rest at ease, because the Opposition have no intention of dividing the House on this issue. Indeed, this is a Bill that we support and encourage the Government to get on with as fast as they can.

The Bill has been a long time in the making, with previous Bills started by the hon. Members for Richmond Park (Zac Goldsmith), the hon. Member for Bridgwater and West Somerset (Mr Liddell-Grainger) and Lord True. We are pleased that we have managed to come so far on this occasion, and we hope the Bill will pass all its remaining stages in the Commons today.

It is important to remember that the Bill goes back to the difficulties that Kew Gardens faced in 2014, when there was a potential funding crisis. The then director saw that Kew could lose up to 150 research staff, which would have been a tragedy given its international importance—not just for public access, but as the world’s most important research institution in the areas that Kew covers. The Select Committee on Science and Technology noted at the time that Kew had difficulties transitioning away from its pure state funding model to one where it is more self-sufficient.

Kew Gardens is not only an incredible tourist attraction but an international centre of expertise and something that this country should be very proud of. I remember my last visit to Kew Gardens; I was in awe of the natural diversity that thrives in that corner of green in this metropolis of hustle, bustle, concrete and steel. The seeds and samples at Kew are unique and preserve for the future a vital resource for scientists working on tracking biodiversity. The world’s largest herbaceous borders at Kew are also pretty incredible. I can only imagine the weeding and pruning that is required to keep Kew looking so inspirational and attractive. I sometimes struggle with my little garden in Plymouth, but this is on a very different scale indeed.

Break in Debate

Sir Lindsay Hoyle Portrait The Chairman - Hansard

The hon. Gentleman is now stretching things, so I am going to call the Minister to speak.

David Rutley Portrait David Rutley - Parliament Live - Hansard
24 Jul 2019, 4:01 p.m.

Thank you, Sir Lindsay. I have an important announcement to make to the Committee, on the back of the significant points that have just been made by the hon. Member for Glasgow North (Patrick Grady). I can confirm that, as he will see when he next visits Kew Gardens, there are goldfish there. I am glad that I can answer these important questions of the day that he raises.

I am grateful for the sincere co-operation of Members across the Committee, including the Opposition Front Benchers. The hon. Members for Stroud (Dr Drew) and for Plymouth, Sutton and Devonport (Luke Pollard) have asked some important questions, and I am grateful to them for their support. I will respond briefly to their points. The hon. Member for Plymouth, Sutton and Devonport mentioned the concerns that the Select Committee raised back in 2014-15. In 2015 Kew published its science strategy, “A Global Resource for Plant and Fungal Knowledge”, which set out clear research priorities, including research programmes. The delivery of those programmes was all subject to funding and progress has been made on many of those priorities. Kew will be refreshing its corporate strategy and its science strategy in 2020, and that work is well under way.

The hon. Gentleman asked where the extra funding would go. I can assure him that it will go to help underpin Kew’s core priorities and what it is seeking to accomplish, in England and more widely, not least in Scotland and the wider world. I can assure the hon. Member for Stroud that the funding does incorporate significant investment in digitising Kew’s herbarium collection, which is important to him and to all of us, because we want to ensure that it is conserved securely and made globally available. Importantly, it will be available online.

The funding will help Kew in its ambition to increase further its self-generated revenue and become more financially self-sufficient. I understand that it will not be used directly to reduce funding; this is to help it achieve its ambitions to grow its funding further. What is reassuring to hon. Members is that since 2009-10 we have seen the grant in aid funding from DEFRA increase from £28.6 million to £40.8 million, and at the same time—this is credit to the team at Kew—Kew’s self-generated income has increased from £20 million to £70 million. This is therefore part of an ambitious and much wider scheme to help move things forward.

The hon. Member for Plymouth, Sutton and Devonport was absolutely right to mention green spaces. Yes, they will be protected. The leases are around peripheral buildings at this stage and will not affect the core purpose. As I have said already, the funding will be used for the core purposes that are so vitally important for all that goes on at Kew.

The hon. Gentleman raised the issue of the entrance fee. The Natural History Museum and others are designated as national museums and are sponsored directly by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, although they do get funding from special exhibitions. Kew is different, and the admission and membership fees there help to raise much-needed funds of £18 million. The broader discussion about how that would shape things is for some point in the future and is certainly not for this Bill. It is good to know that the board is making significant steps forward.

The other point the hon. Gentleman raised was about extra funding from DCMS and elsewhere. He may be aware that it already receives £3 million of official development assistance funding administered from the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs. Those are important issues, and it is worth noting that there will be a visit in due course so that Members from Scotland and elsewhere can come and see all that Kew has to offer. We will talk more about that later on.

The Bill is not large, but its impact is significant. It will enable the release of value from land and property at Kew Gardens through a variety of commercial options, such as long leases for residential or office use. It will also reduce maintenance liabilities and running costs and enhance the site through restoration and ongoing maintenance. It will help Kew in its ambition to further increase its self-generated revenue and become more financially self-sufficient. For those reasons, I hope that the Committee will approve the Bill.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause 1 accordingly ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 2 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

The Deputy Speaker resumed the Chair.

Bill reported, without amendment.

Consideration of Bill, not amended in the Legislative Grand Committee (England)

Sir Lindsay Hoyle Portrait Mr Deputy Speaker (Sir Lindsay Hoyle) - Hansard

I have decided to select as manuscript amendments, to be proceeded with on Report, amendments 1 and 2 tabled in the name of Pete Wishart for the Legislative Grand Committee (England), to be debated together. Copies of a Report stage amendment paper will be available from the Vote Office shortly. In the meantime, we may proceed using the texts on the amendment paper for the Legislative Grand Committee (England).

Clause 1

Power to grant a lease in respect of land at Kew Gardens

Break in Debate

Patrick Grady Portrait Patrick Grady - Parliament Live - Hansard
24 Jul 2019, 4:15 p.m.

The hon. Lady raises an important point. I do not intend to detain the House desperately long. I want to ensure that that debate can be had. It is particularly relevant, of course, to Members from England and Wales. We just had a procedure of the so-called English Parliament. This was what was supposed to happen as a result of the independence referendum and the reform of devolution, but it is patently failing, as she demonstrates. There are only two amendments, however, and I am speaking about the second, so her patience should not be tested for too much longer.

One of the key points is that the leases will raise money. That money will generate tax take, that tax take will go to the Treasury, and that money will eventually work its way into public expenditure, first through the UK consolidated fund, and then, presumably, some of it will end up in the Scottish consolidated fund through the Barnett formula. This has been the crux of our problem with the EVEL procedure from the very start—We do not see the full consequences and knock-on effects. That is why the amendment suggests that the Minister make an estimate or report on the sums expected to accrue to the Treasury as a result of any lease granted.

We were told when the EVEL procedure was introduced that we would be able to scrutinise all these things through the estimates process, but this is not the only time my hon. Friend the Member for Perth and North Perthshire has been called out of order and required by the Chair to resume his seat, because previously when he tried to talk about estimates, he was also ruled out of order and was unable to speak. There has been a small reform to the estimates process, which we have welcomed, but it is still not sufficient for us to have the kind of say we want. We cannot table meaningful amendments and the subjects and time available for debate are still limited.

We are demonstrating, even in the frustration of the hon. Member for High Peak (Ruth George) about the squeeze on the important debate to follow on youth services in England, the fundamental failures, first of the EVEL system, and secondly of the overall impact of the attempt at reform and the potential silencing of voices from England and Wales. The EVEL procedure, sadly, is becoming a laughing stock. There is a risk of Parliament falling into the same trap. Certainly, laughing stocks will not be in short supply outside our doors and down Whitehall.

Politics is a bit chaotic at the moment, and these kinds of procedural shenanigans do not enhance that, but they serve to prove the point. In the interests of consensus and not delaying the Bill any further by sending it to ping-pong with the Lords, I do not intend to press my amendments, but I hope the point has been made, and I look forward to the Minister’s response.

David Rutley Portrait David Rutley - Parliament Live - Hansard
24 Jul 2019, 4:18 p.m.

I will be brief, because I am aware that the hon. Member for High Peak (Ruth George) and others want to get on to the next debate. I fully understand that.

I am grateful for the support we have received from the Opposition Front Benchers. In these situations, it is important to learn lessons from other hon. Members, such as the hon. Member for Ealing North (Stephen Pound), who, I always find, uses good humour, a probing wit and maximum respect for the subject and the people involved. I was getting a little bit nervous at the tone of an hon. Member whom I like, the hon. Member for Perth and North Perthshire (Pete Wishart). I was concerned that some of his understandable comments about the process were beginning to reflect on to Kew itself, so I am pleased that the hon. Member for Glasgow North (Patrick Grady) clarified that that was certainly not the case. One thing’s for sure—Kew is certainly not a laughing stock. It is a much valued asset, and I am pleased he reinforced that.

Amendment 1 is not necessary and is not clearly drafted. Should information on the granting of a specific lease be required by anyone, including the Scottish Government Cabinet Secretary for Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform, in line with the Land Registry publication requirements, the price paid for the lease and the relevant details of the leaseholder and the lease document itself will be available from the Land Registry when the lease is registered. I think the hon. Gentleman is aware of that. It is unclear what information the amendment would require to be in any report, but information on a lease, including price and lease conditions, will be available to the public and any Government Minister.

On amendment 2, under the National Heritage Act 1983 a statement of accounts for Kew is prepared, examined and certified in respect of each financial year. This annual report and accounts is reviewed by the Comptroller and Auditor General—the head of the National Audit Office—and laid before each House. Details of Kew’s income, including Government, commercial and charitable donations, are set out in the report, which is a public document. As already stated in the other place, income received by Kew in respect of those leases will be reflected in the report.

I hope that assures the hon. Gentleman that the issue has been taken care of. He was probably already aware of the points I have made, and he has had an opportunity to make his wider points, so, for the benefit of this particular Bill and the impact it will have on the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, I ask him to withdraw his amendment.

Patrick Grady Portrait Patrick Grady - Parliament Live - Hansard
24 Jul 2019, 4:21 p.m.

I do not get to say this very often, but I accept the Minister’s reassurances. I think our point has been made and I look forward to seeing whether the Government Whips Office tries to use this procedure again at any point, ever. If it does not, perhaps it just needs to get rid of the whole procedure. I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Sir Lindsay Hoyle Portrait Mr Deputy Speaker (Sir Lindsay Hoyle) - Parliament Live - Hansard
24 Jul 2019, 4:21 p.m.

Consideration completed. Does the Minister intend to move the consent motion for the Legislative Grand Committee?

David Rutley Portrait David Rutley - Parliament Live - Hansard
24 Jul 2019, 4:21 p.m.

indicated assent.

The House forthwith resolved itself into the Legislative Grand Committee (England) (Standing Order No. 83M(3)).

[Sir Lindsay Hoyle in the Chair]

Sir Lindsay Hoyle Portrait The Chairman of Ways and Means (Sir Lindsay Hoyle) - Hansard
24 Jul 2019, 4:22 p.m.

I remind hon. Members that, if there is a Division, only Members representing constituencies in England may vote. I call the Minister to move the consent motion.

Motion made, and Question proposed,

That the Committee consents to the Kew Gardens (Leases) (No.3) Bill [Lords].—(David Rutley.)

Patrick Grady Portrait Patrick Grady - Hansard
24 Jul 2019, 4:22 p.m.

I am just trying to beat the record of my hon. Friend the Member for Perth and North Perthshire (Pete Wishart) for being the Member from Scotland who has spoken most frequently in the Legislative Grand Committee. It is not just the occupants of the Serjeant at Arms chair who are getting exercise; you are, too, Sir Lindsay, as you move up and down, from Chair to Chair. This should not just be a formality. It defeats the entire purpose of the process. I hope that has been heard by Members on the Treasury Bench.

Question put and agreed to.

The occupant of the Chair left the Chair to report the decision of the Committee (Standing Order No. 83M(6)).

The Deputy Speaker resumed the Chair; decision reported.

Third Reading

Queen’s consent signified.

David Rutley Portrait David Rutley - Parliament Live - Hansard
24 Jul 2019, 4:24 p.m.

I beg to move, That the Bill be now read the Third time.

I am pleased to move the motion for the Third Reading of the Bill, which will provide the ability to grant leases of up to 150 years on Crown land at Kew Gardens, opening up new streams of revenue that will support this great British institution and world heritage site to flourish.

Kew is a scientific institution of towering importance, not only for the UK but as a global resource for authoritative specialist knowledge on plant and fungal diversity and its role in supporting essential ecosystems, which play a critical role in addressing the unprecedented scale and pace of the threats facing the natural world and indeed humanity. Kew is custodian of one of the largest and most diverse collections of plant and fungal specimens, living and preserved, collected from around the world over 170 years, with 25,000 specimens added each year from the Millennium Seed Bank at Wakehurst to the herbarium at Kew itself.

These collections are of immense use and fundamental importance to science in determining how species differ and develop, and which ones are threatened by extinction—an issue of grave international concern. To restore and digitise this incredible collection to make it accessible across the world requires considerable investment, as has been set out. This Bill will enhance Kew’s ability to attract non-governmental funding, providing further income for these and other important investments.

Kew is home to more scientists than ever before, working in partnership with scientists, educators and communities to promote research, education and conservation. And Kew does much to involve the public too: we make more than 2 million visits a year to Kew and Wakehurst, and around 100,000 pupils learn from its many wonders on school trips. Across the spectrum of public engagement, Kew is fostering a wider understanding of plants and fungi and why they matter to us.

I am delighted by the support from parliamentarians in the Second Reading debate, and an invitation has been extended for interested parliamentarians across the board to visit Kew on the morning of 9 October from 8.45 to 10.45; hopefully they will have received the invitation already. I am still more delighted that the Government have had the opportunity to bring this Bill forward, building on the efforts of those who have promoted similar Bills on Kew through the private Member’s Bill route: my hon. Friends the Members for Bridgwater and West Somerset (Mr Liddell-Grainger) and for Richmond Park (Zac Goldsmith) and Lord True in the other place. In the other place the Bill was amended by Lord Whitty to ensure robust protection for Kew’s core functions and the world heritage site. I am grateful to Members in this House and noble Lords in the other place for their contributions.

I extend my thanks to the team at Kew, including the trustees, for all they do, as well as the officials on the Bill team, my private office, the Parliamentary Private Secretaries, the Whips on both sides and of course the Clerks for their work and support on this issue.

As the Minister in the Commons with responsibility for the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, it has been an honour to lead on this Bill. Our debate in this House has enabled me to underline the global importance of Kew and the Government’s commitment to its future. I believe that the Bill’s progress through both Houses has been a model of Parliamentary process, working together effectively to ensure that the Bill is fit for purpose. I look forward to the Bill’s speedy progress towards Royal Assent.

Luke Pollard Portrait Luke Pollard - Parliament Live - Hansard
24 Jul 2019, 4:28 p.m.

There is very little to add to the remarks I made earlier, so as I want the House to come to the next debate as soon as possible, I shall briefly say that I am grateful to the Minister for his support for the ongoing digitalisation of the herbarium records and the recognition that the income derived from the sale of these leases will go to support Kew’s ongoing work. We need more, bolder and swifter action to tackle climate change and biodiversity loss, and Kew Gardens plays an important part in Britain’s soft-power and hard-power interventions in doing that, and I wish it the best of luck in selling these leases so we can make sure that work continues.

Animal Welfare (Sentencing) Bill (First sitting)

(Committee Debate: 1st sitting: House of Commons)
David Rutley Excerpts
Tuesday 23rd July 2019

(1 year, 2 months ago)

Public Bill Committees
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HM Treasury
Sandy Martin Hansard
23 Jul 2019, 9:15 a.m.

Q You raised the issue of a baby badger being skinned alive. There is some controversy about or question whether that would be covered by the Bill. Do you believe it would be sensible to review the scope of the Bill at some stage in the not-too-distant future, to see how well it is working and whether it should be revised?

Michael Flower: I think it would be sensible, and I believe an amendment has been tabled that there should be a review after two years. I am not convinced that there will be sufficient data in two years to do that properly. If the Bill were to be enacted in the next three or four months, it would be a couple of years before results started filtering through the court system. A review would be welcome from our point of view because there might be anomalies between the Animal Welfare Act and other animal welfare protection legislation, such as the badgers Act. If this Bill is enacted, we must consider how sentencing can be applied to other areas.

Claire Horton: I agree with that. The Bill is clear and has been introduced because of the recognition that animal cruelty is a serious issue. We would be concerned by anything that slowed its progress. It is fairly uncontentious, and I urge Members to get this bit through, and to consider issues of review and inclusion once we have more evidence further down the line.

David Rutley Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (David Rutley) - Hansard
23 Jul 2019, 10:05 a.m.

Q You have taken away my first question. I was going to ask whether our two witnesses agree that speed is of the essence now, notwithstanding some legitimate, and quite thorny, questions that we will, at some point, need to grip more fully. It has taken some time to get a coalition of opinion, but it has become clear to me that not only the two organisations that you represent incredibly well, but a far broader coalition, is now saying that, notwithstanding other issues that might be out there, we need to get the legislation through. Could you confirm that? It would be useful to hear the RSPCA confirm that time is a priority, and that there is a broad opinion that we need to get on with the Bill now.

Michael Flower: Yes, that would definitely be our view. Personally, I think that increasing sentencing is long overdue; it was unfortunate that that was not included in the Animal Welfare Act 2006. It is now clearly overdue, and needs to be implemented as soon as possible. The extremely narrow scope of the Bill should make it easier to push it through quite quickly, which would be very welcome from our point of view.

David Rutley Portrait David Rutley - Hansard
23 Jul 2019, 10:06 a.m.

Q Do you think that a broader coalition of welfare groups supports that view as well?

Claire Horton: Very much so.

David Rutley Portrait David Rutley - Hansard
23 Jul 2019, 10:08 a.m.

Q On behalf of members of the Committee, I thank you both for the outstanding work that you have done and continue to do, and for the support that you have given the Bill. It is great that there is such broad consensus across the Committee and across the House on the Bill. Great champions on both sides are pushing it forward, which is good to see.

We had a bit of a conversation about sentencing guidelines in terms of Anna’s important amendment, and views and concerns about videos. Are you convinced that the guidelines help you in your job and will have teeth? I have that confidence, but it is important for Committee members to hear, particularly from the RSPCA, that in the work that you do and more generally there is a view that the guidelines can be of assistance and are meaningful.

Michael Flower: They certainly are from the RSPCA’s point of view. Those of us who deal with prosecutions for the RSPCA will frequently refer to the guidelines because they give a clear indication of how society in the broader context may view these types of offence. The aggravating factors, which we referred to, are listed. Obviously, the more aggravating factors there are for a particular behaviour, the greater the likelihood of prosecution should be. They tend to give us a very useful steer.

David Rutley Portrait David Rutley - Hansard
23 Jul 2019, 10:08 a.m.

Q Claire, do you have any thoughts on sentencing guidelines? Are you comfortable that the way we are taking things forward is a useful approach?

Claire Horton: Absolutely, and I would agree. The entire welfare sector is of the same view. We are very comfortable.

Break in Debate

Sandy Martin Hansard
23 Jul 2019, 10:38 a.m.

Q Clearly, having a stricter sentence for that will also fit in with other criminal activities that surround dog fighting. I am sure that it is not a problem in London, but your fellow police officers in other parts of the country have terrible problems with hare coursing. Would you support the idea that it would be sensible to have a Bill of this sort that would help to prevent hare coursing as well as dog fighting?

Inspector O'Hara: It is not really my area of expertise. I generally stick to companion animals and the position on that should probably come from wildlife crime. I suspect it dovetails very much into Mike’s point around the disparity of the two genres, for want of a better phrase.

David Rutley Portrait David Rutley - Hansard
23 Jul 2019, 10:44 a.m.

Q Thank you both for your support today and for your very useful evidence. The question of guidelines and how important they are came up in the previous session and has come up in this one. Can you give your thoughts on the role of sentencing guidelines in how you deal with animal welfare legislation? Inspector O’Hara, how do they help with the cases that you have to deal with? It would be helpful to have a perspective from both you. It is clear that other members of the Committee feel that the guidelines are going to play an important role.

Inspector O'Hara: The guidelines play a very important role for any offence because they are the starting point at which the court will look upon sentencing as to where the offence will sit along with any mitigating or aggravating factors. It is really key that those guidelines are there and that they are robust. Having them in place will ensure consistency across the board, depending on which courthouse the matter sits.

Mike Schwarz: As you know, there are two sets of guidelines: one is the overarching principles for sentencing in all criminal cases, which I referred to earlier when I talked about harm and culpability; then, as has been mentioned a number of times, there are the specific guidelines of the Animal Welfare Act and animal welfare laws. I think they are very good, but nothing should escape review. It is important that it is reviewed with the passing of this legislation.

Earlier we heard that the point that when the threshold for custody is passed is now more important, bearing in mind the threshold goes up and the length of sentencing goes up. So far, the guidance is just in section 152 of the Criminal Justice Act 2003, but the sentencing guidelines for animal welfare would benefit from some guidance on when the custody threshold is reached and what sort of sentences should lead to what greater lengths of custody. That exercise may throw up the disparity between the two areas, which is why I think a review is important and probably quite urgent.

David Rutley Portrait David Rutley - Hansard
23 Jul 2019, 10:41 a.m.

Thank you.

Luke Pollard Portrait Luke Pollard - Hansard
23 Jul 2019, 10:41 a.m.

Q Inspector O’Hara, when the Bill is passed into law—hopefully very soon—how will it be implemented, and what about the deterrent effect that was spoken about earlier? From an outsider’s perspective, the idea that the cruelty sentencing could increase to such a large degree should have an effect. From your point of view, as someone who works in this area, how best will that be communicated to individuals who would consider abusing an animal? What is the best way of communicating the increased sentence to the general public and to those individuals, so that it has a deterrent effect?

Inspector O'Hara: Typically in this topic, media have been led and have focused on case results and outcomes, on the back of some successful prosecutions with high sentencing. I think there is a key prevention message that can go out before the legislation comes through. There is one thing that worries me slightly: I have not known many people charged with animal welfare offences to enter a guilty plea at the first hearing. I can see that there will be quite a lot of cases, particularly if sections 4 to 8 are charged, where somebody will elect to go to Crown court, so it will be some considerable time down the road before we get those sentences coming through, but you might find that the cases that go up to the Crown court get no more severe a penalty than they would have got in a magistrates court. We have to manage our expectations of what that will bring.

In my other area of work, dangerous dogs, following the legislation changes in 2014 and the 14-year penalty that came in for a dog dangerously out of control causing death, we have not seen significant sentencing increases as a result of that legislation. While the current provisions are very good, and we very much support them and hope they will come in quickly, expectations in the court outcomes will need to be managed.

Animal Welfare (Sentencing) Bill (Second sitting)

(Committee Debate: 2nd sitting: House of Commons)
David Rutley Excerpts
Tuesday 23rd July 2019

(1 year, 2 months ago)

Public Bill Committees
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HM Treasury
David Rutley Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (David Rutley) - Hansard
23 Jul 2019, 2:18 p.m.

I want to put on record our sincere thanks to the expert witnesses who took their time to present to us in the evidence sessions this morning. I think everybody benefited from that and we are all grateful to them. It is a pleasure to serve with you, Mr Bailey, in the chair once again.

Amendment 1 would oblige the court to consider whether the accused filmed themselves committing the offence or posted a video of themselves committing the offence online when establishing the seriousness of the offence. Subsection (1B) means that this consideration would be treated as an aggravating factor and would be stated as such in open court. This would be used by the court to determine the appropriate sentence and result in an upward adjustment of the sentence for those who conducted such filming activity. I am aware of and am horrified by the abhorrent actions of some people who film animal cruelty with the aim of sharing and uploading videos on social media. The hon. Member for Workington highlighted how terrible that was.

I think we all recognise that the hon. Member for Redcar movingly explained her concerns, fears and worries. In the best traditions of the House, she explained the issues in a non-partisan way. As she spoke about the need to introduce guidelines and how to approach this, it was interesting that everybody on both sides of the Committee said: “Good point”. That is very unusual in this place, so well done. One of the great things in this place is when we see somebody has a grip on an issue and brings people with them. I congratulate her for doing that.

There are many other great examples of Back-Bench support in the Committee, including the work done on the mighty Finn’s law in North East Hertfordshire. There is some really good work going on, and that should inspire people about what can be done in this place.

Sir Oliver Heald Portrait Sir Oliver Heald (North East Hertfordshire) (Con) - Hansard
23 Jul 2019, 2:20 p.m.

I also want to pay tribute to the campaigners for Finn’s law, including Sarah Dixon, who was the leader of the campaign in many ways, and who is with us today.

David Rutley Portrait David Rutley - Hansard
23 Jul 2019, 2:21 p.m.

Of course—congratulations, and I thank her. It is such campaigning zeal that enables us to make the case to take this legislation through when there are competing demands. Full credit should go to our team of Committee members today; many of them have served in Committee on other animal welfare legislation. There is a commitment to get this legislation through Parliament, but we can do that because we have made the case collectively and there is common ground. I am thankful for all the campaigning work that has gone on to make it possible.

I believe that any cruelty caused to an animal should be met with a proportionate response. That is why we are here today to encourage the passage of the Bill. Aggravating factors are most often dealt with in the sentencing guidelines, as was highlighted and supported by the witnesses this morning, and not always in statute. The amendment tabled by the hon. Member for Redcar would create a statutory aggravating factor. Statutory aggravating factors are used only for the most heinous criminal offences, such as domestic violence or terrorism. For other offences, it is normal for other aggravating factors to be included in the sentencing guidelines, which the courts are required to follow when determining the appropriate sentence in a particular case.

There are sentencing guidelines for animal cruelty, drawn up by the independent Sentencing Council, and they were last reviewed and updated in April 2017, following a public consultation. Under those guidelines, the use of technology to publicise or promote cruelty is already considered an aggravating factor, as has been referred to. Officials from the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs have been in contact with the Sentencing Council. As the Bill will change the maximum sentence available for animal cruelty, the sentencing guidelines for animal cruelty will be subject to review by the Sentencing Council, which will publicly consult on the updated guidelines.

My hon. Friend the Member for Cheltenham was, I think, concerned about the question of statutory guidance. Our view is that this behaviour will be one of the other aggravating factors. The good news is that it is already included in the Animal Welfare Act guidelines, so, as the hon. Member for Workington said, we hope that it will be more straightforward. The fact that DEFRA officials are speaking to the Sentencing Council gives us real cause for optimism.

The hon. Member for Plymouth, Sutton and Devonport made an interesting point about the online harms White Paper. Based on that suggestion, we will be meeting the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport and talking closely with it about what we can do in that area. It is scary when we see what people—young or old—are watching now. They seem to get relative highs on really disgusting material, animal cruelty being one. That has to stop, and hopefully we can make some inroads on that.

The proposed aggravating factor of filming an offence is already taken into account by the courts when sentencing for certain relevant offences. For example, the sentencing guidelines on “Robbery—sentencing children and young people” includes the following other aggravating factor:

“filming of the offence…or circulating details/photos/videos etc of the offence on social media or within peer groups”.

That is for consideration by the court when sentencing the offender. I assure the hon. Member for Redcar that DEFRA will raise that issue and will continue to engage with the Sentencing Council, which I am sure takes this matter very seriously.

In addition to the guidelines on sentencing, existing legislation provides an offence that covers filming animal cruelty. Section 127(1) of the Communications Act 2003 creates a specific offence of sending grossly offensive, indecent, obscene or menacing messages over a public electronic communications network. It is a matter for the Crown Prosecution Service to decide which charges to bring, but it is possible that someone filming an act of animal cruelty could be charged with an offence under section 127(1). That would result in a maximum sentence of six months simply for the offence of posting abhorrent or offensive material online. Evidently, there are options to ensure that the offenders who film and upload or distribute footage of their animal cruelty are met with an appropriate response. When this Bill is passed, these pre-existing options could enable courts to impose a higher sentence. It is useful to see what legislation is out there in the round and also what guidelines are there.

Committing animal cruelty is repugnant and filming it to share with others is beyond comprehension. As mentioned, we will discuss this matter further with the Sentencing Council. When they review the guidelines, we will ensure that this point is raised during the public consultation. On that basis, I ask the hon. Lady whether she would be kind enough to consider withdrawing her amendment.

Anna Turley Hansard

I appreciate the Minister’s thoughtful and considered response, which was very helpful. I thank his civil servants for their work in responding to my amendment. I am pleased to hear that the sentencing guidelines will have a big role in deciding aggravating factors and it was interesting to hear that we tend only to put things on the statute books when they are major issues, such as terrorism. I was also particularly interested to hear about the fact that those responsible for animal cruelty films could already be prosecuted under the Communications Act 2003. As we move towards Royal Assent, in terms of the promotion of, and education and awareness about, the issues we have discussed in the Bill, I hope that that will be pushed further. I am particularly pleased to hear that as a consequence of the Bill the Sentencing Council has confirmed that it will have a public consultation and update the guidelines with reference to filming and sharing. I appreciate the Minister’s consideration and beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Question proposed, That the clause stand part of the Bill.

David Rutley Portrait David Rutley - Hansard
23 Jul 2019, 2:27 p.m.

Before I discuss clause 1, I want to comment on and welcome the widespread support that the Bill has received, across the House and beyond. It was clear on Second Reading that the Bill has strong backing across the House, which was unified in its view that there is no place for animal cruelty in this country and that we must deal with it in the strongest possible terms. I welcome the spirit in which our discussions today have taken place. I am sure that that is part of our collective view that the United Kingdom should continue to be a world leader on animal welfare.

The Government committed to increasing maximum sentences for animal cruelty offences in September 2017 and I am pleased to see hon. Members who have supported this measure here today. I know that some hon. Members will feel that we should have moved faster, but collectively we have moved quickly in recent weeks to see much animal welfare legislation move forward and I am grateful for that.

As was made clear on Second Reading, under the Animal Welfare Act 2006 the current maximum penalty for animal cruelty offences is six months imprisonment and/or an unlimited fine. This Bill amends the Animal Welfare Act to extend the maximum penalty available to five years imprisonment and/or an unlimited fine for the worst animal cruelty offences relating to animal welfare in England and Wales. We heard this morning just how important it is that this Bill reaches the statute book as soon as possible.

Clause 1 is the Bill’s main clause and outlines the mode of trial and maximum penalty for certain animal welfare offences. As it is proposed that the maximum custodial sentence is extended to five years, these offences will become triable either in the magistrates court or the Crown court, depending on the severity of the offence. Specifically, clause 1(2) changes the maximum custodial sentence for the most serious offences under the 2006 Act. These are: causing unnecessary suffering to a protected animal; carrying out a non-exempted mutilation; docking the tail of a dog, except where permitted; administering a poison to an animal; and involvement in an animal fight—a dog fight or something similar, as we talked about earlier today.

Under the Animal Welfare Act 2006, which this Bill amends, all protected animals are covered. In its legal definition, a protected animal is a vertebrate animal of a kind commonly domesticated in the British Isles. Animals not commonly domesticated, such as wildlife, are “protected animals”, but only to the extent that they are under the control of man or are not living in their wild state.

Break in Debate

Baroness Hayman of Ullock Portrait Sue Hayman - Hansard

The right hon. and learned Gentleman makes an extremely important point. One thing that has been quite difficult when looking at the evidence is some of the extraordinary cruelty against animals of which people are capable. The work he did with other colleagues on Finn’s law was really important, because service animals put themselves in front of their police officers or whoever they are working with to protect them. It is important that that has now been recognised.

It is important that we are finally giving judges the tools they need to start handing out the kind of sentences that are required if we are to have not only a punishment that will act as a deterrent, but a punishment that is right for the crime. We do not have that at the moment. In conclusion, the Opposition will support the Bill, and I thank everyone for their work on it.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause 1 accordingly ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 2

Extent, commencement and short title

Question proposed, That the clause stand part of the Bill.

David Rutley Portrait David Rutley - Hansard
23 Jul 2019, 2:39 p.m.

Clause 2 provides the extent, commencement and short title of the Bill. Clause 2(1) provides for the Bill’s extension to England and Wales only. Animal welfare is a fully devolved matter, but in this case the Welsh Government have confirmed that the maximum penalty will apply in Wales. The Bill is drafted on that basis. The Welsh Government are preparing a legislative consent motion so that the Bill can be extended and applied in Wales, which is excellent news.

Clause 2(2) provides the date and commencement of the Bill. The Act will come into force two months after Royal Assent. The clause also ensures that the application of revised maximum penalties is not retrospective and is not applied to offences committed before the Bill comes into force. It specifies the short title of the Bill, that being the Animal Welfare (Sentencing) Act 2019.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause 2 accordingly ordered to stand part of the Bill.

New Clause 2

Report on effects

‘(1) The Secretary of State must publish a report on the effects of the provisions of this Act.

(2) The report must include assessments of—

(a) trends in sentencing practice;

(b) the effects of this Act on animal welfare;

(c) the extent to which this Act has had a deterrent effect on animal welfare offences;

(d) the coherence and adequacy of animal welfare legislation in aggregate in the light of the operation of this Act.

(3) The assessment under subsection (2)(d) must include consideration of—

(a) the welfare of animals that are not “protected animals” under section 2 of the Animal Welfare Act 2006;

(b) sentencing for offences under—

(i) all sections of the Animal Welfare Act 2006;

(ii) the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981;

(iii) the Deer Act 1991;

(iv) the Protection of Badgers Act 1992;

(v) the Wild Mammals (Protection) Act 1996; and

(vi) the Conservation of Habitats and Species Regulations 2017 (S.I.2017/1012).

(4) The report must be laid before Parliament within two years of this Act coming into force.’—(Sue Hayman.)

This new clause would require the Secretary of State to lay before Parliament, within two years of the Act coming into force, a report on the effectiveness of the Act, including specific assessments of its effect on animal welfare, the overall coherence of animal welfare legislation, and other matters.

Brought up, and read the First time.

Baroness Hayman of Ullock Portrait Sue Hayman - Hansard
23 Jul 2019, 2:39 p.m.

I beg to move, That the clause be read a Second time.

New clause 2 would provide for an assessment of the effectiveness of the Act, and for a report to be laid before Parliament. I hope the Minister agrees that it is good practice for our legislation to be reviewed, and for Parliament to have the opportunity to consider the extent to which it is achieving its objectives, and indeed to consider whether any adjustments might be needed. Within that, we believe that there is a specific need to examine the level of penalties available to the courts for cruelty offences across animal welfare legislation as a whole.

The Bill improves the deterrence impact of penalties for cruelty under the Animal Welfare Act 2006, but introduces a two-tier system—maximum penalties for cruelty offences under the legislation listed in new clause 2 remain at six months. It is clear that offenders do not discriminate between wild and domestic animals in inflicting cruelty. The RSPCA has a shocking catalogue of offences, just a few of which I will mention: a wild rabbit hit with a log and stabbed with a pen; a sheep beaten to death with a gold club; a goldfish’s eye cut out; a squirrel set on fire; a cat chocked and suffocated; and two hens beaten to death. I find it extraordinary that anyone can behave like that.

How do we work out what maximum penalty should be available to the court in each of those cases? If a person kicks their pet rabbit, it should be clear that, under the Bill, the maximum penalty would be raised to five years, but what if the poor animal that has been kicked to death is a wild rabbit in the middle of a field? The nature of the offence is arguably identical, and most people would agree that the offender should face the same penalty, but would they? What about the case we heard about from the hon. Member for Southend West (Sir David Amess) on Second Reading, of a driver who put down chips in a road to attract wild birds so that he could then run them over? Should wild birds, squirrels or hedgehogs be regarded as under the control of man in a situation such as that, and would they come under this penalty? What about people putting out poisoned foods at a wild bird feeding station? What if wild chickens are taken and tortured? Is it different if chicks are taken from a hedgerow or from a garden nest box? These are genuine questions and I find the definitions confusing.

My hon. Friend the Member for Bristol East spoke on Second Reading about cruelty committed against game birds that are specifically reared for shooting before being released in the wild. Where does that sit within an offence of cruelty? What concerns me is that guilty offenders might well seek to persuade a court that a lesser sentence should be imposed if the victim could be classed as a wild animal.

We heard in evidence from Mr Schwarz that the two-tier approach could end in confusion for both the judiciary and prosecutors. We need to consider carefully whether the Bill’s good intentions to deter the worst acts of cruelty could unintentionally lead to offenders targeting more wild animals. The Opposition are pretty clear that all animals are equal and deserve to be treated with respect and kindness. As our animal welfare plan stated:

“Our vision is one where no animal is made to suffer unnecessary pain and degradation and where we continue to drive up standards and practice in line with the most recent advances and understanding.”

Our preference would be for the Bill to set a maximum sentence according to the level of cruelty in the offence, rather than whether the animal is domestic or wild, which I have discussed with the Minister. New clause 2 offers the option of looking into that and giving Parliament an opportunity to consider it once the Act has taken effect. As I have said, we do not want to delay the Bill—we want it on the statute book quickly, which is why we are asking for a review. I hope the Minister considers it and I look forward to his response.

Sandy Martin (Ipswich) (Lab) Hansard
23 Jul 2019, 2:45 p.m.

It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Bailey. I believe that the evidence we heard this morning from both the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals and the lawyer and police officer made it fairly clear that there was confusion about which offences come under the Bill. Clearly, there are questions about whether an offence relates to a feral cat or a domestic cat, or a wild rabbit or a tame rabbit, but there are also questions about organised crime. We heard from the police officer about dog fighting, which would come under this Act. Serious and organised cases of cruelty can now be prosecuted and a sensible and serious sentence incurred, yet the equally serious and equally organised crime involved in hare coursing probably would not.

All sorts of issues need to be tested in the courts. Very often in this place we seek to tie all the knots, cross all the t’s and dot all the i’s, but it is not always effective. We need to test these issues in the courts, but if they are to be tested in the courts, we need to review the result in order to establish whether the Act is doing what we intended it to do.

We heard from Mike Schwarz that serious issues will be aired by members of the public as a result of the sentences that will be handed down if, as we suspect, the sentences for domestic and wild animals are suddenly, obviously and publicly very different. We have heard on several occasions from the Minister that the Bill needs to be passed as soon as possible. We could not agree with him more. In fact, we could not have agreed with him more if he had said that 18 months ago, when we could have passed it. There is no good reason why, if we accept proposed new clause 2, that would add a single minute to the length of time it takes for the Bill to pass into law.

I urge us to accept the amendment and ensure that, whatever the results in the courts, we review them swiftly and effectively with a view to ensuring that we get consistent sentencing for consistent levels of cruelty.

David Rutley Portrait David Rutley - Hansard

New clause 2(1) and (2) would create a statutory obligation for the Government to report to Parliament on the effectiveness of the Act within two years of it coming into force, including specific assessments of its effect on animal welfare and the overall coherence with animal welfare legislation, including sentencing under specified Acts relating to wildlife.

It is important to note that the Animal Welfare Act 2006 was subject to review by the Select Committee on Environment, Food and Rural Affairs in 2010 and informally through its domestic animals inquiry in 2016.

The 2010 assessment concluded that there was broad agreement that animal welfare had been improved as a result of the 2006 Act by bringing together diverse legislation and adding a preventative measure that allows action to be taken without animals suffering unnecessarily. The 2016 inquiry encouraged the Bill and the proposed increase in maximum penalties.

New clause 2(3)(a) would commit the Government to including an assessment of the welfare of animals that are not protected animals under section 2 of the Animal Welfare Act 2006. Subsection (3)(b) would commit the Government to look at sentencing for offences under various pieces of legislation pertaining to wildlife.

Wildlife legislation that protects animals in a wild state is a separate matter and, as we know, not in the scope of the Animal Welfare Act 2006. All animals that come under the control of man, whether domesticated or wildlife, will be subject to the maximum penalty. Indeed, there are separate pieces of legislation that focus specifically on wildlife, with appropriate sentences and penalties.

Relevant points are being made here and, of course, we want to respond to them. I do not think we know the general consensus but we need to move forward with the Bill. We do not want to let the perfect be the enemy of the good. We have heard that before but it certainly applies to the Bill. Notwithstanding that the courts will have to make some interpretation, as is always the case, I reinforce the fact that any act of serious cruelty against a wild animal would most likely, by its very nature, entail that animal being under the control of man, and so would be caught by the Animal Welfare Act 2006.

Some of the deeply upsetting cases we heard about this morning, such as putting an animal in a microwave—if one could ever consider somebody doing that—could be committed only if the animal were under control of man. Although I understand the concerns, and that there are lawyers in the room, I am sure that courts will be well able to identify the most serious acts.

Sir Oliver Heald Portrait Sir Oliver Heald - Hansard
23 Jul 2019, 2:49 p.m.

I do not know whether the Minister would agree with me on a point that may need further consideration. If an animal is under a person’s control, does that not give that person a duty towards that animal? In those circumstances, is it not part of the wrongdoing that, having control of an animal, a person abuses it?

David Rutley Portrait David Rutley - Hansard
23 Jul 2019, 2:52 p.m.

As I said, we have distinguished lawyers in the room for a reason—they make important points such as that one, which only my right hon. and learned Friend could make with such eloquence. I completely agree that there is an added responsibility. It is a privilege to be able to look after animals and, when we do, we should expect higher standards of ourselves. There are laws that are relevant to other wild animals but, when these animals are in the control of man, a higher standard needs to be adhered to.

I do not really want to mention these cases, but I am trying to provide clarification and confidence to members of the Committee. We heard the example of a rabbit being kicked in a very serious way. Whether a rabbit is wild or not, rabbits are commonly domesticated, and that would be covered by the Bill. Similarly, if other animals were mistreated under the control of man, they would be covered. I understand that there are concerns, but I reassure members of the Committee that the courts will be in a better position, as a result of this legislation, to hold people to account and put the right sentences in place. They will be able to make judgments that will help domesticated animals and, in many cases, wild animals too—I will come to the point about wild animals more broadly in a second.

A review of wildlife legislation has already been conducted. At the request of the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, the Law Commission commenced in 2011 its wildlife law project to develop proposals for a modern, simpler and more flexible framework. The commission published its report and draft Bill in November 2015, and recommended that the existing pieces of wildlife legislation be replaced with a single statute.

Exit from the EU provides an opportunity to re-examine our regulatory framework and how it works so that it is fit for purpose to meet our national needs in the future and to fulfil our international obligations. As hon. Members may be aware, much of our wildlife law stems from EU directives. That is why EU exit would provide an opportunity to take that wider look. We will need to consider the implications of EU exit for our approach to wildlife policy before deciding whether and how to implement the Law Commission proposals.

In addition to the existing reviews of the Animal Welfare Act 2006, the Ministry of Justice regularly publishes criminal justice statistics. Under the 2006 Act, data on prosecutions, convictions and sentencing speak to the impact of higher penalties on animal welfare.

In summary, I completely understand the point made by the hon. Member for Workington, but the Bill focuses on the most heinous crimes involving animals, including wildlife, under the control of man. The penalties for wildlife crimes that focus on animals in their wild habitat are separate from this legislation. Welfare groups have long called for an increased maximum sentence for the serious crimes under the 2006 Act. It is important that we get this change of an increased maximum penalty on to the statute book as soon as possible and without amendment.

I would be happy to commit to meeting the hon. Lady in the very near future to discuss different maximum sentences for Animal Welfare Act offences and offences relating to the welfare of wildlife. In line with our normal, standard procedure, we will look at the impact of the Bill in three years’ time. On that basis, and with a commitment to hold an early meeting, I ask the hon. Lady to consider withdrawing her new clause. I hope she can support the passage of this important Bill at this stage without amendment.

Baroness Hayman of Ullock Portrait Sue Hayman - Hansard

I thank the Minister for his considered response. He will probably think that I am a bit odd, but I have a copy of the report and the proposed legislation from the Law Commission by my bed. [Hon. Members: “Hear, hear!”] Thank you.

I would very much appreciate a meeting to discuss how we take this matter further. Some of the Law Commission work is excellent, and it would be good to see how we move forward. On that basis, I am happy to beg to ask leave to withdraw the motion.

Clause, by leave, withdrawn.

Bill to be reported, without amendment.

Animal Welfare (Sentencing) Bill

(2nd reading: House of Commons)
(Programme motion: House of Commons)
David Rutley Excerpts
Wednesday 10th July 2019

(1 year, 2 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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HM Treasury
Madam Deputy Speaker (Dame Eleanor Laing) - Hansard
10 Jul 2019, 1:36 p.m.

I can inform the House that Mr Speaker has certified the whole Bill, in accordance with Standing Order No. 83J, as being within devolved legislative competence and relating exclusively to England and Wales.

David Rutley Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (David Rutley) - Hansard
10 Jul 2019, 1:36 p.m.

I beg to move, That the Bill be now read a Second time.

The Bill delivers another important commitment from the Government on animal welfare, cementing our place as a world leader in the care and protection of animals. Under the current legislation, the Animal Welfare Act 2006, the maximum penalty for animal cruelty offences is six months’ imprisonment and/or an unlimited fine. The Bill extends the current maximum penalty to five years’ imprisonment and/or an unlimited fine for the worst animal cruelty offences relating to animal welfare in England and Wales. It is a simple yet vital measure to ensure that those who perpetrate cruelty on animals are subjected to the full force of the law.

We all agree that there is no place for animal cruelty in this country. Those who mistreat and abuse animals through unacceptable activities such as dog fighting, the abuse of pet animals, and cruelty to farm animals will be faced with tougher responses from the courts. An increase in the maximum custodial sentence from six months to five years will help to deter people from committing detestable acts against animals, and will demonstrate that such behaviour is not tolerated in this country.

Sir Greg Knight (East Yorkshire) (Con) - Hansard
10 Jul 2019, 1:38 p.m.

Is the Minister aware of the growing concern about the welfare of tethered horses? Many horses are attached to a short rope all day long, next to a highway, with no water and surrounded by ragwort, which is harmful to them. However, the authorities seem reluctant to take action. Might the reason be that the law is not quite clear enough in this respect, and if so, could that be addressed by the Bill?

David Rutley Portrait David Rutley - Hansard
10 Jul 2019, 1:39 p.m.

I thank my right hon. Friend for his intervention, and for his concern about horse tethering. I share that concern, which is why we recently had a roundtable meeting with the relevant welfare groups and authorities to discuss how we could achieve best practice in this regard. I think that there have been some case studies—particularly in the Swansea area, if I remember correctly—and that real action has been taken. We need to spread that best practice far and wide.

It is a pleasure to introduce this important Bill. We committed ourselves in September 2017 to increasing maximum sentences for animal cruelty offences, and in December 2017 we published our draft Bill for pre-legislative scrutiny. That followed the introduction of the Animal Fighting (Sentencing) Bill in July 2016 by my hon. Friend the Member for Torbay (Kevin Foster), and the introduction of the Animal Cruelty (Sentencing) Bill, also in July 2016, by the hon. Member for Redcar (Anna Turley). I pay tribute to both of them and the supporters of their Bills; I thank them for their hard work.

I am delighted to have secured the parliamentary time to introduce this small but incredibly valuable Government Bill, which is of great importance to the House, the animal welfare community and the public more widely. I pay tribute to all who campaigned for the Animal Welfare (Service Animals) Act 2019, popularly known as Finn’s law, which is closely linked to the Bill. Finn is a police dog fondly known as Fabulous Finn to his friends, and a distinguished example of the incredible bravery and hard work of service animals. This Bill will ensure that those who cause injury to a service animal will receive a proportionate penalty for their horrific actions; I will speak on this in more detail a little later.

Many animal welfare charities and other organisations have been calling for increased sentencing for a number of years. I thank them for their campaigning on the matter and for ensuring that this issue has remained at the top of the agenda: Battersea Dogs and Cats Home, Blue Cross, the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals and the League Against Cruel Sports, to name but a few, have been incredibly effective in their support for an increase in the maximum penalties, and I praise their tireless efforts. Claire Horton, chief executive of Battersea Dogs and Cats Home, stated that the introduction of this Bill is a “landmark achievement”.

This Bill is indeed a landmark step forward for animal welfare in this country. It demonstrates our commitment to protecting this nation’s animals. I pay tribute to Northern Ireland and my hon. Friends in the Democratic Unionist party for setting such a great example in support of animal welfare; Northern Ireland has already introduced a higher maximum penalty of five years for animal cruelty offences, which we are pleased to be able to match in England and Wales.

I also pay tribute to those hon. Members who have consistently advocated introducing this Bill, notably my hon. Friend—most of the time my friend—the Member for Tiverton and Honiton (Neil Parish), Chair of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee. He can be grumpy on occasions—[Interruption.] Oh, he is there! I had not realised he was behind me! Indeed, I thank all members of the Committee, who tirelessly press the Government on this issue.

Our Bill and the proposals therein on animal welfare sentencing have received strong support from across the House, and I am grateful to the Opposition Front- Bench team, not least the hon. Member for Workington (Sue Hayman) for her full and wholesome support; it is much appreciated.

Bill Wiggin Portrait Bill Wiggin (North Herefordshire) (Con) - Hansard
10 Jul 2019, 1:42 p.m.

Thirteen years ago in 2006 when the Animal Welfare Act was going through its stages, I proposed an amendment that would do exactly what this Bill does, so may I thank the Minister for bringing it in but express regret that it has taken 13 years to do so?

David Rutley Portrait David Rutley - Hansard
10 Jul 2019, 1:43 p.m.

I am pleased the Bill is before us today; sometimes these things take time—too often in animal welfare—but I am really pleased that through working together across this House we have seen a number of pieces of legislation come forward in recent weeks and months. That is because we are working so closely together. I am extraordinarily grateful for that and for the support we have had from the hon. Member for East Kilbride, Strathaven and Lesmahagow (Dr Cameron), who has long called for higher sentencing.

It is also important to recognise the hard work of our Whips. They are not able to speak on this matter, but I know that my hon. Friends the Members for Chippenham (Michelle Donelan) and for Milton Keynes South (Iain Stewart) are very keen for this legislation to come through. It would be remiss of me not also to mention the irrepressible hon. Member for Bristol West (Thangam Debbonaire), who is a complete enthusiast for this Bill and I am sure would love to be associated with it.

The Bill amends the Animal Welfare Act 2006, which currently sets out a maximum penalty of six months’ imprisonment and/or an unlimited fine for the more serious prevention of harm offences. That is much lower than the current European average for animal welfare offences, which is two years; indeed many countries have much higher maximum penalties. I am pleased to say that the Bill introduces one of the toughest punishments in the world and will bring us in line with the maximum penalties in Australia, Canada, New Zealand, Ireland, India and Latvia, which are all five years’ imprisonment.

The Government published the draft Bill for consultation and pre-legislative scrutiny in December 2017 as part of the Animal Welfare (Sentencing and Recognition of Sentience) Bill. The consultation closed in January 2018 and the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs received over 9,000 direct responses to it; 70% of respondents agreed with the new maximum penalties. In the summary of responses document, the Government committed to bringing forward the sentencing clauses in a separate Bill as recommended by the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee scrutiny report in January 2018.

There have been a number of recent cases related to serious animal welfare offences in which judges have expressed a desire to impose a higher penalty or custodial sentence than that currently provided for under the Animal Welfare Act 2006. For example, in 2016 an 18-year-old man kicked his girlfriend’s pet spaniel to death in an horrific attack. The dog was kicked repeatedly so hard that her brain stem detached. The man was sentenced to six months in prison and ordered to pay costs and victim surcharges of more than £1,000. The judge at the magistrates court said that he would have imposed a stronger, longer sentence if the law had allowed it. It was a sickening act of deliberate cruelty and in such cases a higher sentence would have been favourable for the court.

If I may, I would like to give another horrific example of where the judge explicitly told the court that he would have imposed a longer sentence if the guidelines had allowed. In November 2016 a man gave a dog painkillers and then beat her to death with a shovel. The man was sentenced to four months in prison and was disqualified from keeping all animals for life. That sentence was clearly not appropriate for such a dreadful act, and we need to change that, and we will now.

This Bill relates closely to the warmly received Animal Welfare (Service Animals) Act 2019, commonly known as Finn’s law, which prevents those who attack or injure service animals from claiming self-defence. It received Royal Assent on 8 April 2019, and I pay tribute to my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for North East Hertfordshire (Sir Oliver Heald), who is also in his place, for steering the Bill so skilfully through this House.

When this Animal Welfare (Sentencing) Bill is enacted, those who cause harm to a service animal in the course of the animal’s duty could be subject to a maximum sentence of five years. The intention of Finn’s law was to increase the maximum penalty for animal cruelty as well as improving the protection of service animals. We are now completing the increased protection of service animals with this Bill, and as a result achieving what the Committee and campaigners have worked so hard for.

The Bill is due to commence two months after Royal Assent and has a limited impact on costs to the criminal justice system. The increase in maximum penalties will not result in an increase in the number of offenders being sent to prison; it will result only in the potential length of time that might be served by the most serious offenders. We have been in discussion with the Ministry of Justice on this matter, and the Government consider that this may lead to some marginal extra costs to the criminal justice system which are unlikely to be more than £500,000 per annum. DEFRA has agreed with the Ministry of Justice to take on the costs, as set out in the explanatory notes.

While some offences committed under the Animal Welfare Act 2006 may be more minor incidents, there are unfortunately cases of serious or systematic cruelty. For example, some forms of animal cruelty, such as dog fighting, can be linked to organised crime and are carried out for financial gain through betting and prize money.

Neil Parish Portrait Neil Parish (Tiverton and Honiton) (Con) - Hansard
10 Jul 2019, 1:48 p.m.

The Minister talked about the extra cost involved. If a case has to go to the Crown court, very often animals will have to be kept in custody or in care in kennels, so that will cost more. We also need to make sure we have proper kennelling so that the whole court system can cope. We very much welcome the extra sentencing, but that knock-on effect needs to be dealt with as well.

David Rutley Portrait David Rutley - Hansard
10 Jul 2019, 1:49 p.m.

Once again, my hon. Friend speaks with authority on the subject, and he can be assured that we are working through all those details. I just want to underline that costs will be covered through the arrangements put in place.

As I was saying, dog fighting inflicts a high level of suffering on the animals involved. We believe that in such cases, where the level of cruelty and culpability is so high, a higher sentence is clearly justified, and I am sure that the House agrees.

The Bill is a simple measure, amounting to just two clauses, but with a very positive outcome. Clause 1 is the Bill’s main clause; it outlines the mode of trial and maximum penalty for certain animal welfare offences. As I previously outlined, under the Animal Welfare Act 2006 the maximum penalty in practice is currently six months and/or an unlimited fine. The clause changes the maximum custodial sentence available for five key offences: causing unnecessary suffering to a protected animal; carrying out a non-exempted mutilation; docking the tail of a dog, except where permitted; administering a poison to an animal; and involvement in an animal fight.

Mr Adrian Bailey (West Bromwich West) (Lab/Co-op) Hansard
10 Jul 2019, 1:50 p.m.

The Bill is hugely welcome. However, I am concerned about the narrowness of its scope, and my investigations have not been able to satisfy me that there are no potential areas of obscurity in it. Given that the Bill applies to domestic animals and not to wild animals, what is the situation in regard to, say, feral cats? Would somebody who did harm to their neighbour’s cat be subject to a different maximum sentence from somebody who did harm to a cat that was effectively feral and unattached?

David Rutley Portrait David Rutley - Hansard
10 Jul 2019, 1:51 p.m.

We can talk about that in more detail in Committee, but it is clear that this is about animals that are under the control of man. So in a situation where a feral cat was under the control of a man or woman and was experiencing unnecessary harm, the Bill would apply.

Mr Jim Cunningham (Coventry South) (Lab) Hansard
10 Jul 2019, 1:51 p.m.

I apologise for coming in a bit late. The Minister might have covered this earlier, but will the courts have discretion in relation to the maximum sentence? Am I right in thinking that there will be a scale?

David Rutley Portrait David Rutley - Hansard
10 Jul 2019, 1:51 p.m.

I thank the hon. Gentleman for his question. Just to clarify, we are discussing the maximum penalty; there will be other gradations that the courts will see fit to use. It is important to highlight, as I have done with a couple of case studies, that the courts felt they did not have the right sentencing available, given the horrific nature of some of the crimes they had been looking at. The Bill is about providing a maximum. The hon. Gentleman must be psychic, because I was about to come to that point. Under clause 1, the existing maximum penalty of six months will be retained if the offender is summarily convicted. However, offenders may now receive a higher penalty of up to five years’ imprisonment and/or an unlimited fine if they are convicted on trial by indictment.

Clause 2 outlines that the Bill will come into force two months after Royal Assent. The application of revised maximum penalties is not retrospective and does not apply to offences committed before the Bill comes into force. The clause also specifies the short title of the Bill, and provides for the Bill to extend to England and Wales. Animal welfare is a fully devolved matter, as many Members know. However, in this case the Welsh Government have confirmed that the maximum penalty should also apply in Wales, and the Bill is drafted on that basis. The Welsh Government are preparing a legislative consent motion so that the Bill can be extended and applied in Wales.

It is the Government’s view that the subject matter of this Bill is considered to be within the legislative competence of the Scottish Parliament and the Northern Ireland Assembly. I have commended Northern Ireland for having already set the maximum penalty for animal cruelty offences at five years’ imprisonment in August 2016, and I am pleased that the Scottish Government have announced their intention to do so as well. This country has some of the highest animal welfare standards in the world, but our maximum penalties are currently among the lowest. An increase to five years’ imprisonment should be introduced to enable the courts to have more appropriate sentences at their disposal for the most serious crimes of animal cruelty, and to reinforce our position as a world leader on animal welfare.

The Government are pleased to be taking forward this positive step on animal welfare. Just a month ago, we introduced a ban on third-party sales of puppies and kittens, and we have introduced mandatory CCTV in slaughterhouses. The Bill follows the previously mentioned passing of Finn’s law and we are also demonstrating the importance of the value of wild animals with the Wild Animals in Circuses Bill progressing well through the other place. The Animal Welfare (Sentencing) Bill is a fundamental step in ensuring that we have an appropriate response to those who inflict deliberate suffering on innocent animals and, for the reasons I have set out, I commend the Bill to the House.

Baroness Hayman of Ullock Portrait Sue Hayman (Workington) (Lab) - Parliament Live - Hansard
10 Jul 2019, 1:54 p.m.

Today has been a long time coming. We welcome the Government bringing forward this vital piece of legislation, although we regret that it has taken this long, considering that it has widespread support across the House and with the general public. I hope the Bill manages to make it through both Houses and on to the statute book in a timely fashion. It is imperative that it should receive Royal Assent and come into force as soon as possible so that our courts can start handing out appropriate sentences to those people convicted of inflicting terrible harm on innocent animals.

Religious Slaughter of Farm Animals

David Rutley Excerpts
Tuesday 2nd July 2019

(1 year, 2 months ago)

Westminster Hall
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George Eustice Portrait George Eustice - Hansard
2 Jul 2019, 11:21 a.m.

So-called mis-stunning is also an issue. I am not pretending that religious slaughter is the only welfare issue. Another area of concern, about which I commissioned some work when I was Minister, is the make-up of the gas mixture used in the slaughter of pigs, which was also problematic. Clearly, because it relates to pigs, it has no religious dimension whatever. There are other issues, and mis-stunning is one of them. The point about mis-stunning is that even if they get it wrong, they are there immediately afterwards with a second stun, which can resolve the issue.

I will conclude at that point, because we have only half an hour and the Minister will want to come back on some of these points. I seek to liberate him, the Government and all his successors from having to wrestle with this difficult issue. Instead, they should make it a free-vote issue and give it back to Parliament to decide.

David Rutley Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (David Rutley) - Hansard
2 Jul 2019, 11:22 a.m.

It is an honour to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Rosindell. It is good to hear the thoughts of my hon. Friend the Member for Camborne and Redruth (George Eustice), who secured this debate on such an important subject.

Mr Ivan Lewis (Bury South) (Ind) Hansard
2 Jul 2019, 11:22 a.m.

Does the Minister agree that there is no conclusive scientific evidence to suggest that shechita is any less acceptable than other forms of slaughter? Does he also agree that this country’s unwritten constitution has always made religious freedom a high priority? The changes that the hon. Member for Camborne and Redruth (George Eustice) suggests risk undermining the central tenet of our unwritten constitution, which is that religious freedom is important in our society.

David Rutley Portrait David Rutley - Hansard
2 Jul 2019, 11:25 a.m.

I completely agree that religious freedom is essential. We had a fantastic prayer breakfast this morning, at which the principles of respect and tolerance were at the forefront of our minds.

On religious slaughter, I restate that the Government’s preference is that all animals should be stunned before slaughter. However, we respect the right of Jews and Muslims to eat meat prepared in accordance with their beliefs. We therefore allow the religious slaughter of animals by Muslims and Jews for intended consumption by them. The Government believe that that is an important religious freedom, and there is a long history of upholding it in legislation, dating back to the Slaughter of Animals Act 1933, which contained an exception from stunning for religious slaughter for Jews and Muslims.

When I spoke about religious slaughter in the debate in this Chamber just a couple of months ago, I said that the Secretary of State and I would be holding a roundtable with a number of interested parties, including religious groups, animal welfare organisations—some of which are here today—and industry representatives. That meeting took place in May, and was a positive and open discussion, with helpful contributions from all who attended. Key issues discussed during that roundtable were the welfare impacts of different slaughter methods, essential ways of improving consumer information, the scope of the labelling scheme and halal assurance.

I strongly believe that the way to make progress—notwithstanding the important contributions of hon. Members from across the political spectrum—is through a roundtable and ongoing constructive dialogue. It is important to remind ourselves that in EU and domestic regulations that protect the welfare of animals at the time of killing, there are additional rules for animals slaughtered in accordance with religious rites, specifically for the production of halal and kosher meat. The primary aim of the welfare at slaughter regulations, which are based on a body of scientific evidence and advice from the European Food Safety Authority, is to ensure that animals are spared any avoidable pain, distress or suffering at the time of killing. It would be wrong to assume that the legal requirements for religious slaughter have not changed in the past 25 years.

Neil Parish Portrait Neil Parish - Hansard
2 Jul 2019, 11:26 a.m.

I thank the Minister very much for giving way. He is dealing with this issue in a very reasoned way, as always. The European law says that all animals should be stunned, and there is a derogation to allow religious slaughter. We have to be careful not to wrap this up too much in the European situation. As we leave the EU, we must be much firmer on how we label and how we manage it, and we must ensure that more animals are not stunned than are needed for particular religions. We can do a lot more, so will the Minister speed up the operation? I fear that it is one of these slow operations that is not getting anywhere.

David Rutley Portrait David Rutley - Hansard
2 Jul 2019, 11:26 a.m.

I would be surprised if the Chair of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee did not want faster action, as he regularly does. I hope he sees that we are upping the pace on animal welfare, with his support, for which I am grateful.

There are sensitivities on both sides—from a welfare perspective and a respecting religious freedom perspective— which we have to navigate our way through. This is an important debate, and the points that my hon. Friend the Member for Camborne and Redruth made in his well-considered speech must be taken into account. He mentioned New Zealand. I recently met one of the New Zealand Ministers of Agriculture, and we discussed this subject. I am aware that New Zealand has a quality assurance programme for halal, which we can look into. Some people suggested that Australia has a similar programme, but there is some non-stunned religious slaughter there in eight abattoirs. The focus should be on what New Zealand has to offer.

Mention was made of whether immediate post-cut stunning should be introduced to improve the welfare of animals killed without prior stunning, but when we look at that we must respect religious views. We are committed to continuing this dialogue and debate. The area that we should focus on, because it brings most people together, is labelling.

Mr Ivan Lewis Hansard
2 Jul 2019, 11:28 a.m.

It is very kind of the Minister to give way. He will understand that there is a great deal of insecurity in the British Jewish community as a consequence of institutional antisemitism in the Opposition party. Will he reassure that community, which feels insecure and anxious, that the Government will under no circumstances ban shechita, which is a central tenet of the Jewish faith, in the United Kingdom?

David Rutley Portrait David Rutley - Hansard
2 Jul 2019, 11:29 a.m.

I assure Muslim and Jewish communities that we respect their freedoms. Through this debate and the roundtable process that we have put in place, we want to balance those religious freedoms with what more can be done to improve the welfare of animals. That is difficult, but not impossible, to juggle. Through dialogue, we can move forward and learn from what has taken place in other countries around the world. It must be done in the unique spirit of co-operation in this country. That should be respected by all parties in this House. I get the sense from this debate that people respect that requirement and the need to look more at animal welfare.

I think that the way forward is to look at these issues, consider the points raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Camborne and Redruth, look at the mechanisms we have got through the roundtable forum that we have created, and move that on. We can focus more on labelling. We must engage with the communities and the industry to see how we can take this further forward. Our exit from the EU will provide an opportunity to do that with more conviction and at greater pace. I am sure that will please the Chair of the EFRA Committee. Thank you for your support in this debate, Mr Rosindell.

Question put and agreed to.

New Covent Garden Market

David Rutley Excerpts
Tuesday 2nd July 2019

(1 year, 2 months ago)

Westminster Hall
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Chris Heaton-Harris Portrait Chris Heaton-Harris - Hansard
2 Jul 2019, 4:13 p.m.

I know that changes at the top of the market authority have been welcomed by the tenants, and that much better conversations are being had now than have been had for many a year, but I do not believe that this is an appropriate way for a public authority to behave.

Additionally, the new draft leases issued by the Covent Garden Market Authority are removing the rights of the wholesale tenants to operate in the critical and traditional way on the bit of the market that everybody loves so much, the buyers walk or trading floor, turning that essential space into a corridor rather than a market. I can honestly tell the Minister that removing that space will almost completely remove the heart, soul and character of the market.

In the new leases, the market authority has also changed the rent negotiation process and general service charge calculations, as it has now declared that it is in fact a commercial landlord. Those actions will inevitably result in many of the smaller companies based at the market closing as the site becomes unaffordable.

Since the whole process started, there have been vast changes in how the market operates. Goods are now mostly chilled instead of being stored at ambient temperatures, and businesses’ being able to unload big lorries, repick orders and deliver in quick time continues to reduce the number of large vehicle movements required on London’s roads. However, that makes the traffic studies more important than most people believe. There is yet to be a traffic study conducted that says the future design of this important food distribution hub for London will work; indeed, all those that have been done, or at least those that are in the public domain, say that it will not. If it does not work, the market will eventually die. All the catering outlets, restaurants and food businesses currently served by the market will not go away; they will simply be catered for by businesses that travel many more miles to get into London, further adding traffic and pollution in this great city of ours.

I do not think we can ignore the facts, stand back and allow the developer and the market authority to build a market that is functionally inoperable. Action must be taken. I hope that the Government have given due consideration to the effect on tenants, businesses and the wider economy if the market were to go into decline or fail altogether. There is no need for that to happen.

I would like to think that the Minister, whose knowledge of and commitment to solving these issues is both impressive and welcome, will continue to ask those on all sides of this debate to come together to find a mutually agreeable and workable solution—all sides meaning the market authority, the tenants, the developer and the Department itself. This needs to be sorted before millions of pounds are wasted in court and one of the most vibrant parts of London’s market culture possibly ceases to be.

David Rutley Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (David Rutley) - Hansard
2 Jul 2019, 4:15 p.m.

It is an honour to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Hollobone. I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Daventry (Chris Heaton-Harris) on securing the debate. I know him well; we have discussed the matter on several occasions, and I could not think of a better person to bring the debate to the Chamber today. I note that the local MP, the hon. Member for Battersea (Marsha De Cordova), is also here and understandably shares many of the same concerns, but I think it is fair to say that, given my hon. Friend’s time spent working at the market, his knowledge and experience are second to none here, so we are delighted that he is with us. It must have been a real privilege for him to follow in his family’s footsteps and run that business so successfully for that period of time.

My hon. Friend can be reassured that the Government are committed to ensuring that this iconic market continues to thrive at Nine Elms, both during the development and into the future. We are in absolute agreement that that means it must be a profitable market that works logistically and operates fairly and transparently for both landlord and tenants, and that we need to get on and build it at pace. I am as concerned as he is about the current situation. It is simply untenable for the market authority and the tenants to be in disagreement on such important details. I am clear that both sides should be spending whatever time it takes to resolve these issues, and quickly.

Marsha De Cordova Portrait Marsha De Cordova - Hansard
2 Jul 2019, 4:17 p.m.

The Minister is absolutely right that the matter needs to be resolved and that we cannot continue like this. The hon. Member for Daventry (Chris Heaton-Harris) has already asked this, but I want to ask it again: will the Minister commit to meeting tenants and the market authority, and any other relevant persons who need to be around the table, to begin to move things forward? I know that he has already had meetings, but we need to get something nailed down to ensure that we can begin to resolve this. As he rightly points out, we must get the market to a place where it is fit for purpose, but that has to be done right.

David Rutley Portrait David Rutley - Hansard
2 Jul 2019, 4:17 p.m.

Of course I will help to facilitate that. As I think the hon. Lady knows, we have already had a roundtable meeting, but we can have more in the future. The next step is to ensure that we have a second meeting of the experts on both sides of the debate to move things forward, but if further facilitation is required, I will do it.

My personal view is that there are enough experts on both sides of the table, both the tenants, who are formidable traders, and the market authority. We must bring the two together with their experts. If I were in charge of the situation, I would probably put the key in a very safe place and let the two sides just get on with it, because, as I will go on to say, this has gone on longer than Brexit and, as complicated as it is, it is not as complicated as that.

Hon. Members here are all speaking with a similar voice. Certainly I, as the Minister responsible for this fantastic and iconic institution, echo the sentiment that we need to get on. These are difficult issues, but they are not insurmountable. It is clear that the market is a national treasure. Anybody who is interested in food only has to go along and see this amazing institution, smell it and soak up the atmosphere, because it is unbelievable.

I am fortunate that my second job, after my newspaper round, was working in a greengrocer’s shop every day after school—except for Wednesday, which was early closing, if anybody remembers that—and then all day Saturday. I was pretty good at stacking the oranges and enjoying the seasonal smells of those russet apples—food at its best. I was fortunate enough then to go on and work in Asda, running its home shopping business, as well as doing various other things in the food sector. The market should be cherished, and anybody wanting to go along should do so at 2 o’clock in the morning, as I was fortunate enough to do myself, just to feel that buzz. There is a huge amount of experience and a wealth of knowledge there, and some fantastic activities going on. It supplies the food—the very best fruit, vegetables and cut flowers available—to London, the south-east and the country.

However, the area needs to be transformed. It has an ageing infrastructure and needs to move to a more modern and flexible place to do business, fit for the 21st century. The old business structures and facilities are 45 years old now, and although my hon. Friend the Member for Daventry looks young—sorry; perhaps I should not have said that, because he has been here a long time—even he would agree that the infrastructure needs to be improved, a bit like the facilities here in Parliament. However, the difference is that although we can decant, that is not possible for the market, given the space constraints.

There are big opportunities at the site, and we want to ensure that the market has a bright future for many generations to come. There are second and third-generation traders there, and it is part of their lives as well as their livelihoods, and we know that it is important for them to be able to carry on that important work. Refurbishing the site was looked at but did not offer good value for money, not least as the infrastructure would have to be replaced at some point in the future anyway, so there was a view that we needed to move on. The fact that the Government chose to invest in the market’s redevelopment is clear evidence of the value we place on it. A far easier option would have been simply to sell the land, but we chose not to do so because of our commitment to the market’s mission and its place in the food economy.

There are challenges for the market authority and the traders alike, and sadly it is not possible to rebuild the busiest wholesale horticultural market in the country while it continues to operate and not expect some disruption for all the players involved. That is unfortunate. It is true that the new market will occupy a smaller site when complete, as my hon. Friend highlighted. Smaller does not mean that it cannot be as profitable and effective in the future—indeed, it is vital that it is—but it does mean that it needs to change, not only in how the market is laid out but in how it operates.

I have every confidence that, working together, the market authority and the tenants can find a way to make sure that the market will thrive in its new design. This is not a question of whether it will work, but how. That means looking at both the operational design of the market and how the tenants operate within it. Between them, the market authority and the tenants—representatives of both are here today; they are outstanding people—know the market better than anyone else and must surely be best placed to solve the issue together.

None of this is insurmountable. An earlier challenge arose when the market authority, in discussion with the tenants, became concerned about how the developers would ensure that construction would not disrupt trading. It responded by stopping construction and insisting on more detailed plans from the developer to tackle this. Construction then recommenced, with work starting on the first of the main new market buildings last October.

All of this, along with some unexpected ground conditions, means that the project will take much longer than anyone envisaged or wanted—possibly up to three years longer. That is hard for the tenants, the market authority and everyone who comes to the market for business or pleasure. However, when things are tough, strong leadership is vital. In February I appointed a new chair of the market authority, and I am delighted that we have, in David Frankish, a chair who truly understands the business of the market, having built his own highly successful business in the food logistics industry. I am in regular dialogue with David and know that he shares my desire to do all that is necessary to resolve the current difficulties. Indeed, I am seeing him again in a week’s time, and we will absolutely focus on his plans to make urgent progress on these issues.

My hon. Friend the Member for Daventry made a number of specific points about logistics that I will respond to in the time available. The market authority tells me that it shared the ARUP report on logistics that he referred to with the tenants association and its solicitors last November. That report was based on a comprehensive new traffic survey that ARUP conducted in December 2017. ARUP also installed automatic traffic counters, which are still in place, to provide an ongoing ability to monitor vehicle flows. The data is continually shared with the tenants association’s own traffic experts, and I recognise that this data is part of the ongoing discussions. I hope that is helping the situation. If it is not, clearly we need to find other ways to share the data and to make it more meaningful.

I also understand that, while the ARUP report raised a number of logistical issues with the final design that needed to be addressed, it did not conclude that the new market would be unviable. The report shortlisted 12 proposals to resolve operational issues. The market authority, in discussion with the tenants, has already adopted some of those, including making changes to road layouts and adding a second exit slip road to provide better operational flexibility at peak times. The market authority advises that none of the other proposals have been dismissed; some will be implemented later on in the redevelopment, and others will need further review, depending on how the market adapts to the changes already made. Although I understand that there is work still to do, it is important to recognise that changes have been made, and that the market authority has the flexibility to continue to adapt the design as the build progresses.

My hon. Friend raised questions about the market authority’s actions as a landlord. Even he indicated that, during his time as a tenant, there were some frictions and tensions, as there often are between landlord and tenant. However, we are committed to running a market that operates as a business and is fair for both the tenants and the landlord. The market authority is a public corporation that operates as a business with a high degree of autonomy from the Government and has a statutory duty to break even. We also need to ensure that taxpayers get a fair return for the public investment in the market.

Clearly the tenant-landlord relationship is a legal one, but it is not just about following the letter of law; it is also about working fairly and transparently together. It is not possible for me to go into the detail of individual tenant’s situations today, but the market authority has sought to assure me that it has worked to move tenants on to new leases in a fair way. Indeed, it has highlighted that, as part of the move, it has offered a landlord compensation package over and above any statutory compensation due, amounting to an equivalent of between three and half and four years’ rent at current levels.

I do not underestimate the complexity of the issues here and the strain that the current situation is putting on relationships. The stakes are high and the frustration is all too evident—again, it sounds a bit like Brexit. I am as disappointed as anyone that the market authority and the tenants have so far failed to reach a shared understanding of how the new market will operate successfully, but surely legal action is not the way to get there. I utterly agree that is a waste of everybody’s time, energy and money—except the lawyers’. I know that my hon. Friend does not want their pockets further lined.

I firmly believe that sitting down together and working through the issues is the only way to find solutions, avoid legal disputes and move on, and there needs to be more of it—more sitting down together, more listening, more communicating, more understanding and absolutely more pace. I am sure that every challenge that this project presents can be overcome by continuous, open and respectful communication and a sincere approach to collaborative working. I am fully committed to helping to make that happen in any way I can, to reiterate the point I made to the hon. Member for Battersea.

The next meeting with traffic experts is planned for 10 July, and DEFRA officials will absolutely be there. I urge both sides to use that meeting to make real progress. They should use the whole day or the rest of the week if needs be—whatever time it takes—but they should not leave that room until they have found ways to move things forward.

We have serious players on both sides, and we all—the market authority, the tenants and absolutely all across Government—want the same thing: a thriving market now and into the future, where logistics work smoothly and both tenants and landlord work together fairly and transparently to create a profitable market where these vital businesses can grow. The best way to secure that is through working constructively together. I know that that is the call that my hon. Friend the Member for Daventry wants to hear, and I think that all of us in the House feel that, so let us get on with it.

Question put and agreed to.

Kew Gardens (Leases) (No. 3) Bill [Lords]

(2nd reading: House of Commons)
David Rutley Excerpts
Monday 24th June 2019

(1 year, 3 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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HM Treasury
Mr Speaker Parliament Live - Hansard

I can inform the House that I have certified the whole Bill in accordance with Standing Order No. 83J, for Jemima, as being within devolved legislative competence and relating exclusively to England.

David Rutley Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (David Rutley) - Parliament Live - Hansard
24 Jun 2019, 4:57 p.m.

I beg to move, That the Bill be now read a Second time.

As the Minister in the House of Commons with responsibility for the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, I am delighted to present a Bill that will provide the ability to grant longer leases on Crown land there, opening new streams of revenue that will support the great British institution and enable it to flourish in the future.

Let me place on record, at the outset, my appreciation of the work of Members in this House—my hon. Friends the Member for Bridgwater and West Somerset (Mr Liddell-Grainger) and for Richmond Park (Zac Goldsmith)—who have promoted similar private Members’ Bills on Kew Gardens. I also note the keen interest of noble Lords in supporting Kew. A similar Bill was promoted by Lord True, and this Bill, before coming to this House, was amended by Lord Whitty so that he and others could be reassured in placing the duty to prevent inappropriate development at Kew unequivocally on the face of the Bill.

Indeed, I think it fair to say that the Bill has already received support from Members on both sides of the other place. Baroness Jones of Whitchurch considered the Bill, and Lord Whitty’s amendment, supported by the Government, provides a double lock on future extended leases. Baroness Kramer and Lord Rooker were pleased that the Bill strengthened the protection of Kew and allowed us to look to a future as distinguished as its proud history.

Kew is a scientific institution of the utmost importance, not only for the United Kingdom but as a global resource—the global resource—for knowledge of plants and fungi. We are facing immense challenges when it comes to the preservation of the natural world, and it is clear that there is an essential role for plants and fungi in that regard.

Stephen Pound (Ealing North) (Lab) Hansard
24 Jun 2019, 4:59 p.m.

The hon. Gentleman talks about Kew being a centre of scientific research. For those of us in west London not blessed with wide open spaces, Kew is a treasure house—an absolute treasure trove of delights. The recent exhibition of Dale Chihuly showed Kew Gardens at its absolute finest. I hope that I speak for everybody on the Opposition Benches when I say we entirely support the hon. Gentleman, but particularly those of us in west London who absolutely love this treasure so close to our hearts.

David Rutley Portrait David Rutley - Hansard
24 Jun 2019, 5:03 p.m.

The hon. Gentleman speaks well for the west London posse. He speaks very assuredly and with great passion as always for Kew Gardens, and we are grateful for that. It is a wonderful institution. I assure him that people not just in west London but across the nation want to visit it, and I hope that that is a boost to the local economy.

We are facing immense challenges in preserving the natural world. Within the challenge it is clear that there is a central role for plants and fungi, and Kew can provide answers about how plants and fungi will help us and our planet not just thrive but survive. Kew is a custodian of world-renowned collections, including the Millennium Seed Bank at Wakehurst and the Herbarium at Kew itself. The restoration and digitisation of the Herbarium will need considerable investment and will make the collection accessible globally.

Kew scientific research leads the world. With more scientists than at any time, its research is crucial in solving the challenges facing humanity today. Kew plays an extraordinary global role, in partnership with scientists, educators and communities, promoting research, education and conservation.

Kew does so much to involve the public, as we have already heard. With over 2 million visits to Kew and Wakehurst each year and around 100,000 pupils on school visits, it is building a wider understanding of plants and fungi and why they matter to us. Across the spectrum of public engagement, Kew is fostering a wider understanding of plants and fungi and why they matter to us.

Kew is not only an extraordinary scientific institution; as visitors and scientists will know, the estate includes many special buildings and structures, more than 40 of which are listed. It is a huge challenge to ensure the maintenance of these structures, which due to their historical nature is undertaken at considerable expense. We have a duty to balance public spending against priorities, and Kew is no exception. In view of Kew’s important role, DEFRA has been able to maintain funding to Kew in cash terms over this spending review period, but a key part of that was to support Kew to develop its other sources of income to deliver its ambitions.

Kew has made great strides in improving its financial sustainability. Kew’s Government grant forms just over one third of its income—37% in the 2017-18 accounts—and its mixed funding model is proving hugely successful, for example by using Government funding to leverage significant philanthropic and grant funding for renovation of the Temperate House, which reopened in 2018. Nevertheless, parts of the Kew estate, including some listed residential buildings near Kew Green, badly need investment to maintain and enhance their condition and enable Kew to realise additional income.

Attracting capital investment to refurbish buildings within the boundaries of Kew is one of the big opportunities available, but the current 31-year limit on leases imposed by the Crown Lands Act 1702 has made this difficult to realise. The Bill will allow leases to be granted on land at Kew for a term of up to 150 years. Longer leases will enable Kew to realise additional income from land and property, and will reduce maintenance liabilities and running costs. The additional income generated will help Kew to achieve its core objectives, maintain its status as a UNESCO world heritage site, and prioritise maintaining and developing its collections as well as improving the quality of its estate.

George Eustice Portrait George Eustice (Camborne and Redruth) (Con) - Hansard
24 Jun 2019, 5:04 p.m.

We all support the work that Kew does and obviously want to support its estate strategy and the funding, but the point my hon. Friend has just made is important. Will he confirm that this is less about income and more about capital receipts? The significance of going to a 150-year lease is that the seven or so residential properties around Kew Green can be sold on a leasehold basis. Kew Gardens is also interested in developing the car park area alongside the Thames.

David Rutley Portrait David Rutley - Hansard
24 Jun 2019, 5:04 p.m.

My hon. Friend speaks from experience; he knows this Bill very well. [Interruption.] Yes, very well. I agree: this is about not just income generation but cost reduction because of the maintenance costs of these properties. It is about getting capital in to help to renovate these important buildings and enable Kew to achieve its wider ambitions, so my hon. Friend is absolutely right. Of course, any development will be restricted by local planning legislation and by Kew’s provenance as a world heritage site. Many protections will be put in place, notwithstanding the need to take forward these renovation works.

The Bill has the full support of Kew’s board of trustees and residents in the Kew area, in particular through the Kew Society. It might be helpful to set out the protections that have already been alluded to, particularly to confirm that the various safeguards that apply now would continue to apply to any lease granted under the Bill.

Kew’s activities are overseen by Kew’s board and by the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs. The Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew is an Executive non-departmental public body and an exempt charity. It is governed by a board of trustees established under the National Heritage Act 1983. As an exempt charity, although the Charity Commission does not regulate it, it must abide by charity law with the Secretary of State as Kew’s regulator for charity purposes. This regulation is co-ordinated between the Charity Commission and the Secretary of State.

To ensure that Kew’s operational arrangements comply with the National Heritage Act and with public and charity law, a framework document exists between Kew and DEFRA to deal with business planning, resource allocation, the appointment of board members and, pertinently, the disposition of land. Thus, at all times in the governance process, the board of Kew, the Secretary of State and DEFRA play a key role in determining the operational management, and will continue to do so in the grant of any lease under this Bill.

The Bill goes further on that point in requiring that, before granting any lease, the Secretary of State must be satisfied that the lease—and anything that the leaseholder is permitted to do with the property under the terms of the lease—would not have any adverse impact on the functions of the board of trustees as set out under the National Heritage Act.

Sir Oliver Heald Portrait Sir Oliver Heald (North East Hertfordshire) (Con) - Hansard
24 Jun 2019, 5:06 p.m.

I note from the remarks of my hon. Friend the Member for Camborne and Redruth (George Eustice) that there might be some question of a car park facility. Will the Minister ensure that, so far as possible, a low-carbon transport policy is developed for Kew? It seems ironic that we would do anything else, and there should clearly be sufficient electric charging points, sufficient public transport and sufficient cycling and walking routes to ensure that this really is genuinely state of the art for the 21st century.

David Rutley Portrait David Rutley - Hansard
24 Jun 2019, 5:07 p.m.

My right hon. and learned Friend makes a good point, and I am sure that these matters will be given due consideration. The car park that may be envisaged in the future would need to comply with planning regulations locally, so these things would have to be considered.

Stephen Pound Hansard
24 Jun 2019, 5:08 p.m.

Will the Minister read into the record a fact that is known to many of us, but perhaps not to every one of the vast number of people paying attention to the debate? Anyone who emerges from the main gate at Kew and strolls less than 100 yards up the road will find themselves at Kew Gardens station, where they can take the elegant District line to almost any place that their heart desires. There is also the London Overground. No one actually needs to drive there. There are three buses that stop there and two tube stations very close by. Would he care to note that for the record?

David Rutley Portrait David Rutley - Hansard
24 Jun 2019, 5:08 p.m.

Noted. The hon. Gentleman is well informed, and I thank him. Of course it makes sense to use sustainable transport whenever possible, particularly when visiting Kew.

Another element of protection that will continue under the Bill is that of Kew’s UNESCO world heritage site status, and other designations that offer protection under the planning system. These will apply to any lease granted under the provisions of the Bill. Once again, the Bill goes further, requiring that before granting any lease the Secretary of State must be satisfied that the lease and anything that the leaseholder is permitted to do with the property under its terms would not have any adverse impact on Kew’s UNESCO world heritage site status.

George Eustice Portrait George Eustice - Hansard

My hon. Friend will be familiar with the fact that it is typical with leasehold properties, particularly flats, for a leaseholder to have an entitlement to extend the lease before it reaches an 80-year cut-off period. With the type of leasehold we are discussing, will it be possible for a leaseholder to continue to extend in the normal way, or will it be a fixed term of 150 years only?

David Rutley Portrait David Rutley - Hansard
24 Jun 2019, 5:09 p.m.

It would be possible to extend the lease in the normal way, except for the fact that a lease would never go beyond 150 years. There are different protections in place because Kew is on Crown land.

It is important to note that the Bill goes further on the UNESCO world heritage site status. Kew was inscribed as a UNESCO world heritage site in 2003 owing to its outstanding universal value as a historic landscape garden and world-renowned scientific institution. As a result, the UK Government, through the Kew board and the Secretary of State, have the ultimate responsibility for ensuring the protection, management, authenticity and integrity of the site. As part of its world heritage site status, Kew has a management plan to show how its outstanding universal value as a property can be served, and that includes protections and mechanisms in the planning system relating to conservation areas in the London boroughs of Richmond and Hounslow.

The Kew Gardens site is also listed as grade I on the Historic England register of park and gardens of special historical interest in England. Much of the Kew site is designated as metropolitan open land, which applies similar protection to that offered to green belt land. Forty-four of the buildings and structures within the site are listed, and Kew is part of an archaeological priority area.

All the protections mean that any building work or alterations to any leased property, including the interior declarations in some cases, would require local planning permission and compliance with the Town and Country Planning Act 1990, the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act 1990, the national planning policy framework, and the Government’s policy for the historic environment.

Finally, of course, conditions would apply to the lease itself. In accordance with the duties that the Kew board and the Secretary of State must carry out, the lease itself, while seeking to be commercial, will include any restrictions that the Secretary of State decides are required—for example, to the extension or change of use to protect Kew, its UNESCO world heritage site status, or to ensure that the functions of the board of trustees under the National Heritage Act 1983 are not interfered with in any way.

As I set out earlier, the Bill disapplies the restriction in section 5 of the Crown Lands Act 1702 in relation to the maximum duration of leases of land at Kew. The Bill will remove the limit of 31 years on leases on land at Kew and apply a maximum of 150 years, bringing Kew into line with the provisions made for the Crown Estate by the Crown Estate Act 1961. The changes provide the ability to grant longer leases on the land. The Bill will not alter the many existing protections in place for Kew and its status as a world heritage site. In fact, the Bill strengthens the protections by formalising the duty of the Secretary of State to uphold them.

All proposals for granting leases are subject to scrutiny and must go through both Kew and DEFRA’s governance and comply with the protections in the planning framework, and in every case the lease itself will contain any restrictions that may be necessary.

The Bill will ensure that Kew’s historic properties are afforded the best protection. It is all about empowering Kew to manage its assets on a sound and sustainable commercial footing to enhance the estate and to pursue its core objectives. Kew’s trustees need the Bill to do what is necessary for the future of this national institution, which is part of our shared global heritage.

The modest dimensions of this two-clause Bill belie its importance in helping to safeguard Kew and its invaluable work. This is an opportunity for us to support Kew’s mission, because enabling Kew to maintain and enhance all parts of its estate will be crucial to its long-term success and to its global role in addressing today’s challenges for plants, fungi and humankind.

Dr David Drew (Stroud) (Lab/Co-op) Parliament Live - Hansard
24 Jun 2019, 5:13 p.m.

I am pleased to be able to speak on Second Reading. The Minister can relax because the Opposition have no intention of dividing the House. In fact, we hope that the Bill gets on its way speedily. I thank him for arranging for me to go to Kew last week. It was the third time that I have managed to get to Kew, which is a haven of peace and a wonderful facility. It is no wonder that it is a UNESCO world heritage site, and we must maintain that status and do everything we can do to improve it.

I welcome my hon. Friend the Member for Midlothian (Danielle Rowley) to the Opposition Front Bench. It is apposite that this debate comes before the debate on the motion relating to climate change. The Labour party believes that climate change must be given greater emphasis both in this place and outside. I hope that my hon. Friend can take part in future debates, but perhaps not this one because it will be fairly short.

Break in Debate

Dr Drew Parliament Live - Hansard
24 Jun 2019, 5:32 p.m.

I haven’t even written my notes yet.

With the leave of the House, I will say a few things. It is important to do so, because various people have made contributions to this whole process over quite a long period. I welcome what not only the hon. Member for Richmond Park (Zac Goldsmith) but my hon. Friend the Member for Ealing North (Stephen Pound) and the hon. Member for Camborne and Redruth (George Eustice) said, because they have all played a part in making sure that we get this Bill into play as a matter of priority.

I have two very quick things to say. First, I hope the Minister will answer some of my questions. I welcome the Government’s commitment to this Bill, because it is important. As I have said, the enthusiasm of the staff at Kew took me aback. It made me realise how much people care for this institution. Secondly, I hope that we will now be able to move forward with some of the other business that needs to come back to this place, such as the Agriculture Bill, the Fisheries Bill, and, dare I say it, the environment Bill, which should be an environment and climate change Bill.

David Rutley Portrait David Rutley - Parliament Live - Hansard
24 Jun 2019, 5:33 p.m.

With the leave of the House, I will respond to the debate. Indeed, it is my pleasure and privilege to do so. I think there was one other Bill that the hon. Member for Stroud (Dr Drew) had in mind as well.

Dr Drew Parliament Live - Hansard

The Bill on animal sentience—I could throw that in there as well.

David Rutley Portrait David Rutley - Parliament Live - Hansard
24 Jun 2019, 5:34 p.m.

There we go. As the hon. Gentleman knows, I am a reasonable man, and I am trying my best to move forward with this legislation. With support from the Opposition, Government Members and those across the House, we are making progress. Hopefully we can make more.

The hon. Gentleman is right to say that it is appropriate to hold the Bill’s Second Reading ahead of the climate change debate. I wish to join him in welcoming the hon. Member for Midlothian (Danielle Rowley) to her place. It is also good to see my hon. Friend the Minister for Energy and Clean Growth in his place for what will be another important speech.

I want to respond to many of the points made in the debate. With characteristic enthusiasm and passion, the hon. Member for Ealing North (Stephen Pound) has persuaded people at Kew in no time at all that it is entirely appropriate for a group of MPs to come along. They would indeed like to extend that invitation to Members here, so I hope that he can join us on that occasion. It is rare for our suggestions to be put into action so quickly, but the hon. Gentleman has managed it.

My right hon. and learned Friend the Member for North East Hertfordshire (Sir Oliver Heald) mentioned low-carbon transport. Kew’s transport policy is, of course, not within the scope of the Bill, but we will pass on his comments to people there. My hon. Friend the Member for Camborne and Redruth (George Eustice) talked about extending the leases; I responded by saying that leaseholders could apply to replace the original lease with a new one of no more than 150 years. The hon. Member for Stroud also asked which properties would be included.

My hon. Friend the Member for Richmond Park (Zac Goldsmith) made a very important speech; I say a huge thank you to him for his remarkable work and support for Kew over the years. He also does a huge amount on the wider debate about biodiversity and climate change, for which many Members—not least DEFRA Ministers—are extremely grateful.

Of the properties that we are talking about today, five are currently let on a one-year lease following renovation work, partly funded by a loan, and two are unoccupied and require substantial renovation to bring them up to a habitable condition or make them fit to become office accommodation. In the first instance, Kew would like to focus on that portfolio of properties, particularly the unoccupied properties. That portfolio can itself generate a capital sum or remove liability for renovation or maintenance works—a cost avoidance of about £15 million over a 10-year period.

The hon. Member for Stroud also asked about funding and what would be done with it. The Government’s intention is for Kew to receive the income to support its mission, including investment in its infrastructure and the quality of the world heritage site itself. Although I cannot prejudge the outcome of the forthcoming spending review, the importance of Kew’s mission and of securing the institution’s future means that my Department will be working closely with Kew to put forward the strongest possible case. That includes significant investment in digitising Kew’s herbarium collection, which the hon. Gentleman called for and which my hon. Friend the Member for Richmond Park said was so important, so that it can be conserved securely and be globally available.

Kew’s work is vital for our biodiversity and in tackling climate change. The hon. Gentleman can be assured that we will push hard to get the right funding for these tasks. It is vital that we get behind that work and further support Kew, because it is a global centre of knowledge about plants and fungi, and that should never come under any question. Given my remarks, I hope that the hon. Gentleman and other Members will be assured that we are in this for the long term. We need Kew to thrive and survive, and the Bill will help it do just that.

I hope that Members are now fully aware of the necessity of the Bill and the benefit that it will bring to the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, and the wider role played by Kew generally. I also hope that hon. Members feel reassured that proposals under any new lease will be subject to scrutiny by trustees, the Secretary of State and through the planning process with the local planning authority, as well as being in line with Kew’s world heritage site management plan.

It is an honour to have participated in this debate. We care passionately about Kew, and we are grateful to the team there for their important work—I think everybody would echo that—and for their sheer enthusiasm.

Stephen Pound Hansard

Long may they flourish!

David Rutley Portrait David Rutley - Hansard

Long may they flourish, grow and prosper—absolutely. Their enthusiasm is infectious, and we are grateful for it. We want them to continue to succeed in the work they do. I hope the Bill will continue to make positive progress through Parliament, so that we can take this work forward.

Madam Deputy Speaker (Dame Eleanor Laing) - Hansard

Thank you.

Pet Identification

David Rutley Excerpts
Monday 17th June 2019

(1 year, 3 months ago)

Westminster Hall
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HM Treasury
Dr David Drew (Stroud) (Lab/Co-op) Hansard
17 Jun 2019, 5:39 p.m.

I am delighted to serve under your chairmanship, Sir Roger. I know that if you were not in the Chair you would be speaking in the debate, but unfortunately you have to keep mum. I hope we have done enough, and that you feel our representations have fully covered the matter.

The issue has been covered well, with excellent speeches from my hon. Friends the Members for Plymouth, Sutton and Devonport (Luke Pollard) and for Heywood and Middleton (Liz McInnes), and a number of interventions, including from my hon. Friend the Member for Bury North (James Frith), and my right hon. Friend the Member for Cynon Valley (Ann Clwyd). I should expect nothing else, as a fellow cat lover. The hon. Member for Strangford (Jim Shannon), who is as expert on this subject as on everything else, also contributed, and there were interventions from the hon. Member for Aberdeen South (Ross Thomson). I thank the hon. Member for Linlithgow and East Falkirk (Martyn Day) for introducing the debate. He covered nearly all the issues, and what he did not cover was dealt with comprehensively by the hon. Member for North Ayrshire and Arran (Patricia Gibson), so I am left with an unenviable task: there is nothing for me to say because it has all been said. However, I want to give some personal witness, and to make an offer to the Minister.

I shall start with the offer. As has been said, the change in question is a small amendment to the Road Traffic Act 1988. I thank Battersea, Blue Cross and Cats Protection for giving us full briefings. The amendment would insert the word “cat” into the list of animals in section 170(8) of the 1988 Act. On behalf of the Opposition, I make the offer to the Government to help them in doing that. We will play no politics in any way, and will just get the amendment in place. I do not know whether the change could be made by statutory instrument. That would be good, but we are willing to work with the Government. It would be a minor change, but an important one, which is why we are here.

The petition was signed by more than 100,000 people. For those who have had the experiences we have heard about, it is emotional. To give personal witness, I have had three cats that were knocked down: Wolfie, Tiggy and Darcy. The first and third I had to go and find myself, and the second was found and taken to the local vet. All my cats are microchipped. We were able to bury Tiggy’s ashes in the garden after he was incinerated. It is a very emotional thing. At any one time I have five cats using the catflaps in my house, and I think there are more, as we are generous with the amount of food we put out. I am a cat lover. To declare an interest, I am secretary of the all-party parliamentary group on cats—it is good to see my fellow member, the hon. Member for North Ayrshire and Arran, here. The group is not necessarily very political, but in one respect the issue is political, because we are asking the Government to change the law. The change we seek would be limited, but we hope that, if nothing else, it will mean that people can say goodbye to their animal if it is knocked over and dies. Alternatively, if an animal is injured, hopefully something might be done to safe its life.

I will go on to my hobby-horse—although not for long—about what happens when someone knocks an animal over. Accidents happen, but most are preventable. It is purely bad driving. People drive far too fast and therefore they are responsible. My view of driving has always been that it is a privilege rather than a right. This is nothing to do with cats, but it is pertinent. There are a number of commons in my constituency, and every year cows and horses are put on to them. The Minister will know the reason for that: it is the only way to keep the grass down and maintain the quality of biodiversity on very important commons. Every year 10 to 12 cattle or horses are knocked down. If someone hits one of those animals it will not do a lot of good to their vehicle, let alone to them, but it is because they have been driving too fast. The other day at dusk I was going at about 15 to 20 mph, because it was difficult to see. Two idiots went past me doing at least 40 mph or 50 mph. They would not have had a chance of avoiding a cow or horse. It makes you think, “What planet are these people on?” Sadly, the owner of such an animal has to deal with the carcase, as it is usually dead. It is even worse if it is dying, as a vet has to be got to euthanise the animal painlessly. I do not understand why people do not see that it is their responsibility if they knock over an animal. I would widen that view to include wild animals, given the number of badgers, foxes and so on that get killed. If someone hits an animal, it is dangerous to them as well as the animal. A lot of road accidents are caused by people driving far too fast and then hitting something.

We are talking about cats. Most are somebody’s pet and really important to that person. People know when they have hit something. I am sorry, but it is not explicable by saying “Oh, I didn’t realise I hit it.” People should always stop and think, “Maybe they did run out. Maybe I had no chance. I hit them, and I therefore at least have to do something about it.” It is a criminal offence if someone hits a dog and does not report it. If their number is taken, they can be dealt with. We have put that into law. I ask the Minister, with the best of intentions: can we just include cats? Cats are, next to dogs, probably the second most popular pet. There are also many feral cats, which probably increase the numbers dramatically. That is why I am in favour of neutering, and have always done things in the past to encourage those campaigns. Certainly, Cats Protection will always neuter cats, usually for free, if people bring them along. That is why I also believe in microchipping. I support the hon. Member for North Ayrshire and Arran in her view that microchipping should be compulsory, because we want to control cat numbers. That is right and appropriate.

We recognise that people who have a pet have a responsibility, but so do others who, perhaps in a genuine accident, knock an animal over. They should report it and ensure that the person who has undergone that loss can at least know what happened to the animal. The worst thing possible is when someone’s animal has gone missing and they do not know for days, or sometimes weeks, what has happened. There have been good cases when animals have been lost for 10 years or more and suddenly returned, although those involve very strange circumstances.

I ask the Minister in good faith whether we can make the proposed change. It may not be easy, but I hope that it could be done through secondary legislation. If it is put on the agenda, we will genuinely support it. I make that commitment. There will not be any funny games: we will not suddenly say, “We’re going to include other animals.” Let us keep it to cats. That is what the petition is about. That is what people want us to do.

I hope that the Minister will say some good things. At the moment, the Government have not committed to microchipping, as they should, for the reasons I have given, or to including cats in the list of animals that should be reportable if knocked over. It is not much to ask. Most people are horrified if they knock an animal over. Sadly, there are those who seem rather indifferent, but they should not be driving anyway, in my opinion, because they are a danger. It could be a child—that is the repercussion. We know how dangerously some people drive, and I am always mystified by how few people are banned at any one time, given how many people I see when I cycle around who seem to drive incredibly badly, and to be indifferent. We have to deal with that issue, but the debate today is on a narrower issue and we are talking about cats. If someone knocks a cat over, they should have to report it. They should deal with it, because that is the right and humane thing to do.

David Rutley Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (David Rutley) - Hansard
17 Jun 2019, 5:49 p.m.

Sir Roger, I know that you have a real and sincere interest in this subject, so it must be difficult for you to sit in the Chair during the debate, but we know that you are with us in spirit and want to improvements to be made in this area.

This has been an important and fascinating debate. I have learned more about the names of hon. Members’ cats than I ever thought I needed to; we have heard of Muffin, Misty and Porridge, but the name that takes the biscuit, and definitely the creativity award, is Bumblesnarf. It is good to hear that we have a good posse of cat lovers here among us.

It is true that cats are cherished members of our families, bringing joy to homes up and down the country, so I understand the distress caused when they become lost or injured, or get hit by a vehicle. We have heard some harrowing stories today about the sense of loss and the need for closure from the hon. Member for Linlithgow and East Falkirk (Martyn Day), who gave a fantastic speech to open the debate. The hon. Member—I should say the omnipresent Member—for Strangford (Jim Shannon) talked about how sad it is to see lost cat posters around and families trying to find their lost ones. My hon. Friend the Member for Aberdeen South (Ross Thomson) spoke of the need to take care of the needs of families and not just the animals.

I thank the Petitions Committee for giving us the opportunity to discuss the important subject of cat welfare, specifically the scanning of cats killed in road accidents. As I said, the hon. Member for Linlithgow and East Falkirk did an excellent job opening the debate. I too will take the opportunity to thank Cats Protection, the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, Battersea Dogs & Cats Home, Blue Cross and the scores of other organisations that provide care for cats in all circumstances. These organisations, with the help of dedicated volunteers, do everything they can to reunite and rehome cats in need.

I commend the petitioners, Helena Abrahams and the others who have been so involved with the petition, as the hon. Member for Bury North (James Frith) set out in his early interventions—or perhaps I should say contributions—to the debate, on drawing attention to the importance of the scanning of cats and through that the importance of cats being microchipped. Like many Members of this House, I am sure, I was particularly taken with the examples from the Gizmo’s Legacy team and the terrible accounts of cats killed in road accidents or lost for one reason or another. The hon. Member for Heywood and Middleton (Liz McInnes) talked about the strong support for the petition in her constituency, and of course, north Manchester is not far from Macclesfield, where I live.

In many cases, owners have been unable to discover the fate of their beloved pet, and I understand that that serves to compound their distress. I agree that local councils and their contractors should do everything they can to identify the dead pets that they come across and, where possible, notify their owners so that they are not left in a sorry state of suspense—or worse.

The issues raised in the petition on cats and road vehicles have been the subject of several recent debates in this House, not least the debate in December brought by my hon. Friend the Member for Gillingham and Rainham (Rehman Chishti), whose work championing the cause of cats I wholeheartedly commend. He was also able to raise the subject at Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs oral questions on 28 March when the Secretary of State—a cat owner himself—said very clearly, in relation to my hon. Friend’s private Member’s Bill, which we have just discussed, “Bring it on.” Some people might call that making policy on the paw—

Dr Drew Hansard
17 Jun 2019, 5:53 p.m.

Very good.

David Rutley Portrait David Rutley - Hansard
17 Jun 2019, 5:53 p.m.

—but I agree with him. We must do all we can to improve cat welfare. The benefits of microchipping are well known; that is why I am planning to issue, when I can, a call for evidence on making cat microchipping compulsory. It will be an important step forward for much-loved cats across the country. I hope that the petitioners and hon. Members here—not least the hon. Member for the beautiful constituency of North Ayrshire and Arran (Patricia Gibson), who made a compelling speech, the hon. Member for Plymouth, Sutton and Devonport (Luke Pollard) and the ever-present hon. Member for Stroud (Dr Drew)—will recognise it as an important step that we must take.

Over 107,000 people have signed the petition, which is a reminder of just how well loved our pets are in this country and of how important their welfare is to us. I am pleased to explain the Government’s response to key aspects raised by the petition in more detail. While the petition itself does not specifically call for compulsory microchipping of cats, in common with many animal welfare charities we recognise that microchipping is the key method for identifying a pet and linking it to its owner. On that basis, the Government recommend that any owner should microchip their cat to increase the chances of its being reunited with them if it gets lost. That is also strongly advocated by Cats Protection and other welfare organisations.

In April 2018, we updated the statutory cat welfare code with the welcome collaboration of Cats Protection and others. The code now emphasises the benefits of microchipping cats specifically, and I encourage cat owners everywhere to consider the benefits of microchipping, which can be obtained for a modest fee. In fact, microchipping can even be obtained free of charge: Blue Cross provides free microchipping services at its animal rehoming centres, hospitals and clinics, and other welfare charities do likewise. The hon. Member for Strangford, who often contributes to debates on animal welfare, talked about the Assisi Animal Sanctuary in Northern Ireland, where microchipping is provided free in certain circumstances. That is an important step.

Microchipping technology has greatly improved the chances of lost pets being reunited with their owners. For a relatively small, one-off cost of around £25—or, as I have mentioned, in some cases free of charge—people can have confidence that their beloved pet could be identified if it were lost. As the head of cattery at Battersea Dogs & Cats Home, Lindsey Quinlan, said, while the microchipping procedure is short and simple,

“the return on their value is immeasurable”.

The Government’s statutory cat welfare code therefore promotes microchipping on two grounds. First, micro- chipping gives cats the best chance of being identified when lost; secondly, and just as important, a lost cat that has a microchip is more likely to receive prompt veterinary treatment. In this way, microchipping ensures that cats are protected from pain, suffering, injury and disease, as required by the Animal Welfare Act 2006.

I am grateful to Cats Protection for its support in developing the cat welfare code. DEFRA officials remain engaged and are seeking additional opportunities to promote the benefits of cat microchipping. I intend to work closely with Cats Protection on this, which is why I met the organisation in January to explore how the Government can support this important work. Working with Cats Protection and the wider sector through the Canine and Feline Sector Group, the Government will further strengthen and protect the welfare of cats in this country.

It is because of success stories such as those we have heard today that I am so delighted that the proportion of cats that are microchipped has grown in recent years. Recent figures from the People’s Dispensary for Sick Animals show that 68% of cats are now microchipped, up from 46% in 2011. However, a saddening statistic from a recent survey by Cats Protection suggests that the majority of the cats taken to their adoption centres in the past three years were not microchipped.

Compulsory dog microchipping was introduced in England through secondary legislation in 2016, due to the public safety risk posed by stray dogs as well as the propensity for dogs to stray or get lost. Compulsory microchipping for dogs has been a real success, with a recognised reduction in stray and lost pets as a result, as the Dog’s Trust’s annual “Stray Dog Survey” can attest. That does not mean that cat welfare is less important than dog welfare; as I mentioned, I plan to issue a call for evidence on compulsory cat microchipping as soon as possible and to encourage its uptake even further.

Turning to the key aspect of the petition, the question of compulsory scanning, I recognise how painful it is to lose a pet and not to know what has happened. Under the Road Traffic Act 1988, there is a requirement for drivers to stop and report accidents involving certain working animals, as has already been discussed, including cattle, horses and dogs. As I understand it, adding cats would require primary legislation, which would be the primary responsibility of the Department for Transport, which is the lead Department. However, the highway code requires drivers to report accidents involving any animal to the police, which can help many owners to be notified if their cats are killed on roads. The Blue Cross briefing for this debate clarifies the case for cats well:

“Dogs are required by law to be kept under control i.e. on a lead, therefore, RTAs involving dogs can be investigated by the police to determine whether the owner has broken the law. As cats are legally allowed to roam freely, the owner is not committing an offence.”

There are additional responsibilities for dog owners:

“Legally speaking, dogs are also considered more likely to cause damage to a vehicle, requiring the driver to report the details to the police to establish liability.”

There are differences between cats and dogs and their behaviours. Nevertheless, I am pleased that it is established good practice for local authorities to scan any dog or cat found on the streets, so that the owner can be informed. That is often included as a requirement in street cleaning contracts, as it should be. However, I realise from the information provided by the petitioners and champions of Gizmo’s Legacy that some councils may not be following this established good practice, so I will take this up with the Under-Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government, my hon. Friend the Member for Richmond (Yorks) (Rishi Sunak). We need to agree how to encourage local authorities to work together, to promote best practice in this area, and to ensure that dead cats are scanned so that owners can be informed of their tragic loss. I will also write to the Local Government Association to set out my concerns and to seek assurances on increased adherence to the guidance.

Cats Protection found, through freedom of information requests, that 80% of respondent councils in England scan animals involved in road traffic accidents for a microchip. However, given the debate we have had, I think it is important that we have a more consistent appreciation of and approach towards this. The right hon. Member for Cynon Valley (Ann Clwyd)—[Interruption.] I always get that one wrong; Hansard will correct it. However, what I do not get wrong is my recognition of her absolute commitment to cat welfare, and animal welfare more generally. I hope she realises that we want to take action in this area and make further progress.

Highways England has clear guidelines for contractors to follow when they find a deceased cat or dog on the national road network. This process is designed with owners in mind, giving them the best chance of being informed that the incident has occurred, and is laid out in the network management manual. I am delighted to say that, in 2015, the necessary arrangements were made in all Highways England contracts for cats and dogs killed on the strategic road network to be collected and identified and for their owners to be contacted, including retrofitting the network management manual so that both cat and dog fatalities are collected and identified where possible. This area is the responsibility of the Department for Transport, so following the debate, I will work with the Minister of State, Department for Transport, my hon. Friend the Member for Northampton North (Michael Ellis), to explore what more the Government will do to ensure that guidance is being followed and what more can be done to help owners to know the fate of their beloved cats.

The hon. Member for Stroud makes a really important point: there is a huge responsibility on all of us who drive cars to consider our speed, because of the danger excessive speed poses not only to other humans but to animals. That point was incredibly well made. A centralised database was also mentioned. We already have a broadly unified microchipping system in the UK: there are 12 data-bases that meet the requirements of separate regulations in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, and we already have working systems that operate together and talk to each other. We can explore that more, but I wanted to reassure colleagues that there are databases that serve the function that we are concerned about today.

I think we all agree that we have had a truly interesting debate. There is clearly considerable sadness when a family pet is killed, and I understand that owners simply want to know what has happened, so that they are not haunted by the possibility that a missing pet might one day return. It is right that we do all we can to encourage local authorities and others to scan the fallen pets that they find, and I will work with colleagues across Government to see what more we can do to promote and encourage good practice in this area.

Dr Drew Hansard

Can these changes be made by secondary legislation, or do we need to change that Act?

David Rutley Portrait David Rutley - Hansard
17 Jun 2019, 6:04 p.m.

I made inquiries on the basis of the points that the hon. Gentleman and others made during the debate. I understand it would need to be through primary legislation; I made the point about adding cats to that Act.

Compulsory microchipping has also been highlighted, and I am taking the first steps forward on that with a call for evidence. I hope that hon. Members, despite their broader concerns, see that we are committed to taking action here. That will be a hugely important step forward, showing our intentions and sending a clear signal to local authorities that more needs to be done, not least in Scotland; if I was in the Scottish Government I would be trembling in my boots waiting for the hon. Member for North Ayrshire and Arran to intervene and take further action there. However, we will take these actions forward, as I discussed.

The Government’s record on animal welfare is strong, and we will continue in that vein. We have a strong commitment to introduce increased maximum penalties for animal cruelty—I am working at the highest levels to move that further forward—and to look closely at the regulation of animal rescue and rehoming centres. As always in the debates we have had over recent months, I recognise the degree of cross-party support for the action being taken. It is because of that that we are able to take much of this legislation forward, and as the hon. Member for Stroud will agree, there is more to do.

We have already introduced stronger animal welfare controls on dog breeding and the sale of pets, including on the breeding and commercial sale of cats. The implementation of Lucy’s law, which bans the third-party sale of puppies and kittens, followed hot on the heels of Government support for Finn’s law, which protects service animals. The Government are committed to protecting and enhancing the welfare of animals, including cats, and we will continue to build on our progress in the coming months and years, hopefully on a cross-party basis like we have seen in recent months.

Martyn Day Portrait Martyn Day - Hansard
17 Jun 2019, 6:06 p.m.

It has been a pleasure to take part in today’s debate. We have had a broad range of speakers from across the House, all showing a consensual approach—a very important point to emphasise. The request from the petitioners is for a simple legislative change, moving good practice on scanning into law, and it would be readily achievable. I welcome very much the comments that the Minister made and the commitment to move forward on microchipping, but I hope that he can make progress with the Minister responsible for local government on the scanning issue, too. I will be supporting my hon. Friend the Member for North Ayrshire and Arran (Patricia Gibson) in pushing for Scotland to do that as well. There is a lot of positive work there.

Much has been said about microchipping. We heard from a number of organisations before today’s debate that of the cats being presented for rehoming, between 61% and 80% have not been chipped and many others have chip details that are out of date, so there is a lot of work that we need to do. The Minister’s comments will help us to move in the right direction, and I am very grateful for that; this really needs to be done.

I had a look at the DogLost site and saw a cat that was the spitting image of mine—albeit in a completely different area—so it would be easy to mistake one cat for another, but chipping removes the uncertainty. Blue Cross has given us details of a very positive case, and I have spoken about a lot of death today, so I would like to end on a positive note. Blue Cross says that Harry the cat was reunited with his family, after being missing for 10 years, because he had a microchip. That shows that it really does pay to get one.

Question put and agreed to.

Resolved,

That this House has considered e-petition 229004 relating to the identification of pets.

Animals

David Rutley Excerpts
Wednesday 5th June 2019

(1 year, 3 months ago)

Commons Chamber
Read Full debate Read Hansard Text
HM Treasury
David Rutley Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (David Rutley) - Hansard

I beg to move,

That the draft Animal Welfare (Licensing of Activities Involving Animals) (England) (Amendment) Regulations 2019, which were laid before this House on 13 May, be approved.

It is good to be here in the Chamber taking action on animal welfare again, after the Third Reading of the Wild Animals in Circuses Bill yesterday, and I very much appreciate the support of so many hon. Members for that legislation.

The regulations are important because they put in place Lucy’s law. They establish a ban on commercial third-party sales of puppies and kittens under six months of age in England—a ban that has been called for by committed campaigners and that has overwhelming public support. This is a positive step forward in cracking down on unscrupulous breeders and tackling the scourge of puppy smuggling.

Lucy was a Cavalier King Charles spaniel who died in 2016 after suffering terrible conditions on a Welsh puppy farm. Her plight inspired the Lucy’s law campaign, which harnessed widespread support from the public and the animal welfare sector. Dogs such as Lucy are often used by unscrupulous breeders to produce multiple litters of puppies, which are taken from their mothers when just a few weeks old and advertised online or sold in pet shops.

There is not an animal lover in the land who would wish to support this abhorrent profiteering from cruelty, but here is the problem: under current rules, it is difficult for would-be buyers to know whether a seller is a bone fide hobby breeder who raises puppies and kittens in a caring environment, as their advertisement claims, or someone who breeds animals simply as a money-making exercise, without regard for their welfare.

Mr Toby Perkins Portrait Toby Perkins (Chesterfield) (Lab) - Parliament Live - Hansard

Many of my constituents feel strongly that stronger action needs to be taken against the rogue elements among breeders, and there will be a lot of support for the measures that are being brought forward. The Minister is absolutely right about the appalling scenes that we have seen. To what extent does he believe that the steps being proposed will not just make things a little better but end this evil trade once and for all?

David Rutley Portrait David Rutley - Hansard

The hon. Gentleman makes a good point. It is good to see that he has been campaigning hard locally on these issues and supports this campaign and that his constituents feel the same. I can assure him that this legislation will be a material step on. It has been welcomed by charities across the board—I will praise them in a minute for the fantastic work they have been doing—which feel assured that the proposals will not only crack down on unscrupulous breeders but be a positive step against puppy smuggling.

Sir Peter Bottomley (Worthing West) (Con) - Parliament Live - Hansard

Following on from the Minister’s proper remark about positive steps, does he agree that those who adopt rescue animals—dogs and cats, but particularly dogs—deserve a great round of applause because they are not only fulfilling their own needs but helping to provide a proper home to an animal that would otherwise be mistreated or abandoned?

David Rutley Portrait David Rutley - Parliament Live - Hansard
5 Jun 2019, 3:29 p.m.

That is absolutely right. This legislation means that people will be able to buy puppies directly from a breeder or from a rehoming centre. It is vital to recognise that those who bring a rehomed puppy or kitten into their home are really looking after the welfare of that animal. Their efforts should absolutely be praised, and I am pleased that my hon. Friend has done that today.

The activities of these unscrupulous breeders are bad for buyers and also bad for the countless good breeders in this country whose reputations and businesses are at risk when the actions of others less decent than themselves threaten the integrity of the sector overall. That is why we are taking action today, just like we did yesterday.

I would like to thank the brilliant campaigners and animal lovers who have helped to bring this positive change before the House today. The Lucy’s law campaign has been championed by vet and campaigner Marc Abraham and his fellow campaigners at Pup Aid. Lucy’s law is supported tirelessly by organisations big and small, including the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, Mayhew, Cats Protection, Battersea Dogs and Cats Home, and the Dogs Trust, all of which do so much to strengthen animal welfare across the country. I should also highlight the important work and support of the all-party parliamentary group on dog welfare so ably chaired by the hon. Member for East Kilbride, Strathaven and Lesmahagow (Dr Cameron), who is in her place.

This decision to ban third-party sales of puppies and kittens followed a call for evidence in a public consultation that received over 6,500 responses, of which no fewer than 96% supported the proposal. The call for evidence was launched in response to an e-petition that called for a ban on the sale of puppies by pet shops and other third parties. The petition received over 148,000 signatures and triggered a debate in the House on 21 May 2018. This further demonstrates how Parliament and this Government can respond to public concerns.

Mrs Anne Main (St Albans) (Con) Hansard
5 Jun 2019, 3:30 p.m.

Does my hon. Friend agree that we also have to stamp down on those who steal puppies to order? Many puppies are taken from outside people’s houses, outside shops and the like simply because there is a market for them. This measure makes the market more regulated, and that can only be applauded.

David Rutley Portrait David Rutley - Hansard

I thank my hon. Friend, who makes another really good point. Absolutely—this will help in that dimension, but there is also more that we need to do to make people more aware of where they are sourcing their puppies from. We need to do more to tackle puppy theft and dog theft. We will be working on that with various campaigners in the months ahead.

Ann Clwyd (Cynon Valley) (Lab) Hansard
5 Jun 2019, 3:31 p.m.

Everyone involved in the tough grassroots campaigning that took over 10 years to reach this point should be congratulated. I would particularly like to congratulate people in my constituency who worked very hard to get to this point. Will the hon. Gentleman confirm that at the moment Wales is not included in this measure? Does he expect the Welsh Government to follow suit very quickly in doing a similar thing?

David Rutley Portrait David Rutley - Hansard
5 Jun 2019, 3:32 p.m.

I thank the right hon. Lady for her point. I will come on to what happens in the devolved Administrations. It is fair to say, however, that the Welsh Government are now considering their response to the three-month consultation. I praise her local campaigners for their hard work. It does take time to get these changes through, but I am pleased to say that in the space of a couple of days we are taking really tough action, on a cross-party basis, to move the agenda forward on animal welfare.

This statutory instrument implements Lucy’s law by making an amendment to the parent regulations—the Animal Welfare (Licensing of Activities Involving Animals) (England) Regulations 2018. The commercial sale of pets is already a licensable activity. The amendment means that licensed pet sellers, including pet shops and dealers, will no longer be able to sell puppies or kittens under the age of six months unless they themselves have bred the animals. Alongside the public consultation, a draft regulatory triage assessment was published. This legislation does not require a full impact assessment as the net estimated impact falls significantly below the necessary threshold of £5 million.

The ban will enter into force on 6 April 2020. The additional time before the ban coming into force will allow the sector to prepare. If the ban is rushed, it may encourage abandonment of puppies or their breeding mothers, or other unscrupulous activity. This approach is being supported by welfare groups and campaigners. Once it is enforced, the best place to buy or adopt a puppy or kitten will be directly with the responsible breeder or through one of the country’s many animal rehoming centres.

This Government have shown that we take animal welfare very seriously.

Mr Toby Perkins Portrait Toby Perkins - Parliament Live - Hansard

The Minister is absolutely right to publicise and to put on record how many excellent, responsible breeders there are out there. There have been occasions in the past where Governments have legislated for all the right reasons but ended up creating nightmares for some of the smaller organisations, in particular. What representations has he had on this, and how much can he reassure us that the legislation, as well as being robust, is sufficiently well drafted that it will not create unintended consequences for responsible smaller breeders?

David Rutley Portrait David Rutley - Hansard
5 Jun 2019, 1:09 p.m.

That is a good point. I think the hon. Gentleman will also recognise that when the regulations to which he is referring were introduced last year, the Department took a step back, listened to the concerns and addressed them. We have learned from that and worked closely with a number of welfare groups to ensure that the regulations before us are in a really good state, and we have time ahead of 6 April 2020 to ensure that they are fully worked through.

This instrument will help to address a number of welfare concerns associated with puppies and kittens bought and sold by third parties. Those concerns include the early separation of animals from their mothers, unnecessary journeys at a young age from breeder to pet shop, the sale of puppies and kittens at inappropriate commercial premises, and unscrupulous breeders who are associated with third-party sales. The ban will help to tackle the blight of puppy smuggling, and it will also help the public to make more informed and responsible choices when sourcing a puppy or kitten. It will build on the new licensing regulations, which came into force in October 2018 and introduced a range of welfare improvements for dog breeding and pet sales.

Comprehensive statutory guidance underpins the 2018 regulations, and it was produced by the sectors concerned under the auspices of the Canine and Feline Sector Group. The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs is updating the statutory guidance on the activity of selling animals as pets, to take account of this ban on third-party sales. The changes are intended to assist local authority inspectors and licence holders by clarifying that non-commercial rehoming of puppies and kittens does not require a licence and requiring local authorities to notify existing licence holders of the change, so that they can prepare appropriately.

The guidance also outlines how to determine whether a licence holder bred the puppies and kittens they offer for sale, which is very important. A licence holder should be able to provide supporting evidence such as photographs, microchips and veterinary records to show that they housed and cared for the animal and its mother for the first eight weeks of its life, as well as the licence itself. The draft guidance has been shared with the sector, and we intend to finalise it well before the ban comes into force in April 2020, which I hope addresses the concerns raised by the hon. Member for Chesterfield (Toby Perkins).

This statutory instrument applies to England only because the parent regulations apply to England only. Animal welfare is a fully devolved issue, and respective parts of the United Kingdom have slightly different approaches to the licensing of pet sellers and other animal activities. I understand that a three-month consultation was recently concluded on banning third-party sales in Wales, and the Welsh Government are now considering those responses, which is good news. In Northern Ireland, Members of the Legislative Assembly have shown support for a similar ban to be introduced, and officials in the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs are following developments in England closely. Scotland has committed to reform the licensing of sanctuaries, breeders and pet shops and is considering a ban on third-party sales.

Chris Davies (Brecon and Radnorshire) (Con) Hansard
5 Jun 2019, 1:09 p.m.

I thank my hon. Friend for introducing this excellent piece of legislation. He mentioned Wales. The Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee visited a puppy farm in Wales about three years ago—I am sure that the Chair of the Committee, my hon. Friend the Member for Tiverton and Honiton (Neil Parish), will touch on this—and it changed my mind on puppy farming. It was very disappointing to see that dogs could not be dogs. Could the Minister speak to the Welsh Government, to ensure that the information he has gleaned is shared with them and they can reach the same conclusion as us?

David Rutley Portrait David Rutley - Parliament Live - Hansard

I know that a lot is going on to share best practice and experience among the devolved Administrations, and I will ensure that that takes place. I am sure that there is an active dialogue. There certainly has been a very active dialogue in preparing the many SIs related to EU exit, so those relationships have been formed. It makes absolute sense, because in some areas Scotland is slightly ahead of us, and in this area we will be slightly ahead of other devolved Administrations. We do not want to have an animal welfare race, but we certainly want to ensure that we learn from this experience, because it is about the welfare of very important and much loved animals. My hon. Friend makes a good point, and we will follow that up.

The ban on commercial third-party sales of puppies and kittens is an important step towards further improving welfare standards to ensure that our beloved pet dogs and cats have the best start in life. This Government are committed to protecting and enhancing the welfare of animals, and this statutory instrument is another step in delivering on these commitments. For the reasons I have set out, I commend this statutory instrument to the House.

Dr David Drew (Stroud) (Lab/Co-op) Hansard
5 Jun 2019, 3:40 p.m.

I am delighted to be able to take part in this short debate. The Minister will be relieved that we will not divide the House; in fact, we are very supportive of this measure, and we think its time has come. It has taken a long time to get to this stage, but that does not mean we should in any way undermine how important this bit of legislation is.

I will ask the Minister some questions, because this is one of a number of pieces of legislation that DEFRA is obliged to bring forward, and we are clearly still looking for improvements to sentencing. Dare I say we need a definition of sentience? It is also clear that even rehoming and rescue centres need to be properly defined. I will come on to some of the concerns about that a bit later. As I say, this is only partial legislation, and it has to be made part of much fuller animal welfare legislation.

Today, we will pass this legislation, which is lovingly referred to as Lucy’s law, after the King Charles spaniel that the Minister mentioned. I think it is rather nice that we have given it such a title because that animal was dreadfully abused. It was forced to breed many more times than she should have been and, even worse, the puppies were taken away in the most draconian manner. The petition gained 150,000 signatures, which proves that the British are a nation of animal lovers.

Break in Debate

Neil Parish Portrait Neil Parish - Hansard
5 Jun 2019, 3:59 p.m.

My hon. Friend reinforces exactly the point that I am making: too many puppies will be smuggled in. We are getting tighter at the ports, but we need to get tighter still and have people there. They will come through at different times of the day and night when there is nobody about.

There is another linked issue. Legally, one can go and buy five puppies and bring them in. How many people buy five puppies for themselves? Very few in my estimation. It is a legal loophole. Basically, someone gets a fraudulent form signed by an interesting vet in some other country— I will be diplomatic today, which is unusual for me.

David Rutley Portrait David Rutley - Parliament Live - Hansard
5 Jun 2019, 4 p.m.

Very unusual.

Neil Parish Portrait Neil Parish - Hansard
5 Jun 2019, 4 p.m.

I thank the Minister for that sedentary comment.

Seriously, it is a problem. People can legally bring them in. If someone has a signed certificate from a vet in a particular country, they can bring them in. This could be another bonus from Brexit, dare I say it?

Break in Debate

Dr Lisa Cameron Portrait Dr Lisa Cameron (East Kilbride, Strathaven and Lesmahagow) (SNP) - Parliament Live - Hansard
5 Jun 2019, 4:06 p.m.

It is a privilege to contribute to such an important debate, Madam Deputy Speaker, and to see you in the Chair listening to it, and it is a pleasure to speak about the important legislation known as Lucy’s law. I thank the Minister for his perseverance: a ban on third-party puppy and kitten sales is a momentous achievement. It has been supported overwhelmingly by the public, and it will make a fundamental difference.

Members of the public do not generally go to the dark web or illicit dealers to buy a puppy or a kitten, although they may do so to buy, for instance, drugs or guns. Most people who want to buy a puppy or a kitten want to make sure that it has come from a good place, that it is healthy, and that they are doing the right thing. This law is important because it will close the market for puppy farmers who are doing such a callous job in respect of animal welfare. Puppy smugglers will also take a direct hit, because there will be no legitimate reason for them to bring lots of puppies into the UK when there is no third-party market from which to sell them.

While the law will not close every loophole, it will tackle many of the issues that have been raised today, including third-party sales. Puppy farmers and smugglers survive because people are unaware of the background of pain and suffering and the abhorrent animal cruelty of puppy farms and puppy smuggling, which is masked because the animals are sold through third parties. Public education campaigns are not enough of themselves; they must be reinforced by legislation. It is confusing when people are told, “Always try to see the mother on site with the puppy that you are buying”, while puppies are being sold via the internet and even in motorway service stations, or through other third parties such as pet shops. In those circumstances, people cannot be sure of a puppy’s background, which is often hidden.

I want to thank, in particular, Marc Abraham. “Where’s mum?” is part of the Lucy’s law campaign, and I believe that both Marc and his own mum are here today. He has shown fantastic leadership in this campaign for many years.

It was an absolute privilege for me, as chair of the all-party parliamentary dog advisory welfare group, to launch the Lucy’s law campaign in Parliament in 2017. It has been a tremendous cross-party campaign. He is not here today, but I wanted particularly to mention the hon. Member for Richmond Park (Zac Goldsmith), who has done so much to support the campaign. The public have really taken to it, and I have been described online a number of times as “the dog woman of Westminster”. They have missed out the cats, but I think that I would have to relinquish that title to the hon. Member for Lewes (Maria Caulfield), who chairs the all-party parliamentary group on cats and who looks after their welfare so well.

As I have said, this is a cross-party campaign. Support for it has been led tremendously well by Marc Abraham, and it has also been supported by Peter Egan, our patron at the all-party group. He is a great animal welfare campaigner, as well as being a fantastic actor.

I want to thank Pup Aid, Sarah Clover and People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, or PETA. We have received fantastic support from Ricky Gervais, Rachel Riley, Brian May, Beverley Cuddy at Dogs Today, and many others, including Andrew Penman of the Daily Mail, who has already been mentioned. That is to name just a few, but everybody has come together in Parliament—the public, celebrities and animal welfare campaigners—to make this happen. The legislation will follow in Wales, post-consultation; I really do believe that will happen. As the Minister said, consultation is under way in Scotland on a raft of animal welfare measures and I hope that what I could call “MacLucy’s law” will happen in Scotland very soon.

Today’s events are a tribute to Lucy, the King Charles spaniel who is the eponymous hero of Lucy’s law. She was rescued by the wonderful Lisa Garner. As we have heard, until Lucy was rescued she was kept in a cage for most of her former life until she was no longer able to have puppies and then discarded. Her hips were fused together, her spine was curved, she had bald patches and epilepsy and suffered years and years of mistreatment. She had three good years of love with Lisa Garner but unfortunately died in 2016, and the campaign was launched in Parliament in 2017 in tribute to Lucy.

With Lucy’s law we are working together to look after the “underdog”. We are also looking out for all the dogs behind the scenes in puppy farms, hidden from the public, and their pups, who are often sold at five weeks, which is far too young, with no thought for any care or welfare by those engaged in this horrendous activity.

I thank everybody who has campaigned so hard on this important law and the Minister. Lucy’s law has been very much a cross-party, positive achievement in this Parliament and testifies to the progress in animal welfare legislation in this House.

David Rutley Portrait David Rutley - Hansard
5 Jun 2019, 4:12 p.m.

First, I say once again that it is fantastic to be able to participate in such a positive debate and to make such positive progress. I am grateful for all the contributions made today; they have all been constructive and the questions raised are legitimate. We do need to answer them and I will do my level best to do so.

It is important to correct the record, however. My hon. Friend the Member for Tiverton and Honiton (Neil Parish) said we are “a nation of lovers”; I think in the context of this debate he meant animal lovers. We will leave the other subject for a different day, but we are talking about animal welfare here today. I just want to make sure that is absolutely clear.

It is important that we do not forget the cats. The right hon. Member for Cynon Valley (Ann Clwyd) was very clear about that, as she was in her praise of the tireless campaigners, which the hon. Member for East Kilbride, Strathaven and Lesmahagow (Dr Cameron) did a fantastic job of doing, too.

Bob Stewart Portrait Bob Stewart - Hansard
5 Jun 2019, 4:13 p.m.

Cats, as Winston Churchill said, look down on us, dogs look up at us, but pigs look us in the eye as equals. I just wanted to make that point, as a dog lover more than a cat lover.

David Rutley Portrait David Rutley - Hansard
5 Jun 2019, 4:14 p.m.

Madam Deputy Speaker, I will allow you to decide whether that was in order. My hon. Friend has strayed slightly from the subject of today’s discussion, but as always he educates us on his views, and on those of Winston Churchill.

I cannot get away from cats because a very active member of our private office team is the proud owner of Percy, a kitten, and we have regular updates on his progress. I am grateful for the contributions to the debate, and it is important to highlight some of the work being done in the devolved areas as well. I am pleased to hear about “MacLucy’s” law; I have never heard it described as that before. We must make progress in those areas as well.

Dr Lisa Cameron Portrait Dr Cameron - Hansard

It is important that “MacLucy’s” law is taken forward across the UK, because we would not like puppy smugglers or farmers to feel that there is a safe haven anywhere. Given that so much has been put into the campaign, I ask the Minister to speak with counterparts in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland to try to make sure that this practice applies across the board.

David Rutley Portrait David Rutley - Hansard
5 Jun 2019, 4:15 p.m.

Yes, I absolutely will do that. I have said that to colleagues in the context of Wales, and we will do that in Scotland as well. We need to move this forward in the United Kingdom.

I should also highlight the number of Whips who have been in the debate today—although they are not able to speak—including the Lord Commissioner of Her Majesty’s Treasury, my hon. Friend the Member for Castle Point (Rebecca Harris), and my hon. Friend the Member for Milton Keynes South (Iain Stewart). They are huge animal lovers and wanted to be associated with the progress we are making today.

I want to deal with some of the points made by the hon. Member for Stroud (Dr Drew) and my hon. Friend the Member for Tiverton and Honiton on sentencing and increased sentences. We remain committed to introducing the necessary legislation to increase the maximum penalty for animal cruelty from six months’ imprisonment to five years’ imprisonment, and I am working at the highest levels to ensure that the legislation needed to make the change is introduced at the earliest opportunity.

Neil Parish Portrait Neil Parish - Hansard
5 Jun 2019, 4:15 p.m.

Will my hon. Friend give way?

David Rutley Portrait David Rutley - Hansard
5 Jun 2019, 4:15 p.m.

I will give way in just one second, because I was about to say that I am sure that those who make decisions about what goes on in this Chamber—the business managers—will listen carefully to those on the Opposition Benches and to the experienced voice of the Chair of the EFRA Committee in their calls to move this legislation forward. They have told us that they will not attempt to block this legislation, because everybody sees how important it is.

Neil Parish Portrait Neil Parish - Hansard
5 Jun 2019, 4:16 p.m.

I thank my hon. Friend, and that is exactly that point that I wanted to re-emphasise. There is so much cross-party support, and I cannot see why the managers of business in this House, on either side, should be worried about doing this. I know that the Minister is working hard, but please may we have this legislation sooner rather than later? He promised us several times that this was going to be done very quickly, but I must question him gently on how quickly he means. When will it be?

David Rutley Portrait David Rutley - Hansard
5 Jun 2019, 4:16 p.m.

I have never ever had any gentle questioning from my hon. Friend. As I have said, I am pressing hard to get this done as fast as we can, and our aim is to bring this forward as soon as we can.

The hon. Member for Stroud made a contribution on sentience, and the supportive contributions that my colleagues have made today show that the UK is a global leader in animal welfare. The Government’s policies on animal welfare are driven by a recognition that animals are sentient beings. We are acting energetically to reduce the risk of harm to animals, whether they are pets, on farms or in the wild, and we will ensure that any changes required to UK law after we leave the EU are made in a rigorous and comprehensive way to ensure that animal sentience is recognised. DEFRA continues to engage with stakeholders to further refine the Government’s proposals on sentience, and we are currently seeking the right legislative vehicle in this context.

The hon. Member for Stroud also made points about rescuing and rehoming centres. I hear the concerns that he expressed about these organisations. In the Westminster Hall debate on 26 February 2019 on animal rescue homes, I said that

“we must do everything we can to ensure that good welfare practices are in place in all animal rescue homes.”—[Official Report, 26 February 2019; Vol. 655, c. 74WH.]

Legitimate rescue homes do incredible work rescuing and rehoming thousands of sick and abandoned stray animals each year. We have heard praise for them in today’s debate as well. I had the honour of visiting the Mayhew rehoming centre a few weeks ago when we announced the laying of this statutory instrument, and we discussed the importance of responsible purchasing and rehoming of puppies and kittens. We want to make progress here, and we need to be confident of the benefits and impacts of any regulations placed on these organisations, particularly some of the smaller rescue and rehoming charities, which is why we are actively exploring these issues with the organisations involved.

The hon. Member for Stroud asked about resources for local authorities leading on implementing and enforcing animal licensing controls. Importantly, they have the power to charge fees, which factor in the reasonable costs of enforcement associated with licensable activity. DEFRA works closely with local authorities and the City of London leads on the training of local authority inspectors. My hon. Friend the Member for Tiverton and Honiton talked about the importance of self-policing, and it is important that we continue to get intelligence and input from the public as well. They have an important role to play.

Further contributions were made about the importance of addressing puppy smuggling. In other debates we have highlighted the need to do further work on this, and I personally and DEFRA take a zero-tolerance approach to this abhorrent crime. I know that my hon. Friend the Member for Tiverton and Honiton has talked about the number of puppies that should be allowed to come across our border at any given point in time with one owner. As I have said to him in other places, we would be in a position to review that after we leave the EU.

There was further discussion about Marc Abraham’s views on licensing and rescue homes. I am pleased that he can be with us today; it is great to see him recognised for the important campaign that he has taken forward. We agree that there is a clear difference between a legitimate charitable rehoming centre and a business selling pets. The latter will be subject to a ban on third party sales for puppies and kittens, but as I have already discussed we are seeking to regulate the rescue and rehoming sector.

Rehoming charities often charge a rehoming fee. Some have suggested that unscrupulous pet sellers could take advantage of that by reinventing themselves as rescue and rehoming organisations to get around the ban. That is why we will be working with canine and feline sector groups and local authorities to develop specific guidance to help distinguish between non-commercial rescue and rehoming centres, which are charities, and pet sellers, which are businesses.

The hon. Member for East Kilbride, Strathaven and Lesmahagow made important points about the publicity campaign that we need to take forward. We need to do further work on helping people to purchase pets responsibly, and we have committed to doing that. We have also assured the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee that we will work to provide the best advice to help people to look after their dogs and cats responsibly.

The Government are committed to protecting animal welfare. This legislation will help put an end to the inhumane and abhorrent conditions that animals such as Lucy are subjected to. It will ensure that puppies and kittens are born and reared in a safe environment with their mothers and sold from their place of birth. Those who decide to bring a pet into their home can know that it will be healthy and has come from a responsible breeder. I commend this statutory instrument to the House.

Question put and agreed to.

Resolved,

That the draft Animal Welfare (Licensing of Activities Involving Animals) (England) (Amendment) Regulations 2019, which were laid before this House on 13 May, be approved.

Wild Animals in Circuses (No. 2) Bill

(3rd reading: House of Commons)
(Report stage: House of Commons)
David Rutley Excerpts
Tuesday 4th June 2019

(1 year, 3 months ago)

Commons Chamber
Read Full debate Read Hansard Text Bill Main Page
HM Treasury
Sir Mike Penning Portrait Sir Mike Penning - Hansard
4 Jun 2019, 7:25 p.m.

She does not look 30 years of age, as my hon. Friend comments. She said to me when she was about 11 years of age, “Daddy, I’m going to be taken to a zoo by the school, and I don’t want to do that. I don’t want to see animals in cages.” We have never gone to a zoo and never gone to a circus that has had live animals. My youngest daughter is 28 and my eldest daughter is 30. My eldest daughter is now a marine biologist, so the House can probably realise where I am coming from on this. If we are going to make a law that says that we are banning live animals in circuses, let us do that for them, and for the public. If there are animal welfare issues, that can be picked up, but actually over the years it has not been, which is why we are going to ban it ethically now.

Should the animals be taken if they are found in this situation? This is a really difficult grey area that the Minister is going to have to address. Why would someone travel with an animal if they have not been training it and using it? Why would they keep it in its winter quarters when perhaps there are better types of quarters that it could be kept in? If it is travelling, why would they do that if they are not using it within a circus production? I hope that there can be an accommodation in this Bill—whether in this House, around guidance, or as it proceeds to the other House, which will also understand that the public are with us on this—whereby we can do what it says on the tin. This Bill says that we are going to ban live animals in circuses—we are going to protect those animals should they be in a circus.

There will be loads of good will out there regarding these animals. The hon. Member for Plymouth, Sutton and Devonport said that he tweeted out about this —yes, but they have to go to the right place. We are talking about myriad different types of animal that are used within circuses. It is really important that these animals go to a place of expertise to be looked after, because a lot of them may well have been through very stressful procedures. They may have been in a circus nearly all their life and then they are taken to a completely different environment. That takes a degree of professionalism and expertise. That has to be addressed in terms of payment, which should come from the circus, as they are the people who are responsible for these animals. They can be passionate about them. I have heard some of the debates in public over the years where they have said, “We love these animals.” I do not doubt that, but we need to say, “If we have a situation where we are going to have to remove animals from you, as an organisation, then it is not right for the taxpayer or a charity to pick up that tab—it is your job.” We need to consider how we can move that forward within the guidance. Perhaps the other House will debate this for a little bit longer.

We are trying, on principle, cross-party and as a nation, to get the animal rights part of this right. My kids—our kids—are driving this forward. It is like the environmental arguments that are going on out there at the moment. They are right, because it is their future, not our future. I have been lucky enough to be in Kenya with the military and have been in most of the safari parks. Seeing an animal in its natural environment coming down to the water hole in the evening because that is what it naturally does is an absolutely moving thing, not like seeing an elephant standing on its back legs in a circus, which is very damaging for the animal.

The House should be very proud of bringing this legislation forward. I would disagree only slightly with the hon. Member for Plymouth, Sutton and Devonport on one thing. The previous Labour Administration had a huge majority—an absolutely enormous majority. They could have got whatever legislation they wanted through this House at any time during that period, but is a Conservative Government who have brought this through. I am very proud of that, but it should have been brought in years and years ago.

David Rutley Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (David Rutley) - Hansard
4 Jun 2019, 5:24 p.m.

It is an honour to participate in the debate, and I welcome the genuine cross-party spirit. We are good friends on these issues, and it is good to hear well-informed, well-thought-through opinions, which will add to what we are taking forward. I congratulate the hon. Member for Plymouth, Sutton and Devonport (Luke Pollard) on setting out his concerns so clearly. We have spoken outside the Chamber, to facilitate further discussions, which shows the cross-party approach we are taking.

Animal welfare is a vital issue for everybody in the Chamber. All Members here have played an important role in trying to secure debates and take forward legislation on this issue. It is time to stop the outdated practice of wild animals performing or being exhibited in circuses. I will go into some technical details, but I think we all agree that we need to move in that direction.

Break in Debate

Liz Twist Portrait Liz Twist (Blaydon) (Lab) - Hansard
4 Jun 2019, 5:24 p.m.

There is concern about using two different bits of legislation to solve one problem. Would it not be clearer to cover this issue in the Bill, rather than relying on the Animal Welfare Act?

David Rutley Portrait David Rutley - Hansard

That is an interesting point. It is difficult to get the balance right, but the key thing to remember is that we are discussing an outdated practice that we want to see removed on ethical grounds. Seizure is much easier where there are genuine welfare concerns—I will explain why in more detail—and those powers are contained in the 2006 Act.

If the animal is subject to the Dangerous Wild Animals Act 1976—of those animals currently kept in circuses, only camels and zebras are subject—it may be seized if it is being kept without a licence or if a licensing condition is being breached. There is no need to replicate those powers here. In Committee, concern was raised about repeated breaches of the Act. The courts would have the power to impose unlimited fines, which makes it highly unlikely that a circus would continue to reoffend, for economic reasons.

Powers to seize animals interfere with the peaceful enjoyment of possessions, which is protected by article 1 of protocol 1 to the European convention on human rights. Interferences must be justified and proportionate. That may be easy to do if an owner is mistreating an animal and the powers are being exercised under the Animal Welfare Act, which is the point I was trying to make earlier. However, the objective of this legislation is simply, but importantly, to prevent the use of wild animals in circuses on ethical grounds. Preventing someone from using animals for other purposes, which is what the seizure and deprivation powers do, goes beyond what is necessary to achieve the objectives of the Bill.

Alex Sobel Portrait Alex Sobel (Leeds North West) (Lab/Co-op) -