There have been 6 exchanges between David Rutley and Dr David Drew
|1||Mon 24th June 2019||
Kew Gardens (Leases) (No. 3) Bill [Lords]
|7 interactions (1,867 words)|
|2||Mon 17th June 2019||
|6 interactions (4,140 words)|
|3||Wed 5th June 2019||
|2 interactions (452 words)|
|4||Tue 4th June 2019||
Wild Animals in Circuses (No. 2) Bill
|3 interactions (570 words)|
|5||Tue 7th May 2019||
Wild Animals in Circuses (No. 2) Bill
|3 interactions (577 words)|
|6||Mon 18th March 2019||
Exiting the European Union (Agriculture)
|2 interactions (1,471 words)|
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
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.
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.
Can these changes be made by secondary legislation, or do we need to change that Act?
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.
You just put them in a circus then.
That will have to be long!
I am delighted to be taking part in this debate at this fairly late hour. We could have done this in a Committee Room upstairs at 6 o’clock, so it is good to know that the timetabling really is working well. At least we have a packed Gallery wanting to listen to our every word. We would not have had that if we had been doing this upstairs at 6 o’clock, because our Second Delegated Legislation Committee earlier was also packed—with no members of the public. There is something about what we are saying or doing that is not quite hitting the public’s imagination. However, these draft regulations relate to an important issue for the organic industry. The topic of the earlier Committee—the movement of animals—was also important, for reasons that I set out then, and I do not intend to repeat them.
The Lords debated the two statutory instruments that we are considering now on 13 March, so there has been some scrutiny. However, our caveat, as always, is that the process has been terribly rushed, and none of us knows quite what the repercussions will be. Although the civil servants are doing a wonderful job of cutting and pasting 43 years’-worth of European regulations, no one knows how well that is being done. We will not see the impact for some time, but there will be an impact.
We do not have any particular problem with taking the two statutory instruments together, but the issue at the heart of all this, as has been picked up by the National Farmers Union and the Soil Association, is to what extent we can guarantee that the quality of our organic industry will not be undermined by cheaper imports. That is a real threat, because the proposed trade deals are with countries that have different organic standards. The US, for example, does things very differently from us when it comes to the treatment of organic produce, both in growing it and in trying to keep it as fresh as possible for as long as possible.
It took some time to work all this regulation through with our EU neighbours. There was no quick fix, and our approach to organic standards is different from that of some other EU countries. It is good to see the former Minister, the hon. Member for Camborne and Redruth (George Eustice), in his place, because he signed off one of these statutory instruments, so I am glad that he has come to check that we are doing a good job. He may have something to say about what he did in signing it off. The draft regulations are about ensuring that we not only do not dilute our standards, but keep our export markets in place. The last thing we want is to shut down our potential future exports when we have been successful. Even though we are still a major importer of organic produce, we have a good reputation based on what we sell abroad.
I have some questions for the Minister; it would be a surprise if I did not. The first is about what would happen if we crashed out of the EU on 29 March. What guarantees that existing regulations and, dare I say, the certification bodies are able to handle a purely UK-based measure of good organic quality? We already have different measures, as there are six mainland bodies and two from Northern Ireland, about which the hon. Member for Strangford (Jim Shannon) will no doubt say something later. We need to be absolutely clear that those bodies can undertake proper scrutiny of what is good-quality food, because if our standards slip, we will lose our export markets.
Although the Soil Association is by far the largest certification body, it is not the only one, so if things go wrong next week, what is in place to ensure that this industry, which is a microcosm of British agriculture, but a very important part of it, can cope with whatever is coming its way? Those are the concerns that have been expressed to me and, no doubt, the Minister. If we go through this transition period, as we hope, we will have 21 months available. What measures will be put in place to ensure that we do not in any way undermine the quality of produce in this country during that period? Labelling is so important. In this area of agriculture, we need to know that what is on the label is actually being delivered. We have to get that right, but we also have to be clear that anyone in the EU from whom we import materials during those 21 months is keeping to their side of the bargain.
This is really about how important the Government see this industry as being. It is still a nascent industry in which we want more farmers involved; 6,000 producers are defined as organic, and we want that number to increase, because this is a successful niche market. We would hope that the Government had good strategies to ensure that growth continues.
As usual, I have my ask about access to the TRACES—trade control and expert system—database. Presumably, that has been pretty important in enabling us to know that things that are defined as organic across the EU can be defined in that way, and so can be put on a database in which there is some commonality. What progress is being made on that? I asked the Minister earlier about the animal issues that we were looking at during debate on the agricultural statutory instrument. It would be interesting to know what progress the Government were making on the alternative to the TRACES database, or whether they are able to pay money to keep their place on the database. I am not totally sure about that. In the interim, will we be stuck with some manual processing of the certification measures?
It would have been helpful if we had got the Agriculture Bill through, because what we are dealing with here might have been part and parcel of that. Sadly, we hear nothing of the Agricultural Bill or, sadly for my hon. Friend the Member for Plymouth, Sutton and Devonport (Luke Pollard), the Fisheries Bill. We rushed through those before Christmas, so that we could have a comprehensive approach to fishing and agriculture, but sadly those Bills seem to have disappeared into the ether. I hope that we will not be faced with their having to be reintroduced in a new Session, as some of us worked hard on them. It would be hard for some of us to have to go through them all again, given that even though we disagreed on elements of those Bills, we did make some progress. We were hoping that on Third Reading, and particularly on Report, we would be able to make further progress and improvements to that legislation.
In conclusion, I hope that the Government have got the message that we have tried to play our part in scrutiny, and in looking seriously at these important bits of legislation, albeit at nearly half-past 10 at night. We have a number of other SIs before us this week— I believe I have seven, which for me is a record—so we will be meeting on a regular basis. It is important that we undertake this scrutiny to the best of our ability, and we can do that only if the Government are absolutely clear on why they are bringing legislation forward, and on how they will at least maintain standards and, if at all possible, improve them.