Debates between David Rutley and Dr David Drew

There have been 6 exchanges between David Rutley and Dr David Drew

1 Mon 24th June 2019 Kew Gardens (Leases) (No. 3) Bill [Lords]
HM Treasury
7 interactions (1,867 words)
2 Mon 17th June 2019 Pet Identification
HM Treasury
6 interactions (4,140 words)
3 Wed 5th June 2019 Animals
HM Treasury
2 interactions (452 words)
4 Tue 4th June 2019 Wild Animals in Circuses (No. 2) Bill
HM Treasury
3 interactions (570 words)
5 Tue 7th May 2019 Wild Animals in Circuses (No. 2) Bill
HM Treasury
3 interactions (577 words)
6 Mon 18th March 2019 Exiting the European Union (Agriculture)
HM Treasury
2 interactions (1,471 words)

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

(2nd reading: House of Commons)
Debate between David Rutley and Dr David Drew
Monday 24th June 2019

(1 year, 3 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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HM Treasury
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.

Pet Identification

Debate between David Rutley and Dr David Drew
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.

Animals

Debate between David Rutley and Dr David Drew
Wednesday 5th June 2019

(1 year, 3 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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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.

Wild Animals in Circuses (No. 2) Bill

(3rd reading: House of Commons)
(Report stage: House of Commons)
Debate between David Rutley and Dr David Drew
Tuesday 4th June 2019

(1 year, 3 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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David Rutley Portrait David Rutley - Hansard
4 Jun 2019, 7:40 p.m.

The hon. Gentleman sets things out incredibly clearly, as he has done on others Bills I have been involved in. Absolutely—I can categorically say that, at commencement of this Act, those practices will no longer be able to be taken forward, so his campaign will have come to fruition. I hope that reassures him.

Amendment 4 seeks to extend the enforcement powers in the Bill to police constables. A few points have been made, not the least of which were those made by my right hon. Friend the Member for Hemel Hempstead (Sir Mike Penning), who is passionate about many things, including these issues. I always have a soft spot for Hemel Hempstead because that was where one of my sons was born. We are all talking about our children today.

Dr David Drew (Stroud) (Lab/Co-op) Hansard
4 Jun 2019, 7:40 p.m.

You just put them in a circus then.

David Rutley Portrait David Rutley - Hansard
4 Jun 2019, 7:40 p.m.

I do not know how to take that comment. I think I will move on.

Again, we do not feel that the amendment is necessary if an animal is in distress, when the Animal Welfare Act 2006 already provides powers for the police to respond quickly. The offence we are talking about—a ban on use on ethical grounds; let us keep that in the front of our minds—does not require such an urgent response. It does require a response, but it does not have same immediacy. It can happen only in the context of a public performance, which will of course take place in a public place. If a travelling circus wanted to break the law, it would have to do so in front of an audience. An inspector could be at the circus in sufficient time, and the schedule provides powers to search for evidence. As outlined in the schedule, that includes questioning any person on the premises, taking samples and taking copies of documents. Indeed, inspectors can seize anything, except an animal, found on the premises that they reasonably believe to be evidence of the offence in clause 1.

We do not believe it necessary to extend these powers to the police. DEFRA has approximately 50 circus and zoo licensing inspectors, who are qualified and experienced in identifying and, if need be, handling species of wild animals. In fact, in Committee, my hon. Friend the Member for Truro and Falmouth (Sarah Newton) made the point that we do have the expertise, and I think it is best to get qualified veterinarians or people with extensive experience of working with captive animals to take care of this work. Few, if any, constables would have that level of knowledge, as my right hon. Friend the Member for Hemel Hempstead pointed out.

In the rare cases where a police presence is needed, as I explained in Committee, the Bill also provides powers for an inspector to take up to two other people with them on an inspection. These could include a police constable, who would be able to exercise, under the supervision of the inspector, the powers of inspection provided in the Bill. Let me assure the hon. Member for Plymouth, Sutton and Devonport and other hon. Members that the guidance DEFRA will issue will also make it clear that police constables are able to accompany inspectors during the inspection, and I have also set that out to him in writing. I hope that gives him and other Members a greater degree of assurance that the police will be able to play a role, as required.

Wild Animals in Circuses (No. 2) Bill

(2nd reading: House of Commons)
(Programme motion: House of Commons)
Debate between David Rutley and Dr David Drew
Tuesday 7th May 2019

(1 year, 4 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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I thank my hon. Friend for those questions and again acknowledge his work and tireless commitment on this issue. I remember him discussing the issue at length and in depth.

No, the timetable will not slip. Obviously, what was said when we made the commitment to bring the legislation into place was that there would be interim regulations involving licences. There was a sunset clause on those, and we will get the legislation in place so that there is no gap. There have been questions about that matter previously.

On enforcement, this Bill, as I will explain, is based primarily on ethics rather than welfare concerns. It does not have some of the enforcement powers that some people have talked about. However, it is important to note that other legislation is in place—not least the Animal Welfare Act 2006 and legislation from 1976—that will enable us to have those enforcement powers. This Bill complements that: the legislation works together to provide the enforcement mechanisms that my hon. Friend is seeking.

When we first announced in March 2012 that we would introduce a ban on the use of wild animals in travelling circuses, the Government were clear that primary legislation would take time. As I have said, we introduced interim measures—welfare licensing regulations. Those regulations will expire in 2020 and the Government have announced that they will not be renewed. That is why this Bill is being introduced: so that we can deliver with confidence on that commitment.

It might help if I provide a bit of historical context, to put the timeframes into perspective.

Dr David Drew (Stroud) (Lab/Co-op) Hansard

That will have to be long!

David Rutley Portrait David Rutley - Hansard
7 May 2019, 6:39 p.m.

Given all the statutory instruments of recent months, I am used to this sort of barracking and harassment from the other side, but I take it in the intended spirit.

The subject matter itself has long been a source of debate: the issue was considered by a parliamentary Select Committee between 1921 and 1922, which resulted in the Performing Animals (Regulation) Act 1925. No Members in the House today were around at that time. As hon. Members may be aware, this Government replaced that Act when we introduced the Animal Welfare (Licensing and Activities Involving Animals) (England) Regulations 2018. Since the 1925 Act was introduced, debates and motions in Parliament on animals in circuses have been commonplace.

As I said, it is important to recognise the work undertaken by the previous Labour Government. During the debates on the Animal Welfare Bill in 2006, the then Government agreed to look at the issue in order to bring forward a ban on the use of certain wild species in travelling circuses using the delegated powers provided in the Animal Welfare Act 2006, subject to there being sufficient scientific evidence to support it. To assess that evidence, the academic lawyer Mike Radford was appointed to chair a circus working group. His report, the Radford report, concluded that there were no welfare concerns over and above animals kept in other captive environments. Therefore, any attempt to take forward a ban on welfare grounds under the Animal Welfare Act 2006 would fail the test of proportionality and primary legislation would be needed.

Following the report, a feasibility study was undertaken during 2008 to assess whether regulations were appropriate. The study concluded that a regulatory regime could be devised and implemented. The previous Government issued a public consultation in December 2009 on how best to protect wild animals in travelling circuses and about 95% of respondents supported a complete ban.

Exiting the European Union (Agriculture)

Debate between David Rutley and Dr David Drew
Monday 18th March 2019

(1 year, 6 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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David Rutley Portrait David Rutley - Hansard
18 Mar 2019, 10:14 p.m.

I understand, I think, the hon. Gentleman’s point, in the sense that there are a number of labelling issues, as he appreciates—I know he is an expert in these matters. I think the point he is making is about the EU logo, which is mandatory for all products packaged in the EU. In the event of no deal, such products should not use the EU organic logo, but producers can continue to use the logos of their organic control body and certification code and sell in the UK and in countries that have agreed that the UK has sufficiently similar organic standards. That said, as he knows, there are still issues—I have no doubt that Members will speak about this—to do with the EU’s recognition of UK organics. There are issues with labelling that I can take up with him in more detail separately.

I will now wrap up my initial remarks, hear what other Members have to say and come back to these points in more detail. These measures remain essential to ensure that UK organic businesses can maintain their organic certification. These statutory instruments will ensure that the strict standards in place for organic production are maintained when we leave the European Union. I commend them to the House.

Dr David Drew (Stroud) (Lab/Co-op) Hansard
18 Mar 2019, 10:17 p.m.

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.