Debates between David Rutley and Luke Pollard

There have been 10 exchanges between David Rutley and Luke Pollard

1 Wed 24th July 2019 Kew Gardens (Leases) (No. 3) Bill [Lords]
HM Treasury
5 interactions (1,599 words)
2 Tue 23rd July 2019 Animal Welfare (Sentencing) Bill (First sitting)
HM Treasury
2 interactions (331 words)
3 Tue 4th June 2019 Wild Animals in Circuses (No. 2) Bill
HM Treasury
7 interactions (2,596 words)
4 Wed 22nd May 2019 Wild Animals in Circuses (No. 2) Bill (Third sitting)
HM Treasury
39 interactions (6,796 words)
5 Tue 21st May 2019 Wild Animals in Circuses (No.2) Bill (First sitting)
HM Treasury
2 interactions (670 words)
6 Tue 7th May 2019 Wild Animals in Circuses (No. 2) Bill
HM Treasury
2 interactions (1,968 words)
7 Mon 15th October 2018 Racehorse Protection
HM Treasury
2 interactions (2,655 words)
8 Tue 19th June 2018 Ivory Bill (Sixth sitting)
HM Treasury
2 interactions (276 words)
9 Tue 12th June 2018 Ivory Bill (Second sitting)
HM Treasury
2 interactions (326 words)
10 Tue 12th June 2018 Ivory Bill (First sitting)
HM Treasury
2 interactions (1,055 words)

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

(3rd reading: House of Commons)
(Legislative Grand Committee: House of Commons)
Debate between David Rutley and Luke Pollard
Wednesday 24th July 2019

(1 year, 2 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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HM Treasury
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

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)
Debate between David Rutley and Luke Pollard
Tuesday 23rd July 2019

(1 year, 2 months ago)

Public Bill Committees
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HM Treasury
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.

Wild Animals in Circuses (No. 2) Bill

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

(1 year, 3 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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HM Treasury
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.

Luke Pollard Portrait Luke Pollard - Parliament Live - Hansard
4 Jun 2019, 7:43 p.m.

Will the Minister go into slightly more detail about where the guidance will land on that point? Will the police constable be one of the two people who can accompany an inspector, or will that be in addition to those two people, since there may be very good reasons why certain specialists are required for certain animals?

David Rutley Portrait David Rutley - Hansard
4 Jun 2019, 7:43 p.m.

That is a good question, and we will take a closer look at that. At this stage, it would be one of the two people, but that is something we can take a closer look at.

I accept the point that has previously been raised that the Scottish Act provides powers for police constables to enforce the legislation. The Scottish guidance states:

“Although constables are provided powers for enforcement, it is expected that it will primarily be Local Authorities that will enforce the Act as part of other responsibilities relevant to travelling circuses.”

Even under the Scottish Act, the police are not seen as the primary inspection force.

Since Committee, DEFRA officials have discussed enforcement of the Bill with the chief constable of Hertfordshire constabulary, Charlie Hall, who is the national policing lead on animal matters. The view of the police is that while they would of course support DEFRA-appointed inspectors, should this be required, they do not want to take on the additional responsibility of being the primary enforcer of what is a very specialist area of business. They see their role as being one of support in keeping the peace when necessary to enable inspectors to conduct the work provided for in the Bill.

Mention has been made of the National Wildlife Crime Unit, and we certainly respect its contributions, but we are concerned here with an offence involving captive wild animals, not wildlife crime, so it is unlikely that that group will have a primary role in inspection. That will be for the other inspectors we have talked about.

Break in Debate

David Rutley Portrait David Rutley - Parliament Live - Hansard
4 Jun 2019, 7:45 p.m.

I think that is a perfectly fair point, but the point I am trying to make, to reassure colleagues, is that we have 50 inspectors who are well trained to take care of this. Of course, we would get the police involved at the right time, and we will put that in guidance. We can anticipate that there may be circumstances in which we need to get the National Wildlife Crime Unit involved, and we will set that out as appropriate. Again, I hope that the points I have made give sufficient reassurances to hon. Members, and that the hon. Member for Plymouth, Sutton and Devonport feels that he need not press amendment 4.

I turn to amendment 2, tabled by my hon. Friend the Member for Shipley. He seeks to prevent circus operators from euthanising their wild animals, which is something we all want to be avoided, unless they have permission from a qualified vet. Again, I assure him that these issues were raised directly with the circuses during the evidence session. I understand the sentiment behind the amendment, but we have not seen any evidence that current circus operators would seek to euthanise their animals. Indeed, the two remaining circuses have assured us that they would not do so. In oral evidence during the Bill’s Committee stages, Peter Jolly senior was clear that:

“I would change my business to something else, but the animals would stop with me.”––[Official Report, Wild Animals in Circuses (No. 2) Public Bill Committee, 21 May 2019; c. 42, Q107.]

Carol MacManus suggested that the other circus, Circus Mondao, was considering either rehoming its wild animals or keeping them at winter quarters with people to supervise the animals

“because we would have to look after the animals.”––[Official Report, Wild Animals in Circuses (No. 2) Public Bill Committee, 21 May 2019; c. 50, Q152.]

They are concerned about their animals and consider them to be part of their family.

I would also point out that, in practice, the amendment would unfairly target circus operators by requiring them to obtain permission from a veterinarian to have an animal euthanised. No such legal requirement exists for pet owners or other owners of working animals who operate a business. As we have discussed, we do not need to seize an animal under the Bill to prove that an offence of using a wild animal in a travelling circus has been committed. The other thing it is important to set out to my hon. Friend is that retirement plans are in place for these wild animals, and the Animal Welfare Act will of course continue to apply to protect these animals. Once again, I hope that the points I have made will give reassurances to my hon. Friends and to Opposition Members.

New clause 4, as set out by the hon. Member for Plymouth, Sutton and Devonport, aims to prevent new animals from being added to existing licences and to prevent new licences from being passed, and amendment 3, tabled by my hon. Friend the Member for Shipley, seeks to allow the circuses two more years on their existing licences. We do not believe new clause 4 is necessary, although I understand what the hon. Member for Plymouth, Sutton and Devonport is seeking to achieve with his amendment—to mitigate the risk of additional wild animals being brought into travelling circuses between Royal Assent and the Bill coming into force on 20 January 2020. New clause 4 appears to be intended to come into force on Royal Assent; I think that is the intention. By convention, there is a strong presumption against commencing any earlier than two months after Royal Assent, because the public are entitled to be given a reasonable period of time to adapt to a change in the law and to reorganise their affairs in response to it. It would be highly unusual to commence a clause such as this on Royal Assent.

Paragraph (a) of new clause 4 seeks to prevent new licences from being issued after the Bill has passed, so it would apply only to new travelling circuses or existing ones that currently do not use wild animals in their performances. If a travelling circus wished to start using wild animals before the end of the current touring season, typically at the end of October—for those who have not been part of this debate, circuses would not continue until 20 January, because they normally stop performing at the end of October—it could technically have a last hurrah, and the hon. Gentleman has made that point with conviction. However, it would have to apply for a licence as soon as the Bill was published to maximise the revenue it would want to get. I reassure hon. Members that DEFRA has received no inquiries from anyone regarding even the possibility of an application for a new licence.

If, however, a new circus decided to apply for a licence, say, next week, DEFRA’s application takes a minimum of six weeks, and for a new circus unfamiliar with the demands of our licensing regime, it could take considerably longer for an application to be determined. Both current licensed circuses, when they first applied for a licence, needed to be inspected twice before their licence was awarded, and those inspections took place at winter quarters, which is an easier place to conduct an inspection; even then, both applications took two months to be approved. Even if a circus were to submit an application for a licence next week, it would be able to use its wild animals for, at most, 14 weeks or three months before the end of the current touring season.

Luke Pollard Portrait Luke Pollard - Parliament Live - Hansard
4 Jun 2019, 7:50 p.m.

That is quite a long time.

David Rutley Portrait David Rutley - Hansard
4 Jun 2019, 7:52 p.m.

The hon. Gentleman says that is quite a long period. It is long enough to take what he is saying seriously. We understand his arguments, but for the sake of completeness, I want everyone to understand the processes.

Paragraph (b) of the new clause would affect circuses already licensed by DEFRA. The two licensed circuses still using wild animals have not said that they have any plans to add further wild animals. Given that a ban will be in place before the next touring season, it would make little economic sense for them to invest in new trained animals or equipment now, and significant changes to a performance require planning, which would usually happen when the circus is at winter quarters, from late October onward. Also, in the unlikely event that a circus sought to add a wild animal to an existing licence, the proposed moratorium would not prevent that from happening between now and the moratorium coming into effect.

I assure the House that that is a highly unlikely scenario. The current 2012 licensing regime would safeguard the animal’s welfare. Existing licence conditions require circuses to provide DEFRA with at least two weeks’ notice of their intention to add a wild animal to their circus, and inspection would follow as soon as possible after the animal’s arrival in the circus. The Government accept that that leaves open the possibility—albeit a very small one—that new animals could be used in travelling circuses for a maximum of 14 or 16 weeks, or just over three and a half months, if the licence application was submitted and approved, unless the proposed early moratorium comes into effect. Although we have had no indication that any circus in the UK would try to make use of such a gap, I understand the concerns expressed by the hon. Member for Plymouth, Sutton and Devonport and my right hon. Friend the Member for Hemel Hempstead. I will take the matter away and, ahead of Committee stage in the Lords, consider how best we can ensure that no new wild animals are used in travelling circuses by the time the ban comes into force on 20 January 2020.

On amendment 3, tabled by my hon. Friend the Member for Shipley, we believe that circuses have had enough time to plan for the ban. He suggested, I think probingly, that the decision has only just been made; in fact, the legislation has been long in gestation, and the general feeling is that it would have been better had it been introduced sooner. I think we all share that view. It has been difficult to get parliamentary time. Circuses have had six and a half years to prepare, ever since the introduction of the licensing regulations, which contain a sunset clause that made it clear that the ban would be in place by January 2020. We do not believe, therefore, that the amendment is necessary.

The Government have always been clear that the licensing regulations were an interim measure only. It is important to highlight that licences must be renewed every year, and in February last year we reaffirmed that any license issued to circuses this year would be the last, because a ban would be in place by the time the interim regulations expired on 20 January 2020. The coming into force date of the Bill aligns with the expiry date of the regulations, which means that the two circuses will be able to update and plan their routines for next year while they are not on tour, as the majority of circuses would do anyway.

It should not be too difficult for the circuses to replace the wild animal elements of their shows. DEFRA has been inspecting these circuses at least three times a year for the last six and a half years. Our inspections show that the animals, where they are used, are used for only about five to ten minutes as part of a two-hour show. As long as the ban comes into force during the winter season, which has always been the Government’s intention, we believe that the two circuses have enough time to adjust their routines. Indeed, there are about 25 circuses in the UK and Ireland that do not use wild animals in their show, and they operate successfully. They show what can be done. To reassure my hon. Friend further, comparisons with ticket prices in other travelling circuses that do not use wild animals do not show a premium for seeing or involving wild animals.

I should add that the amendment does not reflect the fact that the interim licensing regulations expire next January. The amendment would therefore permit wild animals to be used in travelling circuses for two years—that is, to 2022—with a much lower level of scrutiny than they have been subjected to for the last seven years. In those circumstances, I would certainly share the concerns about more wild animals being introduced into travelling circuses. A two-year moratorium, with no DEFRA licence required at all, could well lead to more wild animals being used in travelling circuses. That is not something this Government would agree to.

I hope I have made it clear why the Government believe that next January is an appropriate date for the ban to come into force, and that hon. Members in all parts of the House are reassured by my comments. I hope my hon. Friend feels that it would be best were he not to press his amendment.

Wild Animals in Circuses (No. 2) Bill (Third sitting)

Debate between David Rutley and Luke Pollard
Wednesday 22nd May 2019

(1 year, 4 months ago)

Public Bill Committees
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HM Treasury
Luke Pollard Portrait Luke Pollard - Hansard
22 May 2019, 9:30 a.m.

I agree with my hon. Friend about the Government’s choice of definitions to include, or not to include, in the Bill. Indeed, in evidence, we heard stakeholders’ concerns about the missing definition of what a travelling circus looks like and broad concerns about what “wild animal” means.

Having heard the evidence yesterday, Members on both sides of the Committee will think it important to ensure that we can comprehensively ban the use of wild animals in circuses. That means making sure that the legal definition is correct. We need to ensure, whether in the Bill or in guidance, that performances outwith a typical circus tent, such as on a tour of arenas or activity involving touring from place to place and not returning to the home location, are within scope. Our suggested definition refers not to a place but to the group of people and animals making up a circus. That reflects more accurately how circuses work, as we heard yesterday.

The definition that we propose is in line with the guidance accompanying the Wild Animals in Travelling Circuses (Scotland) Act 2018. Scotland does not have regulations on licensing animals in entertainment. There is a chance that circuses in England could merely classify their animals as being used for entertainment. That might, for example, be the case for reindeers in the circus being used in Santa’s grottoes. A definition of travelling circuses will provide clarity on what is in or out of scope. Without a robust definition of a travelling circus, there is a risk that wild animals could be used with entertainment licences as part of performances that are travelling circuses in all but name.

In the evidence sessions yesterday, it was quite clear that the circus operators were keen to hold on to their animals and continue to use them in entertainment, perhaps under different licences, if only because of their close emotional bond with the animals that they currently own and use. There is overwhelming evidence that, if we do not define what a travelling circus is, that might create difficulties with enforcement, and there could be unintended consequences. As the hon. Member for Isle of Wight succinctly put it yesterday,

“unintended consequences are often the consequences of things that were not intended in the first place”.—[Official Report, Wild Animals in Circuses (No.2) Public Bill Committee, 21 May 2019; c. 29, Q77.]

The attempt to get a clear definition of a travelling circus is an attempt to prevent unintended consequences and to make the scope of the measure sufficiently tight to be legally enforceable.

I should be grateful if the Minister set out the options. Is primary legislation the right place for a clear definition of a travelling circus or would including it in guidance to be published by his Department carry similar weight and allow flexibility? I am interested in the end effect, and not necessarily the words on the page.

David Rutley Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (David Rutley) - Hansard
22 May 2019, 9:33 a.m.

It is good to see you in your rightful place, Mrs Moon. Thank you for all the work that you have been doing on the Bill.

Amendment 1 would introduce a definition of a travelling circus into the Bill. We recognise the concerns about the absence of a definition, but we cannot accept the amendment. We deliberately chose not to include a definition in clause 1 because we do not feel it is necessary or helpful. In fact, a specific definition might actually be unhelpful. We considered several definitions and found that those that were drawn too widely, as in amendment 1, might ban activities that we do not want to ban, such as falconry displays with accompanying entertainers that might travel to different county shows. We discussed that issue at length in the evidence sessions yesterday. Such displays would fall within the definition in amendment 1, but it is not our intention to ban them. They are clearly not travelling circuses.

Moreover, the definition in amendment 1 includes a reference to animals being

“kept or introduced (whether for the purpose of performance, exhibition, display or otherwise).”

The word “otherwise” could capture any number of activities, including keeping wild animals as pets. The amendment would greatly expand the scope of the ban beyond performance and exhibition in a travelling circus, which I think is the public’s primary concern, by far.

Conversely, any definition that is drawn too narrowly is problematic. Setting out in detail what a travelling circus is or is not could create loopholes or a list of ways for a travelling circus to avoid a ban altogether. If we said, for example, that a travelling circus had clowns, trapeze artists and so on, but one of them did not include a clown, it might not be included in the ban. There are therefore challenges either way. Rather than trying to define the term, it is better to use its common meaning. We believe that the courts will have no trouble at all in understanding what a travelling circus is or is not, and a “common understanding” approach will mean that it will always be relevant and move with the times.

The Government note that neither the Scottish Government, in their Wild Animals in Travelling Circuses (Scotland) Act 2018, nor the Welsh Government, in their draft Wild Animals in Travelling Circuses (Wales) Bill, have attempted to define the term “circus”. Likewise, DEFRA’s interim licensing regulations for wild animals in travelling circuses do not attempt to define “circus”, and the enforcement of the regulations has effectively protected the welfare of wild animals in circuses over the past six and a half years despite that.

However, to reassure the Committee, and learning from what the Scottish Government have done, we will be producing detailed guidance to accompany the introduction of the Act, to assist inspectors and circuses. It will set out clearly the types of activity that we consider will and will not be covered by the ban.

I note that the hon. Member for Plymouth, Sutton and Devonport has accepted that there are arguments in favour of putting the definition in either the legislation or the guidance. I am grateful to him for our conversations in this debate and outside the Committee. As he knows, we have been looking at this matter very carefully in DEFRA. I would like to reassure him that we have not taken the decision lightly, but we feel that taking the approach of having guidance will enable us to address his concerns and, I think, the concerns of the Committee in a pragmatic way.

It became clear in the evidence sessions yesterday that this is probably a more flexible approach as well. The challenge of defining the term tightly or expansively in the Bill is that that makes it more difficult for us to make changes. We know how long it has taken to get the legislation before us today, so the more pragmatic approach will be to list excluded activities, as we have seen in the Scottish guidance, which obviously is available to colleagues. It is interesting that bird of prey displays, festive reindeer displays, school and educational visits, animal handling sessions and animals being used for TV, community celebrations or zoo and safari park outreach activities are not included in the Scottish arrangements.

We would look to do something very similar. I cannot say definitively what it would be, because the other thing that I would like to assure the hon. Member for Plymouth, Sutton and Devonport and other members of the Committee of is that we want not only to learn from the Scottish Government’s approach—it has been very important for us to learn from that—but to seek the views of and engage with the animal welfare organisations that we heard from yesterday. I had a quick conversation with a number of them at the end of their session, and what they said then—obviously, it is for them to say this more formally once we reach a conclusion on this—was that they would be open to being engaged in helping to shape the guidance.

Luke Pollard Portrait Luke Pollard - Hansard
22 May 2019, 9:38 a.m.

I am grateful that there is a willingness to engage with the people who gave evidence to the Committee yesterday. Will the Minister say whether other stakeholders, who were not able or not invited to attend the Committee yesterday, could also be involved in that process? Having a broad range of views could be helpful in doing the defining or at least creating guidance that would be as comprehensive as is required to do the job.

David Rutley Portrait David Rutley - Hansard
22 May 2019, 9:39 a.m.

I agree with that. We do not want to have a cast of thousands, but I think that the hon. Gentleman was talking about people with expert knowledge and understanding, particularly of animal welfare, rather than about extending this to people with other experience. From an animal welfare perspective, yes, we will do that. On that basis, I hope that the hon. Gentleman will feel able to withdraw his amendment.

Luke Pollard Portrait Luke Pollard - Hansard
22 May 2019, 9:38 a.m.

Based on the assurances that the Minister has given, I am happy to beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Luke Pollard Portrait Luke Pollard (Plymouth, Sutton and Devonport) (Lab/Co-op) - Hansard
22 May 2019, 9:40 a.m.

I beg to move amendment 5, in clause 1, page 2, line 4, leave out “commonly” and insert “normally”.

This amendment would align the definition of “wild animal” with that used in the Welfare of Wild Animals in Travelling Circuses (England) Regulations 2012 and the Zoo Licensing Act 1981.

The Opposition are moving the amendment to ensure legislative consistency across the different pieces of animal welfare legislation and to avoid creating any legislative conflicts or loopholes. The Bill defines a wild animal as one that is “not commonly domesticated”. Although protected animals in the Animal Welfare Act 2006 are defined as “commonly domesticated”, the Zoo Licensing Act 1981 defines a wild animal as one that is “not normally domesticated”. I am not normally one to go into the minutiae of the meaning of words, but I would be grateful if the Minister set out why the definition is not aligned with the 1981 Act and gave a clear reassurance that there is no legal interpretation in the difference between “commonly” and “normally”, to make sure that we are consistent across our legislation.

David Rutley Portrait David Rutley - Hansard
22 May 2019, 9:41 a.m.

The hon. Gentleman suggests that he does not get involved in the forensic detail, but I suggest that he does. We have been in enough debates and statutory instruments for me to know that he takes a forensic approach, so I expect nothing less than for him to go through the technical detail, which is the right thing to do.

The Government do not believe that the amendment is necessary, however. Amendment 5 seeks to align the definition of a wild animal in the Bill with the definitions used in the Zoo Licensing Act 1981 and the Welfare of Wild Animals in Travelling Circuses (England) Regulations 2012. Both pieces of legislation define a wild animal as an animal that is

“not normally domesticated in Great Britain”.

Break in Debate

David Rutley Portrait David Rutley - Hansard
22 May 2019, 9:42 a.m.

That is a very good question, and it is important to get it on the record, because there was quite a tangle of conversations about different definitions. We are clear that those 19 animals are wild animals. We can have all sorts of technical debates—I hope we do not have them today, because I think we discussed it enough yesterday—about domestication, but we are clear that those 19 animals are included in the definition.

The Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee’s report, “Wild Animals in Circuses”, also noted the slight difference between the definition of wild animal in the draft Bill and in the 1981 Act. The Government were happy to explain their thinking in response to the Committee then, and I will do so again.

The term “animal” or “wild animal” is used in several places in the statute book, but there is no common definition of either. Our approach is in line with the definition of a “protected animal” in section 2 of the Animal Welfare Act 2006, which refers to an animal being

“commonly domesticated in the British Islands”,

rather than “normally”. To reassure hon. Members, any difference in the precise wording does not have any material impact on the workings of the definition; the terms “commonly” and “normally” are interchangeable. I note that the Scottish Parliament’s Wild Animals in Travelling Circuses (Scotland) Act 2018 includes

“commonly domesticated in the British Islands”,

in its definition of a wild animal, as does the Welsh Government’s Wild Animals in Travelling Circuses (Wales) Bill.

I hope that this is a probing amendment—I get the sense that it is—and that I have been able to reassure hon. Members that there is no material difference between using “commonly” and “normally” in the definition of a wild animal. I hope that the hon. Member for Plymouth, Sutton and Devonport will feel able to withdraw the amendment.

Luke Pollard Portrait Luke Pollard - Hansard
22 May 2019, 9:44 a.m.

I am not commonly or normally pedantic about such things, except for apostrophes. On this occasion, given the reassurance that the Minister has put on the record, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 1 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 2

Inspections

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

David Rutley Portrait David Rutley - Hansard
22 May 2019, 9:45 a.m.

The clause gives effect to the Bill’s schedule, which makes provision for the appointment of inspectors and sets out their powers and duties under the Bill, including powers of entry, inspection, search and seizure. The Committee may wish to debate the inspection provisions when we consider the schedule.

Break in Debate

David Rutley Portrait David Rutley - Hansard

Clause 3 makes a minor amendment to the Dangerous Wild Animals Act 1976. The Act requires persons who wish to keep dangerous wild animals as listed by the Act to be licensed by the local authority. However, the Act currently exempts any dangerous wild animal kept in a circus from that requirement. Once the ban set out in this Bill comes into force, no dangerous vertebrate wild animals should be used in performances or exhibited as part of a travelling circus. The clause takes a belt-and-braces approach, making it clear that using dangerous wild vertebrate animals in a travelling circus is not allowed.

The 1976 Act applies to England, Wales and Scotland. The effect of the amendment to it will be that the exemption will no longer apply in England and Scotland. The Scottish Government, who have already introduced a ban on the use of wild animals in travelling circuses in Scotland—which we are grateful for and which sets out important lessons for us to learn here in England—have asked us to extend the amendment in the 1976 Act to Scotland. We are pleased to facilitate that request; the Scottish Government have agreed in principle to lodge a legislative consent motion.

The Act’s exemption for circuses will remain in place in Wales, where the Welsh Government are currently considering introducing their own legislation on travelling circuses. If they wish to remove the exemption, the Welsh Government can do so when they introduce their own circus legislation.

For completeness, I should add that we have also discussed the Bill with officials in the Northern Ireland Government, but they are not in a position to consider a ban at this point.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause 3 accordingly ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 4

Extent, commencement and short title

Luke Pollard Portrait Luke Pollard - Hansard
22 May 2019, 9:51 a.m.

I beg to move amendment 2, in clause 4, page 2, line 14, leave out “on 20 January 2020” and insert

“on such day as the Secretary of State may by regulations made by statutory instrument appoint, and no later than 20 January 2020.”

This amendment would enable the Act to be brought into force earlier than 20 January 2020.

Since the introduction of the Bill, it has been clear— from the Second Reading debate, the evidence sessions and cross-party discussions—that hon. Members on both sides of the House support a ban on the use of wild animals in circuses. The only question is when that should take place. The last Labour Government had hoped to introduce legislation around the time of the 2010 general election; sadly, that general election got in the way and we have had to wait nine years. I thank hon. Members on both sides of the House who have promoted private Members’ Bills during that time in an attempt to legislate sooner.

The Bill’s enforcement date is 20 January 2020. The amendment seeks to explore whether that date can be brought forward, so that we can ban the use of wild animals in circuses sooner. During yesterday’s evidence, the Born Free Foundation said that there was a risk of new species and new animals being brought into travelling circuses before January 2020.

Break in Debate

Luke Pollard Portrait Luke Pollard - Hansard
22 May 2019, 9:47 a.m.

I entirely agree. If we as a country had taken this action in 2009 or 2010, as proposed by the last Labour Government, we would not be here and we would not be chasing the pack. In Britain we like to think of ourselves as a nation of animal lovers—indeed, I believe we are—but we have to put that into practice. Every animal matters. It has taken nearly a decade to introduce this ban on the use of wild animals in circuses, and it is being introduced at a time when the Government are light in legislation, including the missing fisheries and agriculture Bills, on which we really need to make progress. I agree with my hon. Friend that there is an opportunity to bring forward the Bill’s enforcement date.

During yesterday’s evidence we heard that many circus animals are not used for entertainment purposes over the winter season. Peter Jolly said that he stops touring around November. I understand from conversations with the Minister that there is concern that bringing forward the commencement date would overlap with the current licensing arrangements. I am sympathetic to that view. The Opposition want the ban to be brought into effect as soon possible, but we do not want taxpayers’ money being spent on compensation. There is a balance to be struck and I would be grateful if the Minister could set out his thoughts on that.

I would also be grateful if the Minister could set out a clear direction for those circus operators who may be thinking of introducing new animals before the commencement of the ban. I certainly do not want a final hurrah for circus animals: “Your last chance to see the raccoons, the zebu and the macaw!” Given that circuses operate in a commercial environment, there will always be that last PR sell.

We have an opportunity to send a message that no additional animals or new species should be introduced to any circus. As we heard from Born Free yesterday, a big cat exhibitor has applied for a new licence, but that flies in the spirit of what we are trying to do.

We want to ensure that the powers come into force as soon as possible. The period between now and 20 January 2020 is important because, every single day that goes by, those animals remain in travelling circuses and potentially in cruel and unusual environments that may damage their wellbeing. More people are encouraged to presume that it is normal for those wild animals to be in a circus and that we as a country accept that.

We have established from public polling, as set out in yesterday’s evidence and during the Minister’s comments on Second Reading about the weight of consultation responses received by the Department, that the general population do not support the use of animals in circuses and that it should be brought to an end as soon as is reasonably possible. I would be grateful if the Minister could set out whether there is an opportunity to bring forward the commencement date. Our amendment would not prevent 20 January 2020 from being the commencement date. It refers to bringing forward the powers

“on such day as the Secretary of State may by regulations made by statutory instrument appoint, and no later than 20 January 2020.”

The Government’s proposed date would remain in legislation but they would have an opportunity to bring it forward. Ministers need to retain that important tool, especially to prevent any circus operators from using the provision as a last hurrah for the use of wild animals in circuses, and from introducing new species and animals for a final show before the commencement date. I would be grateful if the Minister could respond to those concerns.

David Rutley Portrait David Rutley - Hansard
22 May 2019, 9:58 a.m.

I need to update the Committee on an important point raised by the hon. Member for Bristol East. Everything is okay with Anne, who was rehomed at Longleat zoo, which is licensed under the Zoo Licensing Act 1981. Anne was recently moved to a new purpose-built enclosure. She is not currently housed with other elephants but she does have other animals for company, so she is in a much better place. I thank the hon. Lady for raising the issue and I apologise for not providing that update previously. I hope I have made up ground there.

I will move on to the Bill, unless there are concerns about other animals. I will try my best to find out, though perhaps not quite as speedily.

Break in Debate

David Rutley Portrait David Rutley - Hansard
22 May 2019, 10:03 a.m.

I am going to wait for a little bit of inspiration to answer that question as fully as I would like. Any animals would need to be inspected first. The point that the hon. Gentleman raises is a good one, but there would be a requirement for those animals to be inspected.

Luke Pollard Portrait Luke Pollard - Hansard
22 May 2019, 10:04 a.m.

I am trying to understand what the Minister said after his moment of inspiration. The implication is that there is a possibility that new animals and new species could be introduced, between now and the commencement date of the legislation on 20 January 2020. The only restriction in the licences is that these animals must be okay and subject to inspections; it does not prevent lions, tigers or elephants from being introduced in the final few months of wild animals being allowed in circuses. Is that what the Minister is saying?

David Rutley Portrait David Rutley - Hansard
22 May 2019, 10:05 a.m.

Clearly, those animals would need to be inspected. I understand the concerns that further animals could be introduced to those circuses in the last few months, but the circuses are licensed to use wild animals and we have no welfare grounds to refuse animals being added unless they are inspected.

Technically, Opposition Members have made an important point. However, I think circuses are under no illusions about public opinion on this, and certainly parliamentary opinion. It is also clear that there could be economic costs for them, so there is a disincentive to introduce new animals within the last few months. However, given the strength of concern, let me see what more we can do to raise awareness and concerns about these issues.

However, as I have said, apart from the powers of inspection, that is where we are at the moment. The key thing is that we want to get this ban in place as quickly as we can. Given the journey that we have been on, the good news is that it will be in place by 20 January. That is not too far off now.

Luke Pollard Portrait Luke Pollard - Hansard

I am concerned that, between now and the commencement date, new animals and new species could be brought into circuses. I do not agree with the Minister that the strength of public feeling was adequately understood by the circus operators yesterday. In fact, we heard oral and written evidence from Mrs Brown—I fundamentally disagree with her written evidence on several grounds—that she does not believe the strength of feeling in the DEFRA consultation, due to the size of the response compared with the UK population, even though that was a very good response for a DEFRA consultation.

I worry that there is a risk of a last hurrah for wild animals in circuses. The amendment does not change the 20 January 2020 date, but it provides the Minister with a stick to use should we be under the impression that additional wild animals and new species could be brought into circuses. Certainly, based on the strength of feeling among my constituents in Plymouth, if there is a risk of an elephant or big cat—a lion or tiger—or even an extra zebu or raccoon being brought into our circuses, they would want the Government to take steps to stop that happening. I am absolutely certain that, in the event that Government compensation is only paid for animals already there, plenty of the British public would be willing to chip in a fiver to prevent an elephant from being brought into our circuses for a last hurrah.

On that basis, I disagree with the Minister on this. Because of the risk of new animals being brought into circuses, the powers proposed in the amendment are important. The amendment would not substantively change the commencement date but would provide a stick to ensure that no new animals are brought in before that date. I will press the amendment to a vote.

Question put, That the amendment be made.

Break in Debate

Luke Pollard Portrait Luke Pollard - Hansard
22 May 2019, 10:16 a.m.

The hon. Lady raises a good point, which is worth getting on the record. It was clear from the evidence session yesterday that circus owners have a genuine affection for their animals. Whether they should be able to use those animals for entertainment and, importantly, move them around the country in tight conditions is a different matter. I agree that circus owners have that affection, but I disagree with the way that affection is applied to their business model, if that makes sense.

We also heard that elements of cruelty accompany keeping animals in circuses. The new clause seeks to provide courts with an additional option to use in the event of a breach. Effectively, if a circus owner continued to exhibit wild animals as part of their entertainment, a court, on the basis of the regulations, the guidance and the Bill, would have the ability, on confirming a breach of the Bill, to apply a disqualification, should it see fit. That is important, because people who I have spoken to about this want to know that the animals are safe. If the law is breached and wild animals are used in a circus, and those animals continue to be owned and potentially used again by those operators, I imagine that most of my constituents would want those animals taken off those individuals.

The new clause includes the ability for the court effectively to decide to,

“instead of or in addition to dealing with that person in any other way, make an order disqualifying him under any one or more of subsections (2) to (4) for such period as it thinks fit.”

Disqualification under subsection (2) is from owning, keeping or participating in the keeping of wild animals. Effectively, the new clause provides a big stick for courts to ensure, if there is a breach, that there will be sufficient punishment, that those animals can be removed from that environment, and that there is a consequence for people who decide to keep wild animals and to continue to entertain people with them. Our new clause provides for not only the banning but the enforcement and the punishment.

Our purpose, in tabling the new clause, was to ask the Minister what potential punishments he envisages for a breach of Bill. I shall be grateful if he will set out what he anticipates will happen, in the event that a circus owner is in breach of the Bill.

David Rutley Portrait David Rutley - Hansard

The Government proposed a ban on the use of wild animals in travelling circuses on ethical grounds, as has been discussed. As a result, the penalties and enforcement powers in the Bill must be proportionate to the severity of the offence. The use of wild animals in a travelling circus has until now always been legal in this country. We seek to ban it because the Government, and I hope Parliament, recognise that it is an outdated practice.

The Bill is about sending a signal about the respect that we should show wild animals in the 21st century. If operators seek to be cruel to their wild animals—we have not seen any recent evidence to suggest that they would—other laws are already in place to deal with those offences in a more proportionate way. The penalty for a circus operator found guilty of using a wild animal in a travelling circus is an unlimited fine. We think that is a proportionate penalty, as did the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee when it undertook pre-legislative scrutiny of the Bill. The Committee also agreed that further disqualification powers were unnecessary. Where a travelling circus chose repeatedly to break the law—given the very public nature of the offence, we think that is highly unlikely—a court could hand out fines of increasing severity. A travelling circus would soon find it simply uneconomic to continue, in addition to the damage that would be caused to its reputation.

Of course, where evidence is found of a wild animal being mistreated in a travelling circus, the Animal Welfare Act 2006 will apply, as is currently the case. That Act already provides powers to seize animals and disqualify people from keeping animals should there be grounds for doing so. Those disqualification powers are proportionate to some of the wicked and cruel offences covered by that Act. Furthermore, the Dangerous Wild Animals Act 1976 contains powers to disqualify those convicted under that Act of an offence of not having sufficient licences in place.

The penalty in the Bill is an unlimited fine. As we have discussed, fines may increase in severity. It is useful to note that the Wild Animals in Travelling Circuses (Scotland) Act 2018 has a maximum fine of £5,000 and a criminal record, whereas the Bill will introduce for England a penalty of an unlimited fine plus a criminal record. The Bill empowers the authorities to put in place fines of increasing severity to make this activity not just illegal but increasingly uneconomic to pursue.

I hope that clarifies how the Government would seek to deal with the understandable concerns that the hon. Member for Plymouth, Sutton and Devonport has raised. I hope he understands that we do not need any disqualification powers in the Bill because there are disqualification powers elsewhere to address the other issues he raises. I hope that, on the strength of the points I have made, he feels he can withdraw the new clause.

Luke Pollard Portrait Luke Pollard - Hansard

On the basis of the Minister’s reassurances that there will be sufficient consequences for people who breach the law, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the motion.

Clause, by leave, withdrawn.

New Clause 2

Powers of seizure: animals

“(1) Where an animal is seized under paragraph 7(k), an inspector or a constable may—

(a) remove it, or arrange for it to be removed, to a place of safety;

(b) care for it, or arrange for it to be cared for—

(i) on the premises where it was being kept when it was taken into possession, or

(ii) at such other place as he thinks fit.”—(Luke Pollard.)

This amendment would enable an animal which has been seized to be removed and cared for appropriately.

Brought up, and read the First time.

Break in Debate

Luke Pollard Portrait Luke Pollard - Hansard
22 May 2019, 10:25 a.m.

Effectively, new clause 2 and amendment 3 continue the theme we explored in our debate on new clause 1 about the potential seizure of animals. They seek to ensure that there are powers to seize an animal in the event of continued breaches of the Bill. Fundamentally, the constituents I represent want to know that, in the event of such a breach, it will be possible to take the animals to a place of safety. That is really important to them and, I imagine, to many Members.

New clause 2 would introduce a power to seize an animal in the event of a breach and would confer that power on an inspector or, as the Minister pointed out to my hon. Friend the Member for Ipswich, a constable. Amendment 3 would amend the schedule, which includes a curious form of words. It effectively states that an inspector may remove a number of things from any property where there is a wild animal, except the animal itself. Seizing evidence in support of a prosecution makes a lot of sense, and I imagine we all agree with that, but the schedule does not allow the removal of the animal itself. At what point does it become possible to rehome the animal in a safe and secure way? The Opposition are concerned that it is not clear that the Bill contains any powers to seize animals and ensure that they are rehomed satisfactorily.

New clause 2 and amendment 3 would set out clearly in the Bill that, in the event of breaches—in the event that wild animals are subjected to continued cruelty by being held in small cages in environments that are not suitable for their continued care—the animals can be seized and rehomed. From my understanding, that is not included in the Bill, and I would be grateful if the Minister set out under what circumstances he envisages any wild animal being seized and taken to a place of safety, from the commencement of the Act. I imagine that most people watching these deliberations would want to know that in the event of a breach those animals would be safe.

David Rutley Portrait David Rutley - Hansard
22 May 2019, 10:26 a.m.

New clause 2 and amendment 3 seek to provide inspectors with powers to seize animals and make alternative arrangements to care for them. Although we understand the concern that, in some situations, animals might need to be removed from the premises on safety or welfare grounds, such powers are already provided for in existing legislation. As such, the amendments are not necessary.

The inspection powers provided by the Bill are only those that inspectors need to properly enforce the ban, including powers to enter and search premises, to examine animals and to seize objects. In this context, “premises” includes any vehicle, tent or moveable structure. In addition, inspectors have powers to video or photograph an animal, which would provide sufficient evidence of an offence.

We have not provided powers to seize animals during the course of an investigation or post-conviction penalty. In respect of pre-conviction seizure as evidence, that is because it is unnecessary. If there are welfare or public safety concerns, animals can be seized under the Animal Welfare Act 2006 or the Dangerous Wild Animals Act 1976.

Break in Debate

David Rutley Portrait David Rutley - Hansard
22 May 2019, 10:27 a.m.

That is an interesting point, but I think it is unlikely. There are protections, so if a circus owner was minded to do such a thing, I would have thought that we would have seen evidence of animal welfare concerns, which would be dealt with under the 2006 Act. I will explain in more detail as I proceed why we have come to that conclusion, which will hopefully answer the question more fully.

The Animal Welfare Act 2006 permits seizure if an animal is suffering, or if it is likely to suffer if its circumstances do not change. The Dangerous Wild Animals Act 1976 permits seizure of certain types of animals, including camels and zebras, if they are being kept without a licence under that Act or if a licensing condition is being breached. There is also no need to seize an animal to prove an offence has been committed under the Bill. As the Bill bans the use of animals in circuses, the evidence would need to establish that use. Simply establishing that the circus had a wild animal would not be sufficient.

We do not think that the seizure of an animal is appropriate post conviction. The only offence that a circus operator will have been convicted of is using a wild animal in a circus. To deprive them of the animal entirely would be unprecedented and clearly disproportionate, and would lead to the threat of or concern about legal challenge. I appreciate that there may be concerns about repeat offending, but there is no limit to the fine that can be imposed by the courts, as we discussed in relation to disqualification. The way to tackle the challenge is to escalate fines over time, so a repeat offender would soon find themselves out of business.

As I have already outlined, where there are welfare or public safety concerns, the Animal Welfare Act and Dangerous Wild Animals Act provide the powers to seize animals. On those grounds, I urge the hon. Member for Plymouth, Sutton and Devonport to withdraw the new clause.

Luke Pollard Portrait Luke Pollard - Hansard

Based on the reassurances that the Minister has given—that the welfare of the animals can be looked after—I am happy to withdraw the clause. However, I think there is a strong point about ensuring that none of the animals can be used should there be any breaches, and the welfare of those animals must be paramount. The reassurances that the Minister has given are sufficient to send a clear message on that point, so I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.

New clause, by leave, withdrawn.

Schedule

Inspections

Question proposed, That the schedule be the schedule to the Bill.

Break in Debate

Luke Pollard Portrait Luke Pollard - Hansard
22 May 2019, 10:34 a.m.

I am grateful for that point; I think that the right hon. and learned Gentleman has got to the nub of what I am trying to get at with the Minister. I am trying to set out clearly what is included in the definition. We do not seek to qualify what a vehicle is; we stress “including” to make sure that definition includes those different movable structures and vehicles that could be home to any wild animals at any point. The right hon. and learned Gentleman has correctly identified my ruse: getting the Minister to put on record that all those different vehicles and movable structures would be included, to make sure that there can be no hiding place for any wild animal in the event of an inspection by an inspector or, as we heard earlier, a constable enforcing the requirements.

David Rutley Portrait David Rutley - Hansard
22 May 2019, 10:34 a.m.

Amendment 4 seeks to add further clarity to a term that itself is already part of a definition. However, the Government do not believe the amendment is necessary. Paragraph 12 of the schedule provides a definition of premises, which already includes “any place”, but also

“in particular, includes—

(a) any vehicle, and

(b) any…movable structure.”

That is already a very broad list, which is also in line with the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984. The definition of premises in PACE includes “any vehicle” and

“any tent or movable structure”,

and those definitions are not further defined in the Act. Listing “caravans, trucks and trailers”, as in amendment 4, would not add anything to that definition, as those are already either vehicles or movable structures.

The purpose of a list within an inclusive definition is to extend that definition beyond what it might ordinarily be thought to include. It is not a list of examples, and including such a list runs the risk of inadvertently narrowing the definition, as my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for North East Hertfordshire has said. Specifying only vehicles that people might live in—a caravan, a truck or a trailer—suggests that the definition does not include, for example, cars or motorcycles. Again, I hope that this is a probing amendment, or at least one that seeks to clarify, and that the Committee is content that the explanation I have given means that further defining the phrase “premises” is not necessary. As such, I hope that the hon. Member for Plymouth, Sutton and Devonport will not press the amendment.

Luke Pollard Portrait Luke Pollard - Hansard
22 May 2019, 10:34 a.m.

I thank the Minister for the reassurances he has given. I wanted to make sure that it was clearly set out on the record that any vehicles or potential locations where a wild animal could be stored were included in the definition, and I am grateful to the Minister for having set that out.

Break in Debate

Luke Pollard Portrait Luke Pollard - Hansard
22 May 2019, 10:47 a.m.

On a point of order, Mrs Moon. I am attempting a nebulous point of order so as to put on record my thanks to the DEFRA officials for the work that they have done. I also thank the animal welfare organisations and all those people who have fought for the ban on wild animals in circuses. Every wild animal matters. I hope the Minister will continue to push in his efforts to get the Bill through as fast as possible, so that we can get the six reindeer, four zebras, three camels, three raccoons, one fox—not for hunting—one macaw and one zebu into a place of safety, where they can enjoy the rest of their lives in as close to their natural habitat as possible.

David Rutley Portrait David Rutley - Hansard
22 May 2019, 10:47 a.m.

Further to that point of order, Mrs Moon, regarding an oversight by the Minister in not recognising the important work by DEFRA officials who have been incredibly helpful in taking this forward over many years, I am grateful to countless Members of Parliament, who have not only supported this Committee and our work in the debate that took place about a week ago, but those who have campaigned tirelessly on the issue. It is right to have done that and I am grateful to the hon. Member for Plymouth, Sutton and Devonport for bringing that to our attention. I also share in his thanks to those who participated in our evidence sessions and to you, Mrs Moon, for chairing our debate so well this morning.

Wild Animals in Circuses (No.2) Bill (First sitting)

(Committee Debate: 1st sitting: House of Commons)
Debate between David Rutley and Luke Pollard
Tuesday 21st May 2019

(1 year, 4 months ago)

Public Bill Committees
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HM Treasury
David Rutley Portrait David Rutley - Hansard
21 May 2019, 11:15 a.m.

Q On the discussion about defining travelling circuses in the Bill, there are concerns, which we have discussed at length, that defining them too narrowly may mean that certain activities, such as falconry, cannot happen. It sounds as if you would be quite understanding of an approach that involved using guidance to define things more clearly. I think one of you actually said that might be a more flexible approach that could adapt to changing circumstances in the years ahead. Obviously, primary and secondary legislation can take time. It would be interesting to hear your more definitive views on that. If we were to move forward with guidance, would your organisations be willing to get involved in that process and help review it?

Angie Greenaway: Yes, we would be very happy to contribute to that and to comment on the Scottish legislation as well. Guidance is needed for clarification. As Committee members have mentioned, there are circumstances in which people are not sure whether the legislation would cover something. Guidance would help provide clarity.

Dr Chris Draper: Statutory guidance is necessary in this case; leaving things with an industry-led guidelines approach would not be wise. In terms of the statutory guidelines type of approach, I would be more than happy for Born Free to be part of that process.

Jordi Casamitjana: I would also be happy to be involved. Guidelines give special flexibility, so you can perceive problems and make modifications in the future, when there is suddenly an unforeseen type of activity. We have the reality right now; there is a variety of activities, and therefore it is already neweded right now.

Luke Pollard Portrait Luke Pollard - Hansard
21 May 2019, 11:16 a.m.

Q I wanted to go back to Angie’s written submission, which talks about the circus animals suffering. There is a general understanding that banning wild animals from circuses is a good thing, and we want to do that, but I have not yet heard—apart from in small bits—about the levels of suffering that we have in circuses at the moment. There is a sense that that has already been banned, so any animals that are already there must be well treated; otherwise, how would people pay money to go to a circus if they felt animals were not well treated? Can you give us a sense of your assessment of the welfare of the animals we have in circuses in the UK currently? What is the best way to assess the wellbeing of an animal in any type of captive environment, especially one where they are subject to so much touring and travelling?

Angie Greenaway: I think the British Veterinary Association covered it well when they talked about the inherent welfare issues of travelling and the fact that the accommodation needs to be small and collapsible and to be put on the back of the trucks. Big cats, even though they are not currently touring, will be in a series of small cages on the back of a lorry; that is their permanent accommodation. Sometimes they might have access to an exercise enclosure, but it will only be for x hours during the day. Elephants will be kept chained all night, at least, and possibly all day.

Other circus animals, such as camels and zebras, might be tethered and on their own. Obviously, they are herd species, so those are unnatural social groupings, which was touched upon earlier. The provision of the accommodation is not suitable, nor is the constant travel. The report by Professor Harris, commissioned by the Welsh Government, said that there is no evidence to show that these animals get used to the travel. Some people think it does not matter and say, “Oh, they’ve been touring for years.” That is still going to be a stressful experience that will compromise their welfare.

There are issues across the board, but also those that are species-specific, depending on how the animals are socially grouped, managed and trained. The welfare of the animals is compromised, and that has been accepted by veterinary bodies. The scientific evidence is overwhelming about the issues involved.

Wild Animals in Circuses (No. 2) Bill

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

(1 year, 4 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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HM Treasury
David Rutley Portrait David Rutley - Hansard
7 May 2019, 6:52 p.m.

Of course, in Committee, we will have the chance to review these things in more detail. There has been ongoing discussion with Opposition Front Benchers about the Committee process.

Clause 1(2) defines “use” as either performance or exhibition. It should cover circumstances in which wild animals are put on display at the circus, usually just adjacent to the big top, as well as performances in the ring. The penalty for a circus operator who is found guilty of using a wild animal in a travelling circus is an unlimited fine; the Animal Welfare Act 2006 also provides powers to seize animals where there are grounds to do so.

Subsection (4) provides for corporate liability where the circus operator is a corporate entity. Subsection (5) sets out definitions of terms used throughout clause 1, including “wild animal”—a term that is well understood and has already been defined in other legislation such as the Zoo Licensing Act 1981 and the Welfare of Wild Animals in Travelling Circuses (England) Regulations 2012. We have largely replicated that approach in the Bill:

“‘wild animal’ means an animal of a kind which is not commonly domesticated in Great Britain”.

To meet that definition, an animal does not have to have been born in the wild. Most of the wild animals currently in English circuses have been bred in captivity, usually from several generations of circus animals, but that does not make them domesticated. Domestication is a process that happens over many generations—hundreds of years, if not thousands.

To return to a question asked by the hon. Member for Brighton, Pavilion (Caroline Lucas), clause 1 does not define “travelling circus”. The term is left to take its common meaning, which we believe that the courts will have no trouble in interpreting. Indeed, the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee’s July 2013 report on the draft Bill agreed that we did not need to include a definition of the term; nor was a circus itself defined by the Scottish Parliament in the Wild Animals in Travelling Circuses (Scotland) Act 2018. Defining a circus in a specific way might be unhelpful, because it could provide parameters for an operator to seek to evade the ban.

The common meaning of “circus” is

“a company of performers who put on shows with diverse entertainments, often of a daring or exciting nature, that may include, for example, acts such as…acrobats, trapeze acts…tightrope walkers, jugglers, unicyclists”.

The role of wild animals in a circus, when they are used, is to provide an entertaining spectacle for our amusement, often as a way to demonstrate the skill or dominance of the trainer. That is outdated, and it is what we are legislating against.

Clause 2 relates to inspections, for which powers are set out in the schedule. Inspectors will be appointed by the Secretary of State, although we envisage that the numbers required will be small. We already have a small panel of inspectors to enforce the interim wild animals in circuses licensing regime, all of whom are drawn from the Department’s list of zoo licensing veterinary inspectors and are highly experienced in the handling and treatment of wild animals in captivity. Inspectors will be appointed on a case-by-case basis by the Animal and Plant Health Agency to investigate evidence of any offence.

Clause 3 will make a minor consequential amendment to the Dangerous Wild Animals Act 1976, which requires persons who wish to keep dangerous wild animals to be licensed. Those who keep dangerous wild animals in a circus are currently exempted from that requirement, but once the new ban comes into force, there should no longer be any vertebrate dangerous wild animals in travelling circuses. We have therefore taken a belt-and-braces approach to make it clear that using dangerous wild vertebrate animals in a travelling circus is not allowed.

The Scottish Government, who have already introduced a ban on the use of wild animals in travelling circuses in Scotland, have asked us to extend to Scotland our amendment to the 1976 Act, and we are pleased to enable that request. Once again, we are grateful for the Scottish Government’s work on this and many other aspects of animal welfare. The Welsh Government are considering their own ban; we have also discussed the matter with the Northern Ireland Government, who are not in a position to consider a ban at this point.

Clause 4 provides for the Bill to come into force on 20 January 2020, the day after the interim circus licensing regulations expire. I hope that I have already reassured hon. Members that it will come into effect in a timely way.

It is worth clarifying what the Bill will not do. First, I make it absolutely clear that we are not proposing to ban circuses, only their use of wild animals. Plenty of travelling circuses do not use wild animals, or indeed any animals, in their acts; the Bill will have no impact on them. Nor will it stop circus operators from owning wild animals. If circuses wish to continue to own them after the ban is enacted, they will be subject to the appropriate licensing requirements, for example under the Dangerous Wild Animals Act 1976 or under the Department’s 2018 licensing regulations for animals hired out for TV or film productions. If a circus does not intend to continue using wild animals in other work, we expect to see retirement plans being deployed under the interim licensing regulations.

Nor will the ban lead to the banning of other animal exhibits such as falconry displays, zoos, farm parks or the sort of displays that we might see at summer fêtes in our constituencies. Even though such activities may move animal displays from one place to another, they do not fall within the ordinary interpretation of a circus and will therefore not meet the definition of a travelling circus. We do not wish to ban them, because we acknowledge that they have a role to play in education. The important distinction is that circuses move from A to B to C, whereas other displays may go to one place, come back to a home base and go to another place some time later—they are a very different activity.

Lastly, the Bill will apply only to wild animals. I know from parliamentary debates and from my Department’s postbag that the overriding concern is about the use of wild animals in travelling circuses, which is precisely what the Bill will address. Other domestic animals such as horses and dogs will continue to be subject to inspections under the Animal Welfare (Licensing of Activities Involving Animals) (England) Regulations 2018 to ensure that the highest welfare standards are met.

Continuing to allow wild animals to perform often absurd and unnecessary behaviours for our amusement in travelling circuses goes against the Government’s efforts towards—and the House’s interests in—raising awareness and respect for animals. People can continue to enjoy the experience of going to a circus, but we must move on from the age when wild animals were paraded around as a spectacle. We want people to see animals in a more dignified and natural setting. We cannot make that message clearer than by introducing this Bill to ban that practice. I commend it to the House.

Luke Pollard Portrait Luke Pollard (Plymouth, Sutton and Devonport) (Lab/Co-op) - Parliament Live - Hansard
7 May 2019, 6:59 p.m.

Circuses are no place for wild animals. That view is shared not only by animal welfare organisations and animal lovers, but by the vast majority of people in our country and—as I am very glad to see—by hon. Members on both sides of the House. As the Minister said, banning wild animals in circuses is a policy that began under Labour before we lost power in 2010, so we support the Bill. It is long overdue, but we are pleased that, having walked the tightrope of parliamentary time so many times, it has now arrived. I thank Members on both sides of the House for their advocacy for wild animals. This will ensure that we can have the greatest shows: circuses that do not have wild animals in them.

In welcoming the Bill, I want to echo some of the points that have been made by hon. Members. Like my right hon. Friend the Member for Warley (John Spellar), I ask the Minister where the Bill is to increase the penalties for animal cruelty. The Bill before us is welcome, but it is not the only Bill that we need in relation to animal welfare. That is one of the promises that remains missing.

The Welfare of Wild Animals in Travelling Circuses (England) Regulations 2012 will expire in 2020. Now is the time to address this issue once and for all. Forcing wild animals to perform in circuses is one of the most archaic and inhumane forms of animal exploitation. We should be clear that we no longer want it to take place in Britain.

According to the latest figures from September, 19 wild animals are owned by the two remaining circuses that use wild animals in their performances. I am very pleased that the six reindeer, four zebras, three camels, three racoons, one fox—which is not for hunting—one macaw and one zebu, which of course is a type of humped cattle, will soon be free from their lives in circuses and able to enjoy the rest of their lives without being put on display for our entertainment.

I have received a few questions about the Bill since I mentioned I would be speaking in the debate. I would be grateful if the Minister could set out whether birds are included in the Bill, as a few people want to know. I believe that they are, but it would be helpful if the Minister made it clear for the record in her concluding remarks.

The problem with the current regulations is that if the licensing conditions are met, there is nothing to stop more animals and different types of animals returning to circuses unless further action is taken.

The review of the science on the welfare of wild animals in travelling circuses by Professor Stephen Harris, which was commissioned by the Welsh Government and published in April 2016, provides strong evidence that wild animals in travelling circuses not only suffer poor welfare, but do not have a “life worth living”. Every circus animal matters. That is why we should have no wild animals in our circuses anymore. The report built on existing evidence that shows that the welfare needs of non-domesticated wild animals cannot be met within a travelling circus—a conclusion with which the Opposition agree.

I am sure that all hon. Members are animal lovers. I am sure we can all agree that animals need a suitable environment to live in, an appropriate diet, the ability to express normal patterns of behaviour and to be housed properly, whether that is with or without other animals, and that they should not suffer. Wild animals that are used in travelling circuses are carted from one venue to another, sometimes in cramped cages and barren trailers, and are taught to perform tricks, often through fear of punishment. In many cases, animals are not suited to the travelling life, where they are denied their most basic needs. When animals suffer, we all suffer.

Labour planned to ban the use of wild animals in circuses before the 2010 general election. The draft legislation had been prepared and consulted on, with a substantial majority of respondents in favour of a ban. While we are pleased that there is finally parliamentary time for this crucial and urgent Bill, it is disappointing that we have been overtaken by no fewer than 30 countries worldwide in banning the use of wild animals in circuses. I am grateful to my hon. Friend the Member for Bristol East (Kerry McCarthy) for setting out just how many EU member states have banned the use of wild animals in circuses and showing just how paltry was the Government’s line that our EU membership prevented it.

Racehorse Protection

Debate between David Rutley and Luke Pollard
Monday 15th October 2018

(1 year, 11 months ago)

Westminster Hall
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HM Treasury
Luke Pollard Portrait Luke Pollard - Hansard
15 Oct 2018, 6:25 p.m.

At the moment, there is a strong case for reform and greater ambition. A self-regulatory system needs to carry the confidence of the public. I think that the BHA has heard the concerns voiced by Members on both sides of the House, including those who support its role, in wanting a more demanding and ambitious set of policies. We need to look at what will happen if that is not put in place. Organisations that do not keep pace with changing consumer demands on animal welfare and the changing social contract will see their business model effectively erode from the bottom up, as we have seen with SeaWorld in the tourism sector. If there continue to be more deaths, there is a real danger that the industry’s legitimacy could be threatened, as mentioned by Members on both sides of this debate.

Much more needs to be done on improving animal welfare. We should be clear that British horse-racing is a national success story, but we want the industry to work harder, faster and smarter to improve equine welfare and to set transparent targets that can be independently verified. The public have a right to know if activities only pay lip service to that or are genuine—ambitious plans or simply pedestrian. The industry has a lot of good stories to tell about animal welfare and safety, but it can also do a lot more to improve them.

If Labour was in government and I were in the Minister’s place, I would be demanding a greater set of targets from the industry, looking at how we can halve the deaths of horses involved in horse-racing. When will we reach the 0.1% target, and can it be a numerical target, not just a percentage target? As we heard from my hon. Friend the Member for York Central, Brexit could have an impact on the number of runners for races, so we want to make sure that we are not simply hitting a percentage target but talking about the number horses that die in the trade.

There is an awful lot of good news from the sector. However, there are an awful lot of improvements that Members on both sides should rightly demand if the industry is to continue to adapt and flex to meet the changing social contract and changing consumer demands that our electorate are making.

David Rutley Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (David Rutley) - Hansard
15 Oct 2018, 6:27 p.m.

It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Sharma. I congratulate the hon. Member for Hartlepool (Mike Hill) on speaking up for the petitioners, which he did extraordinarily well, while also adding in some of his own views along the way. It has been a useful and stimulating debate.

I am the newly appointed Minister for Animal Welfare, and hon. Members on both sides of the House can be assured that this issue is very important to me. Like other Members, I have also received several emails from constituents who have signed the petition; there were 176 from Macclesfield. It is clear from the contributions made that racehorses spend many weeks training hard to compete in races so that many people across the country can enjoy the thrill of horse-racing, which, as set out by my hon. Friend the Member for Tewkesbury (Mr Robertson), the right hon. Member for Warley (John Spellar), and others, is the second-best-attended sport after football. That is why we should rightly expect that racehorses are looked after to the highest standard and that their welfare needs, as required by the Animal Welfare Act 2006, are met.

The BHA is responsible for the safety of the tracks, for both horses and jockeys. I am pleased that it works hard to put in place the necessary safety measures for horses and works collaboratively with welfare experts from the RSPCA and World Horse Welfare to continuously improve its work in this vital endeavour, which is important.

As the new Minister, I wanted to understand what these welfare organisations—as well as my colleagues—had to say, so I read with interest the views of the RSPCA, which is supportive of its working arrangement with the BHA. The charity’s deputy chief executive, Chris Wainwright, said:

“We work really closely with the BHA and we think that relationship has resulted in lots of really good improvements, whether it’s the use of the whip”—

we will come on to that again in a moment—

“hurdles design or the review of Aintree.”

It is clearly open to further reviews, but it has a positive working relationship with the BHA.

World Horse Welfare says that it has worked constructively with the BHA for many years, which has resulted in a number of positive changes to further advance racehorse safety and welfare.

The BHA has a dedicated team who inspect the 60 racetracks in Great Britain. There are four inspectors of courses, who have an allocated number of racecourses. I will not go into all the detail of their work, but it is clear that they do preliminary inspections of the racecourses; they are involved at the start of every season. Throughout the season, racecourses continue to be monitored, and then any improvements that are required get acted on. On race day itself, as the hon. Member for York Central (Rachael Maskell) has seen for herself, a huge amount of activity goes on to ensure that there are high standards then as well.

How do we think that the BHA is performing? There were differing views across the Chamber today. The BHA maintains statistics on the number of horses involved in fatal accidents, and it is really important to see the level of fatalities and the trend. Mention has been made of this, but let me put it on the record for clarity: clearly, each fatality is absolutely tragic. The continuing decline in fatalities from the years 2012 and 2013, when there were 211 and 196 fatalities respectively, to 167 in 2017 is encouraging, but I am keen to see the number of fatalities decline still further. From contributions in today’s debate, including a very useful contribution from the shadow Minister, the hon. Member for Plymouth, Sutton and Devonport (Luke Pollard), I think that that ambition is shared across the House. The BHA needs to recognise that and respond to it, and I will come in due course to how I think it could be recognised.

As has been highlighted, there is always a degree of risk in any sport or activity, whether to the humans or animals involved. With 91,000 runners at tracks in 2017, the fatalities represented 0.18% of all runners. It is positive to see the percentage also declining since 2012. That is very welcome, given the work that the BHA is doing to put in place the necessary safety measures. I have to state again that that is done on a collaborative basis with the RSPCA and World Horse Welfare. That approach is vital. I accept the point made by the hon. Member for East Kilbride (Dr Cameron) that more needs to be done to ensure that the figures are transparent and available to the public more readily. I will raise that when I meet the BHA.

A good example of a result of the collaboration between the BHA and the RSPCA is the redesign of fences and other aspects of the Grand National course, as the hon. Member for St Helens North (Conor McGinn) will appreciate, given his constituency interests. It resulted in the inner frames of fences being replaced with more forgiving flexible plastic. That has led to a sharp decline in the number of fatalities in that iconic race; indeed, there has been none since the work was completed in 2013. That is good news, and more needs to be done to learn from these important lessons to reduce fatalities further in other races.

There have been very notable contributions to the debate. Some were incredibly supportive of the status quo, although I think that everyone wants further change and improvement. Worth highlighting are the intervention early on from the right hon. Member for Warley and the contributions from the hon. Member for St Helens North and my hon. Friends the Members for Tewkesbury and for Shipley (Philip Davies). They highlighted how much horse-racing means to many people across the country and that the welfare of racehorses is vital, not just for the industry’s sake but for the horses’ sake. They are wonderful animals and their welfare should be paramount. Hon. Members spoke strongly in support of the BHA’s work, but I did not detect complacency. I recognised that they felt that racehorse welfare needed to continue to be a real priority.

We were able to see during the debate what it is like to go to York racecourse on race day. We had a behind-the-scenes view of what goes on from a contribution by the hon. Member for York Central that was characteristically thoughtful and, as always, as I have noticed in these debates, well researched. She raised a number of issues and, with the permission of hon. Members present, I will go through as many as I can. She raised the important issue of starting gates, which was also raised on the petitioners’ behalf by the hon. Member for Hartlepool. It is clear that the BHA needs to look very carefully at the tragic incidents that have been raised, such as the one involving Commanding Officer. More needs to be done to tackle this issue. Again, I will raise it with the BHA when I meet it in the near future.

The use of whips has been much discussed—by the hon. Members for York Central, for East Kilbride and for Plymouth, Sutton and Devonport and by my hon. Friend the Member for Shipley. I have to tread pretty carefully on this subject: I am a Government Whip and I have also been the Whip for my hon. Friend the Member for Shipley—I do not think any more needs to be said there. [Interruption.] I have sometimes found that a carrot can be more effective than a stick, but we will not go too far down that track.

None the less, important issues have been raised about use of the whip. In this country, strict rules are in place. Stewards are empowered to hold inquiries and to ban jockeys. The BHA rightly keeps those rules under review, and of course lessons should be learned from places such as Norway. It was interesting to read the report produced by the RSPCA for this debate. It has obviously been monitoring use of the whip and working closely with the BHA on this issue. According to its records and review, between 2012 and 2015 there was a 40% reduction in use of the whip. The RSPCA welcomes that, as I think we all do, but we would probably all say, “Let’s go further down that track.”

On the subject of retired racehorses, it sounds as though New Beginnings, in the constituency of the hon. Member for York Central, is doing great work and it is to be commended. We need to learn from the positive work that is going on to retrain racehorses, which was also highlighted by the hon. Member for St Helens North. Indeed, £750,000 is being made available to see what can be done to facilitate the rehoming and retraining of racehorses. I am really encouraged to see that there are successful second careers for racehorses.

The hon. Member for York Central talked about a number of EU-exit-related issues, including that of skilled staff. The Migration Advisory Committee has been asked to review the shortage occupation list, and I am sure that the racing industry will want to make its contributions to that important review. She highlighted equine movement; that is one of several issues that need to be considered as we look at leaving the EU. The continued movement of equines between the UK and the EU, with the minimum of delay, is very important to the industry on both sides. It is therefore in both sides’ interest to ensure that that is maintained. Technical notices were put out on 12 October about what arrangements will be put in place in a no deal scenario, but obviously what we are working towards—we have heard more about it today—is securing a deal. The negotiation, as we are all too aware, is ongoing.

The hon. Member for Derby North (Chris Williamson) took a different track with his view of the BHA’s track record. None the less, it stimulated a lively debate. Even he did not want a ban on horse-racing. I think that what we are all saying here, although from different positions, is that we want to see the welfare of racehorses put centre stage. I will take on board the points that he made.

The hon. Member for East Kilbride and several other communities—I can never remember them in order, so I will stick with just East Kilbride—made, characteristically, such a reasonable contribution that it is hard to disagree with many of the things that she said. Further improvements are required. She felt that there was a conflict of interest with regard to the BHA’s role. I do not particularly share that view, but I will go into that in more detail. She did set out some issues to tackle, notwithstanding the figures that we have talked about for the Grand National, and she talked about what can be done to address issues in relation to the whip.

The hon. Member for Plymouth, Sutton and Devonport, who also made an important contribution, highlighted the Animal Welfare Act 2006, which came into place under a previous Government, under his party’s leadership. That is a very important Act. I, too, welcome the fact that the present Government are looking to increase the sentences. We are looking to bring that into place as soon as possible when parliamentary time permits. We are seeking the Bill necessary to make it possible, and I know that he would welcome that moving forward as quickly as possible. He also highlighted the fact that this subject is very much about an ongoing journey. I share his ambition; in fact, I want to go further. As the Minister for this area now, I need to press hard on these issues.

I will now wind up and give a few concluding remarks. I would like to stress again that we must do all that we can to reduce the fatalities of horses while racing on a track. I am grateful for all the contributions in this debate, which show the keen interest that is genuinely felt in the welfare of racehorses.

The Government welcome all the work the BHA has done, and continues to do, for the safety of horses and riders and as a functioning and transparent body, which has the key responsibility in this area. With the work the BHA has done to further reduce the number of fatalities at racetracks, the Government do not see a need to take a different approach by creating a new body, as was set out in the initial response to the e-petition. That does not mean that the BHA should not continue to be held to account. It should continue to have to explain what it does in an open and transparent way, as has been set out clearly in this debate.

I am looking forward to meeting the BHA in the near future. The welfare of racehorses will be at the top of the agenda and will continue to be at subsequent meetings. I am particularly interested to discuss with the BHA its review, which is due to be published soon, of the tragic deaths of six racehorses at Cheltenham. I think that will be an important vehicle to understand its commitment and ambition, which—as has been set out clearly in the debate—other hon. Members share. It provides an opportunity to look at what more can be done at the Grand National. Let us use that report as a moment for reflection. I hope that the BHA is listening to this debate.

Ivory Bill (Sixth sitting)

(Committee Debate: 6th sitting: House of Commons)
Debate between David Rutley and Luke Pollard
Tuesday 19th June 2018

(2 years, 3 months ago)

Public Bill Committees
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HM Treasury
Luke Pollard Portrait Luke Pollard (Plymouth, Sutton and Devonport) (Lab/Co-op) - Hansard

I wonder, regarding the geographical extent of the Bill, whether it will include British sovereign bases on Cyprus and elsewhere, and what its geographical extent to overseas territories will be.

David Rutley Portrait David Rutley - Hansard

I thank the hon. Gentleman for his question. The answer is that it will not. I can write to him to give him a bit more detail as to why that is the case.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause 40 accordingly ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clauses 41 to 42 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

New Clause 1

Reporting requirements: Exemption certificates

‘(1) As soon as reasonably practicable after the end of each calendar year, the Secretary of State must—

(a) prepare a report on applications for exemption certificates that have been granted during that year, and—

(i) lay a copy of that report before Parliament, and

(ii) publish the report.

(2) Subsection (1) does not apply in relation to a year if section 3 of this Act has not been in force at any time in that year.

(3) A report prepared under this section must include the following in respect of each exemption certificate granted—

(a) the description or descriptions provided in accordance with section 3(1)(b) by the person that applied for the exemption certificate,

(b) the photograph or photographs provided in accordance with section 3(1)(c) by the person that applied for the exemption certificate,

(c) when the certificate was granted, and

(d) any other information that the Secretary of State considers appropriate.’—(Sue Hayman.)

This new clause requires an annual report to be published with details and pictures of all items that are granted an exemption certificate under section 3.

Brought up, and read the First time.

Question put, That the clause be read a Second time.

Ivory Bill (Second sitting)

(Committee Debate: 2nd sitting: House of Commons)
Debate between David Rutley and Luke Pollard
Tuesday 12th June 2018

(2 years, 3 months ago)

Public Bill Committees
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HM Treasury
Luke Pollard Portrait Luke Pollard - Hansard
12 Jun 2018, 3:30 p.m.

Q Given that we hope that the trade in ivory will come to an end and that there will be less ivory available, might there be a greater desire among museums to have pieces of unworked ivory to demonstrate a historical connection, be it good or bad, with a region, an industry or a time period?

Hartwig Fischer: My hunch is that since 1975 there have been no purchases of unworked ivory, so I do not see any museum—any natural history museum or any museum of this kind—engaging in anything like this. These are historical holdings.

Dr Boström: Further to that, because they are historical holdings—as in the Pitt Rivers Museum or any of the famous university museums with natural and artistic objects—I imagine that there is enough in the existing public collections, across all museums, that, should it be necessary to display or interpret unworked ivory for an educational purpose, we do not have to go anywhere else for unworked ivory.

David Rutley Portrait David Rutley - Hansard
12 Jun 2018, 3:26 p.m.

Q Thank you very much for your contributions today and to the consultation. Thank you in advance for the work you will do to make this come into effect with these very small exemptions. You have given Committee members a lot of assurance today, and you have explained your expertise and your confidence that you can use the criteria to determine the genuinely rare and most important objects. Can you help us understand better what that means, in terms of the likely volumes? On Second Reading, concerns were raised across the House about whether the regulations are tight enough. Can you help us understand what the likely volumes will be for these rare and very important items? By definition, I think we all assume that the quantities will be small, but it will be useful for you to say that, as experts, rather than for us to assume that.

Dr Boström: Are you talking about the volume of acquisitions, or the objects that might come to us?

Ivory Bill (First sitting)

(Committee Debate: 1st sitting: House of Commons)
Debate between David Rutley and Luke Pollard
Tuesday 12th June 2018

(2 years, 3 months ago)

Public Bill Committees
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HM Treasury
Luke Pollard Portrait Luke Pollard (Plymouth, Sutton and Devonport) (Lab/Co-op) - Hansard
12 Jun 2018, 9:51 a.m.

Q Are you convinced that sufficient resources are in place to ensure that the provisions in the Bill are full implemented? I am thinking particularly of the resources of the UK Government to make sure that British involvement in the trade can be halted.

David Cowdrey: I attended the Partnership for Action against Wildlife Crime conference at Kew last week, and one of the questions I asked was about the growing issue of cyber-crime. Does the National Wildlife Crime Unit have sufficient resources to tackle the illegal wildlife trade online? Quite clearly that is something it would like additional resource for.

As Will said, these criminals are working in an environment where they can adapt and change very swiftly. The online market provides anonymity, as they can create false identities, so trying to prosecute them becomes much more difficult. Only yesterday we had the introduction of new guidelines on the control of trade in endangered species from the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, which was fantastic. They include a new crime if someone is advertising an endangered species on annexe A and does not have an article 10 certificate.

Steps are being taken, but we are always playing catch-up with these criminals. We need the resources to be able to prosecute them. That goes not only at the UK level but at international level, with Interpol and within the countries where these crimes are taking place on the ground with poaching.

Will Travers: One of the tools at our disposal is to make sure that the charges for the exemption certificates are sufficiently high. I know that it is meant to be a cost-recovery process, but they should be sufficiently high to make sure that the very limited number of exemption certificates that are applied for are not applied for in a frivolous way, so people are not applying for lots of exemption certificates, which would defeat the object. We need to come back to the core principles of what we are trying to do here and ensure that these exemptions are extremely limited. One way of doing that is to say that if you want an exemption certificate, it will cost—I will make up the figure—£1,000. I think people will think twice when they have to go through that process and fork out £1,000 but might not get the certificate at the end of the day. That is another mechanism that we should look at.

David Rutley Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (David Rutley) - Hansard
12 Jun 2018, 9:54 a.m.

Q Thank you for your contributions over many years, particularly through the consultations, which are much appreciated. Do you feel that you have had a chance to have your voices heard through the consultation process? I hope you have, but it would be interesting to hear that from you.

There has been some concern that the ban might lead to displacement to other countries, for example in the far east. You have addressed that to some extent in your comments. Can you reconfirm for the Committee that you believe that the ban will help and that the October conference could be an opportunity to start tackling concerns about displacement?

Cath Lawson: Yes, very much. We feel that we have had the opportunity to input into this process, and we are grateful for that—the consultation process has been very inclusive. If the Bill can be passed in time for the October conference, we can show that we have one of the world’s strongest pieces of legislation on ivory. We feel that it would put the UK in a strong position to work with other countries, particularly those neighbouring China: Laos, Thailand, Bhutan. There is certainly a risk of displacement from China to those sorts of countries, and this would help them move forward with their ivory legislation as well.

Will Travers: I totally agree. With regard to the voice, it was one of the biggest responses in the public consultation, showing the depth of public concern. It was generated not just by advocacy organisations such as those represented here and others; the public in general wanted to have their say. With regard to displacement, the fact that the Foreign Secretary is so invested in the issue—as was his predecessor—bodes well, because the FCO has a really important role to play in making sure that our position on this issue is well understood in the countries that were just mentioned. Although the Bill is about the domestic ivory trade, it is important that it does not become a domestic issue; it is an influencer far and wide, particularly in those countries that have yet to make their position as clear as they could.

David Cowdrey: I agree. We have been listened to and consulted well. The consultation run by the Ivory Bill team at DEFRA should be congratulated on doing a superb job. They have consulted far and wide, with a range of organisations, and constructed a carefully crafted Bill.

There is always a risk of displacement to other countries. The investment that is being made and the training that the UK can provide—not only through our armed forces but through our police services—is excellent. The Metropolitan police in the UK have developed an ivory fingerprinting kit, which is now being rolled out to over 18 countries globally. The British high commission in Mozambique has invited me back to do some training with rangers and ANAC, which is the national parks authority. That is a piece of frontline equipment that can help catch ivory poachers on the ground, and it will also be appearing at the IWT conference in October. Team GB have a huge amount to contribute to law enforcement on the ground, and can provide expertise, training and resources where displacement is happening. Those are good strategic opportunities for tackling some of these real hotspots around the world.

Will an ivory ban help? Yes it will. This is a really good piece of legislation that will provide that global leadership and that position. The opportunities you have within the European Union to get a strong ivory ban in Europe and use this as a template are critical. Every available opportunity should be used to push this across Europe via colleagues, so that we can roll out this ivory ban and get a global ban. This is what we really need in order to start tackling the trade. You have a great opportunity and I wish you well.