All 7 Lord Trees contributions to the Animal Welfare (Sentience) Act 2022

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Wed 16th Jun 2021
Tue 6th Jul 2021
Animal Welfare (Sentience) Bill [HL]
Grand Committee

Committee stage & Committee stage
Tue 20th Jul 2021
Mon 6th Dec 2021
Animal Welfare (Sentience) Bill [HL]
Lords Chamber

Report stage part one & Lords Hansard - part one
Mon 6th Dec 2021
Animal Welfare (Sentience) Bill [HL]
Lords Chamber

Report stage part two & Lords Hansard - part two
Mon 6th Dec 2021
Animal Welfare (Sentience) Bill [HL]
Lords Chamber

Report stage part three & Lords Hansard - part three
Thu 7th Apr 2022
Animal Welfare (Sentience) Bill [HL]
Lords Chamber

Consideration of Commons amendments & Consideration of Commons amendments

Animal Welfare (Sentience) Bill [HL]

Lord Trees Excerpts
2nd reading
Wednesday 16th June 2021

(3 years, 1 month ago)

Lords Chamber
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Lord Trees Portrait Lord Trees (CB)
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My Lords, this is a significant Bill, which, in general, I support. It can have good consequences but it could also have unintended consequences. I declare my interest as co-chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Animal Welfare. I thank the Minister and the Bill team, as well as Mike Radford, reader in animal welfare at the University of Aberdeen, for useful and helpful discussions.

In the UK we have a deservedly proud history of protecting animal welfare, from 1822 to the present, as the noble Lords, Lord Herbert, Lord Forsyth, and several other noble Lords mentioned. All that legislation implied recognition of animal sentience without specific reference to it.

Animal sentience was incorporated into Article 13 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the EU by virtue of the Lisbon treaty of 2009. That article requires member state Governments to have full regard to animal welfare in formulating and implementing policy, as animals are sentient beings. Article 13 differs from the Bill in that it defines a limited number of policy areas to which it applies, whereas, as has been mentioned, the Bill applies to all government policy. Moreover, Article 13 significantly exempted

“religious rites, cultural traditions and regional heritage”,

as the noble and learned Lord, Lord Etherton, and other noble Lords mentioned. Thus, the Bill is very wide-ranging, covering all policy without exception, and it also implicitly includes wild animals. In placing obligations on government, the Bill will complement our excellent Animal Welfare Act, which places obligations on individual keepers of animals.

There were earlier attempts to enshrine the principle of Article 13 into UK law during the Brexit process, both in the other place and in this House, and the Government introduced their own Bill in 2017. This was scrutinised by the EFRA Committee in the other place, which received legal opinion that highlighted the serious risk of endless judicial review, partly related to the ambiguity of the meaning of “sentience”.

This Bill does not define sentience. Defra has commissioned a report from LSE Enterprise on this issue—which is germane to this debate but which, regrettably, is not yet available. Definitions of sentience range from

“having the power of perception by the senses”

to

“the quality of being able to experience feelings”.

The Global Animal Law Project says:

“Sentience shall be understood to mean the capacity to have feelings, including pain and pleasure, and implies a level of conscious awareness.”


Clearly, most life forms have the ability to sense most harmful stimuli and, if they are mobile, to avoid them.

Undoubtedly, as scientific evidence is accumulated, it is likely that certain invertebrates will be added to the coverage of this legislation. Since octopuses and related species are already provided protection within the Animals (Scientific Procedures) Act 1986, it would be consistent to add cephalopods, as Clause 5(2) provides. There are also credible calls for decapod crustaceans to be included, on which the LSE Enterprise report may comment. With further research, even more animals might be argued to be sentient, which raises the question: where in the hierarchy of the animal kingdom does sentience end?

I raise this as something that will need to be considered at some time, although the Bill quite rightly leaves it to the Secretary of State and hence Parliament to make regulations and to determine which animals to include in the Act. I can foresee that as the frontier of evidence shifts, the Secretary of State may be called upon to choose between scientific evidence and broader policy considerations.

The current Bill will create an animal sentience committee to survey government policy, which may report to the Secretary of State if it feels that the commitment with regard to animal welfare is not honoured. Clause 2(1) says that it “may produce a report”, thus the extent of scrutiny is not clear. I note that the committee will be empowered to publish its report in whatever way it wishes and that the Secretary of State must lay a response to the report before Parliament, thereby ensuring political accountability. I welcome both measures, but there is much important detail about the committee currently lacking in the Bill.

If we are to have an animal sentience committee, in my opinion it is important that that committee is independent and quite separate from the current Animal Welfare Committee—as the noble Baroness, Lady Young, said—since it will be a statutory committee, whereas the Animal Welfare Committee is advisory. I suggest that it is also important that the sentience committee is adequately resourced for its huge task and that its membership is appropriate and balanced. I support the idea of adopting some parliamentary process to ratify the membership; for example, as well as scientific expertise in animal welfare, veterinary science and biology, it could include appropriate expertise in policy and impact assessment.

I recognise that the issue of sentience is a huge populist impetus and has become totemic, and I understand the Government’s desire to introduce this. With a measured, pragmatic and balanced approach—as the noble Baroness, Lady Hodgson, among others, mentioned—this Bill could be a force for good with respect to animal welfare. But there are concerns in my mind about unintended consequences, which other noble Lords have raised. I feel that we cannot ignore them, but I hope that they do not materialise.

Finally, there is much detail lacking about the committee’s role—on resourcing, its obligations, its composition, its powers and powers of inquiry, and, perhaps most important of all, its powers of sanction if its recommendations are ignored. When and how will more detail on these important operational questions be provided?

Animal Welfare (Sentience) Bill [HL]

Lord Trees Excerpts
Lord Hamilton of Epsom Portrait Lord Hamilton of Epsom (Con)
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My Lords, I am moving this amendment because my noble friend Lord Forsyth is putting the report on quantitative easing to bed at his Economic Affairs Committee, just across the Corridor, so he has asked me to move it for him. I apologise that I was not able to contribute to Second Reading, but I have read Members’ contributions to that debate, and very interesting they were, too.

This amendment would change the first line of Clause 1(1) to read:

“The Secretary of State must”,


by regulations—that is the amendment—

“establish and maintain a committee called the Animal Sentience Committee.”

That is because, in common with quite a lot of my fellow Members of the House of Lords, I have great worries about the creation of this committee at all. In the second group of amendments, we will look at the whole question of duplication. We already have an Animal Welfare Committee and it is not altogether obvious why we need another one doing much the same tasks as the old one. Surely it is the task of government, particularly a Conservative Government, to simplify legislation, not complicate it.

Therefore, by adding “by regulations”, it would be necessary for the Secretary of State to come back to Parliament and say precisely what committee he wanted. It would also be an opportunity for him to explain to Parliament how much this is all costing, which is something my noble friend Lord Robathan raised at Second Reading. Looking at this Bill, there is no evidence at all of what it will cost the taxpayer, and it is important that we know how much these things will cost. It is not ridiculous to argue that we should be told how much people will be paid for being on the committee.

Generally, there is a great worry that the committee will develop a complete mind of its own, go roaring off, interfere with many different areas of government, and become rather unaccountable. Anything that can be done to ensure that the Secretary of State comes back to Parliament should be welcomed by the Government, as we do not want this committee getting completely out of control.

A great worry about the whole of this Bill, as my noble friend Lord Hannan said, is:

“to what problem is this Bill a solution?”—[Official Report, 16/6/21; col. 1918.]

There is an awful lot of truth in that, and it was echoed by a number of other contributors at Second Reading. We ought to be careful about creating new layers of bureaucracy and a committee with enormous powers to interfere with other areas of government, and end up not being accountable to Parliament at all. I beg to move.

Lord Trees Portrait Lord Trees (CB)
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Thank you, my Lords. I should like to speak to Amendment 3 in my name and Amendment 16 in the names of my noble friend Lord Kinnoull and the noble Lord, Lord Hannan.

Amendment 3 will sit in Clause 1, which introduces the animal sentience committee, and it seems right, proper and appropriate that the clause then goes on to describe the committee’s remit. That is to some extent covered in Clause 2(2), but my amendment goes further than that clause in two important respects. First, it stresses:

“The function of the Committee is to determine whether, in relation to the process of the formulation”—


and so on. It introduces the word “process”, which is critical to understanding the function of the committee. It is not influencing the policy or commenting on it. It can comment, and it has a remit to comment, on the process by which policy is formulated and implemented with regard to considering animal welfare implications. That is important. It may be a statement of the obvious, but it is perhaps sometimes worth stating the obvious.

Amendment 3, which would extend Clause 2(2), also refers to its remit to look at policy subsequent to the establishment of the committee, which would therefore have no right to retrospective review of policies previously formulated or implemented, even if they are in process at the time. This is an issue that a number of subsequent amendments on the list repeatedly allude to. It would therefore seem sensible to include that provision right at the beginning as a limitation on the committee’s remit.

Those are the main points: the amendment sets out the committee’s remit right at the beginning of the Bill, emphasising that its role is to comment on process, and would limit its remit to policy being formulated and implemented after the committee has been established.

Perhaps I may quickly speak to Amendment 16. It would restrict policy, which the Bill does not do; the Bill refers to “any government policy”, which is a huge remit. The amendment would restrict the policy to areas that were defined in Article 13 of the Lisbon treaty, which to some extent is the progenitor of the Bill. It seems sensible to make the scope of the committee more manageable, reasonable and pertinent by restricting that remit.

Earl of Kinnoull Portrait The Earl of Kinnoull (CB)
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My Lords, I declare my interests as set out in the register of the House, particularly those in respect of farming. I am chair of the UK Squirrel Accord and chair of the Red Squirrel Survival Trust. I apologise that I, too, was unable to speak at Second Reading, but I was in the Chamber for a good chunk of it, including for the winding speeches, and I have, of course, read Hansard.

I will speak to Amendments 16 and 35 in my name and briefly to Amendment 3 in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Trees. My amendments are probing. Animal sentience, of course, is not in EU retained law as it was a treaty obligation and so was not preserved by the European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2018. Article 13 of Title II of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union was therefore lost in the departure process from the European Union.

EU retained law is an interesting concept. In fact, it is a snapshot of EU law at 31 December 2020, which was then transposed into UK law. Of course, if you then want to make a change, changes are made expressly and with due process. That due process would seem to me to involve asking a number of questions. What was unsatisfactory about the previous arrangements? What are the benefits of the new arrangements that are proposed? What has been done to ensure that there are no unintended consequences? The noble Lord, Lord Hannan, in his Second Reading speech, summarised that by saying,

“to what problem is this Bill a solution?”—[Official Report, 16/6/21; col. 1918.]

I suppose I have merely tried to split that out. Thus, everything in EU retained law is anchored in the position quo ante as at 31 December last year. Things go on from there, but we knowingly make changes after that by going through a due process.

Before I go on to make some points, I thought it was probably interesting for everyone to understand the history of Article 13 a bit and how much Article 13 is a child of UK thinking. The original precursor appeared as a non-binding declaration as part of the 1991 Maastricht treaty, when, of course, there was a Conservative Government. It was proposed by the British. In 1997, with a Labour Government, it was promoted in the treaty of Amsterdam to being a binding protocol. In 2007, again under a Labour Government, it moved from being a protocol to an article in the Lisbon treaty. In each of those changes it was essentially a cross-party UK effort that put it there and placed sentience at the core of policy formation in the EU. It is a product of British thinking and part of our legacy within the EU.

This Bill is simply not consistent with Article 13 in two broad ways. Article 13 has the policy boundaries, which the noble Lord, Lord Trees, has just referred to. It also has the balancing factors that need to be taken into account when the issue is at question. Thus, I ask my three questions. What was unsatisfactory about the previous arrangements? What benefits are there to be found in the new arrangements? What has been done to ensure that there are no unintended consequences?

I hope to hear from the Minister in due course, but I went back and looked at the debates in Hansard for the European Union (Withdrawal) Bill in 2018. I looked at the Conservative manifesto. I have here under my left elbow the Explanatory Notes associated with this Bill and, of course, I have read and reread the Minister’s speech on 16 June at Second Reading. I am afraid that there is not really an answer to those questions. I have to say that, in the absence of that, Amendment 16 would restore the policy area boundaries, as the noble Lord, Lord Trees, has just said, and Amendment 35 would restore the balancing factors that must be considered. I think that the case for doing that is pretty strong.

In closing, I generally have a lot of sympathy with the amendments in this group, not just the one from the noble Lord, Lord Trees, but his amendment in particular is consistent with my logic and, if he comes back with it on Report, I hope to sign it.

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Lord Benyon Portrait Lord Benyon (Con)
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I am grateful to my noble friend and absolutely defer to him as someone with long experience of legislation, good and bad. I am sorry if saying “Nothing to fear” caused him fear. I was seeking to remind the Committee that we are not talking about something that creates policy; rather, it can inform policymakers. There are a whole host of issues in the minds of Ministers when they formulate new legislation. The Bill allows them to take all of them into consideration and, if needs be, put to one side the concerns of the committee because, weighing them against other matters, they can take a different path.

That is really important. It is fundamental to the Bill. We are trying to reflect what the wider public are concerned about, which is an improved climate of animal welfare in decision-making. We think that what we have brought forward is proportionate. I can debate the content of the committee, its size and wider remit with noble Lords at leisure. I am sure my noble friend agrees that we do not want a committee that is too big or full of sectoral interests, or of one particular interest over another. We want a committee that has expertise and is not trying to carry out some political campaign or is weighted too much in one direction or another. It will be balanced, expert, the right size and properly resourced.

Lord Trees Portrait Lord Trees (CB)
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I will just comment on Amendment 19 and, I hope, give some assurance. Many noble Lords have commented on the concerns that medical research will be impacted by this Bill, and the amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Moylan, speaks to that. I share that concern, but would like to assuage some of it as a vet, a veterinary scientist and a former holder of a licence from the Home Office to conduct research involving animals for medical and veterinary purposes.

I can assure the Committee that medical research is not threatened by the Bill. The function of the animal sentience committee is to ensure that due regard has been paid to animal welfare. The unambiguous answer is in the affirmative. Parliament passed the Animal (Scientific Procedures) Act in 1986, which requires all individuals undertaking veterinary research and their premises to be licensed and the projects, most importantly, to be individually scrutinised and licensed. That scrutiny essentially involves an assessment of the benefit-cost ratio of animal welfare harmed in the conduct of that research versus animal welfare benefits as a consequence of it. That due scrutiny is conducted and would satisfy any particular challenge from an animal sentience committee.

Lord Benyon Portrait Lord Benyon (Con)
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I am grateful to the noble Lord for that clarity and entirely endorse what he says.

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On Amendment 2—others have asked this, in particular the noble Baroness, Lady McIntosh, just now—what is the future for the much-respected Animal Welfare Committee of Defra? Is its work to be duplicated, is it to be combined in some way, or is its future limited? At Second Reading, other noble Lords—and others today—disagreed that this was a suitable committee, with of course expansion of its remit, to fulfil the role of this new committee. However, we need to know what the Government intend should be the relationship between the two. I hope the Minister will tell us in answer to Amendment 2 that he has plans for this committee which would not mean any loss of it. There would be a serious loss to animal welfare if it were to go.
Lord Trees Portrait Lord Trees (CB)
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I will speak to Amendments 2 and 11, both in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Forsyth, although I support one and oppose the other.

Amendment 2 would merge the Animal Welfare Committee and the animal sentience committee. I oppose this because the animal sentience committee is a raison d’être of the Bill. It was a major plank in the Conservative Party’s manifesto in 2019 and a major plank in their action plan for animal welfare, published just in May 2021, which said that an expert committee would be set up to hold the Government

“accountable for animal welfare in policy making”.

It is a scrutinising committee that holds the Government to account and in that respect it is very different from the advisory functions of the Animal Welfare Committee, which are much respected, and it itself has much to do. Therefore there are strong arguments for retaining the identity of these two committees.

Secondly, on the point brought out in Amendment 43 in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Mancroft, it will be advantageous that the relevant Minister can consult the Animal Welfare Committee for further advice or information should they be challenged by the animal sentience committee.

I support absolutely Amendment 11, again in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Forsyth. It succinctly lays out a bit more detail but gives discretion to the Secretary of State and, most importantly, requires a degree of parliamentary oversight of essential elements of the committee, particularly its composition. There is a threat that some of its members might not positively contribute, and it is very important that there would be parliamentary scrutiny of those essential elements, particularly composition, budget and resources, to see that they are adequate.

Lord Randall of Uxbridge Portrait Lord Randall of Uxbridge (Con) [V]
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My Lords, I shall be brief. By and large, the Government have got this reasonably okay. I can understand the sentiments of some of my noble friends and those on the other side. However, I have to say that Amendment 11 in the name of my noble friend Lord Forsyth of Drumlean has a great deal of merit. I was a bit sorry to hear him, in his typically self-deprecating way, describing himself as an extinct volcano. He is possibly a dormant volcano, and something we should always watch—you never know when the smoke may rise—but at the moment he is still there. I regard myself more as a drumlin, as distinct from the noble Lord, Lord Forsyth of Drumlean —that is, a small, egg-shaped glacial deposit. That is my place in life. We need to know more about the set-up of the committee and so forth. As I said, Amendment 11, which puts this so that it is in front of both Houses of Parliament, is a good solution.

Animal Welfare (Sentience) Bill [HL]

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

Lord Trees Portrait Lord Trees (CB)
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My Lords, I shall speak briefly to Amendments 18 and 23, which carry my name, and in support of Amendments 17 and 29. These all rule out scrutiny of policies established in the past and are consistent with my Amendment 3, which we discussed on the first day in Committee, which laid out the function of the committee and confined it to considering policies subsequent to the committee’s establishment. The arguments for not having any retrospective powers have been well made by others.

Baroness Deech Portrait Baroness Deech (CB) [V]
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One of the worst things in this Bill, with its miasma of uncertainty, is its retrospective effect. Along with others, this amendment is designed to cure this defect. We have to stop the committee considering, let alone making suggestions to change, policies that were established in the past, that are currently being lawfully implemented and on which people base their livelihoods, food and sporting pursuits.

As it stands, the Bill would allow the committee to reopen of its own volition policies that have been in place for perhaps a century, as some of our animal welfare laws have. It could make recommendations designed to undermine the use of animals in medical research, the practice of killing animals according to Jewish law and country sports, already hedged about with qualifications and reached by consensus a long time ago. We might accept that this committee, expert or not, will consider future proposals, but we cannot let it loose on the established law.

I say this not wholly as an advocate of the positions I have mentioned but as a reminder that retrospective legislation and changes of policy are to be assumed to be a bad thing. They may undermine settled patterns of life and livelihood, taking away certainty of freedom from criminal and civil prosecution. We cannot allow this committee to propose legislation to take away the validity of decisions made in the past and in good faith by people relying on the law as it was. In the case of the traditional Jewish way of killing animals for food, it has been permissible ever since the Jewish return to England some 350 years ago and it is established policy under UK regulations to permit it, as it was under EU legislation—although not that it could be relied on, as I explained in my last speech on this when I pointed out that the European Court of Justice allowed the Belgian prohibition of Jewish non-stunning methods.

As a legal situation, at common law, there is a presumption against retrospectivity. Article 7 of the Human Rights Act prohibits arbitrary prosecution, conviction and punishment. At common law, there is also a presumption against interference with vested interests. A leading judgment on this was in the case of Wilson v Secretary of State for Trade and Industry in 2003; one of the judges in that case, my noble and learned friend Lord Hope, is happily still with us. The judgment explained that there is a powerful presumption against statutes changing the substantive law in relation to events in the past; this is precisely what could happen if the powers of this new committee are not curbed.

There is also a presumption against legislation affecting vested rights unless Parliament is expressly making a new start for the future. So, on the one hand, recommendations by this new committee to change existing practices would be a waste of time in that, if they were acted on, they would be contrary to the rule of law; on the other hand, the Bill would accord better with human rights and the rule of law by making it express that its actions must be confined to future policy.

I hope that this amendment will be supported by the Government; otherwise, I can see legal action looming ahead on the horizon. This also applies to Amendments 18, 21, 23 and 29, all of which I support.

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Viscount Trenchard Portrait Viscount Trenchard (Con)
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My Lords, although I agree with the noble Baroness, Lady Jones of Moulsecoomb, and my noble friend Lord Caithness that the committee should look at policy in the round, I regret that I cannot support Amendment 20 in her name and that of my noble friend Lady Fookes. I also strongly support the objective of my noble friends Lord Forsyth of Drumlean and Lord Hamilton of Epsom in their Amendment 2, previously debated, that the duties of the animal sentience committee could better be given to the existing Animal Welfare Committee.

As my noble friend Lord Forsyth said on 6 July:

“It feels as if this is just a bit of window dressing, a bit of virtue-signalling, which is actually going to create great problems for the Government.”


My noble friend the Minister told the Committee that the Government

“want the animal sentience committee and the Animal Welfare Committee to have a constructive relationship, but it is not quite as simple as saying that we could hand over the ASC’s responsibilities to the AWC with no legal powers to back them up.”

That would of course have been far better.

I have the highest regard for my noble friend Lord Benyon, but I found his explanation as to why we need two committees completely unconvincing. It is a disproportionate and unnecessary response to the Government’s manifesto commitment. Those animal rights activists who support the Bill claim that the public want it. If you tell the man or woman on the street that there is an Animal Welfare Committee already and ask if he or she thinks we should have a second committee, you will get a different answer. My noble friend said:

“It is important to remember that the two committees have distinct roles. The Animal Welfare Committee exists to provide advice to Defra and the devolved Administrations, whereas we are establishing the animal sentience committee to scrutinise policy decision-making across the whole of government. Any relationship between the two would need to support these two distinct functions.”—[Official Report, 6/7/21; cols. GC 337-8.]


I do not think these functions are distinct in any way. Without exception, noble Lords who spoke on 6 July asked him to come back with at least some definition of the committee on Report.

I also support Amendment 16, in the names of the noble Earl, Lord Kinnoull, and my noble friend Lord Hannan of Kingsclere, which stated that the new requirements to consider animals as sentient beings in the formulation of policy should be limited to those areas covered by Article 13 of Title II of the Lisbon treaty. UK Parliaments have recognised the sentience of animals since the Cruel Treatment of Cattle Act 1822, and our animal welfare standards go far beyond what we were required to do under EU law. If the Government really think that they must establish a new quango of such dubious merit and opaque purpose, the four amendments in this group will at least restrict that quango’s activities to examining new policies under consideration rather than opening up the entire existing statute book to reconsideration at great expense.

Although I was unable to speak in the earlier debate, let me say that I also support Amendment 31, which would provide exceptions for religious rites and cultural traditions. Without that, a large part of Japanese cuisine —to which I am partial, having lived in that country for many years—would probably be deemed illegal.

I have added my name to Amendments 21 and 22 in the name of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Etherton. Amendment 21 could have been grouped with amendments that we have debated previously, which also sought to prohibit the committee reporting on established government policy. Amendment 22 would require the committee to obtain the consent of the Secretary of State before committing taxpayers’ funds.

I cannot support Amendments 27 and 41, in the name of the noble Baroness, Lady Jones of Moulsecoomb, because they assume that the committee’s answer to the question is binary—that is, yes or no. The existing draft at least raises the question of the extent to which the Government are having due regard to animal welfare in the formulation of policy. Surely this is an instance where the proportionality principle should be applied.

I strongly support Amendment 38, in the name of my noble friend Lord Caithness, to which I have added my name. If we must have two overlapping committees, at least the animal sentience committee should consult the Animal Welfare Committee and publish a note explaining its opinion on any report.

In Amendment 44, my noble friend Lord Mancroft seeks to find out what the Government might do in cases where the committee finds that they have not had due regard to the animal welfare consequences of any policy. Earlier, we debated the incorrect assumption of the Bill that any effect would be adverse. Obviously, any policy designed to make it easier for gamekeepers to cull predators has positive effects for the prey of those predators. I support my noble friend and look forward to the answer from my noble friend the Minister on this question.

I cannot support Amendment 46, in the name of the noble Baroness, Lady Young of Old Scone, because subsection 2(b) of the proposed new clause makes it clear that she intends that the committee’s remit should extend across government, whereas I believe that it should be limited to those areas that were previously covered by Article 13 of Title II of the Lisbon treaty, as I mentioned. Furthermore, the amendment raises the question of the other activities that the committee may have undertaken during any financial year.

There seems to be no limit to the scope and remit of the Bill. Unless it is appropriately restricted, the committee will need huge resources.

Lord Trees Portrait Lord Trees (CB)
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My Lords, I will speak to Amendments 27 and 41, in the names of the noble Baronesses, Lady Jones of Moulsecoomb and Lady Fookes; they also carry my name.

These two amendments are linked. Amendment 27 asks the animal sentience committee to answer the question asked in Clause 2(2)

“in the affirmative, or … in the negative.”

For example, if the animal sentience committee states that the Government have had all due regard to animal welfare in the formulation and implementation of policy, Amendment 41 would remove the requirement in Clause 3(1) for the Secretary of State to lay a response before Parliament. This seems to be a common-sense reduction in the obligation of the Secretary of State while retaining the fact that the report of the animal sentience committee, whatever it concludes, remains a matter of public record. It removes the burden of work on the Secretary of State.

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Lord Lexden Portrait The Deputy Chairman of Committees (Lord Lexden) (Con)
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My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Randall of Uxbridge, who is next on the list, has withdrawn.

Lord Trees Portrait Lord Trees (CB)
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My Lords, a crucial aspect of the Bill is determining which animals within the vast animal kingdom are sentient. Crucially, of course, that depends on how sentience is defined. The Bill does not attempt to define sentience, and various expert opinions, which I respect, have suggested that that is sensible. But we can be sure that, if and when the Bill becomes law, there will be those who will start to question the limit currently in the Bill or that proposed in Amendment 57, which I support. It is almost certain that at least some scientific opinion will be arguable and credible to propose further extending the range of animals included.

Current definitions of sentience include capacity to have feelings. I know of no way of determining what animals feel, but we know that many lifeforms sense and avoid potentially harmful stimuli, which we do, of course. Although we would sense pain on that occasion, we can only guess at the feeling the animal has, but presumably it is not a pleasurable sensation. Of course it is important to consider the science, but extremely respected scientists can and do differ even when confronted with the same data.

The frontiers of what sentience is will likely shift. I listened yesterday to the evidence given to the EFRA Committee in the other place by Jonathan Birch of the London School of Economics. He is the lead author of the LSE report referred to on the first day of Committee, which has yet to be published but has been carefully considering whether to include cephalopods and decapod crustaceans as sentient beings. Professor Birch commented yesterday with respect to the definition of sentience that the science is evolving. Indeed, the Minister commented in much the same way today.

Clearly it would raise huge issues were more and more animal taxa credibly—and, indeed, scientifically—argued to be sentient. So, although I accept that Amendments 59 and 60 are improvements on the current Bill, I feel that the range of animals included in the Bill should be a political decision determined by the Secretary of State and with the complete and full consideration of Parliament, where the cost-benefit considerations can be properly weighed—taking scientific opinion into account, of course, but not being bound by it.

Animal Welfare (Sentience) Bill [HL]

Lord Trees Excerpts
Report stage & Lords Hansard - part one
Monday 6th December 2021

(2 years, 7 months ago)

Lords Chamber
Read Full debate Animal Welfare (Sentience) Act 2022 Read Hansard Text Read Debate Ministerial Extracts Amendment Paper: HL Bill 4-R-I(Rev) Revised marshalled list for Report - (3 Dec 2021)
Moved by
1: Clause 1, page 1, line 4, at end insert—
“(1A) The function of the Committee is to determine whether, in relation to the process of the formulation and implementation of policy subsequent to the Committee’s establishment, it is satisfied the Government is having all due regard to the ways in which the policy might have an adverse effect on the welfare of animals as sentient beings.”Member’s explanatory statement
This makes clear that the Committee’s remit relates to the process of the formulation and implementation of policy but only that which has been formulated and implemented after the Committee's formation.
Lord Trees Portrait Lord Trees (CB)
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My Lords, I declare my interests as co-chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Animal Welfare and a former president of the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons, so it will come as no surprise to noble Lords that I broadly support the Bill. Moreover, in 2018 I tabled an amendment to the withdrawal Bill to bring Article 13 of the Lisbon treaty into UK statute. That was rejected by the Government at the time, but I suspect that if Her Majesty’s Government look in the mirror of history, they may feel that they should have accepted that amendment then; it would have addressed the issue of sentience at that time and given us a foundation to build on and make changes if so wished.

Article 13 had considerable scope for unintended consequences, and this Bill, which is Article 13 with bells on, has considerably more—hence the number of amendments, particularly from the Government Benches. The Bill goes considerably further than Article 13: for example, it sets up an animal sentience committee; it covers all government policy; it has no exceptions for cultural, historical or religious practices; it includes certain invertebrates; and it specifically allows for the retrospective consideration of government policy formulation. The considerable widening of the scope of Article 13, yet at the same time the lack of detail in many places, has led to the large number of amendments that we see today.

Amendment 1 in my name and those of the noble Lord, Lord Moylan, and the noble Earl, Lord Kinnoull, to whom I am grateful for their support, makes two key points. Clause 1(1) of the Bill establishes an animal sentience committee. Our amendment seeks to define, at the start of the Bill, two key aspects of that committee’s remit. The first aspect, which seeks to make explicit what I understand is Her Majesty’s Government’s intention, would introduce the word “process” with regard to the committee’s function in scrutinising the formulation and implementation of policy. It would make it very clear that the ASC did not have a function with regard to commenting on policy per se but, rather, on the degree to which the Government had taken animal welfare into account in developing that policy.

I suggest that that is a critical aspect of the Bill. For example, one of the briefings that we received says that the Bill entrusts responsibility to the animal sentience committee for considering the impact of its policies on animals as sentient beings. But it does not; it requires the ASC to consider whether the Government have considered the impact on animal welfare of the policies that they are developing. I submit that this is not mere semantics but a substantive difference, which introducing the word “process” in respect of the function of the committee makes clear. I note that other recent amendments—for example, Amendment 2 in the names of the noble Lords, Lord Mancroft and Lord Marland, and Amendment 9 in the name of the noble Viscount, Lord Ridley, have also included the word “process” with regard to the function of the committee and its scrutiny of the formulation and implementation of policy.

The other key point in Amendment 1, which is a feature of other amendments in this group—I think that is largely why it has been put there—is to exclude retrospective examination of policy formulation and implementation. It is exceptional that any legislation allows retrospective evaluation of actions, and I find it difficult to understand the justification of that. The ASC will exist alongside the current Animal Welfare Committee, which is advisory, and, if some historic legislation appears no longer fit for purpose or inadequate in any way, the AWC is perfectly placed to point this out and to make suggestions for either new legislation or the revision of existing legislation. That is totally within its remit. However, I would be interested to hear from the Minister of the justification for these retrospective powers, which—to judge from the number of amendments on this issue—a number of noble Lords find problematic. I beg to move.

Baroness Mallalieu Portrait Baroness Mallalieu (Lab)
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My Lords, Amendments 12, 14 and 16 in this group are in my name. However, I will first support Amendment 1 in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Trees, which seems to be both sensible and necessary to be made to the Bill if we are to have a committee in this form at all. I also support the amendments in this group in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Howard of Rising.

I have one query about the amendment in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Trees, which I will come to in relation to my Amendment 16. The first two, Amendments 12 and 14, underline the requirement in those amendments for the committee to deal with only future policy and when it is being formulated. Surely the value of this committee if it is to have any real effect is to perform a role not already covered by other committees, to draw attention to failures of consideration if it finds them when policy is being formulated or has just been formulated and before implementation, so that the defects can if necessary and possible be remedied before the policy is enacted.

In the Bill at present there is no limit as to how far back the committee can go. The draft terms of reference, which the Minister kindly sent us, express a hope—no more—that it will concentrate on more recent policies, but there is nothing to stop the committee going back as far as it chooses. Ministers come and go—so do civil servants. An examination of whether a past Secretary of State gave all due regard to the effect of a policy on animal welfare, possibly long enacted, will be difficult if not impossible in many cases. The additional cost of this committee, according to the terms of reference, is to be no more than half a million pounds from Defra’s budget. However, there is no calculation of how much time will be needed to be spent by other departments trying to answer the inevitable investigation into how decisions were made. It must take time from the work of those departments in each case, and of course be at public expense too. This committee surely cannot be intended to be a quasi post-legislative scrutiny committee, yet the Bill is without any limit as to its remit.

My Amendment 16 removes implementation from the committee’s remit. After Committee I looked forward to seeing the draft terms of reference because, as it stands, the purpose, remit, scope and any limits on the powers of the committee are not clear in the Bill. I hoped they would be remedied, at the very least, in guidance. Sadly, they are not. Instead, in a number of respects, the Bill and the terms of the reference are in direct conflict.

--- Later in debate ---
Lord Benyon Portrait Lord Benyon (Con)
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I am grateful to my noble friend. I will not detain the House by repeating the paragraphs I have put on record in relation to the prioritising policies that the committee will look at. That will be for the current Government and the policies they are currently pursuing, and it will fulfil the committee’s statutory function under Clause 3. I went on to say—I hope this was clear—that the committee would not be doing its job properly if it sought to rake over old coals and reignite past policy issues that are now closed. My noble friend and noble Lords will know that words said by Ministers at the Dispatch Box hold sway when people try to interpret legislation. I hope I have been as clear as I possibly can be about the remit of this committee and the kinds of priorities it will look at. I hope that has reassured my noble friend.

Lord Trees Portrait Lord Trees (CB)
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My Lords, I thank everybody who has contributed to this short debate, and I thank the Minister for his answers. I note the concerns expressed by the noble Baroness, Lady Mallalieu, which I and many others, I think, share, about the time, expense and bureaucracy that may be entailed in the legislation having retrospective force. I would still, however, say to the noble Baroness, Lady Hayman of Ullock, that I do not see why the animal sentience committee cannot look at current legislation and policy and comment on it. It is a statutory committee. I have huge respect for the noble Baroness, Lady Fookes, and her passion for animal welfare, which I share, but I think that she said it was an advisory committee. The committee is statutory. It is a very powerful committee and is there to hold the Government to account, which is why more detail about its remit could usefully appear in the Bill. I respect the explanation by the noble Lord that the terms of reference are very clear about this, that and the other, but as I recall the committee itself can alter its terms of reference, because they are not made explicit in the Bill.

This issue of process is cardinal, and I hope it does not come back to bite us all. Having said that, I am not one to make futile gestures; I appreciate that the Opposition are not supporting amendments and that there is a strong government Whip. I support the essence of this Bill in toto, but one wishes to make constructive suggestions that might improve it. I very much appreciate the kind remarks of the noble Lord, Lord Cormack. With that, however, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment 1 withdrawn.

Animal Welfare (Sentience) Bill [HL]

Lord Trees Excerpts
Report stage & Lords Hansard - part two
Monday 6th December 2021

(2 years, 7 months ago)

Lords Chamber
Read Full debate Animal Welfare (Sentience) Act 2022 Read Hansard Text Read Debate Ministerial Extracts Amendment Paper: HL Bill 4-R-I(Rev) Revised marshalled list for Report - (3 Dec 2021)
It is unrealistic to expect that leave would not be given to bring such proceedings, which would be expensive and time-consuming. All of this could be resolved in a way offered by the Lisbon treaty, by having these policy balancing factors in the Bill. This is also the answer to the noble Baroness, Lady Fookes. The advisory committee—the sentience committee—may decide to take on a matter that currently falls within the exemption—such as religious slaughter—and come to a decision that is different to that accepted by the Government. If the Government wished to deviate from—not accept—those recommendations, judicial review would follow as night follows day. We should support this amendment.
Lord Trees Portrait Lord Trees (CB)
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My Lords, I support Amendment 27, which carries my name. I have some difficulties with parts of it, which I will come to in a minute, but first I will make some remarks about medical research and the threat to it. The concern is very understandable, but in this case probably unwarranted. The question is not whether medical research will be exempted; there is very specific and substantial regulatory legislation in place to control medical research precisely. If there was a challenge as to whether the Government had considered the implications of their policy on medical research, they could answer, perfectly honestly, “Yes, we have the Animals (Scientific Procedures) Act, which is extremely detailed and requires persons involved in medical research to be licensed, the place in which that research is being carried out to be licensed, and each and every specific project, of a particular nature, to be subject to scrutiny and licensed”. I was a Home Office licence holder under the Animals (Scientific Procedures) Act for something like 25 years; one can argue very persuasively that due consideration and regard have been paid to medical research.

It is a great honour to follow my noble and learned friend Lord Etherton, who exquisitely explained the reasons for incorporating these exemptions, which are included in Article 13. My noble friend Lady Deech knows that I differ with her in that I wish all animals to be stunned and rendered unconscious before slaughter. There is a huge weight of scientific evidence to support that. That is why it is illegal for most people, except those of particular religious persuasions—it is illegal for me as a veterinary surgeon—to cut the throat of a conscious animal without rendering it unconscious first.

However, I am a realist. I recognise all the points that my noble and learned friend Lord Etherton and my noble friend Lady Deech have made; religious freedoms are enshrined in our laws and internationally. That reflects current government policy to respect religious freedoms. I accept that point and am happy to support the amendment in the name of the noble Earl, Lord Kinnoull.

Animal Welfare (Sentience) Bill [HL]

Lord Trees Excerpts
Report stage & Lords Hansard - part three
Monday 6th December 2021

(2 years, 7 months ago)

Lords Chamber
Read Full debate Animal Welfare (Sentience) Act 2022 Read Hansard Text Read Debate Ministerial Extracts Amendment Paper: HL Bill 4-R-I(Rev) Revised marshalled list for Report - (3 Dec 2021)
There is nothing more to be said, because my noble friend is not being very kind this evening to that particular species of animal that exists on his Back Benches and is practising a certain form of cruelty in tandem with the noble Baroness, Lady Hayman of Ullock, and indeed the others whom he mentioned, the other noble Baronesses, who are not entirely in their place at the moment: the noble Baronesses, Lady Jones of Moulsecoomb and Lady Bakewell of Hardington Mandeville. Together, the Minister and noble Baronesses are going to say no to this modest suggestion. So, I will leave it there without argument, simply pellucid in its compelling character, and allow my noble friend to reject it when he rises to speak.
Lord Trees Portrait Lord Trees (CB)
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My Lords, I have been up, and indeed in, many African rivers, but not the Zambezi, like the noble Lord, Lord Moylan. So, I will try to be as brief as he has been, but I want to make two comments: one about Amendment 39 and one about Amendment 42.

The inclusion of decapod crustaceans and cephalopods within the remit of this Bill is warranted, evidence based and consistent with current legislation with regard to cephalopods, in that they are protected under the Animals (Scientific Procedures) Act, so I support this amendment. However, currently in the Bill, it appears that larval forms of decapod crustacea would also be included. These can be microscopic; they are the fauna of plankton, and then they grow up into shrimps and prawns and so on. I ask the Minister: at what point does a larval decapod crustacean become sentient? A briefing from the Marine Biological Association and the National Oceanography Centre expresses concerns particularly that, if larval forms of crustacea are included, it might compromise their environmental monitoring and research functions. I ask the Minister if consideration has been given to an amendment along the lines of Amendment 41, in the names of the noble Lords, Lord Mancroft and Lord Marland, that excludes embryonic forms.

Amendment 42, in the names of the noble Lord, Lord Moylan, the noble Earl, Lord Kinnoull, myself, and the noble Lord, Lord Forsyth, removes the possibility, currently in the Bill, for the Secretary of State by regulation to extend the list of animals covered in the Bill. This would still be possible but would be subject to full parliamentary scrutiny through primary legislation. This would recognise that, as scientific research continues, evidence may accrue from which it might be argued that other invertebrates may have some degree of sentience. Crustacea are but one group within a vast taxon of arthropods that includes many thousands of species including the insects.

In the excellent LSE report that reported on the sentience in decapod crustaceans and cephalopods, there is a matrix of criteria—eight in that report—in which evidence of varying strengths may be aggregated in varying levels of confidence to arrive at an overall judgment whether a particular group may be considered sentient. There is not a clear demarcation between sentient and non-sentient.

The inclusion of further groups of invertebrates as sentient merits very thorough and balanced political, economic and societal—as well as scientific—consideration, and should ultimately be a parliamentary decision in primary legislation.

Lord Robathan Portrait Lord Robathan (Con)
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My Lords, my noble friend may not like it but I will support him—I hope he appreciates that—because he said something very sensible about Larsen traps. On a small Midlands farm I catch between 40 and 82 magpies—that is the most I have ever caught—a year. Visitors congratulate me on the huge clouds of linnets, yellowhammers and whatever that we have on the farm, so I was delighted to hear what he said about Larsen traps.

In relation to government Amendment 39, I have always thought that putting a lobster into boiling water must be cruel. People say, “Oh no, they don’t feel, they’ve got no brain”. I have no idea whether they have a brain or not, but it must be cruel, and the Government are making a very good move in seeking to protect such things. While I support the amendment, however, I am not sure that it should be in the Bill—in primary legislation. I would have thought that it could have done by SI; I am not sure that this is necessarily the right way to go about it. I will, however, on this occasion support the Government without any compromise.

Animal Welfare (Sentience) Bill [HL]

Lord Trees Excerpts
Lord Benyon Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Lord Benyon) (Con)
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My Lords, I beg to move that this House do agree with the Commons in their Amendments 1 and 2. Amendment 1 would require any recommendations produced by the animal sentience committee to respect

“religious rites, cultural traditions and regional heritage”.

We have carefully considered representations made by noble Lords in debate on a similar amendment, tabled by my noble friend Lord Forsyth of Drumlean. Honourable Members in the other place raised many of the same concerns. We recognise the strength of feeling in both Houses. We have listened, and we have accepted the amendment.

The Government have always sought to create a targeted, balanced and proportionate accountability mechanism within this Bill. We want the animal sentience committee to be led by science and to comprise members who are experts in sentience and animal welfare. Religious rites, cultural traditions and regional heritage will be neither their area of expertise nor their focus. This is a role for Ministers. We expect the committee to respect provisions and customs relating to these areas when they make recommendations under Clause 2(3) of the Bill.

We have always been clear that it is not the role of the committee to make value judgments about policy or to provide recommendations that do not reflect its expertise or its remit. This amendment will provide additional reassurance on this point. I hope that noble Lords will be content to accept it. I beg to move.

Lord Trees Portrait Lord Trees (CB)
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My Lords, I first declare my interest as in the register. I am co-chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Animal Welfare. I thank the Minister for useful discussions during the passage of this Bill, and I hope that he is a very happy grandfather this afternoon.

I accept these amendments, particularly Amendment 1, but, as a vet and a veterinary scientist, I have to say that I do not condone some of the activities covered under the amendment in terms of,

“religious rites, cultural traditions and historical heritage.”

Some of those activities are not consistent with best practice in animal welfare science or indeed regulation, and I will take this opportunity to make a plea to those directly involved to consider very carefully and to reflect on whether practices which had some historical relevance in ancient times are relevant, necessary or at all acceptable in the 21st century. Having said that, I respect national and international laws pertaining to freedoms—in particular, Article 9 of the Human Rights Act on religious freedoms.

I will make one further point. During prolonged discussions about the Bill in this House, a number of noble Lords raised the potential threat to the use of animals in medical research. That was a fair concern, but one which could be countered—I spoke to that effect, as did others at the time—by the fact that the rigorous application and implementation of our Animal (Scientific Procedures) Act 1986 was a sufficient response to the requirement for government departments to have due regard to animal welfare and the development of policies. We have thorough, world-leading regulations around the controlled use of animals in medical research.

Recently, it has come to my notice that there are changes afoot in the Home Office with regard to the implementation of the Animal (Scientific Procedures) Act. It is not yet clear to me what the effect of those changes might be on the welfare protection of animals used in medical research. I urge Her Majesty’s Government to ensure that any changes with regard to the implementation of the law pertaining to the use of animals in medical research should not weaken—or be perceived to weaken—that regulation, which could lead to increased legal challenge to the use of animals in medical research when the Bill becomes an Act. I support the amendment.

Baroness McIntosh of Pickering Portrait Baroness McIntosh of Pickering (Con)
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My Lords, I congratulate my noble friend the Minister on bringing the Bill to this stage. My concerns about it have not changed, but we are where we are. I want to lend my support to and associate myself in particular with Amendment 1. In doing so, I repeat that I am a fellow of the British Veterinary Association and share some of the concerns outlined by the noble Lord, Lord Trees, regarding its practice.

I seek reassurance from my noble friend as to the response of the devolved Parliaments to the amendments. Have the Government had the chance to square the amendments with them? I further seek reassurance that in the operation of the Bill the Government, particularly my noble friend’s department, will be mindful of the role that farmers and especially livestock producers play in rearing our farm animals, and perhaps recognise that they are best placed to respect animal welfare and are masters in their own right of animal husbandry.

I hope that, in light of the short debate we had elsewhere in Questions this week, the Government will be mindful of the fact that there is still a severe shortage of seasonal workers which is impacting on abattoirs and the slaughter of animals. I hope that there will not be any undue concern over potential animal welfare consequences of that. I realise that it is not entirely within the scope of the Bill, but I wish to draw it to my noble friend’s attention. I congratulate him on accepting the two amendments before us today.