Previous Section Home Page

Column 447

1977. As my hon. Friends will probably know, the directive in turn was based on the Council of Europe convention agreed in 1968. We have circulated the new proposal very widely for comment in this country. The European Parliament is now directing its attention to the document which will be debated in Standing Committee here next month. The objective in the ensuing Brussels negotiations will be to ensure that all countries introduce and police the same high standards of welfare. We are encouraged in this by the proposed involvement of a Commission veterinary inspectorate to ensure uniform application throughout the Community. I hear what my hon. Friend has said, and we are as keen on it working and applying uniformly enforced standards throughout the whole of the EEC as is my hon. Friend. That is an important point.

It would be unwise for me to under-estimate the size of the task which faces us with these new transport proposals. In particular we must make sure that the domestic controls we have built up over many years are not replaced by diminished and unenforceable measures. I am fully aware of the widespread concern in this country about the prospect of losing British controls, linked to minimum values, designed to prevent the exports of horses and ponies on the hoof for slaughter. My postbag has been bulging on this difficult point. It may be helpful if I explain briefly what the arrangements are for exporting horses. I am sure that my hon. Friends are fully aware of them, but it may be helpful to put this on the record. The arrangements are immensely complicated, but they include export licensing, pre-export rest and veterinary inspection. The export of ponies and certain types of horse are prohibited if their value is less than that laid down in the Animal Health Act 1981. These categories require official valuation. The values were last fixed in 1978, and we approached horse interests and welfare organisations about two years ago. They were unanimous in agreeing that minimum values should not be increased.

Some people may still claim that horses continue to be exported for slaughter, despite controls. I disagree. We have no substantiated evidence of that. As we issue all the permits for horse exports and inspect certain categories of animal, we would expect to detect any organised trade in them.

I shall conclude that part by stating the minimum values. I shall not go into the detail on ponies, which is far too complicated, and I do not profess fully to understand it. The minimum values for a heavy draft horse is £715, for a vanner mule or jennet £495 and for an ass £220. Such animals must not be more than eight years of age. The existing controls have been built up over many years following public concern over conditions in which horses were formerly exported. The legislation on horses dates from the 19th century while that on ponies was completed in the Ponies Act 1969, since consolidated in the Animal Health Act 1981. So the minimum values are purely national arrangements. It was therefore inevitable

Column 448

that they would be called into question during the completion of the internal market. It remains to be seen whether we can persuade other member states to take on similar controls throughout the Community. Whatever the precise means of control in future, however, we will insist on measures which fully protect the welfare of animals leaving these shores for slaughter.

My hon. Friend mentioned European Members of Parliament. There is great scope for my hon. Friends and all those who are concerned to lobby European Members on this issue not only to exert pressure on the British Government, who will be campaigning for the toughest measures possible, but to use European contracts and others in Europe who feel as passionately about this as we do.

The new EC transport proposals give an opportunity to negotiate a fresh regime covering the movement of animals throughout the Community. It is an important chance to provide effective safeguards for all animals which are transported, whether for slaughter, exhibition, breeding, pets, circuses or other purposes. My hon. Friend asked us to exert maximum pressure, and I can assure her that we shall do so.

Question put and agreed to.

Adjourned accordingly at twenty-two minutes to One o'clock. Mr. Speaker's Ruling

(Money Resolutions andRevenue Support Grant)

The following Private Ruling given by Mr. Speaker is published in accordance with Mr. Speaker's statement of 5 November 1981--[Official Report, c. 113.]

In the past when any Bill authorised or required local authorities in Great Britain to undertake new services or otherwise to incur expenditure, in the absence of express provision to the contrary, the expenditure was by statute taken into account by Ministers when levels of rate support grant were determined. Rate support grant was paid out of voted money, and accordingly a money resolution was required to sanction the relevant expenditure provisions in the Bills concerned.

Under the Local Government Finance Act 1988 and the Abolition of Domestic Rates etc (Scotland) Act 1987 as amended by schedule 6 to the Local Government and Housing Act 1989, revenue support grant is to replace rate support grant. Revenue support grant will be paid out of voted money, but Ministers are not statutorily required to have regard to the level of local authority expenditure when they determine the amount of grant to be paid. I am asked to rule whether a money resolution should continue to be required for Bills which imply increases in local authorities' expenditure.

I am satisfied that revenue support grant will in the future in practice, if not by statute, take account of local authorities' expenditure. I therefore rule that a money resolution will continue to be required in respect of such Bills.

Written Answers Section

  Home Page