Select Committee on Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Fourth Special Report

Proposed second tranche of secondary legislation and codes of practice

Recommendation 90

We recommend that, prior to publishing any draft regulations providing for the licensing and registration of animal sanctuaries, Defra consult widely in order to produce a practical definition of what types of establishment constitute an "animal sanctuary". As part of this exercise, Defra will need to establish with greater certainty how many animal sanctuaries there are in England. (Paragraph 367)

We agree with the Committee's comments regarding the need for consultation on the definition of a sanctuary. Consultation will also clarify in what circumstances either registration or licensing is most appropriate. However, we would look to local authorities to obtain details of sanctuaries within their area.

Recommendation 91

We recommend that a licensing scheme should be extended to all animal sanctuaries, regardless of their size. We acknowledge that the imposition of the compliance costs associated with such a requirement may cause some smaller sanctuaries to close down. On balance, however, we consider it is more important that minimum animal welfare standards be ensured across all sanctuaries. (Paragraph 369)

We do not want to force well run, smaller sanctuaries to close, and it should be possible to build safeguards into the proposed registration scheme to ensure that those sanctuaries that are likely to have welfare difficulties can be readily identified. The welfare offence will be important in dealing with sanctuaries that fail to meet the welfare needs of animals for which they are responsible.

Recommendation 92

We recommend that Defra amends its proposals to license the use of performing animals in circuses by distinguishing between the use of wild animals and domesticated animals in circuses, with a view to prohibiting the use of the former. Circuses should not be permitted either to bring in new wild animals or to breed from their existing wild animals. (Paragraph 381)

We consider that the introduction of the welfare offence is likely to prevent unsuitable animals from performing in circuses and elsewhere. Not all non-domesticated species, most of which are captive bred, are unsuitable for performing in circuses and elsewhere, and therefore the type of prohibition proposed by the Committee could lead to anomalies and unfairness.

Recommendation 93

With this qualification, we support Defra's proposals to license the use of performing animals in circuses, television, films, theatre and promotional work. However, we recommend that Defra clarify whether it proposes to license the circus/organisation, the trainer or the animal. We also recommend that Defra clarify what use it envisages being made of registration requirements in these circumstances. (Paragraph 382)

Currently trainers of performing animals are registered. We propose that they should be licensed and premises where animals are housed, trained or where they perform should be subject to inspection. The only animals that would be permitted to perform are those under the control of licensed trainers. We will need to consult about this proposal but it is not our current intention to impose registration on the industry.

Recommendation 94

We recommend that any draft regulations proposing to implement a licensing regime for the use of performing animals should specify that all personnel who train, work with, supply or are responsible for supplying animals must be licensed. Such personnel should be required to attain a formal animal training qualification before they can be licensed. (Paragraph 383)

We agree that it would be appropriate to license trainers and to bring in minimum qualifications for them. We do not consider that this would be realistic for other personnel in the industry.

Recommendation 95

We recommend that Defra explain whether it intends to regulate international circuses visiting England and, if so, how. (Paragraph 384)

We would want trainers employed by international circuses to be subject to the same regulation, including inspection. We are aware that the draft Services Directive currently under negotiation in the EU may affect the legal basis of circuses operating in this country.

Recommendation 96

We recommend that Defra re-examine its rationale for exempting "amateur theatrical productions" from any licensing or registration scheme. The proposed exemption appears to be contrary to the draft Bill's ultimate objective of improving animal welfare. (Paragraph 385)

We recognise that this issue needs to be carefully considered when we consult on draft regulations.

Recommendations 97 and 98

97. We are unconvinced by the argument that the greyhound racing industry should be allowed until 2010 to regulate itself and improve its own welfare standards. We accept that the British Greyhound Racing Board and the National Greyhound Racing Club are making significant efforts to improve welfare standards at NGRC-registered tracks, but their best efforts cannot alter the fact that about 40% of greyhound racing tracks are run independently of the NGRC, and therefore apparently operate free from external, independent scrutiny. If these tracks do not wish to register with the NGRC, they cannot be compelled to do so. We therefore consider external, independent regulation of these tracks is essential, and we do not consider that it would be fair to exclude NGRC-registered tracks from such regulation. (Paragraph 392)

98. We consider that greyhound racing tracks should be subject to a licensing regime, not a code of practice, and we therefore recommend that Defra should publish draft regulations to address this issue as soon as possible. We do not accept that regulation in this area should wait until 2010, or five years after any future Bill is enacted. (Paragraph 393)

We agree that there is a case for bringing forward the proposed timescale for determining the level of regulation that should apply to greyhound racing, and are considering the practicalities. All tracks - whether or not they race under NGRC Rules - should be subject to registration.

Comments on the pre-legislative scrutiny process

Recommendations 99 to 101

99. We welcome the extent to which Defra has chosen to involve itself in our pre-legislative scrutiny process, and the helpful and open-minded attitude adopted by the Minister and his officials in the course of our oral evidence sessions with them. (Paragraph 395)

100. However, we consider that this draft Bill was not an appropriate candidate for pre-legislative scrutiny by Parliament in the absence of the Government having first conducted its own consultation process. Defra last consulted on this policy proposal two and a half years before the publication of the draft Bill. Given the complexity of the proposal and the widespread public interest in it, we consider that it should have been subject to further consultation prior to being published for the purposes of pre-legislative scrutiny. (Paragraph 396)

101. While it is not always inappropriate for government departments to choose to rely on Parliament's pre-legislative scrutiny process, rather than conducting a separate consultation process in accordance with Cabinet Office guidelines, we consider the Government should adopt such an approach only where the policy behind a draft Bill has recently been consulted on, or where the draft Bill is minor or uncontroversial. Neither of these conditions were met in the case of the draft Animal Welfare Bill. (Paragraph 398)

The process of pre-legislative scrutiny is still a new one and we will consider the Committee's comments when considering the timing of pre-legislative scrutiny for future Bills.

While the deadline for the receipt of comments on Defra's public consultation on the Animal Welfare Bill was in August 2002, we have continued to hold numerous meetings since then with a wide spectrum of people and organisations about both the contents of the Bill and possible secondary legislation. The draft Bill and the RIA were prepared in the light of the views that we received during this ongoing consultative process. We are satisfied that the contents of the published draft Bill and the RIA were in line with the expectations of key stakeholders.

Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

February 2005

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