Animal Welfare Bill


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Greg Mulholland (Leeds, North-West) (LD): An example that brings that point home is the situation in which a postman or a door-to-door salesman could enter a front garden perfectly legally, but under the Bill an animal welfare inspector could not enter the same garden without a warrant.

Norman Baker: My hon. Friend makes a very valuable point. It would not be appropriate for a postman, a travelling salesman or a political canvasser to invade someone’s outhouse or garage, but it is perfectly acceptable for them to go into the front garden so that they can knock on the front door. It would be helpful if the Government looked again at excluding yards and gardens. That would go some way towards meeting people’s genuine concerns about the clause on the grounds of animal welfare.

Mr. Bradshaw: I have listened carefully to what my hon. Friend the Member for Sherwood (Paddy Tipping) said about the new statistics that the RSPCA is compiling; I shall certainly look closely at them.

At this stage, I am not convinced that we have got the balance wrong. Speaking for myself—maybe I am unusual—I am not sure that in determining my private space, I would make a strong distinction between my small back garden, which I have to go through the house to get to, the shed at the end of the garden and a garage. I do not have a garage, because I do not have a big enough house, but I am not sure that most people make that sort of distinction between enclosed spaces and enclosed gardens. It could be argued that if a space
 
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is enclosed, it is more worrisome that something a bit dodgy might be going on inside, which one would want to do something about.

As I said earlier, in extreme cases, in which enforcement officers see that an animal is about to die, they may use powers of entry and intervention. It is not such a big deal to get a warrant in less serious cases.

Greg Mulholland: Although I accept that the sort of private, enclosed back garden the Minister is talking about is distinct, could we not look at the wording again and perhaps omit the blanket definition of “garden”? I accept what he says about enclosed private space, but could we look at the clause again to avoid the patently ludicrous situation that I referred to?

Mr. Bradshaw: If the hon. Gentleman is referring to the point that the hon. Member for Lewes made about access to front gardens by postmen, newspaper boys and so on, I understand that such delivery people have an implied licence only to deliver the post and not to do anything else. I do not think that there is a parallel. As I said earlier, the definition makes it quite clear that for such outhouses, sheds or garages to constitute a private dwelling, they would have to be used primarily in connection with activities happening in a private dwelling. If they were used just to store things or to keep animals in, they would lose that qualification.

I accept that it is difficult to define such things. I do not wish to make the powers of entry associated with violations in the Bill more permissive than powers associated under existing laws with other, much more serious crimes, and I do not think that other Committee members want to do so either.

Norman Baker rose—

The Chairman: I call Mr. Baker.

Norman Baker: On a point of order, Mr. Gale. Could you clarify whether I am summing up or the Minister is giving way?

The Chairman: For the sake of convenience, I am construing it that the Minister has given way.

Norman Baker: I am sorry to come back to a point that I made during debate on an earlier clause, but the Minister said then that it will be possible for outhouses and garages not to be construed as private dwellings if they are not being used for that purpose, and that implies that the Bill, in general terms, will apply in those situations. However, the point that I made to the Minister earlier, to which I did not hear him respond, was that yards and gardens are invariably regarded as private property and part of the dwelling. It is therefore academic to suggest—

Shona McIsaac (Cleethorpes) (Lab): Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Norman Baker: I cannot give way, because I am intervening on the Minister.

It is academic to suggest that an outhouse might not be part of a private dwelling when it is always necessary to have access through a private dwelling,
 
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namely the yard or garden—words that my amendment would remove from the clause—to get to the outhouse. What the Minister said is no comfort.

Mr. Bradshaw: I am happy to give way to my hon. Friend the Member for Cleethorpes (Shona McIsaac) as well, if she wants to intervene.

Shona McIsaac: We are getting our knickers in a bit of a twist over the issue. Many of the new housing developments in my constituency are open-plan, which creates problems of definition. Such estates have no front gardens as we would normally define them; they are completely open-plan. We might inadvertently cause problems for such areas by being prescriptive in our definitions. Does the Minister agree?

Mr. Bradshaw: I agree. We could spend the rest of the afternoon talking about the layout of various types of house and garden.

Bill Wiggin: I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

1.30 pm

Bill Wiggin: I beg to move amendment No. 134, in clause 56, page 30, line 21, at end add—

    ‘(7)   Any power conferred by this Act (or by an order of a court under this Act) to destroy an animal is a power to destroy the animal in an appropriate and humane manner.’.

The amendment makes an important point. We seek to ensure that, in the unfortunate event of an animal needing to be put to sleep, the act will be performed with dignity and in a manner that does not cause further undue suffering. There is no explicit reference in the Bill, as drafted, to the methods that could be used to put an animal to sleep. Clauses 33 and 34 use only terminology such as

    “Destruction in the interests of the animal”.

The RSPCA alerted me to situations in which shovels or bricks were used for the purposes of destroying an animal—not a horse, I hope. We do not want that to continue when the Bill is enacted. I would feel more comfortable if the terminology used in the appropriate clause, and applying throughout the Bill, was more explicit in stating that when an animal has to be put to sleep, it should be done in an appropriate and humane manner.

Norman Baker: I have some sympathy with the amendment, but the Minister might argue—I am sorry to anticipate him—that the general cruelty provisions cover the point.

There is a difference with destruction, however, which is why it might be helpful for the Bill to be more specific. When one is confronted, sadly, with an animal that needs to be destroyed, there might not be much time to consider matters. That person, therefore, might resort to crude methods—perhaps for the best of reasons—such as those that the hon. Member for Leominster described. However, with more time for consideration, one might not pursue that course of
 
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action. Relying on the general cruelty provisions in the Bill might not be sufficient, so it would do no harm to agree to the amendment.

Mr. Bradshaw: The hon. Gentleman is right: the Government’s view is that any unnecessary or inhumane destruction of animals would be caught by clause 4 as a cruelty offence. Although we understand and sympathise with the motives behind the amendment, we do not think that the Bill will authorise inhumane destruction. It goes without saying that destruction must be carried out in an appropriate and humane manner.

In most cases, we are talking about officially sanctioned destruction, but let us cast our minds back to the debate about a car driver who runs over an animal and is then faced with a dilemma. I am not sure that the hon. Member for Leominster would want the Bill to catch such people, but that would happen if the amendment were passed. That would make it harder for the driver to decide whether to deal with the animal humanely or to let it suffer for a perhaps considerable period.

Bill Wiggin: I do not think that we want the driver to reverse over the animal and finish the job, and that is why the provisions should include the word “humane”. The amendment would emphasise that key point. We are dealing with a difficult subject. The Government’s intention is that any destruction should be done humanely to prevent further suffering. We do not need to take the debate further, but they might wish to reconsider and include the word “humane”. That would send the right signal to anyone reading the Bill. I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 56 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clauses 57 and 58 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Schedule 3

Minor and consequential amendments

Amendment proposed: No. 141, in schedule 3, page 39, line 28, at beginning insert—

    ‘(1)   Section 2 of the Pet Animals Act 1951 (pets not to be sold in streets etc.) ceases to have effect.’.—[Mr. Bradshaw.]

The Chairman: With this it will be convenient to discuss Government amendments Nos. 142 and 144.

Shona McIsaac: Although the Minister has moved the amendments formally, I have some concerns about them and wish to pose some questions to him. On my reading, a repeal of the Pet Animals Act 1951 could create a problem by removing the restriction on

    “selling animals as pets in any part of a street or public place, or at a stall or barrow in a market”.

If the amendments’ intention is that that repeal will not take place until regulations on the sale of animals have been introduced, the Minister needs to make that clear today.


 
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Mr. Bradshaw: I am happy to confirm that.

Amendment agreed to.

Amendment made: No. 142, in schedule 3, page 39, line 28, leave out ‘the Pet Animals Act 1951’ and insert ‘that Act’.—[Mr. Bradshaw.]

Bill Wiggin: I beg to move amendment No. 189, in schedule 3, page 42, line 9, at end insert

    ‘Breeding and Sale of Dogs (Welfare) Act 1999 (c. 11)

      13A      In section 8 of the Breeding and Sale of Dogs (Welfare) Act 1999 (Sale of dogs)—

        (a)   in subsection (1)(c), for “to the keeper of a licensed pet shop” substitute “at a licensed breeding establishment”;

      (b)   in subsection (2)(c), for “to the keeper of a licensed pet shop” substitute “at a licensed breeding establishment or a licensed Scottish rearing establishment”.’.

The Chairman: With this it will be convenient to discuss new clause 12—Sale of dogs—

    ‘(1)   A person commits an offence if he exposes, offers or displays for sale or supply or sells or supplies a dog in the course of a business at premises other than—

      (a)   a dwelling;

      (b)   a licensed breeding establishment or a licensed Scottish rearing establishment within the meaning of section 8 of the Breeding and Sale of Dogs (Welfare) Act 1999 (sale of dogs).

    (2)   A person commits an offence if in the course of a business he sells a dog which is less than eight weeks old.’.

Bill Wiggin: Amendment No. 189 would ensure that puppies of less than eight weeks old could not be sold to pet shops. To promote the welfare of dogs effectively, as the Bill is designed to do, we need to amend the Breeding and Sale of Dogs (Welfare) Act 1999 to guarantee that puppies aged less than eight weeks are supported in breeding establishments where their welfare needs can be better administered than in a pet shop. In their first eight weeks puppies need extra support. They need to be kept warm, they can sleep for 90 per cent. of the time and their movements are weak. It is not until the age of about eight weeks that they begin to exhibit the full range of characteristics of an adult of their breed. At that age, a puppy can begin to be house trained and groomed and can understand feeding regimes. It is only at about that time that it is appropriate for a puppy to be separated from the specialist care that it needs. The amendment would reinforce that point in law.

The subject of puppy farms was missed in the Bill, which is a great shame. Although a lot of work is being done to stop the mass production of puppies, we could have tackled the issue effectively in the Bill. We have missed that chance, but I hope that the amendment will go some way towards stopping pet shops selling puppies of less than eight weeks.

Mr. David Drew (Stroud) (Lab/Co-op): I apologise for arriving late; I wished to be called in the Chamber on the Afghanistan statement.

New clause 12 fits in reasonably well with the amendment in the name of the hon. Member for Leominster. I wish to probe the Government on their position on this largely unexplored issue. Some
 
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investigation is needed, if not greater regulation. I know that regulation already applies to the area in question, but we need to know a bit more about how puppies are weaned in pet shops and other establishments, and about when they are taken away and other transportation issues. On those matters, I hope that the Government will clearly state that they will introduce either a code of practice or, more particularly, secondary legislation. For reasons that we know about, they are not keen to address the issue in the Bill.

It is likewise vital that we find out what information is available to those who wish to make purchases. Most people who take on a puppy for the first time would admit their ignorance of the rudimentary hygiene and care measures to be adhered to. It is vital that commercial owners trading in pet animals are apprised of the need to give information to their customers. I know that that is mentioned in annexe E of the regulatory impact assessment, but it should be laid down as a vital requirement.

There are those such as the Kennel Club who are willing to engage in a partnership so that appropriate information is brought forward and so that DEFRA does not have to do it alone. I hope that can be done in a spirit of partnership. I hope that new clause 12 helps to achieve that, and that the Government will look at it seriously, even though they will not want the clause pressed at this stage.

Mr. Bradshaw: I shall respond first to my hon. Friend and his new clause 12. We accept that the legislation on breeding and sale of dogs is long overdue for an overhaul, and we shall prepare and consult on new regulations after evaluation of the accredited breeder scheme set up by the Kennel Club. It would be premature to speculate on the impact of any new regulations on the breeding and sale of dogs through pet shops, but I hope that my hon. Friend will take on board the fact that the Government are thinking carefully about it, and we intend to proceed as I outlined. On that basis, I urge him not to press his new clause.

I turn to amendment No. 189, tabled by the hon. Member for Leominster. We do not believe that the amendment is necessary, because the sale of under-age puppies is already illegal under existing legislation, and will remain so under the Bill.

Bill Wiggin: Good. That is a very positive start to what I was seeking to achieve. There is quite a lot of merit in what the hon. Member for Stroud (Mr. Drew) has suggested in his new clause. I, too, want the accredited breeder scheme to succeed; I am worried that there will be people who seek to bypass it. However, having put those comments on the record, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Schedule 3, as amended, agreed to.


 
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Clause 59

Repeals

Bill Wiggin: I beg to move amendment No. 117, in clause 59, page 30, line 32, after ‘repealed’, insert ‘or revoked’.

The Chairman: With this it will be convenient to discuss the following amendments: No. 132, in schedule 4, page 42, line 27, at end insert—

    ‘(1)   Enactments’.

    No. 133, in schedule 4, page 43, line 37, at end add—

    ‘(2)   Instruments
Title and NumberExtent of revocation
Welfare of Animals (Slaughter or Killing) Regulations 1995 (S.I. 1995/731)In paragraph 11 of Schedule 3, the words from “, except that” to “hindquarters”.

In paragraph 8(c) of Schedule 4, the words “except in accordance with paragraph 11 of Schedule 3,”.’.

Bill Wiggin: The amendments seek to tidy up the Bill and extend welfare provisions to animals awaiting slaughter. They also probe the Government to indicate whether they have been seeking other forms of animal control in abattoirs. Schedule 3, paragraph 11 of the Welfare of Animals (Slaughter or Killing) Regulations 1995 permits electric shocks of less than two seconds to animals’ hindquarters. Schedule 4, paragraph 8(c) exempts the use of such shocks from being criminalised.

Although I appreciate the need to control animals in abattoirs, I have been made aware that the persistent and excessive use of electric shocks can be harmful to the animal beyond the purposes for which the shock was administered. Moreover, when an animal in a slaughterhouse is stunned or incapacitated, that could be argued to fall within the welfare provisions of the Bill. The amendment is drafted with the intention of erring on the side of caution. Will the Minister state the Government’s position?

Mr. Bradshaw: The amendment is drafted in such a way as to, in effect, ban the use of electric goads in slaughterhouses. We can amend secondary legislation from time to time. As the hon. Gentleman will know the statutory instrument in question derives from European directives concerning welfare at slaughter. It will be changed in a year’s time, from 5 January 2007, when there will be a new regulation in force which will provide that

Under the terms of the regulation, we shall be able to implement stricter measures in the interests of welfare. However, we are not persuaded that an absolute ban
 
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is appropriate. The independent Farm Animal Welfare Council and the Humane Slaughter Association agree that there are circumstances in which using a goad is necessary. In our last major consultation on the subject, which was only in 2003, the view—endorsed by the Health and Safety Executive—was that use of a goad as a last resort is preferable in safety terms to workers moving in the raceways trying to compel an animal to move forward by other means. Furthermore, abolishing goads could lead to welfare problems caused by delays in the line, and could see individuals resorting to other, welfare-unfriendly means to try to move animals—perhaps even tail twisting or the use of pointed sticks.

1.45 pm

In the light of the evidence from all those groups, we believe that goads should continue to be allowed to be used in a very limited range of circumstances, and that the on-site vet should intervene if one is being used inappropriately. We are working on a revised red meat code of practice for slaughterhouses, which will include detailed guidance on using goads only in exceptional circumstances. I hope, on the basis of those reassurances, that the hon. Member for Leominster will withdraw the amendment.

Bill Wiggin: As I am entertaining the Committee this afternoon, let me say that it is not a secret that I have cattle, and looking after cattle is a bit like a cross between animal welfare and heavy furniture removal. When a stubborn cow does not want to move, it is extremely difficult to get her to move.

I am happy that the Government have considered what is in the spirit of the amendment, reducing the shocks from two seconds’ duration to one second. The point about moving adult bovines and adult pigs is valid; it is not as safe or easy as people perhaps imagine. I am content that the Government have taken the steps that I wanted, and I was content to table the amendment to make that happen. I am happy with what the Minister has said, and I am more than happy to beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 59 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Schedule 4

Repeals

Amendment proposed: No. 143, in schedule 4, page 43, line 2, column (2), leave out ‘“docking”’ and insert ‘“nicking”’.—[Mr. Bradshaw.]

Norman Baker: We are all keen to make progress, but a couple of lines from the Minister explaining exactly why the amendment is necessary and what it means would be helpful.

Mr. Bradshaw: The amendment corrects a drafting mistake. Section 1 of the Docking and Nicking of Horses Act 1949, which prohibits docking and nicking of horses, will be superfluous following the introduction of the Animal Welfare Act and the
 
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associated mutilations regulation. It is therefore listed to be repealed in schedule 4. Section 3 of the 1949 Act defines the terms “docking” and “nicking”. With the repeal of section 1, the term “nicking” will no longer appear in the Act. However, the term “docking” will still be in section 2 and therefore should not be deleted from the definitions in the Act.

Amendment agreed to.

Amendment made:No. 144, in schedule 4, page 43, line 4, column (2), leave out ‘Section’ and insert ‘Sections 2 and’.—[Mr. Bradshaw.]

Mr. Hollobone: I beg to move amendment No. 213, in schedule 4, page 43, line 15, at end insert