House of Commons portcullis
House of Commons
Session 2006 - 07
Publications on the internet
Public Bill Committee Debates

Draft Animal Health and Welfare (Scotland) Act 2006 (Consequential Provisions) (England and Wales) Order 2006

The Committee consisted of the following Members:

Chairman: Hugh Bayley
Barrett, John (Edinburgh, West) (LD)
Blackman, Liz (Erewash) (Lab)
Brown, Mr. Russell (Dumfries and Galloway) (Lab)
Cairns, David (Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Scotland)
Clelland, Mr. David (Tyne Bridge) (Lab)
Efford, Clive (Eltham) (Lab)
Ellman, Mrs. Louise (Liverpool, Riverside) (Lab/Co-op)
Goodwill, Mr. Robert (Scarborough and Whitby) (Con)
Liddell-Grainger, Mr. Ian (Bridgwater) (Con)
Main, Anne (St. Albans) (Con)
Mitchell, Mr. Austin (Great Grimsby) (Lab)
Mole, Chris (Ipswich) (Lab)
Moss, Mr. Malcolm (North-East Cambridgeshire) (Con)
Sheridan, Jim (Paisley and Renfrewshire, North) (Lab)
Swinson, Jo (East Dunbartonshire) (LD)
Williams, Mrs. Betty (Conwy) (Lab)
Wishart, Pete (Perth and North Perthshire) (SNP)
Alan Sandall, Committee Clerk
† attended the Committee

Eighth Delegated Legislation Committee

Wednesday 6 December 2006

[Mr. Hugh Bayley in the Chair]

Draft Animal Health and Welfare (Scotland) Act 2006 (Consequential Provisions) (England and Wales) Order 2006

2.30 pm
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Scotland (David Cairns): I beg to move,
That the Committee has considered the draft Animal Health and Welfare (Scotland) Act 2006 (Consequential Provisions) (England and Wales) Order 2006.
The Chairman: With this it will be convenient to consider the draft Scotland Act 1998 (Transfer of Functions to the Scottish Ministers etc.) (No. 3)Order 2006.
David Cairns: I thank the Committee for allowing the two orders to be taken together, and I welcome you to the Chair, Mr. Bayley. I do not expect that the orders will prove to be desperately contentious, although they deal with some important and significant areas of public policy.
The orders demonstrate the flexibility and the adaptability of our constitutional settlement. The first emanates from an Act of the Scottish Parliament, while the second emanates from two separate Acts of this place. The first order is made under section 104 ofthe Scotland Act 1998 and concerns animal health.It allows for necessary or expedient changes in consequence of an Act of the Scottish Parliament. The second order relates to the transfer of functions, in this instance functions concerning the healthy start scheme and recent climate change legislation, and is made using the powers in section 63 of the Scotland Act 1998. The power is commonly referred to as an executive devolution order and allows for the transfer to Scottish Executive Ministers of functions that they can then exercise in or as regards Scotland.
I turn first to the Animal Health and Welfare (Scotland) Act 2006 (Consequential Provisions) (England and Wales) Order 2006. This is made as a consequence of—as it says on the tin—the Animal Health and Welfare (Scotland) Act 2006, which received Royal Assent on 11 July and is an Act of the Scottish Parliament. That Act introduced a duty of care in Scotland on all those responsible for animals to ensure that the welfare needs of their animals are met.
I am sure that we all agree that there should be co-operation across jurisdictions to ensure that there is no scope for the exploitation of gaps between the animal welfare regimes north and south of the border. Both Administrations support the maintenance of the established principle of reciprocal recognition of court orders, which ensures that those convicted of serious cruelty to animals and consequently disqualified from keeping animals in one jurisdiction cannot escape the effect of that disqualification simply by crossing the border into the other jurisdiction.
I turn now to the second order, the Scotland Act 1998 (Transfer of Functions to the Scottish Ministers etc.) (No. 3) Order 2006. This allows for the transfer to Scottish Executive Ministers of functions in two distinct policy areas. The first area is one in which I know you have a enormous amount of personal expertise, Mr. Bayley, and concerns the healthy start scheme. The healthy start scheme replaces the welfare food scheme, which was first introduced in Britain to combat food shortages during the second world war. Latterly the scheme offered milk and infant formula to low-income families.
Following a United Kingdom Department of Health review of that scheme, section 13 of the Social Security Act 1988 was substituted by the Health and Social Care (Community Health and Standards) Act 2003 to enable, among other things, the welfare food scheme to be replaced by the healthy start scheme. The new scheme offers vouchers, which can be exchanged for milk, fresh fruit and vegetables and infant formula, to pregnant women and people with children under the age of four in certain low-income families. Under the old scheme, the tokens could be exchanged only for milk and infant formula, but the new scheme offers much more flexibility and choice. Although healthy start is primarily based on social security benefits, and is therefore a reserved matter, food matters relevant to the NHS are obviously linked closely to health policy, which is devolved in Scotland.
Simply put, the order will transfer to Scottish Executive Ministers the functions of prescribing descriptions of food to be made available under healthy start in Scotland and issuing directions to the health boards, which will administer parts of the scheme in Scotland. It also provides for the transfer to Scottish Executive Ministers of payment and reimbursement functions in relation to healthy start food vouchersand vitamins provided to eligible beneficiaries. Those functions are similar to those currently carried out by Scottish Ministers under the previous welfare food scheme.
Scottish Executive Ministers will deal directly with reimbursement in relation to healthy start vitamins, but, as with the welfare food scheme, the intention is that contractors from the Department of Health will carry out day-to-day reimbursement functions for healthy start food. When dealing with the reimbursement of suppliers and beneficiaries in Scotland, the Department will effectively act as the agent of the Scottish Executive. That arrangement will enable Scottish Executive Ministers to take advantage of economies of scale and will be made possible by a further order under section 93 of the 1998 Act, which will be made at the same time as this order under the negative resolution procedure. That order will, of course, go before the UK and Scottish Parliaments.
The order will also transfer to Scottish Executive Ministers functions under sections 32, 32A and 32B of the Electricity Act 1989, as amended by sections 23 and 24 of the Climate Change and Sustainable Energy Act 2006. The powers in the 1989 Act were previously executively devolved to Scottish Executive Ministers, and the order will update the situation to take account of the changes made in the 2006 Act, which was introduced by my hon. Friend the Member for Edinburgh, North and Leith (Mark Lazarowicz). The powers concern the renewable obligation in Scotland, which is a key driver of increasing renewable generating capacity in Scotland. They impose an obligation on licensed electricity suppliers to provide an increasing proportion of the electricity that they supply from qualifying renewable sources.
The amendments to the 1989 Act in the 2006 Act make it easier for small micro-renewables generators to benefit from the support available under the renewable obligation and its UK counterparts. The order transfers the relevant amended functions to Scottish Executive Ministers. It also transfers functions to enable such generators to appoint agents to act on their behalf, greatly reducing the administrative burden that they might experience. Finally, it transfers functions to allow generators who generate and consume theirown electricity to qualify for renewable obligation certificates without having to sell their electricity to, and then purchase it back from, an electricity supplier.
I hope that Committee members agree that both orders are a sensible and modest use of the powers in the Scotland Act 1998 and that their practical impact is to be welcomed.
2.39 pm
Mr. Ian Liddell-Grainger (Bridgwater) (Con): May I say how nice it is to serve under you today, Mr. Bayley?
The official Opposition broadly welcome what the Minister has brought forward. The orders will tidy up much of what should have already happened and make changes that need to happen, particularly on tail docking. I wish to ask the Minister a couple of questions about the Animal Health and Welfare (Scotland) Act 2006, which was given Royal Assent in July. The first is on outbreaks of infectious animal diseases.
During the outbreak of foot and mouth disease, one of the problems was that it was said at the time that there was a lack of clarity between the various nations, although it was not crucial to what happened and was not correct. However, I would like the position to be strengthened and I should be interested to know what the Minister has to say about it.
The proposal on the docking of dogs’ tails is a great disappointment, as the matter should have been sorted out before now; it is a shame that we have to debateit today. Amendments were tabled in the Scottish Parliament by, I think, the Liberal Democrats and the Scottish Conservatives, although it may have been the Scottish Labour party—I am happy to be corrected—which were withdrawn or defeated. If that had not been the case, the matter would have been sorted outmonths ago.
The concept of docking a dog’s tail relates to working dogs. It is not a general, blanket measure to chop all dogs’ tails off; nobody wants that, and it would be cruel to do so. However, it is a necessity for working dogs. For a dog to qualify as a working dog its owner
“must provide evidence to a vet showing it was likely to be used for work in connection with: law enforcement; the armed forces; emergency rescue; pest control; or shooting.”
Will the Minister confirm that that will be exactly the same in both countries, or say what will be the position in Scotland? The second paragraph states that the dog
“would have to be of a breed specified in regulations”.
Will the Minister please clarify the situation?
The Scottish Executive is considering the matter again and the public consultation on tail docking closes on 5 January 2007. Ministers will then consider the evidence gathered and think about whether there should be an exemption for working dogs before the introduction of a blanket ban, which will probably not come into force before March 2007. If that is not the case, I hope that the Minister will shed some light on the matter.
Surely, the idea of the proposal is to stop a dog being taken from Scotland to England to be docked. Yes, we want a blanket position across the nations as no one wants dogs being moved across the border. I declare an interest: my family farm, which has working dogs, is right against the border. However, we would not, for one instant, move the dogs for such a purpose, but it is a matter to be taken on board.
The law requires that docking must be carried out by a vet before the puppy’s eyes are open, which is usually at 10 to 14 days old, but most vets dock the tails before the puppies are three days old. Will that continue to be the case or will there be any change in that provision? I am also concerned that the measure should dovetail into Scottish legislation, as we all have a duty of care to animals. I should be interested to know how that will be taken into account.
I come now to the second order. I tried today to click on to the healthy start website, but it has broken and does not work. That is probably not a healthy start. Having said that, of course the scheme must be welcomed and there is no dispute that it is the right scheme.
My hon. Friend the Member for Scarborough and Whitby asked me whether deep-fried Mars bars were included in the proposal. I could not answer the question, but either way I am sure the Minister will be able to do so. To declare another interest, I am partial to deep-fried Mars bars, although as hon. Members can see, they are not good for me.
We welcome the proposal, of course, but if the position changes dramatically it will affect people close to the border because of availability and location. The Minister is right, this is not a devolved matter as it concerns the social services. For example, if someone moves from Edinburgh to London or vice versa, how will the change be administered?
The intention of the proposal is to ensure that low income is understood as such in England and Scotland. Will the Minister confirm that there will be no difference between England and Scotland in how a low-income family is defined? If that is the case, why was the matter not addressed before? Why are we having to look at it now? Of course it needs to be tightened up and we welcome it, but could it not have been done at least a couple of years ago? The Health and Social Care (Community Health and Standards) Act 2003 and the Health and Social Care (Community Health and Standards) Act 2003 (Savings) Order 2005 are operational and I wonder whether the process could have been quickened up.
I now move on to renewables. This is a slight novelty. The original idea was to re-invoke various sections under section D1 of part II of schedule 5 to the Scotland Act 1998. Sections 32, 32A and 32B would be revoked and then passed again. In other words, we would scrap the Act and put it back. I can understand that, because one wants to make absolutely sure that it is as relevant as possible. I cannot understand, however, why we need to revoke the original transfer and then put it back in to bring the legislation in line with the Climate Change and Sustainable Energy Act 2006. Will the Minister confirm that we are revoking and revising the provisions and re-implementing them? Do we need to do that? Would not a straightforward amendment have saved us from revoking and republishing an Act? I accept that the wording of the title is different, but the substantial part of the Act is not.
Another problem that I would like to raise is the cross-border issue. This concerns micro energy production, not nuclear—I add quickly. It is for small production. If somebody buys, then re-buys, as the Minister eloquently put it, and re-sells, will that be affected by proximity to the border? Will the matters we are discussing have any effect on a company in the north-east or north-west that wishes to buy? I suspect that the answer is no, but I would like the Minister to confirm that.
The order also concerns bioplants. Anything below 50 W is potentially a bioplant. Is there any provision for the production of biofuels, which will be used for renewable energy production? I say that because there could once again be cross-border implications, with the movement of pampas grass or whatever it may be that is used to fuel power stations north and south of the border.
I am interested to know why there has been no sign of the report resulting from the Scottish Parliament’s consultation on wind and wave sources that was started on 12 May 2006 and which has just been finished. I ask the Minister because that report will outline what can be done to produce electricity from wave and tide. It would be useful to see the report if it has any bearing on the area in which we are to enact this delegated function. It should have been published by now; does the Minister have any information on what has happened to it? I would understand if he does not, because it is a matter that the Scottish Executive are dealing with.
Another problem with the report is that it tinkers all the way around the edges. Surely the answer is to encourage entrepreneurs to produce micro energy at the most efficient cost to hit our Kyoto targets. It seems to me that the Scottish Executive are once again calling for centralised production, but the idea should be to widen it out so that people have access to it. Will the Minister confirm that the Government’s intention is to tighten things up, but also to allow people to make their own decisions?
Will the measures have any effect on the cross-border planning regime, which seems to be in the papers atthe moment? I know that cross-border planning is delegated, so will it have any bearing on this issue? I thank the Minister for bringing the matter forward. From our point of view, these are all common-sense provisions, which I hope we can implement as quickly as possible.
2.49 pm
Jo Swinson (East Dunbartonshire) (LD): I welcome the opportunity to make a few brief remarks. Likethe Conservatives, we broadly welcome the orders. However, will the Minister clarify a few points? On animal health and welfare, the provisions are being introduced two months after the Act came into force in Scotland, on 6 October. It is entirely proper that we should ensure that provisions are in place to deal with cross-border issues that arise if, for instance, somebody is found guilty of mistreating an animal on one side of the border. However, I am concerned that, because we have not debated the order until today, there havebeen two months during which that protection has not been in place. Can the Minister confirm that there have been no cases of disqualification during that two-month period? Does he accept that the situation is not ideal and that, in future, it would be better to consider such legislation more quickly in order to prevent such problems? If there have been no such cases, that is fortunate for us.
On the transfer of functions in relation to the welfare food scheme, it is intriguing to hear that, as ever, prejudice about Scottish people is alive and well in the Conservative party. However, I should like to put on record the fact that, as a Scot, I have never come across a deep-fried Mars bar in my travels around Scotland, so we should debunk that myth.
The healthy start is a welcome scheme, and it will be up to the Scottish Executive to decide the intricacies of the allocations between different foods. I understand that the foods will be under constant review, so I just want an assurance that there will be appropriate communication between the authorities in England and Wales and those in Scotland, depending on what evidence comes to light. Obviously, it is up to the Scottish Executive to make the decisions, but it makes sense for there to be communication about the foods that are being promoted and included in the scheme on both sides of the border.
Finally, on climate change and electricity generation, the Climate Change and Sustainable Energy Act 2006 was supported by hon. Members on both sides of the House, including many of us here today. It was very welcome, as was the fact that parts of it were reserved and parts devolved, and today’s order will make valid the Scottish Executive’s issuing of renewables obligations certificates.
I share the concern of the hon. Member for Bridgwater that that issue was not picked up and dealt with in the early stages of consideration of the legislation. Would it have been too difficult to amend the legislation in Committee? When a Bill relatingto both reserved issues and devolved issues is considered—I appreciate that it was a private Member’s Bill in that case—it would be helpful if Government officials were to make it clear which parts of the legislation relate to which issue, and whether any issues to do with the devolved Administrations need to be hammered out at that stage, rather than bringing them back as separate statutory instruments. That is not to say, however, that I do not love coming along on Wednesday afternoons for Statutory Instrument Committees. I look forward to the Minister’s response.
2.53 pm
Contents Continue
House of Commons 
home page Parliament home page House of 
Lords home page search page enquiries ordering index

©Parliamentary copyright 2006
Prepared 7 December 2006