Farriers’ Qualifications (European Recognition) Regulations 2008

[back to previous text]

Mr. Paice: I shall not dispute the hon. Lady’s assertions about war and cavalry in those particular countries, but she is missing the point. If there are expert farriers in Hungary or Poland—the two countries to which she has just referred—that is fine and they should be able to come here and operate. We are concerned about the fact that there is no mechanism in the regulations whereby people can check whether individuals are experts or simply professing to be.
Apart from the potential damage to horses and the health and safety issues that have been mentioned, the real concern is economic. The hon. Gentleman is clearly concerned about competition from eastern Europe and the wider EU. He does not believe that the requirements for people to prove their qualifications before pursuing their profession are sufficiently strong.
I consider what would happen if, like the hon. Member for North Wiltshire (Mr. Gray), I had horses and somebody came wandering up my drive and said, “I hear you have six horses. I do not know who you are contracted with, but I can give you a contract that I think is highly competitive”. The responsibility would clearly be on me—caveat emptor, as the hon. Gentleman said, to his credit—to ask, “Well, yes, it’s a very nice deal, but what are your qualifications?”
Mr. Gray: The hon. Lady is quite right, but there is another slight wrinkle in the matter. Under the regulations, people coming from overseas will be registered by the Farriers Registration Council, so this strange person with a foreign accent—let us not say Polish—may be coming up my drive and saying, “I’ve got a piece of paper here from the”—[Interruption.] I am not sure why hon. Members find that funny. The fact that they will have a foreign accent is important, because it will be a foreign person who comes up the drive and says, “I have here a piece of paper from the Farriers Registration Council, which demonstrates that I am registered with it. Please could I do your horses?” I certainly would not accept that, and I would not refer them to do any work. Some people might, particularly if they looking for the cheapest possible shoeing of their horses. That is a complication.
Glenda Jackson: With all due respect to the hon. Gentleman, if people are looking for someone who will give them the cheapest deal for shoeing their horses, his previous argument that people are mainly concerned with the health and well-being of their horses, which I endorsed, falls away. On foreign accents, the reason why Labour Members giggled, I think entirely justifiably, is that I have heard people who have come from eastern Europe and spoken far better English than I do, without a trace of a foreign accent. I can think of people from regions of the United Kingdom whose regional accents would be defined by some as foreign accents. However, I do not want to go down that byway.
Barry Gardiner: Does my hon. Friend not agree that there is an anomaly in the Opposition’s argument about the 400 farriers in this country who exercise grandfather rights without qualification? If one accepts that someone can be a high-quality farrier without a piece of paper, one must also accept that someone can be a high-quality farrier even if they come from eastern Europe without a piece of paper.
Mr. Paice: Not after two years.
Barry Gardiner: We should not erect a barrier to those farriers being able to practice in this country, as the Opposition’s suggestions would.
Glenda Jackson: I am grateful to my hon. Friend for managing to sum up neatly the final matter that I wished to touch on, which was grandfather rights. Expertise comes from experience, and I take the point that the hon. Member for South-East Cambridgeshire made when he said, from a sedentary position, “Not after two years.” However, that will presumably be the required period before an individual can set themselves up for potential employers or customers.
I wish to place on record that, wonderful though horsemanship and farriering in this country are, we are not the only country in the world that is capable of exercising those skills and whose people are committed to caring for our animal kingdom.
9.44 am
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Jonathan Shaw): It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr. Illsley. I shall begin by setting out for the record some of the formal detail of the regulations, which will no doubt captivate all members of the Committee. I am sure that you will be paying particular attention to it, Mr. Illsley.
In complying with the United Kingdom’s obligations to transpose EU directives into domestic legislation, the regulations amend the Farriers (Registration) Act 1975 to implement in part directive 2005/36/EC, on the recognition of professional qualifications. They also cross-refer to the European Communities (Recognition of Professional Qualifications) Regulations 2007, which came into force in October 2007 and implement the main provisions of the directive. The amendments made to the 1975 Act provide for continued entitlement to registration in the relevant part of the register to be kept by the Farriers Registration Council. That entitlement is, first, for persons who, pursuant to chapter 1 or 2 of the European Communities (Recognition of Professional Qualifications) Regulations 2007, apply for recognition as a farrier and who satisfy any procedural requirements of those regulations for the purposes of such recognition. That is not new, but a carry-over from directive 99/42, which has been in force since 2002 and applies to EU farriers wanting to pursue farriery in the UK on a permanent basis. The entitlement is, secondly, for persons who have the benefit of regulation 8 of the European Communities (Recognition of Professional Qualifications) Regulations 2007, in connection with the provision by the persons of the services as a farrier on a temporary and occasional basis. That is new for farriers and for some other professions in the United Kingdom.
I understand the concerns of hon. Members, that farriers coming from other European countries to provide temporary services may not be as highly qualified as farriers who have undergone a high standard of training in the UK. However, there are around 390 UK nationals on the farriers register—albeit in a separate part—who qualify for registration on the basis of professional experience alone. The minimum level of entry when the 1975 Act was introduced was two years’ regular engagement in the shoeing of horses. We are not aware of any concerns at that time or since that those registrants present a risk to horse welfare.
Mr. Gray: The Minister talks about no one being concerned. In 1975, the profession was entirely unregulated, unstructured and unlisted. Any listing or regulation was better than what had gone before. It is true that two years was seen as fine. I have seen the Minister’s brief; the mean age of the people he talks about regarding grandfather rights is 60 or 61. They were all there in 1975, and have done 30 or 40 years’ farriery in this country. I would rely on them to shoe my horses.
Jonathan Shaw: I am sure that if the hon. Gentleman kept his horses in Ireland, he would allow people from the Republic of Ireland to shoe them. He will be aware that there is no registration scheme there, nor in many countries across the EU. However, I will deal with some of the details that hon. Members have raised.
Although the provision was rightly intended to provide grandfather rights to UK farriers when the 1975 Act was introduced, the relevant parts of the register were open until 2000, and were reopened from March 2007 until March 2008 when the Act was extended to the highlands and islands of Scotland. So, the principle of recognising professional experience as a substitute for formal qualifications was established well before the introduction of the current directive.
It is important to understand what the DEFRA regulations do. They provide an important safeguard, which is the requirement for temporary farriers to register with the Farriers Registration Council, the regulator of farriers in the UK. The regulations also provide that the registration be in a separate part of the register. That will then enable horse owners and employers to distinguish between those who have gone through as many checks as the farriers registered in other parts of the register and those who have not.
Hon. Members will ask where employers and horse owners will be able to find that information, which was a reasonable point made during the exchange between the hon. Member for North Wiltshire and my hon. Friend the Member for Hampstead and Highgate. Copies of the register are available from the Farriers Registration Council and include particulars about the person’s qualifications for registration.
Registration for temporary farriers also means that the council can remove someone from the register and effectively stop them practising. A farrier can be removed from the register on the following grounds: misconduct; offences involving cruelty to animals; circumventing the rules on establishment; providing false information that might have led the council to believe that the person was entitled to register; and in cases where service provision is deemed no longer to be temporary and occasional but has in the council’s view become permanent. That is reviewed annually on a case-by-case basis. There is no obligation on horse owners or employers to engage a farrier from another member state. Given that the UK is obliged to implement EU directives, we have tried to provide as many safeguards as possible within the constraints created by the directive.
I acknowledge the need for officials to work with the Farriers Registration Council and others in the horse industry to get the key messages across to horse owners and employers of farriers about the different routes of entry to the register and what registration in different parts of the register means in relation to a registrant’s qualifications so that they can make informed decisions about who they engage to shoe their horses.
Mr. Gray: That seems to move off from the question about how these things come about. Does the Minster accept that had officials registered farriery as having implications for human health and safety and/or animal welfare, it would have been possible to achieve a derogation from the directive?
Jonathan Shaw: I will answer some of the points raised by the hon. Gentleman shortly. The new directive is still in its early days and the new arrangements that it introduces in relation to the temporary provision of services need time to bed down. Hon. Members opposite have indicated a concern that might or might not occur, so we are putting in place different categories within the register. It is important that we communicate that to the many horse owners and employers up and down the country, which we will do. I want to assure hon. Members that the Department for Innovation, Universities and Skills has made a commitment to carry out a review of the implementation of the directive in October 2009, and obviously we will keep a close eye on how it is implemented in relation to farriers.
Mr. Williams: At the time the directive was being signed off, DEFRA was considering introducing new legislation for veterinary surgeons, and there was a suggestion that farriers might have been included in that. What was the thinking in DEFRA behind signing off this directive when it was also considering, had its finances been in a better situation, new legislation on veterinary surgeons?
Jonathan Shaw: I will come to that point during the proceedings but will first answer some of the points that hon. Members have raised.
The hon. Member for South-East Cambridgeshire referred to the removal of farriers from the list of professions that have implications for public health and safety with regard to the regulations. He put the charge that it was DEFRA’s fault, and that was echoed by his hon. Friend the Member for North Wiltshire. The draft DIUS regulations listed professions with implications for public health and safety and animal welfare. That Department had responsibility, but it was the Commission that stated the inclusion of professions relating to animal welfare, and that reference was contrary to the directive. Therefore, the reference to animal welfare and farriery was removed from the list, so we did have that discussion. It was not the case that DEFRA took a pen and struck farriers off the list.
Mr. Paice: It is a procedural point, but it is obviously quite important. Let me say to the hon. Gentleman that my statements, echoed by my hon. Friend the Member for North Wiltshire, contain information from the Farriers Registration Council. I will not read out its entire briefing, but in both a report sent to the Committee and a letter from the council secretary to my noble Friend Baroness Byford, made it clear that it is the British Government who made the change. In one case, it said that it
“was taken out on Defra’s instruction when the final document was produced.”
In both cases, it says that the FRC made representations, and that the Department for Innovation, Universities and Skills agreed to insert farriery into the list. There is a slight conflict—one says DEFRA in the instruction and the other says DIUS. However, it was the Government who removed it from the list.
Jonathan Shaw: The hon. Gentleman heard what I had to say about how the issue of animal welfare in relation to farriers was removed, and that is on the record. I am happy to answer any correspondence that he wants to send to me asking for more detail on that process.
The hon. Gentleman also said that veterinary nurses should be included in the list of professions that have implications for public health and safety. Like veterinary surgeons, veterinary nurses also deal with animals with diseases that can be transmitted to humans, such as ringworm, skin infections and so on. Incidents of MRSA are also on the increase in veterinary services. Therefore, there is quite a distinction between the two professions.
The hon. Gentleman also said that farriers have to have a high degree of veterinary skills. We understand that farriers have high levels of skill in animal welfare, but he will recognise that only the Veterinary Surgeons Act 1966 can ensure that there is diagnosis and treatment for animals that are injured. He also referred to my noble Friend Lord Rooker’s remarks about someone who has been in business as a farmer and is a competent authority on such matters. The legal establishment is the test plus lawful pursuit of farriering. The directive requires all member states to designate a competent authority—a Government or regulatory body—to ensure that the regulations are adhered to. Each member state must nominate a competent authority under the directive.
The hon. Gentleman also said that the regulations were made in October 2007. The DIUS regulations came into force in October 2007 and contained the majority of contested provisions. The DEFRA farriers regulations came into force in March 2008.
Previous Contents Continue
House of Commons 
home page Parliament home page House of 
Lords home page search page enquiries ordering index

©Parliamentary copyright 2008
Prepared 13 June 2008