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Emphasising the use of scientific evidence risks excluding some other important factors that should be taken into account when considering whether to legislate, such as social and economic consequences. One must consider the matter in the round. In answer to the latter point made by the noble Baroness, Lady Byford, we are committed to evidence-based policy-making. Where there is overwhelming public concern about a particular issue, the evidential base may take account of the views of the public as well as any available scientific studies. The two examples of which I am reminded are the banning of veal crates and sow stalls, where you could argue that the science was in favour of a change but the overwhelming public concern, the economic and social aspects, gave weight to the need to regulate, as we did. That must not be ruled out. In other words, looking at the science is not the be-all and end-all; there are other factors to be taken into account.
Amendments Nos. 15 to 18, 22 to 25 and 51 all reflect commitments that I gave in Grand Committee and to the Delegated Powers and Regulatory Reform Committee. I trust they are well received. I believe I can be fairly brief. Amendments Nos. 15 and 25 introduce a duty to consult before introducing licensing and registration requirements under Clause 13, and before revoking a code of practice under Clause 17. Amendments Nos. 16 to 18 and 22 to 24 relate simply to drafting, so I shall not go into them in detail.
Amendment No. 51 reflects an undertaking that we gave to the Delegated Powers and Regulatory Reform
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Amendments Nos. 19 to 21 would require codes of practice made under the Bill to be exercisable by statutory instrument and thereby approved by the affirmative procedure. Clause 59 makes it clear that the powers in the Bill to make orders or regulations are exercised by statutory instrument, which has the effect of applying the provisions of the Statutory Instruments Act 1946. Subsection (2) further requires that any regulations to extend the definition of an animal, to exempt mutilations, to promote welfare or to introduce licensing or registration schemes would have to be approved by the affirmative procedure described in the subsection. I should point out, however, that codes of practice are not legislation and cannot therefore be statutory instruments according to the meaning that the Statutory Instruments Act 1946 gives to them.
The Delegated Powers and Regulatory Reform Committee also considered the negative procedure sufficient for its report on the Bill. In the past five years, the House has always accepted the recommendations of the Delegated Powers and Regulatory Reform Committee. There was one exceptionI do not remember what it was and I do not recall whether I was at the Home Office or the ODPM at the timewhere the House decided to go further. It was very unusual, however. By and large, the House accepts the committees recommendations. I therefore hope that the government amendments are accepted, and that my answer to Amendment No. 14 in particular is acceptable.
Baroness Byford: My Lords, I am grateful to the Minister for explaining his amendments. We are very pleased to support them, and to support Amendments Nos. 15 and 25 in particular, which put a duty on the national authority to consult. The Minister asked when any regulation had been rejected. I believe that the House voted against one on supplementary medicine. It went to another place and our vote was overturned straight away. I accept what the Minister said about any future discussions on the powers of this House, but it would make an enormous difference if we could have a greater say in this.
The Minister says that any judgment would be based on scientific evidence. I am happy to have that on the record. I do not doubt it for a minute. My amendment was not trying to suggest that it should be considered only for that reason. That was not its intention. This shows how carefully one must choose the right words to ensure that ones amendments fit what one is trying to do. I thank the Minister for his response, and I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
( ) Before making regulations under this section, the appropriate national authority shall consult such persons appearing to the authority to represent any interests concerned as the authority considers appropriate.
(3) Before making an order under subsection (1), the appropriate national authority shall consult such persons appearing to the authority to represent any interests concerned as the authority considers appropriate.
The noble Lord said: My Lords, this group contains exclusively government amendments which respond to concerns expressed in both Houses about the absence of effective safeguards on the exercise of some powers in the Bill. I informed the Grand Committee that we had taken on board some of the concerns already expressed in another place on this point and were still considering how best to respond to them. I trust that noble Lords will agree that this group of amendments achieves the correct balance.
Amendment No. 30 isparticularly important. This new clause will ensure that an owner has a right of appeal where a court makes an order under Clause 20(1) or refuses to do so at the owners application. As noble Lords will be aware, legitimate concerns have been expressed about the possible exercise of Clause 20 powers in the absence of a prosecution.
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This right of appeal to the Crown Court enables the matter to be heard all over again and a different order can be made if the Crown Court thinks fit. We have given this right to only the owner of the animals concerned and not to other interested parties who might be involved in the application under Clause 20, such as the State Veterinary Service, the police or RSPCA. We consider that the owner has the main interest in the animal, whether financial or otherwise, which needs protection. Other parties, while concerned for the welfare of the animal, do not have the same type of interest in it.
If the court has erred in law when it makes an order under Clause 20, there are other avenues of appeal, in the form of case stated to the High Court or judicial review, which are open to all. But we want to balance the need to protect the owners interests with the need to avoid lengthy and potentially expensive appeals in every case where there is an order under Clause 20. Ultimately, if the court makes a wrong decision and returns an animal to its owner, it is always possible to act again under the power in Clause 18 if it proves that the animal is suffering or at risk of suffering as a result. I hope it is accepted that we have the right balance here.
Amendments Nos. 26 and 29 introduce rights of appeal against orders for the reimbursement of certain expenses. I will go into detail if noble Lords desire it, but I should at least mention each government amendment. Amendments Nos. 27 and 28 ensure that a court can make any of the orders in Clause 20(1), not just the one applied for; for example, an inspector may apply for sale of the animal, and the court may want to order that the animal be given back to the owner. Amendments Nos. 31 to 39 are matters of drafting.
Amendment No. 29 removes the reference to an application by way of complaint in Clause 20 because we do not think that that is the right process in every case. It can still be used in some cases, but in others there may be several interested parties who need to give evidence so that the court can reach the right decision based on all the facts. Therefore, we think that the right approach is for rules of court to be made under the powers in the Magistrates Courts Act 1980 to ensure that the court gives notice and an opportunity to be heard to every interested party when it hears an application under Clause 20. Exactly who is an interested party will obviously vary from one case to another, and the court hearing the application will be best placed to consider who to include. If that involves a delay, directions can be made to ensure the welfare of the animal in the mean time. I beg to move.
The Duke of Montrose: My Lords, I thank the Minister for presenting the detail of the amendments. It is good that the amendments bring in safeguards and it is as well to have a reasonable power of appeal
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Baroness Miller of Chilthorne Domer: My Lords, on the day this clause was dealt with in Committee, my noble friends Lord Greaves and Lord Dholakia raised some concerns. I know that they will be very grateful to the Minister for addressing them through the amendments.
(5) Where a court decides on an application under section 20(3)(a) not to exercise the power conferred by subsection (1) of that section, the applicant may appeal against the decision to the Crown Court.
The noble Baroness said: My Lords, this is a fairly small issue which has been raised with us by the International League for the Protection of Horses. The amendment seeks to build on the new and improved provisions of owner disqualification through the courts. It would add to the list of activities currently within Clause 33(2) and seeks to correct a loophole that would allow disqualified persons to drive or ride animalsin particular, the league is thinking of horses, naturally. The amendment would ensure that when making an order the court could disqualify a person from riding or driving an animal whilst disqualified. In practice, this could prevent the original owner entering into an arrangement with a supposedly new owner, or hiring a horse out, say, from a riding station, and continuing his contact with the animal.
I understand that the International League for the Protection of Horses has already persuaded the Scottish Executive Environment and Rural Affairs Department (SEERAD) to add the amendment to the Animal Health and Welfare (Scotland) Act 2006. I hope that under those circumstances the Minister will feel able to accept this small amendment, which could correct this oversight. I beg to move.
Baroness Fookes: My Lords, this is a most sensible suggestion. It is rather more than small, as my noble friend said. There could be some real difficulties if this is not added to the Bill, and I hope that the Minister will look favourably upon it.
Lord Rooker: My Lords, I shall break the habit of a lifetime and say that I would love to be able to accept the amendment in order to repay the co-operation and support for the Bill that has been received from across the House. Unfortunately, I am unable to do so. But I have a good reason for not being able to do so and I hope that the noble Baroness will find it acceptable.
As the noble Baroness said, Amendment No. 34 would enable the court to impose further restrictions under the terms of a disqualification order. Accepting the amendment would result in a court being able to disqualify a person convicted of a relevant offence from being in controlalbeit only temporarilyof an animal owned or kept by someone else by riding, driving or using it. The expression using an animal is a broad one and would give the court considerably
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Lord Rooker: The noble Baroness is quite right, my Lords. The amendment does refer to riding or driving. It is not the first time today that I have found an old set of notes in front of me. The last paragraph I read out is inoperativeI think that that is the language.
I should like to talk about the intentions behind the amendment, notwithstanding what the noble Baroness has just said. We do not think it would enhance the powers that we propose to make available to the courts. The court already has the power to disqualify a person from participating in the keeping of animals and from being a party to an arrangement under which a person is entitled to control or influence the way animals are kept. We consider that the powers in Clause 33 are already very wide and allow disqualifications which are enforceable and will protect animals, so we do not think that disqualification orders can be expected to prevent every future possible opportunity for cruelty. They are meant to, and will, prevent offenders setting up relationships of care and responsibility for animals whereby those animals might suffer.
Finally, for the avoidance of doubt, I confirm that a court may make both a disqualification order as well as a deprivation order in respect of the same case, if it so wishes. Clauses 32(1) and 33(1) both provide that deprivation and disqualification orders may be made by the court instead of or in addition to dealing with the offender in any other way. Having said that in respect of the narrow point of Amendment No. 34, I hope that the desires expressed by both noble Baronesses are met by the Bill.
There are some government amendments in the same group. Amendments Nos. 35, 36, 53, 54 and 55 are necessary to apply the same powers to breaches of disqualification orders made under old or new legislation. The group includes four minor amendments that are necessary to correct references contained in the Bill.
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