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Amendments Nos. 35 and 36 amend the reference in subsection (9) to refer to an order imposed under subsection (1), which is more correct. Amendment No. 54 amends Clause 64, which deals with transitional arrangements.
The Bill will introduce a much-needed power for the courts to order the seizure of animals from someone who is found to be in breach of a disqualification order. However, although Clause 33(9) makes it an offence to breach such a disqualification order made under the Bill, it does not make it an offence to breach an order made under the existing legislationthe Protection of Animals (Amendment) Act 1954. Clearly, we need to apply the same laws to both. Amendment No. 35 therefore plugs the breaches in the old disqualification into the offences under Clause 33(9)
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Baroness Byford: My Lords, I thank the Minister. I am sorry about the confusionour original amendment contained the word using, which we removed because we realised it was far too wide. I am still slightly confused about why the Scottish rural affairs department decided to include it while it is not considered necessary here, but I have time to think about that.
( ) Where a person, other than a state Veterinary Inspector is to be appointed under this section, that person will not present evidence without the approval of that evidence by a State Veterinary Inspector.
The noble Baroness said: My Lords, we return to inspectors. I would have moved this amendment in Committee but at that stage we were under severe pressure, so I am introducing it afresh on Report. The Explanatory Notes state:
While we welcome that, there are few safeguards in the Bill to ensure that the quality, training, funding
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I was struck by the recommendations of the EFRA Select Committee on the Bill, dated 8 September 2004which shows what a long time we have been considering itwith regard to the RSPCA. Its report points out:
As currently drafted, there is nothing in the draft Bill to prevent an RSPCA inspector, or an employee of any other charitable organisation, from being appointed an inspector under the legislation, because the Secretary of State is not prevented from including them on a list of suitable persons. We have only Defras stated intention that the list will extend to only the State Veterinary Service and local authorities. If this is indeed Defras intention, then we recommend that it should be specified on the face of the Bill. Currently, the draft Bill effectively delegates an unlimited power to the Secretary of State to decide who may act as an inspector.
The amendment would create a compromise between making the best use of scarce resources and involving the RSPCA in the inspection of domestic premises for welfare and cruelty offences only. However, it would ensure that, while the RSPCA inspector would carry out that investigation, the evidence gathered would have to be approved by the state veterinary inspector.
That would not only ensure that the quality of the evidence brought forward to prosecution would be good, but also provide a deterrent to an overzealous inspector, who would know that their evidence would be subject to scrutiny. The amendment provides a bridge between the reality of scarce resources and the need to establish good standards of inspection.
Perhaps I may bring to your Lordships attention a letter from David Catlow, president of the BVA. It was written on behalf also of the Animal Protection Agency, the Bio-Veterinary Group, BirdsFirst, Blue Cross, the Born Free Foundation, the BVA, the Captive Animals Protection Society, Cats Protection, Dogs Trust, IFAW, the Kennel Club, the League Against Cruel Sports, the Monkey Sanctuary Trust, the PDSA and the Wood Green Animal Shelterthat is quite a list. They are seeking clarification. The letter states:
For example, the police indicated that they felt their role was at the more extreme end of cruelty and that they did not have the ability to take on the role traditionally carried out by the RSPCA. Similarly, Local Authority Co-ordinators of Regulatory Services (LACORS) felt that their work was primarily aimed at the licensing of activities and not dealing with pets in domestic dwellings.
This would appear to show a relatively clear delineation between the aspects of work. I pass it to the Ministeralthough I do not know whether he has had it or notto share with us today. For example, farm animals would be inspected by the State Veterinary Service, the licensing and inspection of animals would be dealt with by the local authority, while extreme violence towards animals would still be dealt with by the police and general animal welfare duties would be undertaken by the RSPCA. I do not know whether this is the Governments thinking as well but, in moving my amendment, I am trying to seek clarification.
Concerns have been raised surrounding the public understanding of the differences in the legislation, in particular the secondary legislation and whether the public, let alone the enforcers, will know which laws apply where
They are therefore concerned about the implementation and enforcement of the legislation, particularly by local authorities, which have to bear some of the initial challenges. With those few words, I beg to move.
Recently I had a discussion with a neighbour who complained about the condition of some sheep near her. She said, I keep reporting them to the RSPCA but they dont want to know. At that stage she was not aware that the local authority has an animal health inspector that will come out and look at the sheep and, if the inspector is unhappy about their condition, will get in touch with the State Veterinary Service. However, if you ring the State Veterinary Service directly, you are told to go to trading standards. So at the moment the situation is very confusing, and it is not very much clearer in the Bill. I hope that the Minister considers the noble Baronesss remarks very seriously because we need proper demarcation lines. The public need to understand to whom they can complain if they are concerned about an animal welfare problem.
Lord Rooker: My Lords, on that latter point I absolutely agree. I suspect I shall not be able to deal with it now, but I shall get it looked into. There is claritywe are passing legislationand the example given by the noble Countess would, I hope, not affect many people, but it would affect some. People should not be pushed from pillar to post. It is also important that the right language is used, because there are different departments and they are not always called the same in each local authority. The State Veterinary Service needs to be aware of that when it gives information to the public.
I have just reread the part of my briefing headed purpose and effect, which is always useful and sometimes even better than the speaking notes, because it explains the amendment in a more encapsulated way. That is useful particularly in a complicated area such as this one.
Clause 49 defines the term inspector for the purposes of the Bill. An inspector will be an officer of either a local authority or an appropriate national authority. In practice, an inspector of the
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Clause 49(2) will require local authorities to have regard to any guidance issued by the appropriate national authority when they appoint their inspectors for the purposes of the Bill. We anticipate that this guidance will set out relevant criteria for appointing inspectorsqualifications, experience and so onand may include a list of approved people who are considered suitable for such an appointment.
Amendment No. 40A would require any inspector appointed under Clause 49 not to present evidence without the approval of that evidence by the State Veterinary Service. We are not clear, which is why we need to have some discussions about it, whether the amendment is suggesting that local authority officers cannot present evidence without the evidence being approved by the SVS, or just inspectors appointed by a national authority. In practice, under the Bill, an inspector will either be an officer of a local authority or an SVS inspector. A local authority could appoint someone on a temporary or part-time basis. Persons appointed on such a basis would be authorised officers of the local authority, and the authority would still be responsible for their actions.
This amendment would result in a lot of unnecessary administrative work for the SVS. It is based on the false assumption that local authority inspectors do not have the sense to recognise when they need to obtain advice from a veterinary surgeon. We think it fails to understand that much of the work a local authority inspector does is well within the competency of a lay person and that input from a veterinarian is not needed. Where, in the course of an application to a court or a prosecution, evidence from a veterinarian is necessary, that will need to be obtained and presented to the court. In some cases it will be appropriate for that vet to be an employee of the SVS. In other cases, a private vet may be the right person. I hope that that gives clarification.
We are currently looking at the protocol between the police, the RSPCA, local authorities and the State Veterinary Service. We do not anticipate any changes in how the law is currently enforced. We are satisfied that we have a clear perception of what their various roles are, notwithstanding the points I have made. I thought it was worth putting that on the record. In the short time available before Wednesday, or whatever day we have down for Third Reading, I will get some clarification, particularly on the example I was asked about by the noble Countess.
Baroness Byford: My Lords, I am grateful to the Minister. As I explained to noble Lords, we had intended to raise this in Committee. It is one of the issues I raised when we had a chance to meet the Minister and his team, but perhaps they did not fully understand what I was after. There is also the question of funding. Local authorities have to make the best use of the money available to them, and some local authorities might consider this a much less important issue than others.
Lord Rooker: My Lords, we do not think the Bill will impose additional financial burdens on local authorities. The costs of running the additional licence system should be balanced by the cost of obtaining a licence, which will be set locally to ensure that the administrative costs are met. The Defra database should provide an additional enforcement tool for inspectors. Resources should not be a problem, or indeed be used as an excuse for lack of action.
The noble Lord said: My Lords, in speaking to this amendment I shall also speak to government Amendments Nos. 42 to 48, which are grouped with it. They are largely technical and ensure consistency with the Serious Organised Crime and Police Act, which came into force in July 2005. In addition, Amendment No. 48 gives limited powers of search and seizure to inspectors who enter premises in an emergency.
Amendments Nos. 41 to 47 are minor amendmentsalthough Amendment No. 46 looks like a significant changepurely to ensure consistent drafting. They make no substantive changes. Schedule 2 extends the safeguards in Sections 15 and 16 of the Police and Criminal Evidence Act to inspectors under the Bill. The Serious Organised Crime and Police Act made a few changes to Sections 15 and 16, and so a few equivalent changes to Schedule 2 are necessary to take account of this. I am happy to go through other amendments in detail.
Amendment No. 48 serves two purposes. The first is to ensure that where an inspector enters premises to search for an animal in distress he has the power to inspect the animal when he finds it. This is a necessary prerequisite to exercising all the emergency powers in Clause 18 and I do not think that I need dwell further on it. The second purpose is to give inspectors limited powers to gather evidence. As currently drafted, the power to remove carcasses and take photographs is limited to occasions when the inspector has entered either under warrant under Clause 22, or to conduct a routine inspection under Clauses 25 to 28.
However, where an inspector has entered to search for an animal in distress he may find it has already died, or that it needs to be destroyed. In both cases he will need to remove the carcass, as a post-mortem examination will be necessary for any subsequent prosecution that may be brought. Likewise, he may need to photograph the conditions the animal has been kept in for use as evidence in any future prosecution.
We recognise that if an inspector has already entered the premises using his Clause 19 powers, then
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1A (1) This paragraph and paragraph 1B have effect in relation to the issue to inspectors of warrants under section 27(4); and an entry on premises under such a warrant is unlawful unless it complies with this paragraph and paragraph 1B.
(3) A person authorised under sub-paragraph (2) has the same powers as the inspector whom he accompanies in respect of the execution of the warrant, but may exercise those powers only in the company, and under the supervision, of an inspector.
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