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Lord McIntosh of Haringey: First, I congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Moynihan, on his incredible powers of endurance. As he rightly pointed out, there are three of us on the Government Front Bench, while he has taken the lead on every single amendment today, apart from the one spoken to by the noble Lord, Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish. Three to one does not

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seem to me the right way to play a four-person game, but I admire him for it. He reminds me of the football spectators Bill 11 years ago, which I had forgotten. I shall have to go back to Hansard and read how rude I was. Since I never raise my voice in anger in this Chamber, I am a little astonished at what the noble Lord says, but if he says it, he must be right.

I took part in a debate on listed events last week in which I confessed my lack of interest in sport, so it is no good my pretending a personal concern about sporting matters. It is on the record that at school I used to escape from sport as much as I possibly could, notably by going to the movies in the afternoons.

I hope I can reassure the noble Lord, however, by saying something about the Government's attitude to sport in general. We intend to take the lead in extending opportunities for participation in sport which will embrace all sections of the community, regardless of where they live, social background, age or ability. Our aim is to ensure sporting enjoyment and opportunity for the public. We recognise the need for developing sporting talent and investing in the future by supporting sport at grassroots level.

Sports opportunities and success create a sense of community. Young people in particular--and the noble Lord referred to this--gain confidence and self-discipline and are introduced to good habits which set patterns for a lifetime.

Our starting point is much the same as that of the noble Lord, Lord Moynihan. He rightly reminded the Committee that the impetus for the declaration came from the Bosman decision in December 1995 which found that the European Community Treaty rules on free movement of workers applied to rules laid down by sporting bodies such as the Belgian Football Association and UEFA. It decided that the transfer fee system and the three foreign player rule breached Article 48 of the treaty. That meant that no transfer fee could be charged for out-of-contract players. It has also contributed since then to an influx of foreign players to the United Kingdom. I suppose not surprisingly, a number of sporting bodies felt that their powers of self-regulation were being undermined. They wanted to ensure that Community competence did not develop over sport and that European Community law did not impede their freedom to regulate and organise sports activities. So they lobbied for a binding protocol. They did not succeed with the lobbying. What they got instead was the legally non-binding declaration to which the amendment refers.

It may not be legally binding, but it is an important statement which we expect the European Union to uphold. The declaration requires the Community to consult sporting bodies more in the future when their interests are directly at stake. It underlines the importance that sport, not merely professional sport, has in our national life. As the last sentence says:

    "special consideration should be given to the particular characteristics of amateur sport".

I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Renton, that the declaration is mildly expressed; some would use the insulting phrase "warm words" for it. If we were

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drafting the declaration from scratch, we would not seek to highlight professional sport apart from amateur sport because both are important. But the significant aspect of the declaration is that Community institutions should keep the interests of sport--professional and amateur--in mind when important questions affecting sport are at issue. We welcome that and the perhaps limited protection which the declaration gives.

Lord Moynihan: How the passage of time heals! I am most grateful to the Minister for his generous opening remarks. I am also grateful to him for his observations on sport which I endorse. The intervention from my noble friend Lord Renton was apposite. It is an important start for the European Union to recognise the importance of sport and recreation for all those who live in member countries. In the context of the comments made by the Minister and in the spirit of the words of the declaration, I am most grateful to the Committee for listening to this exchange. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendment No. 43D not moved.]

Lord Moynihan moved Amendment No. 43E:

After Clause 1, insert the following new clause--

Welfare of animals

(" . Within six months of the passing of this Act a Minister of the Crown shall lay before both Houses of Parliament a report on the interpretation of the welfare of animals "as sentient beings" and the corresponding rights set out in the Protocol on the Protection and Welfare of Animals annexed to the Treaty of Amsterdam.").

The noble Lord said: From these Benches in principle we support Protocol 10. It requires animal welfare to be properly taken into account in the development of Community policies on agriculture, transport, the internal market and research. Our support is unsurprising given that the provision was inspired by the previous government's recognition of the high level of public concern in relation to animal welfare. It was thanks to the persistence of the then Prime Minister--John Major--that a declaration on the protection of animals was appended to the Maastricht Treaty. Likewise, it was the previous government which, at the IGC in 1996, sought agreement to have that declaration converted into a legally binding protocol which would place a formal obligation on the European Council to take animal welfare into account when formulating policies.

Britain has a tradition of high standards in the protection and welfare of animals. We have long been at the forefront of the drive to change attitudes in Europe. The previous government were committed to the highest possible standards of animal welfare both at home and abroad. Indeed, after the 1979 election we set up a new, powerful welfare body to monitor the humane treatment of animals. With scientists, livestock farmers and veterinary surgeons, the Farm Animal Welfare Council carried out a range of studies over the past 17 years on animal welfare, many of which were incorporated into new legislation and welfare codes.

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I am sure that the Minister will give assurances that the Government will continue to work for higher standards across Europe and the rest of the world and, equally, will also ensure that UK standards should never be compromised by being levelled down anywhere in the world or, indeed, in Europe.

But against that background, the protocol before the Committee today raises a number of interesting points, one of which may not help to secure the level playing field that we seek. First, the text refers to respect for the welfare of animals as "sentient beings"; secondly, it provides that the Community shall have full regard to the welfare of animals while at the same time respecting the legislative or administrative provisions and customs of the member states relating in particular to religious rites, cultural traditions and regional heritage.

On the first point, will the Minister give the Committee a definition of the phrase "sentient being"? It may be of assistance for me to say that the Oxford English Dictionary defines "sentient" as follows:

    "[First,] That [which] feels or is capable of feeling; having the power or function of sensation. [Secondly,] Of organs or tissues; responsive to sensory stimuli. [Thirdly,] Characterised by the exercise of the senses".

While the noun "being" can be used to refer to existence and the state or fact of existing, it can also be used to refer to the self or something that is thought to exist, especially something that cannot be easily assigned to a category; for example, a being from outer space. It can of course even refer to a human being. Does the Minister agree that the meaning of the phrase "sentient being" may be construed as obscure even in one language, let alone in the languages of all the European Union members?

This is important. I should like the Minister to consider how the European Court of Justice might interpret the phrase "sentient being". The ECJ played a large role in determining the scope of application of animal welfare measures. For example, it has always been the case that under the Treaty of Rome the member states could not ban the export of live animals on animal welfare grounds because of the general provisions; namely, those contained in Article 36 which strictly limit the circumstances in which freedom of trade within the Union can be curtailed. That has meant that a unilateral ban on the export of live animals from the UK would not be effective. Not only would it be illegal under the single market, but it would also put British farmers at a disadvantage while doing nothing to help improve animal welfare on the Continent.

The recent ruling of the European Court of Justice has served only to confirm this interpretation; for last month the court ruled that European free trade laws meant that the United Kingdom was not legally entitled to ban the live export of calves to be reared in veal crates on the Continent. Even though the present Government have pledged to stop such exports resuming once the BSE ban was lifted and even though the Advocate General had advised the court that a country in which the health of animals was a matter of public morality could impose a ban, the High Court of the European

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Court of Justice still ruled that a ban under Article 36 was not permissible and that the practice of rearing young calves in crates complied with European Union minimum standards of animal welfare. So the fact that Britain chooses to adopt stricter standards than those required by the directive does not entitle it to ban live exports to other member states whose farms comply with the EU directive on minimum standards for animal welfare.

Therefore, can the Minister explain how the inclusion of the phrase "sentient being" is likely to sway the European Court of Justice in its consideration of whether member states are allowed to restrict the export of live animals? By introducing a potential element of ambiguity in a court of law, how does this contribute to strengthening European law or animal welfare? For surely this is the way forward. Just as it did under the previous government, the UK must continue to lead the way by example and by lobbying for better European laws on animal welfare so that, where necessary, we are satisfied that it is being levelled up to the standard of our law. I could give a number of examples but I think it would be valuable to hear first from the Government as to their views on this extremely important and detailed point.

I want to turn to a second very interesting point raised by the protocol which, as I said, is the requirement for member states to pay full regard to the welfare requirements of animals while respecting the legislative or administrative provisions and customs of the member states, relating in particular to religious rites, cultural traditions and regional heritage.

I interpret this to mean that the Community must have full regard to the welfare of animals and at the same time must respect the religious customs, cultural traditions and the heritage of individual member states and that the member states themselves must also have full regard for animal welfare with the same provision on regarding customs, traditions and so on.

Can the Minister clarify whether under this protocol a member state may not take action on what it considers to be animal welfare if such action is deemed to conflict with the customs, religious rites, cultural traditions and regional heritage of this country? Clearly this protects against action which would affect religious slaughter--for example, for kosher and halal meats--on the grounds that this is a religious rite. Likewise, neither Spain nor the Community will be able to ban bull fighting, so both matadors and the treatment of animals in Spanish festivals would not be affected by this protocol on the grounds that they represent a cultural tradition and part of Spain's regional heritage.

I am sure it was the intention of this passage to provide such exemptions. But where does this leave certain country sports in the United Kingdom? Whatever views an individual holds on the rights and wrongs of fox hunting, it is certainly a cultural tradition and part of the United Kingdom's regional heritage. Upon signing this protocol, therefore, does this mean that the United Kingdom could not take measures to prevent fox hunting within its own boundaries without breaking the terms of the protocol?

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I look forward with interest to the Minister's reply to that specific question. From these Benches we fully support the Government in taking steps at European level to achieve a real and lasting improvement in animal welfare standards. My amendment is intended to clarify some of the ambiguities of language as well as the meaning contained within this protocol.

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