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Baroness Hayman: My Lords, I am aware of the issues that the noble Lord raises. Certainly the Government would prefer to see a trade in meat rather than live animals. As the noble Lord said, the Commission has started work on a review of the directive. We intend to press our view as regards the preferability of the carcass trade over the export of live animals. My right honourable friend the Minister wrote to Commissioner Byrne in February restating our deep concern about the failure of other member states to enforce the law as it is at present. The Commission is looking hard at ways of improving enforcement. It has initiated a series of working groups in which we have been able to stress the importance that we attach to improvements in the area. One of the groups is due to meet this week. We shall continue to emphasise the issues that the noble Lord rightly highlights.

Baroness Mallalieu: My Lords, the noble Baroness has said again that the Government are anxious to encourage carcass trade as opposed to live exports. The Government have called for that since the election

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and indeed well before it. Yet the Government's charging policy for inspectors of small abattoirs has the effect of closing down local abattoirs and causes animals to have to travel further, both in this country and overseas. What have the Government done during their time in office to bring about some improvement and some increase in the carcass trade?

Baroness Hayman: My Lords, as my noble friend will be aware, the review of charging policy for abattoirs is being undertaken at the moment by the Food Standards Agency. Earlier I outlined the view that we have tried to promulgate within Europe about the preferability of carcass trade. As regards trying to ensure that carcass trade is supported within this country, last week in your Lordships' House I answered a Starred Question about what we are doing to try to facilitate the export of whole unsplit carcasses to France—because that is what the market prefers—for cutting in that country. That is exactly the kind of measure which will support a carcass trade rather than any other.

Lord Monro of Langholm: My Lords, many farmers will feel that the Minister has not gone anything like far enough in her response today. They rightly feel that the farming industry in this country is penalised because farmers on the Continent can do whatever they like and no one seems to enforce any of the regulations. Can the noble Baroness say how many prosecutions—successful or otherwise—have been brought on the Continent since the regulations were introduced in 1995?

Baroness Hayman: My Lords, I am afraid that I do not have those figures with me. I certainly undertake to try to find them and to write to the noble Lord. But I outlined the work that we have done in terms of raising this issue with Commissioner Byrne. I can tell the noble Lord that the Swedish agriculture minister has now echoed our concern by requesting a debate at the June Agriculture Council on what should be done about the widespread non-observance of the welfare-in-transit rules. We shall be supporting that Swedish initiative. Equally, the action plan on farming pointed out our recognition that we needed to do more on this issue—not only in the EU but in an international context—and that we shall look at what we can do to support those with high animal welfare standards. I do not accept the charge that we have not acted in this area.

Lord Clinton-Davis: My Lords, when will the Commission complete its work in relation to the working parties that have been established? Does the Minister agree that it is not good enough that the Commission should buy time in order to deal with this urgent matter and that there is an important requirement on the Commission to produce a definitive result?

Baroness Hayman: My Lords, I agree with my noble friend. That is why we are pleased that three meetings of the working groups have taken place already—there

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will be another one this week—to improve enforcement in this area. Equally, it is important that a review of the directive overall is undertaken. The Commission has now been stirred into taking that action. We have had a positive response to my right honourable friend's letter from Commissioner Byrne and we hope to see action taken soon. The commissioner made it clear that he, too, is unhappy with the current position as a reflection of the importance that animal welfare issues should be accorded within the EU.

Baroness Miller of Chilthorne Domer: My Lords, although, of course, we should be pressing the EU to make reforms, is it the case that the Government have not commissioned any study into transport issues in this country since the closure of so many abattoirs? Will the Minister consider initiating a study into animal welfare in this country before we teach our overseas friends about them?

Baroness Hayman: My Lords, I am not sure that we need to commission a study. When the review of abattoirs for the over-30 months scheme was undertaken, the issues of the effect on journey times and the importance of enforcing the strict regulations on journey times that we have in this country were considered. We have regulations in this country and we ensure that they are complied with.

Noble Lords: Next question.

The Lord Privy Seal (Baroness Jay of Paddington): My Lords, we have now reached 17 minutes which, as the House knows, really means 18 minutes. I am sure that there is as much interest in prisons and pigeons, which I believe are the subjects of the next two Questions.

Prison and Probation Services Inspectorates

2.53 p.m.

Lord Hurd of Westwell asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they have yet reached a decision on the future of the inspectorates for prisons and the probation service.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Home Office (Lord Bassam of Brighton): No, my Lords. We are considering how best to ensure that the arrangements for inspection of the prison and probation services support closer working between the services as well as ensuring that the individual services continue to be inspected rigorously and independently, as they have been. I shall be making a further statement to your Lordships on this in due course.

Lord Hurd of Westwell: My Lords, I am grateful to the Minister for that reply. Does he accept that there

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is a link between this Question and the future of Her Majesty's present Chief Inspector of Prisons, Sir David Ramsbotham? At a time when there is a good deal of discussion inside all political parties about sending yet more people to prison without any evident understanding of the state of our prisons today, would it not be a mistake to take steps which silenced the voice of Her Majesty's present inspector, Sir David Ramsbotham, because he—prison by prison, report by report—tells us what is happening in our prisons in a voice which is clear and strong and, above all, independent?

Lord Bassam of Brighton: My Lords, I agree with the noble Lord's assertion that Sir David Ramsbotham has done an excellent job in reporting on the state of our prisons. He has been robust, independent and forthright. He might not always say things with which we feel entirely comfortable, but he has the honesty and integrity that should go with his post and he does a very good job indeed. It is not the Government's intention to undermine that independence of spirit in any way, shape or form. We intend simply to ensure that whatever we do contributes towards driving up standards in prisons and in the Probation Service, as in all other services. That is our intention in looking at the ways in which the two inspectorates work.

Lord Quirk: My Lords, can the Minister assure the House that the education and training programmes, so resolutely and consistently supported by Sir David Ramsbotham as the best hope of rehabilitation, will continue to be at the forefront of government policy?

Lord Bassam of Brighton: My Lords, I am more than happy to give that assurance. Sir David Ramsbotham has in particular highlighted those important elements in prison regimes. It is, and has been, our intention to ensure that training and education are provided. They are central to the constructive, well worked out regimes that enable offenders to return to a normal life and to take up a more honest, law-abiding existence when they come out of prison. That is our intention and our policy objective—and we are working very hard towards achieving that end.

Lord Acton: My Lords, can the Minister say how much longer Sir David Ramsbotham's contract has to run and whether he is eligible to be reappointed?

Lord Bassam of Brighton: My Lords, the noble Lord will probably be aware that my right honourable friend the Home Secretary recently announced that Sir David Ramsbotham's term has been extended by a further eight months until July 2001. His eligibility to continue in post is not in question. This exercise is simply to ensure that we get the best of both worlds when looking at the future shape of the prison and probation inspectorates. That is why the two terms have been run together to conclude at the same point in time. It is for that reason that I made it clear at the outset that I would be bringing forward a further report to your Lordships' House.

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