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Baroness Byford: My Lords, I thank the Minister for putting forward the regulations. In general, we welcome them. She and I--indeed, I seem to have been talking about animal welfare standards nearly all day--have reflected our desire for high animal welfare standards in this country. I am sure the Minister appreciates that I have no wish to drive the standards down. We are right to have high standards.
However, there remains a "but". We raise animals to sell them, and we must do so in a competitive market. I share the Minister's appreciation that the regulations will benefit our farmers within the EU, because other EU farmers will have to meet the standards that are set in some of the regulations. But there is another "but". We compete also with countries outside the EU, and we must be wary of that. We compete within a global market.
To follow on from that logic, we welcome, too, the establishment of the farm tractor as a logo. It does not mean that the produce marked with the logo is British, but it sets British standards. That helps the consumer. At the end of the day, the high animal welfare standards that we set are fine; but we raise animals for consumers to buy. One of the problems that we have discussed in this House in recent months has related to the way in which we try to make sure that the consumer knows what he or she is buying. So if we require that our farmers raise their animals to a higher standard, that premium should be obvious for people to see and should add value to the product on offer. I still have slight reservations on that matter.
As in the case of the IPPC, perhaps I may put the same questions to the noble Baroness. Do other EU countries implement these directives at the same time as the UK? Currently, how many have done it and how many have not?
The Minister said that the costs were negative. However, the debate in another place indicates otherwise. While I accept that the figure is not immense, I believe that there will be some costs. I should be grateful for clarity on that matter. Later in the debate in the other place her honourable friend Mr Morley said the UK should compete not only on high standards, and ensure that it did not drop to the lowest common denominator--I appreciate that--but on quality, which includes welfare, production methods and other various inputs. We agree. We are anxious that any further legislation that is introduced looks at this matter not only from the European point of view, as in the case of these regulations, but also from the wider perspective. We trade globally, not simply within Europe. With those comments, I thank the Minister for introducing these regulations.
Baroness Miller of Chilthorne Domer: My Lords, we on these Benches also welcome the regulations. I shall not delay the House further because I am aware that another debate is to follow. I make one point and ask one question. The link which the Conservatives make between high standards and consumers being aware of them is an important one. The noble Baroness, Lady Byford, welcomed the tractor logo. We also welcome it. However, at the moment the link is very much between larger producers and supermarkets. Often smaller producers are in a better position to pay particular attention to the welfare of their farm animals. We hope that the excellent production methods of small producers continue to be highlighted in a similar way to other initiatives, such as farmers' markets, and that this one will not be limited simply to large supermarkets which, commendably, have worked with the NFU to introduce the logo.
My question is related to paragraph 27, in particular zoo-technical treatments. As the notes make clear, the particular reference is to hormone treatment. In the light of the findings of the Scientific Committee of the EU that hormone substances used in the United States in beef production have proven carcinogenic links, does the Minister believe that at the moment sufficient scientific studies are being conducted so that paragraph 27 can be put into good effect? Given the speed at which the technology advances, are sufficient trials being conducted to enable us to be sure of our own scientific advice? Will the Minister ensure that her department receives as much advice on this issue as is available world-wide? That problem is likely to be a much harder one to tackle than the size of cages and the condition of bedding, important though those matters are.
Lord Williams of Elvel: My Lords, as to the code, I should like to ask a number of questions, of which I have given my noble friend notice. What is the legal status and force of the code? It is referred to as a statutory code. Can my noble friend explain exactly what that means?
I speak as a landowner, on a very small scale, in Wales. Is not tail-docking prohibited on lambs by a European directive placed in legislation in this country? That is believed by upland farmers in Wales.
The noble Baroness, Lady Byford, is right to point out that while the regulations help us to create a more level playing field within Europe, we have to recognise the international dimension of trade. The noble Baroness will be aware that we have been working to ensure that there is greater recognition than in the past within the WTO of animal issues. We are seized of the need to take the regulations into account at an international and European level.
We consulted industry on whether the regulations would impose any new costs. These put into legislation the good practice codes that the majority of UK farmers already follow. In the responses to the consultation, no new costs were identified. That is discussed in some detail in the RIA which accompanies the new regulations. There is a copy of that document in the Library. I understand that no issues were raised about additional costs.
Implementation was due by 31st December 1999. Therefore (to mix metaphors) I feel somewhat like pot or kettle before casting stones about other countries. It is for the Commission to ensure that they are properly implemented. However, if we have further detail on stages of implementation in other countries, perhaps I may write to the noble Baroness.
Baroness Hayman: My Lords, I do not have the details with me. Whether we have them collectively within the ministry, I am uncertain. Perhaps I may write to the noble Baroness. The implementation was in 1999. It is a Commission responsibility.
The noble Baroness, Lady Miller, raised the issue of zoo-technical treatments--for example, hormones. What is set out in the regulations reflects the policy within the directive and the state of scientific knowledge throughout the EU. Through our licensing
My noble friend Lord Williams asked me several questions and I am grateful to him for giving me prior notice. The legal status of the welfare code is that it is a guideline which may be used in evidence in the event of a prosecution. The best analogy would be that of the Highway Code.
As I mentioned, separate codes will be brought forward in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. I understand that in Wales that is in hand but the exact content and timing is a matter for the devolved administration. I was asked about the perception of a ban on the tail-docking of sheep. Directive 98/58 regulates rather than prohibits the tail docking of sheep. One of the code's advantages is that it sets out certain issues such as the minimum length.
I was also asked whether we expected sheep farmers to read the code. The simple answer is yes. I do not think that it is anything new but it replaces an existing code. The provisions entail responsibilities that need to be met. As I hope I made clear, we do not believe that the code imposes a tremendous burden. We have done everything that we can to make it helpful to farmers and to all those involved. On that basis, I commend the provisions to the House.