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The Minister cannot but be aware of the enormous reservations held by the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons, the RSPCA, the Kennel Club and many others to the continued permitting of tail docking for specified types of dogs, generally called working dogs. It is of passing interest to recall why working dogs’ tails were docked in the first place. It was not on welfare grounds, as is so frequently cited; it was because one of the 17th or 18th century kings—I cannot recall who—finding himself a little short of cash to pursue his wars or his pleasures, decided to impose a tax on pet dogs. To distinguish taxpaying pet dogs from non-taxpaying working dogs, the tails of the latter were docked.

Most of the objections to this statutory instrument are on grounds of policy, but a possible drafting defect has been brought to my attention by the royal college. Regulation 3(1) is not in accordance with Section 6 of the Animal Welfare Act 2006. Section 6(5) provides for the veterinary surgeon to certify that certain evidence has been produced to show that the dog is likely to work, and Section 6(6) requires the vet to certify that the dog is a prescribed type. By contrast, Regulation 3(l) calls on the veterinary surgeon to certify that evidence has been produced not only of the dog’s future employment, but of its type. This is a question of drafting.

On matters that relate rather more to policy than to drafting, relevant identification must be produced for dogs that are meant to be used for work by the Armed Forces, the emergency rescue service, the police, the Prison Service or HMRC. Regulation 2 says that such identification must show that the

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person producing it belongs to a relevant organisation. There is, however, nothing in the regulations to connect that person with the dog or its owner. Therefore, a person who wants a dog’s tail docked needs only to persuade a friendly soldier, police officer, or whomever to go with him to see the veterinary surgeon and produce identification.

The regulations omit to say that the person producing the identification must also be the person asking for the dog’s tail to be docked. Neither the veterinary surgeon nor the client has to specify what kind of work the dog is expected to do, or what kind of evidence must be produced. This will create an unnecessary obstacle to enforcement. Although the evidence produced would show that it would be for work, it would do nothing to substantiate in what capacity. Evidence might link it to relevant organisations, but not show its role within them. There is no specification as to what evidence a dog destined for pest control would need. The certificate which the veterinary surgeon and the client are required to sign should make it clear what the story is in order to make it possible for the police, or the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons in its disciplinary capacity, to make a clear-cut decision as to whether there is evidence of bad faith. This lacuna is easily remedied by requiring the veterinary surgeon to indicate what evidence has been produced and the client to specify the activity for which the dog is expected to be used.

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The definition of specified types of dog in Schedule 1 is drawn far too widely. For example, Labradors are retrievers. So far as I know, they have never been candidates for tail docking. Sadie, recently awarded the Dicken medal for her services to Her Majesty’s Armed Forces in Afghanistan, is a Labrador retriever. How would she look without her tail? Should not the distinction be drawn between animals that have been docked traditionally and those that have not within these categories? These regulations are in direct conflict with those in Scotland, where there is a total ban on tail docking. This may well create some cross-border conflicts—my ancestors knew all about those—between veterinary surgeons and their one-off potential clients, as well as with the Scottish authorities. It seems that there might also be conflict with the Welsh when they finally decide what they want to do.

I cannot understand why anyone would want to dock the tail of any dog. Anyone who has seen a pointer—one of the specified types of dog—working and pointing with its tail, or a spaniel that has found what it has been sent to find, cannot help but wonder at the efficiency and the aesthetic beauty of their signalling systems. The police or Armed Forces might say that removing the tail reduces the sites on an animal’s body where an offender can obtain a purchase. In my youth in Kenya during the Mau Mau troubles, the police and soldiers had Dobermans as working dogs. As well as being docked very short, these dogs had their ears amputated and, when working, were smothered in lard. I suspect that these extremely fierce creatures were no more effective than they would have been if they had all their bits and pieces intact.

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For any law to be effective, it must be clear, reasonable and enforceable. There have been many debates on the reasonableness of the proposals for docking dogs’ tails, and I do not intend to go any further on that point. I have indicated a few of the areas where I believe these regulations are either defectively drafted or unclear. Their lack of clarity will mean that this part of the Animal Welfare Act 2006 will be very much like another one, whose title I hardly dare mention but which is held in contempt by some horse riders and many in our rural community and which is proving nearly impossible to enforce. I ask the Minister to withdraw the Docking of Working Dogs’ Tails (England) Regulations 2007 and to try again.

Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton: May I assist the Committee? I understand that the noble Countess wants to object formally to the regulations when we decide whether to report to the House that we have considered them. That situation has never occurred before in this form in a Committee. This means that, because it is impossible to have a Division in here, we will not be able, in the light of an objection, to report to the House that we have considered them. There needs to be a discussion outside the Committee on the way forward, because we have not had this difficulty before. It would be superfluous to have the debate today knowing that we are not going anywhere until we have sorted out the procedure.

The Countess of Mar: Having heard what I said, if the noble Lord, Lord Rooker, wishes to withdraw his draft instrument, perhaps he could let us know. If not, we can go on with the debate and decide what do to then.

Lord Rooker: The last thing I am in favour of is wasting Parliament’s time. I am in favour of doing everything that needs doing once, and I am not in favour of doing it twice. It is clear to me and my officials that we will have to do the job twice by going back to the House. Noble Lords are busy people. Grand Committee only works by consensus. That is their point, otherwise we would be on the Floor of the House in the first place. It makes a mockery of Grand Committee to carry on for a couple of hours to consider this issue when the usual channels have made quite clear to me that we would be wasting our time. Therefore, I shall seek leave to pull all three sets of regulations. I am not going to mess about with one because they are a package. Having considered the matter, we will come back at a later date, obviously not in Grand Committee. This will have to go to the Floor of the House.

The Duke of Montrose: The noble Countess, Lady Mar, read out quite a number of examples of where she thought there was faulty drafting. I am not sure that I can follow her worry about people getting a friendly policeman to certify a dog, because the regulations state,

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All these clauses refer directly to the official body that has to present the animal. There may be other points that she was not happy with.

The Countess of Mar: That was a minor point. The major point is the drafting error.

Viscount Astor: The Minister’s speech raised a number of issues and some of us have some brief questions to put to him. I am all for not wasting parliamentary time, but if he is able to briefly answer the questions while we are here, it might speed up the process next time.

Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton: I advise Members of the Committee that if we allowed certain noble Lords to raise issues it would then be grossly unfair not to allow the noble Baronesses, Lady Byford and Lady Fookes, the noble Lord, Lord Soulsby, and other noble Lords to do so. Knowing how tense and emotional people on all sides of this argument feel, I ask the noble Viscount not to press the matter now. I am sure my noble friend is willing to answer factual and technical questions between now and when the regulations go into the Chamber—I assume there is a procedure for them to go into the Chamber, and I am getting a nod from the Clerk. It would be better if we were to allow the Minister to withdraw the Motion now. It is either that or at least two hours of discussion that will end with him withdrawing it.

Baroness Byford: I accept that suggestion, and I wonder whether the Minister and his team will arrange a day for us to get together and sort out the nitty-gritty. That would help the Committee enormously. I do not think there are any objections to the other two sets of regulations, and I do not know whether it is possible to take them to save time, but it is for the Minister to decide.

Lord Rooker: I have not heard any voices on the other two sets of regulations.

Baroness Byford: We have not had a chance.

Lord Rooker: That is the point. I do not want to pull one of the sets of regulations. It would be unfair for me to assume that there is unanimity on the other two sets of regulations because they are part of a package, and no one has had the opportunity to debate the package. This is going to cause difficulty with the timescale, but that is the Government’s problem, not the Committee’s.

Let us be clear about this. There will have to be a speedy consultation and discussion through the usual channels about the use of the Floor of the House anyway. If we do not meet the implementation time, we do not meet it. That is the reality. It is the Government who are in the dock, if I can put it that way. The fact is that I have usually turned up in Grand Committee when I have been told that there is consensus and to answer all the questions. I go to the Floor. Occasionally we have a vote; in my experience

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of the past few years, we have had one vote. Therefore, the Committee will not report that it has considered the regulations, and I formally move that we withdraw them.

Motion, by leave, withdrawn.

Mutilations (Permitted Procedures) (England) Regulations 2007

Motion not moved.

Welfare of Animals (Miscellaneous Revocations) (England) Regulations 2007

Motion not moved.

Decommissioning of Fishing Vessels Scheme 2007

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The Minister of State, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Lord Rooker) rose to move, That the Grand Committee do report to the House that it has considered the Decommissioning of Fishing Vessels Scheme 2007.

The noble Lord said: This is an important issue on an industry that is of great importance to coastal communities. I have come armed with a long and a short speech. In view of what has just happened, and because this is very important for the communities concerned, I will read the short speech but use the information in the long version for any questions that might arise, which would be more appropriate.

The statutory instrument allows us to set up a decommissioning scheme for vessels of more than 10 metres operating in the western channel sole fishery—area VIIe. The statutory instrument covers the criteria that fishermen and fishing vessels must meet to be eligible for decommissioning; namely, details of how they apply for a decommissioning grant, details of how we award a decommissioning grant and details of what successful applicants must do once they have been offered a decommissioning grant.

The Government have rejected a general decommissioning scheme open to all vessels more than 10 metres long because previous schemes have not proved effective in reducing fleet capacity or good value in terms of good conservation. Repeated decommissioning schemes create an expectation which delays fishermen making assessments on whether to remain in the industry.

We believe that there is a case for introducing a decommissioning scheme for beam trawlers in the western channel sole fishery. The scheme will let vessel owners make an assessment on whether they remain in the fishery, diversify or leave the industry. They will be able to get a long-term view of prospects for the fishery under the terms of the plan.

Scientific evidence shows stock here is at or near an historically low level. I fully understand that fishermen do not always agree with scientists. I have not had

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responsibilities in England for this, but I did during the brief period I was in Northern Ireland. Nevertheless, the UK has been negotiating a long-term management plan with the European Commission because of low stock levels. We want the levels to be sustainable for those vessels remaining in the industry. Running a small, targeted decommissioning scheme for beam trawlers in the area covered by the management plan is most likely to offer value for money and success for the conservation of the stock.

We will keep the basic eligibility criteria that have applied for previous schemes. The vessel must be at least 10 metres in length, at least 10 years old and registered as a fishing vessel in the United Kingdom. It must be currently licensed and that licence must show it is administered at an English port. The vessel must have fished for at least 75 days in each of the two periods of 12 months immediately preceding the date of application for the scheme. Vessels must also be allowed to spend days fishing for sole in the western channel to qualify.

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The Government have put aside £5 million, which should allow for the decommissioning of up to 12 boats. We recognise the industry’s concerns that the maximum payments under the financial instruments for fisheries guidance regulations scheme are not high enough to cover the current values for vessels and licences. We have therefore spoken to the Commission about this, and it has agreed to us paying more. We have set our own maximum level of £3,500 per tonne for the bids, based on consultation; that is about 16 per cent higher than the current EU maximum, which is £2,800. We have done this to encourage applications for the scheme. Full utilisation of the available funds will offer the sole management plan the best chance of success, and therefore aid conservation of the sole stocks.

I realise, as will all Members, that fishing is a community-centred activity by its nature. There have been one or two other industries—coal-mining is another—where the community is highly involved. It is geographically concentrated in small communities on parts of the coast, and is a challenging and unsafe occupation with accidents and deaths at work. There are difficulties with the quota restrictions, fish prices and the weather. Even today, going out to fish remains one of the most dangerous occupations. I pay tribute to all those on the sea. However, there comes a time where we must take action if fish stocks are a problem. This is part of the necessary action. There has been full consultation with the industry and there is, by and large, an acceptance of this small, highly targeted decommissioning scheme. I beg to move.

Moved, That the Grand Committee do report to the House that it has considered the Decommissioning of Fishing Vessels Scheme 2007. 9th Report from the Statutory Instruments Committee.—(Lord Rooker.)

Baroness Byford: I am grateful to the Minister for the way in which he has introduced this scheme, and

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for explaining it to the Committee in detail. We support the scheme, but I shall raise one or two questions.

All of us wish to see the conservation of our sole fish stocks. If we can in some way protect it better than the cod stocks were protected at the time, it must be for the benefit of the industry as a whole. The Minister told us that £5 million had been put on one side, likely to cover the cost of some 12 boats in total. Out of interest, that is 12 out of how many? I do not know how many other boats are involved. We are pleased that the Government have raised the payments by 16 per cent.

The Minister spoke about the communities involved. I reinforce what he said: it is a dangerous and precarious occupation. From the briefing that came with the statutory instrument, I gather that this applies to those fishermen who would be able to seek grants from Sussex, Devon and Cornwall. I do not think that there was anywhere else; again, I seek clarification.

The statutory instrument rightly says that the licence must show that the vessel is administered in an English port. Are any foreign vessels registered as such, which would therefore qualify, or is this all to do only with English fisherman and their boats? It is not totally clear; I may have misread it slightly, but I desperately try not to.

On the grants being paid and the vessel decommissioned, is it also written in—again, I could not see it—that once that owner has received the money, that money cannot be used to upgrade another existing fishing vessel? Certainly, there has been a worry in some of the decommissioning discussions we have had in the past that when the Spanish fleet in particular received their money, they invested heavily in upgrading the existing fishing vessels, meaning that they could land greater quantities of sole than they could have done in the previous vessels. I am not suggesting that this applies to the Spanish fleet, but has that been taken into consideration in relation to the scheme?

I would be glad if the Minister could give me more specific information about paragraph 4(6) on awarding a grant, which says:

Can he clarify how vessels rank highest? Are boats that catch the largest amount of fish ranked the highest? I am not sure how that works. The sub-paragraph continues,

I therefore presume that there is that ceiling of £5 million, to which the Minister referred. However, there could well be more bids that went beyond that amount. Again, I would be grateful for any clarification.

The Explanatory Memorandum sets out the various impacts and options, and mentions the decommissioning of 10-metre vessels on the final page. Option 2 may have been considered and got lost in the wash in the scheme as it is. Under “Benefits to vessel owners”, option 2 says:

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Does that apply under the scheme, or is it just one of the options that were considered? If those stocks were increased and became much more sustainable, the restrictions placed on the amount of fish that can currently be caught might well be lifted. However, it is not very clear in the order. Presumably if the owner is still allowed to keep his quota, he—or she—might decide to keep it for himself in the future, or he might decide to regard that quota allocation as a tradable commodity. Again, I am not quite clear on that. Those are my questions about the scheme; the Minister has been very clear about the other issues.

Lord Greaves: I, too, thank the Minister for his very clear explanation of the scheme. I also thank the noble Baroness, Lady Byford, for asking her questions, as I do not have to ask some of them now. I certainly look forward to the answers to them. Decommissioning fishing vessels is never a happy process; nor is seeing boats with a long association with particular families and particular communities coming into port and being broken up, as the Minister rightly said. However, we are where we are and, like the noble Baroness, we support this small, tightly targeted scheme—I think those were the Minister’s words—to deal with this particular problem.

I have one question about the long-term management plan for sole in area VIIe, to which the Minister referred. Can he tell us whether it has now been approved at the European level by the Fisheries Council, or is it expected to be in the near future?

I want to follow up a point made by the noble Baroness about the number of applicants and how they will be chosen. Like her, I am not very clear exactly how that is going to be done. The Minister suggests that 12 out of about 60 boats will be involved in total, which is one-fifth of them. The very useful regulatory impact assessment that we have provided refers to the four options for choosing and suggests that option 4 is the preferred option. However, I am not clear whether option 4 is written into the option or whether it merely implies that that option and all the others are still on the table.

Option 1 is to do nothing. Options 2 and 3 are fairly simple—perhaps too simple—whereas the RIA says of option 4 that vessels will be,

There are at least three criteria there: one is the tonnage of the vessel, one is its fishing effort and its catches in the past two years—perhaps that is two criteria—and the amount bid per tonne of capacity. I am not quite sure how those would be judged against each other and ranked if there are more applications for decommissioning than can be paid for by £5 million.

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This is an important point, and I should be grateful to hear what the Minister has to say.

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