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One thing that frightens me about this whole matter appears in the Explanatory Memorandum. The noble Lord, Lord Rooker, will know this backwards because he must have read it dozens of times but I shall remind him of it. Paragraph 7.3 states:

It is a funny kind of consultation that consists simply of explaining what we are doing. I put it to the Minister, who is very wise and understanding, that he is imposing on the farriers and the horse-riding fraternity standards which we do not want in the United Kingdom, which are lower than the ones that we have at the moment and which will not do us as a country—nor, I suspect, the European Union—any good.

6.45 pm

Lord Mancroft: My Lords, I, too, along with my noble friend Lord Ferrers, congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Addington, on bringing this matter to our attention. I apologise for not being in my place at the start of this short debate. I had not realised how quickly your Lordships would read the Pensions Bill a second time.

As others, including my noble friend, have said, there is great concern among Britain’s 2,500 registered farriers that the regulations have the potential to undermine our high standards. That is an important point because for more than 30 years, the aim of the Farriers (Registration) Act 1975 has been,

It appears that these regulations, which amend that Act, do exactly that.

The noble Lord, Lord Addington, drew attention to the human health and safety consequences of these regulations. He talked about horses killing. I am not sure about that, but as someone who has occasionally parted company with a horse while it was on the move, which is a most unwise thing to do, I, too, have an interest in ensuring that horses are shod comfortably, at least. We do not want any more accidents than can possibly be helped.

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The noble Lord, Lord Soulsby of Swaffham Prior, pointed out—and I, too, am concerned—that the regulations do not appear to have been subject to a formal assessment of the impact on animal welfare, which is normal in these cases. There are a number of issues to be looked at carefully, all of which have been detailed by other noble Lords, so I do not intend to go through them. I urge the Government to look again at these regulations. Between them, the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs and the Department for Innovation, Universities and Skills appear to have let this particular ball drop. I urge them to work with the horse sector to produce regulations that not only safeguard the high standards for which United Kingdom farriers are justly famous, but are, above all, workable. The regulations before the House tonight are not.

Baroness Byford: My Lords, I should like to add a few words as well, and I have some questions for the Minister. I thank the noble Lord, Lord Addington, for bringing this forward; he should not apologise for not being a horse-rider or for not being as knowledgeable as some other noble Lords who have spoken. It is good that someone outside the particular interest realises that there is a problem.

I understand from the memorandum that the consultation was launched on 7 November 2007 and closed on 19 December. Why was it not a proper 12-week consultation? Clearly it was not, and with the run-up to Christmas perhaps there were not as many responses as there might have been. While I have no particular current interest to declare, I, like many other noble Lords, rode horses and ponies from a tiny age and fell off too many times with resulting broken bones. We were always brought up to make sure that we heeded the importance of having horses well shod. Any horse with a slightly damaged foot is much more likely to be jumpy and not such a safe ride. From a young age, we always had qualified farriers who looked after our animals, which was extremely important.

I gather that concerns were raised during the consultation. How many were there and what happened to them? Did they go to Defra directly, the farriers, or the Worshipful Company of Farriers? It is extremely important to know that.

I reinforce what other noble Lords have said about the qualifications being unequal. Clearly, work experience is not the same as proper professional qualifications. Can the Minister tell us how many of the countries that are likely to have people applying to perform farrier work in this country have different systems? I suspect that there are many, and in some countries there are probably no systems at all. It is important for us to have that information if it is available.

The importance of the safety of riding, particularly in a country where riding is becoming increasingly important, lies at the heart of this short debate. Thousands of children aged four, five, six, seven and eight ride ponies and the last thing we want to do is put any of them at risk purely because we have adopted a directive which lowers the standard that we in this country think is so important. One of my colleagues raised the question about the Government’s stance when this

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was discussed. I hope that the Government lobbied heavily on it. Did they seek a derogation from these proposals? If not, why not? Whereas we normally set the standards and say that everyone must rise to them, it is very odd to have to accept lower standards for those who carry out farrier work in this country.

Lastly, what will happen if someone who comes from abroad is found to be inadequate? Will that person be treated, as our farriers would be, and go to appeal? What happens if that person is found guilty and does not have enough money? I am not sure what will happen if the work is unacceptable—I was going to say shabby—and I seek clarification.

Lord Willoughby de Broke: My Lords, I congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Addington, on introducing this debate. I am the third noble Lord to apologise for not hearing the first couple of minutes of his opening remarks. I too was caught out on the timing.

This is a rather sad debate. We are discussing something that we cannot change. This is an EU directive and the Explanatory Memorandum says that,

My noble friend Lord Ferrers is absolutely right about that. Therefore, we are wasting our time talking about it.

We have contracted out our farriery to Europe just as we have contracted out immigration. This is yet another regulation or directive that we simply do not need. It joins the curd cheese regulations, which were debated a few months ago; the drivers’ hours regulations; the ladder directive; the very recent regulations which noble Lords enjoyed on mediums and spiritualists, which drew some comment from the Liberal Democrat Benches when they could not believe that they were actually involved in that—sadly they were. Those are regulations that we cannot do anything about.

This evening, I have been struck by the expertise of everyone who has spoken. The noble Lord, Lord Dear, with his detailed knowledge, must have been head of the Birmingham mounted police force in a previous incarnation. He is quite right to say, “No foot, no horse”. Farriers do an invaluable service and save us a lot of money; with good farriery we do not have to call the vet out as often. This country has had a very good farriery service and we still do. As this debate, although sparsely attended, has shown, we are capable of running our own show when it comes to farriery. Why do we need to import these absurd regulations from Europe? We cannot do anything about them. We can make wonderful speeches and we can move ourselves to tears with our eloquence but, in the end, it will not do any good at all. I am sure that the Minister who is an honest and straightforward man, whom I much admire, will admit that we have to put these regulations or directives into law. We have no alternative.

It is a sad evening when this Chamber, this Parliament, is reduced to asking itself why we cannot run our own farriery industry. I should like noble Lords to think

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about that and to wonder whether it is right that we should have contracted out so much of our government to an unelected bureaucracy in Europe and sit here willingly to discuss something that we cannot change. It is deeply depressing and deeply sad, which is why, like my noble friend Lord Pearson, I believe that we would be very much better off out of the European Union and running our own affairs. We have a perfectly good Government—let me rephrase that and say we have a good system of government, the highly respected mother of parliaments and an educated electorate. Why do we have to contract out so much to the European Union? Why are we doing it? The noble Earl, Lord Ferrers, is quite right: it is time we asked ourselves whether we are going down the right road here. I strongly support the noble Lord, Lord Addington, in what he said in this debate, and all the other speakers were spot on in what they said. However, I am afraid that the Minister will tell us where we get off.

Lord Donoughue: My Lords, it is undesirable that the packed Benches on this side of the House should be silent on this critical issue, so I shall join in by congratulating the noble Lord, Lord Addington, on raising this matter. I should declare an unpaid interest as I am a trustee of the charity World Horse Welfare, previously the International League for the Protection of Horses, whose concern is for horse welfare throughout the world, and this is a central issue for us. I shall not elaborate because noble Lords have unanimously expressed their concerns on the main issue of standards. Let us be in no doubt that the result of the regulations will be that standards of farrier practice in this country will be to some extent lowered and undermined. We have the best standards in the world, but those standards are not matched throughout Europe. We know that in some parts of Europe, particularly eastern parts, it is difficult to establish what the standards are, and if people come here with certificates describing experience or qualifications, it will not always be absolutely clear what they mean. The issue of standards is at the centre of this. Lowering standards has implications for animal welfare and, as has been pointed out, animal welfare has links to human welfare because of the threats to human health if bad farrier work has been done. I look forward to hearing what my noble friend has to say as he is always individual and constructive.

I should particularly like him to say something on the important point made by the noble Lord, Lord Addington, about information. This change was slipping through with most of our world unaware of it. When I started speaking to people in the horse industry, most of them were unaware that this was happening. If the regulations proceed, there is an obligation on the department or departments to make sure that everyone in related industries is fully aware. For instance, this morning I spoke to the British Horseracing Authority and suggested to it that it might be helpful if it considered whether part of the conditions for licensing trainers should be that they should guarantee to use fully qualified farriers. It may well be if the information is communicated to other parts of the horse industry they can take measures to try to protect standards and animal welfare. I look forward to what my noble friend—who, I say to the

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noble Lord, Lord Willoughby de Broke, represents a perfect Government—has to say, and I hope he will assure us that should the regulations go through all parts of the industry will be fully informed of the implications and that the departments will look at every means possible to protect the high standards that we have so long enjoyed.

7 pm

Lord Taylor of Holbeach: My Lords, I have no immediate personal interest in this matter. Unlike several of your Lordships I have no horse, nor do I ride. Yet one of my daughters-in-law is an enthusiastic, competitive horsewoman, which I suppose is an interest that I should declare. However, I thank the noble Lord, Lord Addington, as have other noble Lords, for laying this Prayer to revoke the regulations. He laid out the argument extremely well, and our debate has been instructive on the issue. I am sure that the Minister will share the misgivings of the many noble Lords who have spoken in this debate who, without exception, have expressed the view that the Government have got it wrong.

It is certain that these regulations would not have been laid in this form if the consultation period had been more thorough. My noble friend Lady Byford explained that there had been a relatively short period of consultation before these regulations were laid, from 7 November to 19 December. The Government consulted the Farriers Registration Council, the Worshipful Company of Farriers, the United Kingdom Horse Shoers Union and the National Association of Farriers, Blacksmiths and Agricultural Engineers. Yet, as far as I can see, they did not include the British Horse Society, for example, or the Jockey Club, or the racehorse trainers’ association, or the racecourse managers, the Pony Club or anybody else who uses the services of farriers. Nor, for that matter, did they appear to consult the veterinary profession; neither can I find any reference to them asking the Army for an opinion, although as a service the Army has a qualification for a farrier going into civilian life having done service as a trained army farrier.

Do the Government share the view of many in the farrier profession that allowing farriers to practise in the UK without having gone through UK channels of training is a regressive move? What safeguard do the Government have in place to ensure the welfare of a horse at the hands of an unqualified, temporary farrier? Is there any way in which these regulations have taken the horse’s welfare into consideration? To press the Minister further, are not horse owners at risk of having their insurance invalidated if their horse is damaged by an underqualified or temporary farrier?

We are not talking of a minor industry; the noble Lord, Lord Dear, gave the figures. There are 1.35 million horses in this country, and at least 4 million people riding out once a year. The equine industry is worth £4 billion overall, with farriers themselves earning £250 million as a key part of the horse economy. There were 2,455 farriers registered in Great Britain in 2006. These figures emphasise the risks involved, as poorly-shod horses are a threat to animal welfare and public safety. My noble friend Lord Soulsby explained the importance

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of proper shoeing. The fact that the directive fails to classify the profession as having public health or safety implications prevents the Farriers Registration Council—the industry’s regulatory body—from making competence checks on an individual from within the EU who wishes to practise in the UK before they start doing so. There are no animal welfare or public safety provisions in the original directive, and it shows.

I accept the enormous benefits that the free movement of professionals throughout Europe can bring to the economies of European member countries, but that cannot be at a reduction of professional standards. I hope that the Minister will agree to look again at these regulations, and at how the directive has been implemented.

7.05 pm

The Minister of State, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Lord Rooker): My Lords, I congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Addington, on securing the debate. I hope we will be able to clear the air of some misconceptions. I do not have any interests to declare, although a couple of long-distance friends from the 1960s might have in their loft a photograph of me—dressed in suitable safety equipment—trailing along the lanes of Llanymynech on the Welsh border. They were showing me what the movement of an animal underneath me feels like. That is about the full extent of my experience so I do not have an interest to declare in that sense.

No one has mentioned it but it is worth putting on record that these regulations have been in force since 19 October last year. So we are not talking about something that has just been brought in. I do not wish to flood the House with constituents but it is also worth putting on record the latest figures I have. The total number of farriers on the register is 2,300 and there are 390 farriers without formal qualification or training. So there are 390 UK nationals—untrained, unqualified—doing farrier work. No one has mentioned that. The number of EU farriers on Part 1 of the register is two, and the number of declarations of intention to provide temporary services since October last year, when the regulations came into force, is one. That is the situation in June 2008. I wanted to set that on the record so that one can see the context in which we are dealing with this. There are nearly 400 unqualified, untrained, UK nationals doing farrier work against a total of 2,300 on the register; and there has been a grand total of three EU farriers on Part 1 of the register, including one declaration of intention to provide temporary services, since 19 October last year.

Baroness Byford: My Lords, I am not doubting the Minister’s figures, but are the unqualified farriers he mentioned attached to qualified farriers—in other words, are they undergoing training—or is he saying that they practise unqualified?

Lord Rooker: My Lords, they practise unqualified. Basically they have grandfather rights, but they are still untrained and unqualified. I am not criticising them. Regulations come into this country that affect people who have spent 20, 30 or 40 years at a certain

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activity and one allows them to continue working and not to go through the process. Pesticide spraying is a profession which still retains its grandfather rights. I am just putting on the record that people doing this work are not being trained but have grandfather rights. If they were new to the profession they would have to be formally trained and go through the process. I just want to set the context of where we are to start with.

I do not have a list but the competent authorities in the countries of the European Union vary. I am not saying that the general tenor of the debate is “No foreigners need apply” as that would be wrong and unfair, but the allegation is that because professional farriers working elsewhere can be employed here—they do not have to be—it will necessarily lower standards. I just want to put that in context before I begin the set part of my speech.

Lord Taylor of Holbeach: My Lords, I would like to press the Minister further on the grandfather rights. Does that go back to before the 1975 Act? In other words, how old is the grandfather? Are we talking about 33 years of practising farriery? That might be considered a pretty long run-in.

Lord Rooker: My Lords, I will get an answer to that, because I clearly do not have one off the top of my head. I was told that the answer was grandfather rights, but I do not know how far back that goes. That might apply to foreigners coming in, such as Irish nationals. I do not believe the Irish horse industry is using farriers who damage the horses, but it does not have the same regulatory system that we have—far from it.

Lord Addington: My Lords, I would like to provide some clarification. I was informed that the Irish had a system that was recognised by us, but they have now stopped it and gone over to another system. That might clear this question up, but it emphasises just how complicated this issue is. The point about grandfather rights is quite right.

Lord Rooker: My Lords, we have had discussions in the past couple of days about this. I asked these questions, because they are important. I said, “What about the Irish situation, given the importance of the bloodstock industry to them?”. I was told that it was somewhat different, as the noble Lord has just indicated. No one has complained about that.

I understand the concerns expressed about the provision. In fact, my collar was felt about two months ago by my noble friend Lord Donoughue on this very issue before it was even a blip on the horizon. I had long since signed off the Explanatory Memorandum the year before, but I went to find out about it. I want to see if I can put those concerns to rest because we take them seriously, particularly those about animal welfare. There is no way we would countenance any diminution of animal welfare. We are satisfied that the directives provide adequate safeguards. I shall come to that in a moment. I have answered Parliamentary Questions from the noble Lord, Lord Willoughby de

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Broke, and the noble Baroness, Lady Byford, in some detail. One of those Answers indicated that there was an advantage for animal welfare in bringing in these regulations.

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