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We have to take care—this is the bit that is expected—that domestic legislation complies with European law. This all goes back to the European Communities Act 1972, as I recall from my early years when I was opposing it. I do not now; I support it. Subject to certain safeguards, someone legally established to practise farriery in another member state can provide the same service in the UK on a temporary basis. I emphasise that because it is important. The UK is obliged to implement directive 2005/36/EC on the recognition of professional qualifications, which goes right across the professions. That works both ways for people in this country. Some of the measures suggested by UK farriers for strengthening the safeguards are simply not permitted under the directive. For example, we cannot require a service provider to undertake a practical test of their competence. Checks can be made with contact points and competent authorities in other member states about the provider’s legal establishment or the relevance to farriery of his professional qualifications, but access to farriery on a temporary basis cannot be delayed or complicated in any way if the person has provided all the required documentation—that is, to prove that they are legally conforming and operating as a farrier in the other member state.

Earl Ferrers: My Lords, the Minister has come on to an important point. I think he said that legally qualified people from another state can come over and practise farriery here on a temporary basis. When does that temporary basis become permanent? Is it when they have passed an exam in England?

Lord Rooker: My Lords, that is an excellent question. That will be judged on a case-by-case basis by the Farriers Registration Council. I understand that the period cannot be any more than a year, so someone cannot be temporary for longer than that. The Farriers Registration Council, this country’s regulatory authority, will decide on that, based on the evidence provided by the individual concerned.

Earl Ferrers: My Lords, I am grateful to the Minister, again, for giving way. If the gentleman concerned does not pass the test of the Farriers Registration Council, can he be, as it were, thrown own?

Lord Rooker: My Lords, the test is that of supplying the necessary information, not a practical test. It requires documents: evidence from the member state and details from the competent authority. Where there is no competent authority, they have to provide the documents to show that they have legally been carrying out a business and, indeed, are doing so because they are only coming here to provide a temporary service. The Farriers Registration Council can limit that for a year, but if they fail to provide the necessary documentation, they would not be able to provide the temporary service. There is a check and balance here, and another which I will come to in a moment.

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The main overall objective of this directive is the reduction of obstacles to free movement. It merely makes possible the pursuit of a profession for which a person is qualified on an employed or self-employed basis, provided the activities are comparable. It introduces new arrangements for migrants who want to provide a service on a temporary and occasional basis with the minimum of bureaucracy and red tape. Here is the key part: it places absolutely no obligation whatever on employers or service users to engage a professional from another member state. To the best of my knowledge—as was mentioned earlier, and as I discussed a couple of days ago—it must be perfectly compatible with, let us say, insurance companies putting in terms and conditions that require one to use professionally qualified competent people to do the necessary work. If not, one’s insurance is at risk. Therefore, these are quite legitimate, but no one is forced to employ professionals from another member state. That is an important point.

The directive was largely implemented last October by the Department for Innovation, Universities and Skills through the European Communities (Recognition of Professional Qualifications) Regulations 2007. Many of the provisions are carried over from a previous directive on the recognition of professional qualifications. A lot of this is not new. Europe-based farriers have been able to provide temporary services, under the DIUS regulations, by submitting a declaration to the Farriers Registration Council—the UK competent authority—since last October. As I have said, so far, the Farriers Registration Council has received only one declaration. There are only two European farriers currently registered to practise farriery on a permanent basis in the United Kingdom. I do not know which member states they are from. The directive leaves the registration of temporary service providers up to member states.

Having consulted the Farriers Registration Council, we agreed that the best way of managing temporary service providers would be to provide the regulator—the Farriers Registration Council—with the necessary powers to deal with issues relating to conduct. The Farriers’ Qualification (European Recognition) Regulations 2008—the subject of this debate—therefore provide for consequential amendments following changes introduced last year by the DIUS, and provide a framework for registering temporary farriers. Revocation of the regulations would not affect the entitlement of European farriers to provide their service on a temporary basis, pursuant to the DIUS regulations, but it would hinder the UK’s ability to implement fully its European obligations. In addition, it would remove our ability to manage these arrangements in a transparent way, and to ensure that any problems can be dealt with by the Farriers Registration Council. That is an important point, because bringing regulations into force allows the Farriers Registration Council to be the regulator for the temporary activities.

Farriery is not a regulated activity in some member states. The directive, and the DIUS regulations, set out other criteria that must be taken into account in those situations. Competent authorities—in the UK, the regulators—have an obligation to work in close collaboration with the competent authorities in other

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member states to facilitate the application of the directive. The directive defines “professional qualifications” as:

Therefore, “professional qualifications” includes professional experience, such as two years’ lawful and effective practice of a profession. You have to provide evidence that you have been doing it and carrying it out, even in a member state where there is no competent authority.

When making a declaration to the Farriers Registration Council, a temporary service provider must include details of any insurance cover, an attestation that they are lawfully established in their home country, as well as evidence of professional qualifications and proof of at least two years’ lawful and effective practice if they come from a state where farriery is unregulated. There are therefore some hurdles even in countries where there is no regulation of farriery. I do not claim that they are as good, but it is not a free-for-all; it is not for any Tom, Dick and Harry to come over here and say, “I’m a farrier. I’ll undercut your prices. I can do the job. I’m OK”. There is a series of hurdles to clear.

Lord Pearson of Rannoch: My Lords, how exactly would these farriers who come from an EU country which does not have a regulated industry prove that?

Lord Rooker: My Lords, they would be required to prove that they had lawfully engaged in a business in their home country. It has nothing to do with whether it is regulated. If they claim to be operating as a farrier, even in a country where farriery is not regulated, they must have documents to show that they are lawfully in business and have been so for a lawful period. They have to be able to prove that. That goes beyond what would be required. It is not so much as would be required if they had a competent authority, but they have to show that they are engaged in that practice and have been so lawfully for a minimum period.

We acknowledge that UK farriers and horse owners need to be reassured that the competent body responsible for administering these provisions—that is, our Farriers Registration Council—has all the information, support and guidance needed to implement the new arrangements effectively. Guidance has been issued by the Department for Innovation, Universities and Skills to all the relevant UK regulators—that applies for other professions as well. The regulators as contact points have the function of providing information to incoming and outgoing professionals and to assist citizens in realising the rights conferred on them by the directive.

I agree that we are still in the early days of implementation of the new arrangements. They need to be given time to bed down and their effectiveness properly assessed. A commitment has already been made by the Department for Innovation, Universities and Skills to review the implementation of the directive in October next year. Therefore, it is more or less two years after it came into operation. As I speak, we have only one in the queue, and two operating.

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If sufficient evidence comes to light to show that the welfare of animals is not adequately safeguarded because of a lack of professional training and/or experience in farriery on the part of temporary service providers, we will bring it to the attention of the other department responsible for the regulations. But simply to say that is not good enough: we have the Animal Welfare Act. All the responsibilities of animal keepers are in statute now. We have much tougher animal welfare regulation than ever before. That Act is only one year in being. If we find evidence of the welfare of animals being affected, action will be taken long before the review of these regulations next year.

In the final paragraph of a Written Answer to the noble Baroness, Lady Byford, I wrote:

In other words, without this regulation—although it arrived here without a long consultation or the possibility of being amended, for the reasons explained by other speakers as well as myself—the UK regulator would have no power to act in those particular cases.

The issue raised by the noble Lords, Lord Donoughue and Lord Addington, is that while the regulators have all been informed about this, it behoves Defra to explain the rules, some of which I have touched on tonight—I stuck closely to the script, because I wanted to get it on the record. For example, recent publications said that, because of a loophole in new legislation, unqualified farriers from other EU countries would be able to practise here. On this point, I have said that a farrier must provide a host of documentary evidence to show that they have been engaged in the profession, even if in a country where there is no regulation. The Farriers Registration Council has to scrutinise these qualifications and all the other information that must be provided. It cannot force a competence test, because that is outwith the regulations allowing professionals free movement within the EU.

We have a good system in this country—people better qualified than me know that it is a far superior system. However, it is wrong to suggest that all the good work that has been done in farrier training by the farrier community is eroded by a directive that opens up the system to abuse and allows people to injure and lame horses with no redress. If the requirement was that everybody with stables would have to employ a certain quota of temporary farriers from countries without competent authorities, there might be a case to make. However, no one will be forced to employ anyone from an EU member state and insurance companies can provide restrictions or extra barriers. As I have said, some member states with very successful and extensive bloodstock industries do not have the same system as we do, and we should not be worried about farriers in those countries coming here. It will be up to individuals as regards whom they employ.

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Because of what has been said here tonight and published recently—I will not criticise individual publications, that would be unfair—I think that it behoves us to set out some of the rules and hurdles that people might have to tackle in order to ply their trade here. This should be better explained. We can do a much better job and I will make that my responsibility. I asked yesterday if this had gone through the other place and it has not. I do not think that it was prayed against. This may be our only opportunity for a debate, but I will ensure that we take steps to explain better the rules and regulations to the industry, so that people are no longer fearful about the welfare of their animals, which is the top priority.

I understand the issue raised by those whom I call “my friends in the Countryside Alliance”, although I am not a member. They make a point about public health, which takes us to the other part of the regulation. I understand that there is a public health issue if things go wrong and horses are treated badly. However, we do not have any evidence from the Court of Justice to bring public health arguments into what is an animal welfare issue. I know that the tenuous link can be made, as the Countryside Alliance has done, but there is no force of law behind that, in such terms that the solicitors and lawyers would argue that there was a public health issue here and that therefore we could use the other aspect of regulations.

I hope that the debate has been useful, both for those in the industry and those outside who watch our events. I shall take steps to ensure that Defra takes this issue seriously, by way of explaining it better. It will not cost a great deal; we do not have many extra resources, but this is an area in which a few pennies spent on better explanation would not go amiss.

Lord Willoughby de Broke: My Lords, can the Minister answer the question asked by my noble friend Lord Higgins about what position the British negotiators took in Brussels to ameliorate this situation in any way? Why did this measure come over here in such unpalatable form? Can the Minister answer that here? Perhaps he could write to us on that matter.

Lord Rooker: My Lords, I shall write if the explanation needs to be better. The fact is that, although there was a short consultation, 18 months of discussions went on before last November. This is not something that has just appeared out of nowhere. We discussed this matter, and some of the concerns raised were not able to be taken into account in how the directive operates. I think that some of the farriers here said that there should be a practical competence test before you are employed, but it is not possible to do that.

Following the discussions in Brussels, we were satisfied about the animal welfare issue, which is the key issue here. There are hurdles—they are not barriers, but hurdles; we have free movement of professions, with some rules and regulations. The temporary issue is important; it involves a temporary period, with a maximum of a year.

This was not an issue on which we discussed an encyclopaedia of rules and regulations, but it was discussed for some 18 months beforehand, and we

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were satisfied that the animal welfare considerations were fully met in the regulations as the final regulation appeared—and then we transposed it for the farriers.

Earl Ferrers: My Lords, the Minister has spent quite a long time, understandably, giving quite a complicated answer to quite a complicated series of questions. However, there was one point that he missed, with respect. If the standards in the United Kingdom are higher than anywhere else in the world and if we are now going to allow in people who do not come up to those standards, we are lowering those standards, are we not?

Lord Rooker: My Lords, it is for each individual member state and competent authority to set their standards. We are trying to encourage free movement of professions and we will buy in, as we do in other professions, whether it is medicine, engineering, science or dentistry—there are all kinds of issues like that—with the need to meet certain basic conditions. In this case, the basic conditions are those that I set out: if you are in a country where there is no competent authority you must still meet a set of criteria and prove that you have been practising in the profession for at least two years. You have to show that you are running a lawful business in another country to enable you to come over here on a temporary basis.

It is for others to decide, but there may be the odd one or two farriers who are better than some of our farriers. We have 390 here who are not qualified, in the sense that we are discussing qualifications—those with grandfather rights. One has to ask, who judges those? Are they better or worse than others from other countries? It would not be me who would want to make that decision.

Lord Addington: My Lords, I think that this debate has been necessary, because we have drawn attention to concerns. As the Minister said, it is possible that there may even be slightly better regulation or processes, or new and developing processes, in Europe. One

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hopes, after what the Minister said, that if there are, we will now find out about them and have enough information coming in.

I know that the noble Lord, Lord Willoughby de Broke, is on my side, but praying in aid the great mother of parliaments when we are discussing this under negative procedure, when we can discuss it only after it has gone through, and slowly, means that possibly we are not that perfect all the time in how we handle secondary legislation. That is the conclusion I would draw. The way in which this was picked up by accident at the last minute, by me, suggests that we should look at that situation more carefully in future.

I should have made one declaration of interest. At a dinner party several months ago it was decided that I had won something in Lambourn that was relevant to the equine fraternity. It was decided that I was possibly the most unlikely person in the town to be a jockey. The noble Lord, Lord Dear, with his wonderful explanation of how a horse’s foot works, might possibly challenge me for that if he turns up.

However, I hope that the Government’s undertaking is to give us information in a way—a nod of the head is sufficient here—that we can actually understand and can get through to the general horse-owning public. If so, many of the fears here may well be allayed. We also have a process of reviewing this in case they are not. I beg leave to withdraw the Motion.

Motion, by leave, withdrawn.

London Local Authorities and Transport for London Bill

The Bill was reported from the Unopposed Bill Committee on Recommitment with amendments.

Child Maintenance and Other Payments Bill

The Bill was returned from the Commons with the amendments agreed to.

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