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Volume 573: debated on Tuesday 7 January 2014


Tuesday 7 January 2014


Foreign and Commonwealth Office

Animal Protection Laws in Thailand, Vietnam and China

The Petition of residents of Coatbridge, Chryston and Bellshill,

Declares that any torture and eating of cats and dogs in Thailand, Vietnam and China is unacceptable; further that the practices in place in Thailand, Vietnam and China cause unnecessary stress and harm to the cats and dogs involved; and further that these practices are a cause of concern for the British and Scottish athletes who will be attending the Winter Olympic Games in South Korea.

The Petitioners therefore request that the UK Government urges the governments of Thailand, Vietnam and China to strengthen and enforce their animal protection laws and further requests that the House urges the Government to consider incoming visits from the governments of these countries.

And the Petitioners remain, etc.—[Presented by Mr Tom Clarke, Official Report, 19 November 2013; Vol. 570, c. 1202.]


Observations from the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs:

The British Government take seriously reports of animal cruelty throughout the world and are committed to raising standards of animal welfare at home and abroad. The UK is at the forefront of international animal protection efforts. We welcome the work undertaken by non-governmental organisations, such as the International Fund for Animal Welfare, PETA and the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. This includes the work they do, for example, with the Chinese authorities to improve standards of animal welfare and to gradually build support for animal welfare issues in China.

While the UK cannot intervene directly in the protection of wildlife abroad, we have raised our concerns on specific animal welfare issues with the Chinese authorities. We are aware of the illegal smuggling of dogs from Thailand for consumption in Vietnam. In April 2012 an Animal Welfare Bill drawn up with the involvement of the Thai Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals was submitted to the Thai Parliament, and is now going through the legislative process. In October 2012 the Bill passed its First Reading, and the Bill has since passed the Committee stage.

St Raphael’s Hospice (Cheam)

The Petition of residents of the UK,

Declares that the future of St Raphael’s Hospice has been put in doubt by plans drawn up by Daughters of the Cross, a charity who fund the hospice, and by plans to sell off St Anthony’s hospital which shares the site with the hospice and provides administrative and other support services worth up to a million pounds a year; further that the sale of the hospital will break the funding link with the hospice and undermine the Christian character of the institution; further that the Petitioners regret that rather than engaging with the staff and supporters of the hospice and hospital to find a mutually agreed solution to the future of both institutions the charity has pursued a course of action that is not widely supported; and further that the Trustees have failed to grasp that the success and respect in which both institutions are held is the result of a shared endeavour between themselves, the staff and volunteers and the local community who raise and donate the funds to pay for them.

The Petitioners therefore request that the House of Commons thank Her Majesty’s Government for raising the matter with the relevant authorities in the Vatican; further that the House urges the Papal authorities to intervene to protect the ethos of St Anthony’s hospital and its special relationship with St Raphael’s Hospice; and further that the House holds a debate on the future of St Raphael’s Hospice and possible ways forward.

And the Petitioners remain, etc.—[Presented by Paul Burstow, Official Report, 20 November 2013; Vol. 570, c. 1341.]


Observations from the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs:

I understand the strength of feeling about this issue, particularly amongst the constituents of Sutton and Cheam. It is clear that St Raphael’s Hospice plays an important role within the community, providing a dignified and caring environment for those with serious illnesses. The British Government are committed to giving hospices the support they need to carry out these vital duties and awarded an extra £60 million in Government funding to hospices across England earlier this year. We believe this investment is crucial as we face the challenge of caring for an ageing population and supporting their families. Hospices such as St Raphael’s play an increasingly important role in delivering this care and support.

I understand that the Daughters of the Cross, who act as the Trustees for St Raphael’s, are members of an International Order of Religious Sisters who are subject to the jurisdiction of the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and for Societies of Apostolic Life, based in Rome within the Roman Curia of the Holy See. In July 2013, the British Ambassador to the Holy See met Archbishop Jose Rodriguez Carballo, the Secretary of the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and raised the concerns of the local community about the future of St Raphael’s Hospice. The Archbishop confirmed he was aware of the issue and assured the Ambassador that he would look carefully at the case. He did make clear that the decision on the future of St Raphael’s was ultimately one for the Trustees but advised that he would give guidance to the Trustees on the basis of the known preference of the Church that such good works should continue to be run on Catholic lines.

The Foreign and Commonwealth Office also suggested that the Honourable Member for Sutton and Cheam raise this issue with the Apostolic Nuncio in the UK, Archbishop Mennini. I understand that this meeting took place recently and that Archbishop Mennini recognised the Honourable Member’s concerns. The British Government values the work of the Daughters of the Cross in running St Raphael’s Hospice and understands their difficulties in maintaining these responsibilities. I very much hope a sustainable solution can be found.