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General Committees

Debated on Monday 30 April 2018

Delegated Legislation Committee

Draft Licensing Act 2003 (Royal Wedding Licensing Hours) Order 2018

The Committee consisted of the following Members:

Chair: Albert Owen

† Adams, Nigel (Lord Commissioner of Her Majesty's Treasury)

† Afolami, Bim (Hitchin and Harpenden) (Con)

† Atkins, Victoria (Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department)

Beckett, Margaret (Derby South) (Lab)

Burden, Richard (Birmingham, Northfield) (Lab)

† Creasy, Stella (Walthamstow) (Lab/Co-op)

† Dakin, Nic (Scunthorpe) (Lab)

† Goldsmith, Zac (Richmond Park) (Con)

† Harper, Mr Mark (Forest of Dean) (Con)

† Harris, Carolyn (Swansea East) (Lab)

† Hayes, Mr John (South Holland and The Deepings) (Con)

† Keegan, Gillian (Chichester) (Con)

Lammy, Mr David (Tottenham) (Lab)

† Maclean, Rachel (Redditch) (Con)

† Smith, Eleanor (Wolverhampton South West) (Lab)

† Thomas, Derek (St Ives) (Con)

Zeichner, Daniel (Cambridge) (Lab)

Sarah Rees, Committee Clerk

† attended the Committee

First Delegated Legislation Committee

Monday 30 April 2018

[Albert Owen in the Chair]

Draft Licensing Act 2003 (Royal Wedding Licensing Hours) Order 2018

I beg to move,

That the Committee has considered the draft Licensing Act 2003 (Royal Wedding Licensing Hours) Order 2018.

It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Owen. The draft order was laid before Parliament on 21 March. Prince Harry will celebrate his wedding to Ms Meghan Markle on Saturday 19 May. The Government consider that a nationally significant event, and many people will wish to celebrate the occasion. The order therefore makes provision, under section 172 of the Licensing Act 2003, to relax licensing arrangements and allow licensed premises to extend their opening hours, on Friday 18 and Saturday 19 May, from 11 pm until 1 am the following mornings to mark the occasion of the royal wedding. This provision relates to premises licences and club premises certificates. It will mean that premises that have licences for the sale of alcohol will just be able to carry on selling alcohol, without having to fill in extra paperwork for a temporary events notice. Premises licensed to provide regulated entertainment or music may do so until 1 am on the nights covered by the order, even if the premises are not licensed to sell alcohol.

However, premises that sell alcohol for consumption off the premises, such as off-licences and supermarkets, are not covered by the order and nor are premises that provide late-night refreshment but do not sell alcohol; they will be able to provide late-night refreshment until 1 am only if their existing licence already permits that.

Licensing hours have previously been extended for Her Majesty the Queen’s 90th birthday celebrations in 2016, for the FIFA World cup in 2014, for the Queen’s diamond jubilee in 2012 and for the royal wedding of Prince William and Catherine Middleton in 2011. I hope that the Committee will agree with the Government that the licensing hours order is an appropriate use of the powers conferred on the Home Secretary by the 2003 Act. Some have said that the passing of this order is conditional on members of the Committee being invited to the royal wedding—I am just floating that, so that the powers that be hear it. I commend the order to the Committee.

It is a pleasure to serve under your wonderful chairmanship, Mr Owen. The wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle on Saturday 19 May promises to be a wonderful occasion and an opportunity for the country to celebrate. I welcome the announcement that, during the celebration period, licensing hours will be extended. This is in line with similar extensions for other royal events, such as the wedding of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and the Queen’s diamond jubilee and 90th birthday.

My only concern—apart from the lack of an invitation—is the fact that the wedding coincides with the FA cup final between Manchester United and Chelsea. Although that will allow supporters to extend their celebrations or commiserations, consideration must be given to the problems that can arise in licensed venues and city centres throughout the country following such events, even with unextended licensing hours. We must therefore ensure that additional resources from our emergency services are employed on these days. We will need extra police, paramedics and first aid services to be available around the country to ensure that the festivities associated with both events can be enjoyed by everyone everywhere.

Although it would have been fantastic for us all to have received an invitation—I am keeping a beady eye on the post just in case—I am sure that we would all like to join together from afar in wishing Harry and Meghan a perfect day and a happy life together. We can do that by using the extended licensing hours to celebrate their marriage sensibly and safely, with the support of our amazing emergency services.

I am extremely grateful to the hon. Lady for responding in her usual stylish and thoughtful way. The Government share the hope that the football-related celebrations will not spill over into anything other than good cheer and good will. We take some comfort from the fact that Her Majesty’s 90th birthday coincided with two Euro 2016 matches involving England and Wales and there were no reports on that occasion, or during the extension of licensing hours for the 2014 World cup, of increased disorder as a result of the extensions. We have looked carefully at the responses in the surveys. No evidence was received from the police or other respondents to the consultation demonstrating that there would be any increase in football-related disorder as a result of the extension, but of course our very responsible chief constables, police and crime commissioners and, indeed, all people concerned in the emergency services will be taking that into account. I hope that they have a chance to celebrate, along with the rest of the country.

I will not comment on that. My hon. Friend is making a compelling case, which is clearly supported on both sides of the Committee. I wonder whether she might explore whether there are other occasions on which this exceptional extension of licensing might prevail. Her Majesty is now a great age, and it seems to me that her birthday might be celebrated each and every year; and there might be occasions—Trafalgar day, for example, and other great national days—for which an extension of licensing, in a modest and considered way, could be taken into account. I am sure that my hon. Friend has the information at her fingertips, but if not, she might write to the members of the Committee.

I note that the provision in the 2003 Act refers to a nationally significant event and I can only think that my right hon. Friend has omitted one important occasion from the list that he has outlined—his own birthday! I will very happily take his thoughtful suggestion and look into whether there are other occasions on which extensions should be granted, and will of course communicate to him my thoughts on that in due course.

Question put and agreed to.

Committee rose.

Draft Mandatory Use Of Closed Circuit Television In Slaughterhouses (England) Regulations 2018

The Committee consisted of the following Members:

Chair: Stewart Hosie

† Bacon, Mr Richard (South Norfolk) (Con)

† Badenoch, Mrs Kemi (Saffron Walden) (Con)

† Davies, Mims (Eastleigh) (Con)

† Debbonaire, Thangam (Bristol West) (Lab)

† Donelan, Michelle (Chippenham) (Con)

† Doughty, Stephen (Cardiff South and Penarth) (Lab/Co-op)

† Drew, Dr David (Stroud) (Lab/Co-op)

Eagle, Maria (Garston and Halewood) (Lab)

† Eustice, George (Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food)

† Grant, Mrs Helen (Maidstone and The Weald) (Con)

† Hill, Mike (Hartlepool) (Lab)

† McCarthy, Kerry (Bristol East) (Lab)

Pollard, Luke (Plymouth, Sutton and Devonport) (Lab/Co-op)

† Pow, Rebecca (Taunton Deane) (Con)

† Sobel, Alex (Leeds North West) (Lab/Co-op)

† Stevenson, John (Carlisle) (Con)

† Watling, Giles (Clacton) (Con)

Sean Kinsey, Daniel Schlappa, Committee Clerks

† attended the Committee

Second Delegated Legislation Committee

Monday 30 April 2018

[Stewart Hosie in the Chair]

Draft Mandatory Use of Closed Circuit Television in Slaughterhouses (England) Regulations 2018

I beg to move,

That the Committee has considered the draft Mandatory Use of Closed Circuit Television in Slaughterhouses (England) Regulations 2018.

It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Hosie. I am delighted to introduce these important regulations, which meet the Government’s manifesto commitment to make CCTV recording in slaughterhouses mandatory in England. Our manifesto commitment reflected widespread public concern about animal welfare in slaughterhouses. The regulations are made under powers in section 12 of the Animal Welfare Act 2006.

At the outset, I would like to emphasise that although certain provisions of the regulations—which require operators to install a CCTV system—come into force on 4 May, the regulations are drafted so that there is a transition period of six months before the offences and enforcement provisions come into force. That means that slaughterhouses have until 5 November to install a suitable CCTV system and become compliant with the regulations.

The Government have encouraged the voluntary uptake of CCTV in slaughterhouses for several years, but recently the number of slaughterhouses installing CCTV has stalled. In 2016, only 50% of red meat slaughterhouses and 70% of white meat slaughterhouses had some level of CCTV for animal welfare purposes, which is a similar level to the 2013 Food Standards Agency survey.

Slaughterhouses that had installed CCTV had not always done so in a comprehensive manner. In 2016, only 46% of slaughterhouses with CCTV had coverage in the unloading area. The level of CCTV coverage was even lower in the stun area, with less than 40% of slaughterhouses having CCTV in that area or in the bleed area. Even in slaughterhouses where CCTV is installed, key areas are not always covered by cameras.

In February 2015, the Farm Animal Welfare Committee—FAWC—produced an independent assessment of the benefits of CCTV in slaughterhouses. It identified that CCTV offers real benefits as an important and complementary aid to the official inspection of slaughterhouse practices and as an evidential method of recording animal welfare abuses.

FAWC also identified significant benefits of CCTV systems to slaughterhouse operators, from in-house review of their operations and effective staff training to providing evidence of due diligence. That can increase public confidence in the meat industry and its adherence to the UK’s high animal welfare standards.

FAWC’s report provided a useful basis for the Government’s proposals on mandatory CCTV that we published last summer. We received nearly 4,000 responses to that public consultation, with more than 99% in favour of mandatory CCTV recording in all slaughterhouses.

The regulations will require all slaughterhouse operators to install and operate a CCTV system that provides a clear and complete picture of areas where live animals are present. That will include areas where animals are unloaded, lairaged, handled, restrained, stunned and killed. We expect CCTV installations and their use to be proportionate to the size of premises and their throughput.

An official veterinarian is still required in every slaughterhouse when in operation. Slaughterhouse operators will be required to provide access to CCTV recordings for the FSA’s official veterinarian and other authorised inspectors. Access to CCTV recordings for monitoring, verification and enforcement purposes is essential, and will be especially useful where the official veterinarian undertakes other duties in the slaughterhouse and does not directly witness all incidents.

We expect OVs to carry out a timely review of CCTV to address any immediate welfare incidents, and to take advisory or enforcement action. None the less, the slaughterhouse operator will need to retain recorded images and information for 90 days. That is in line with the requirements of some farm assurance schemes, and was the duration we arrived at following our consultation.

Although CCTV will not replace, reduce or be considered a substitute for current inspection and controls of slaughterhouse practices by official veterinarians, access to CCTV recordings will provide more opportunities to assess compliance with animal welfare requirements on a proactive and reactive basis.

I turn now to why we are applying this to all slaughterhouses. We believe that the requirements for mandatory CCTV recording should be applied to all approved slaughterhouses, regardless of size, on the basis that all animals should be offered the same level of protection at the time of killing. Some 95% of our meat is killed in abattoirs that already have CCTV in some form, because the larger abattoirs tend to have CCTV. The regulations ensure that all slaughterhouses of whatever size must now have CCTV at all stages of the process. Slaughterhouses that supply the main supermarkets already have CCTV, but we want to ensure there is comprehensive coverage.

We are conscious that some of the businesses affected by this legislation are small, so we thought it appropriate in these regulations to allow six months for businesses to become compliant. In view of the considerable gains to animal welfare and the many other benefits identified, particularly for the slaughterhouse operator, the Government consider that the benefits justify the costs involved and do not deem direct financial support to the sector for CCTV to be something that should be borne by the taxpayer, although grant funding is available to slaughterhouses under a number of schemes.

The regulations will introduce mandatory CCTV recording in all 270 slaughterhouses in England, as an additional monitoring and enforcement measure to ensure that animals are spared avoidable pain, distress or suffering during the slaughter process. They form part of an important package of reforms that the Government are delivering to improve animal welfare, such as the new system of local authority licensing of activities involving animals and the publication of updated animal welfare codes of practice. The regulations are proportionate and targeted, and will help to improve animal welfare at slaughter.

In conclusion, the regulations have been widely welcomed by many organisations, such as the British Veterinary Association, and will greatly assist the Food Standards Agency, which has been most supportive of the Government’s proposals. I also appreciate that this issue has received support from many Members from all parties in the House. For those reasons, I commend the regulations to the Committee.

I am delighted to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Hosie, and I welcome the Minister to his place. He will be pleased to hear that we will not oppose these regulations; in fact, we greatly welcome them. However, as always with the official Opposition, we have a number of questions. I will give the Minister plenty of chance to answer them, although he may want to send some answers in a more detailed form subsequently.

As the Minister says, this is a manifesto commitment, and it is clear that it is overwhelmingly popular. I am glad we are making some progress; I only wish we were making as much progress on circus animals, the ivory trade ban and live exports, all of which are within the area of the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs. We need to make progress on those as well. The Minister rightly says that these regulations have been properly consulted on, both within Government and externally. The Farm Animal Welfare Committee is a committee chosen by Government, so in a sense we would be surprised if it came up with anything that was not helpful to the Government, but most of the proposals put forward are laudable in their own way.

I start by saying that this is not a replacement for the way in which slaughterhouses are currently overseen. We feel strongly that this is an addition to the work of official veterinarians and indeed the FSA. I will make some points about that in the questions I put to the Minister at the end. We are worried about some of the cost implications, because over a long period of time there has been an argument for keeping slaughter close to where animals are reared, which will be difficult if we are to lose even more of our smaller abattoirs. The Minister talked about a grant regime. Some of the smaller slaughterhouses will potentially suffer because of the relative speed with which these regulations are being introduced and, although the objective behind the regulations is a good one, they will further threaten some of the smaller abattoirs. We lost something like 187 abattoirs in the period from 2001 to 2017, under both Labour and Conservative Governments. So, although we see the benefits of these regulations, there will be some issues.

Of course, these regulations come on the back of what is a pretty awful situation. It took some of the filming that Animal Aid did inside slaughterhouses to show the abuse that has gone on. At the top end of the trade, we may have a very good voluntary agreement, whereby those abattoirs have brought CCTV into use, but it has come on the back of a number of filmed reports showing the very poor nature of what goes on at the bottom end of the trade.

Nevertheless, we very much welcome these regulations. We look forward to seeing how they will be implemented and to seeing this work being done in a comprehensive way. I would be interested to know why the de minimis figure of 200 has now moved on to CCTV coming into every slaughterhouse; it would be interesting to know how the Government came to that conclusion.

There was not a huge response from the industry itself to the consultation, although the public had a view; indeed, many of the voluntary animal welfare organisations had a very strong view. As for the industry itself, however, I have the figure of 257, although the Minister has the figure of 270; we will not argue over 13. The reality is that the industry and slaughterhouses were not really that clued into the consultation. Maybe those slaughterhouses that responded were the ones who expected this change to happen, because they already had CCTV. Nevertheless, there was a disappointing response from those involved in the slaughter process.

I will move on quickly to my 10 questions. [Hon. Members: “Oh!”] Well, they are very important questions. I have used the terms “abattoir” and “slaughterhouse” as interchangeable terms. Can the Minister explain what the difference is between an “abattoir” and a “slaughterhouse”, because abattoirs have traditionally been at the public end and slaughterhouses have included private slaughterhouses? It would be helpful to know the legal definitions of “abattoir” and “slaughterhouse”.

Secondly, it would be interesting to know who has the final say-so on where CCTV will be placed. Will it be the industry, through self-regulation, or will it be the FSA or local authorities? In fact, that is my third question: where is the border between what local authorities have traditionally done, by going in and looking at some of the issues related to how these particular businesses have been run, and the work of the Meat Hygiene Service, which of course is now under the FSA? Where is the line between those two?

That question is particularly appropriate, because today’s report of a 40% cut in the number of meat hygiene inspectors was quite dramatic. I do not know where people will come from to do this work, because that body already has a shortage of people overseeing what is happening at the moment. Also, with the addition of CCTV, somebody has to look at all the tapes, otherwise installing CCTV will be a meaningless exercise.

That leads into the issue of the worry that some of us have about primary agency, with local authorities now less likely to inspect their own abattoirs and slaughterhouses; instead, that work will be passed on to some specialist local authority. In the past, that has caused some difficulties. So, could the Minister say how we will boost local authorities, because if they are going to do this job properly they will need to build it into their cost structure?

My fifth question relates to cost, which I have already touched on, and the help that may be available to smaller bodies. The 2006 Act is interesting with regard to who has access to the videos. Will the Minister explain categorically what access the public will get, given that it is they who have driven this change? It would be good to know what access the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, and other animal welfare agencies that may suspect malpractice, will get alongside the statutory authorities.

Religious slaughter is a difficult area and it has not been touched on. How will those slaughterhouses that specialise in halal and shechita slaughter, or that sometimes turn their lines over to it, handle public interest in the manner of the slaughter? The proposed secondary legislation does not mention religious slaughter. Will it apply or will religious slaughter be exempt? Will such slaughterhouses be treated the same as or differently from others?

I have almost reached the end of my comments, so Members can relax. I have touched on the industry’s relative, and surprising, lack of interest. I will touch on it quickly. It is expected to keep a record for 90 days. Who will oversee that to make sure that the information is appropriately stored? That is a long time to keep a video record and it must be done properly. If there is any abuse, it will clearly lead to people believing that the situation is less easy to control than some of us wanted.

Finally, sadly some of the problems with the meat trade as a whole come after slaughter has occurred. We are discussing installing CCTV only in live animal areas. Given problems with and allegations of contaminated meat sometimes being dealt with inappropriately, what evidence would the Government seek in order to put CCTV at the other end so that we could look not just at the live animal trade but at the way in which meat is handled in general? That matters because it is where some of the problems come from.

I have asked 10 questions, including some that ran into each other. I hope that the Minister will allay our fears that this measure is not as great a change as some of us want it to be. It is, nevertheless, a welcome development, and the Government should be congratulated on introducing it at this early stage.

It is a pleasure to see you in the Chair, Mr Hosie. Obviously, I welcome the measure. I have pushed for it for a long time. The fact that the Government have legislated demonstrates their recognition that, as in so many instances, the voluntary approach does not always work to the extent that we would like. As I understand it, all the major supermarkets source meat from slaughterhouses with CCTV, but that is only one end of the market. Supermarkets are concerned about their public reputation and are susceptible to public opinion. There are others, however, that are not so bothered, that go to the smaller slaughterhouses and whose selling practices are far less scrutinised. They do not care about CCTV installation and we are not likely to be able to persuade them to take the voluntary approach. It is only those that are at the top end of the chain that will choose to do that, so it is important that we are resorting to making it mandatory.

Some 900 million farm animals are killed for food each year in this country. People who are aware of my beliefs will know that I do not accept that there is such a thing as humane slaughter, but that does not mean that I do not think that we should not argue for conditions to be as humane as possible, if that is not a contradiction in terms. Animal welfare standards need to be improved, and the food safety element of that is incredibly important. CCTV will go some way towards ensuring that standards are much higher, although as my hon. Friend the Member for Stroud said, unless there is enforcement and scrutiny, with someone watching the CCTV and coming in to check it, it will be meaningless.

There have been several undercover investigations and exposés. Animal Aid and Animal Equality have been mentioned, and I have seen some horrible virtual reality footage of what has happened to pigs in slaughterhouses. The Bureau of Investigative Journalism has also done some very good work. In August 2016, through freedom of information requests, it found that there had been more than 4,000 severe breaches of animal welfare regulations in the previous two years in British slaughterhouses. In fact, there had been 9,500 animal welfare breaches, of which nearly half were category 4, which is the most serious. A single breach can include hundreds of animals, so we are not just talking about 4,500 animals that were treated appallingly; we could be talking about many more. The Bureau of Investigative Journalism highlighted instances of cruelty and neglect, and equipment failure, which can all lead to animals being slaughtered in a horrendous way.

I recently asked a series of parliamentary questions about enforcing current standards and following-up where breaches have been identified. The information I got back was shocking. The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs stated in its answers that out of the 467 slaughterhouses that the FSA has audited since 2010, 65 received one unsatisfactory audit result and another 70 received multiple, successive unsatisfactory audit results. That means that nearly a third of slaughterhouses have failed their audit in some way in the past seven years, but in that time, only four slaughterhouses have had their approval withdrawn: S Bagshaw and Sons and Simply Halal for “welfare abuses”, and the Cleveland Meat Company and Summers Poultry Products for “serious deficiencies in operational hygiene procedure”. That is two approvals withdrawn for animal welfare and two for food safety.

It seems as though no action is being taken against the dozens of slaughterhouses that have received unsatisfactory audit results. They have not had their approval withdrawn, but have been allowed to carry on with business as usual. They need to be forced to make improvements, but the fact that they seem to be able to fail the audit process multiple times without action being taken suggests that failing once would not be a deterrent to them. There seems to be no suggestion that their approval would be suspended until improvements are made.

The FSA says that it will prevent a slaughterhouse from continuing to operate only if there is an imminent risk to public health or if there are serious breaches in animal welfare. Those are obviously low bars to have set, which means that an awful lot of breaches will be allowed to pass without any action being taken. Numerous potential violations would be of concern to the public if they knew about them, whether or not they cared about animal welfare. Most people would also be concerned if food hygiene was not up to scratch, and we have seen many reports about such failings, as my hon. Friend the Member for Stroud said. The 2 Sisters investigation is not just about conditions in slaughterhouses or animal welfare; it is about the way the carcases are treated as they are processed for sale.

DEFRA admitted to me that the receipt of an unsatisfactory audit result determines only the frequency of future audits and unannounced inspections. In other words, if a slaughterhouse fails an audit once, they are more likely to get checked again. As I have said, however, that does not lead to any action being taken. Certainly for weeks, but potentially for months, the slaughterhouse would be allowed to continue operating and putting out meat that has been produced in deficient circumstances.

Installing CCTV in all slaughterhouses will go some way to preventing lapses in hygiene standards and animal welfare abuses, but it partly depends on where the cameras are positioned and, above all, whether there is important action at the end of it. There is still a hands-off, light-touch approach to audits and inspections at the moment, which the Government have constructed. We need to rethink how we monitor food safety and animal welfare standards before another scandal occurs.

I just want to mention one more thing in passing—as we always expect, Brexit rears its ugly head. I am concerned by reports that I have read—last month in The Guardian, for example—about the growth in the number of high-speed slaughterhouses in the US, where 21 pigs a minute are slaughtered. Sixty Members of Congress wrote a letter saying that

“rapid line speeds present some of the greatest risks of inhumane treatment as workers are often pressured to take violent shortcuts to keep up.”

The undercover investigation of the slaughterhouse where so many pigs were being killed said not only that pigs were covered in abscesses and faeces and other fairly disgusting things, but also that there were workers beating, dragging and prodding the pigs towards slaughter, because they had to keep up with that incredibly fast pace. As I have said, I do not particularly subscribe to the idea of humane slaughter, but certainly that is inhumane slaughter, taken to the nth degree. I should hope that with Brexit, as we open our doors to US trade deals, we will stand firm against that.

Finally—the Minister will know that this is something we have discussed in the past—I think 95% of vets in our abattoirs are EU nationals. There is an issue about what happens if we cannot get the vets to operate in abattoirs and inspect them because they are not allowed into the country. I think at the moment most of them will be allowed to stay and get their five years and residency, but what if we do not attract those vets post-Brexit? I think there is a vet training school in Spain that specifically trains vets to work in abattoirs. Vets in this country do not particularly want to work in them, and we can understand why, as their job is about saving animals’ lives. This is an important issue, which goes to the heart of our debate. There is no point in having cameras recording what goes on if we cannot get our house in order in the first place, and then follow up and make sure that the rules are followed.

I shall try to cover as many points as possible. I am grateful for the support of the shadow Minister, the hon. Member for Stroud, on the regulations. There has truly been cross-party support on this issue for a number of years. I want to address some of the legitimate concerns that he raised, on which I think I shall be able to give him the reassurance he wants.

First, we are absolutely clear that the introduction of CCTV in slaughterhouses is not a replacement for the current inspection regime. It does not mean we are going to change the requirement for full-time official veterinarians on hand in the abattoirs. We are not planning to change any of the existing requirements. The CCTV is in addition to, rather than a replacement for, OVs and other inspections.

The hon. Gentleman raised the issue of cost. Like him, I would not want to damage some of the smaller abattoirs, whose existence means animals do not have to travel so far. If we close down more abattoirs, more animals will have to travel further. However, the cost is quite modest: the cost of CCTV systems has been coming down a lot in recent years. We estimate that the average cost for most smaller abattoirs will be in the region of £2,500. As I said in my opening remarks, we do not envisage paying the cost directly, because it is fairly modest even for small abattoirs.

The other thing to notice is that, as the report by FAWC identified, there are commercial benefits for food business operators in having CCTV in place, because it can help them to manage their lairage facilities. For instance, in its report FAWC highlighted the fact that it is easier to spot lameness or other problems in sheep with CCTV than when someone comes and perhaps spooks the animals. We believe there are advantages and cost savings to small businesses from putting in CCTV.

The hon. Gentleman highlighted the work that organisations such as Animal Aid have done. I agree with him. In fact, one thing that a couple of years ago made me determined to make changes was that I frankly did not think it was good enough that we seemed all too often to have to rely on activists making surreptitious recordings. After the event we would inspect and carry out enforcement on the basis of the footage that had been surreptitiously collected. That is not the right way to run things. If it is the case that some of our official veterinarians were unable to spot bad practice and malpractice in those abattoirs, it is right that we make it a legal requirement to have CCTV in slaughterhouses.

The hon. Gentleman asked why we believe it is necessary to require this of all abattoirs, given that, as I said in my opening remarks, some 95% of animals are currently slaughtered in abattoirs that have CCTV. For me, there are a couple of reasons why we need to do that. First, some of the problems we have experienced are in those smaller or medium-sized abattoirs that do not always have CCTV in place. Secondly, the larger abattoirs tend to have it, but even in the larger abattoirs we have seen problems. The hon. Member for Bristol East raised a couple of cases where enforcements were brought; in those cases, sometimes there was CCTV in place but they were not adequately monitoring it or recording all areas, so even with CCTV they were not picking up those problems. Therefore, having legal clarity about CCTV covering all areas where there are live animals is the right approach to take.

The hon. Member for Stroud highlighted the fact that, of all the responses, only a small number were from the industry. To be fair to the industry, as he pointed out, we have lost a lot of abattoirs, so they are small in number, and we had thousands of responses to the consultation because it is an issue the public care about deeply. My conversations with the industry and representative bodies on this issue have shown that their view has broadly come round to the idea. Rather than have voluntary codes and chivvy people to join such schemes and voluntarily adopt CCTV, the industry has increasingly got to the point where it would rather have a level playing field and, if we want to bring in regulations, have them applied across the board so that everybody is treated the same. It is fair to say that the industry recognises that there could be some value in this and that there is an advantage in having a level playing field.

The hon. Gentleman asked about the difference between abattoirs and slaughterhouses. I was not aware of that distinction, but I will check. However, I am reliably informed by my officials that in law, commercial slaughterhouses and abattoirs are interchangeable terms. In most of the EU regulations that I see, the term slaughterhouse tends to be used, and in some of the older domestic legislation the term abattoir is sometimes used, but these regulations apply to all commercial slaughterhouses or abattoirs.

The hon. Gentleman asked where cameras will be placed. We have deliberately kept that open, for the important reason that a small abattoir, killing a small number of animals, might be able to cover all areas where there are live animals with just a couple of cameras. A larger abattoir, slaughtering thousands and thousands of animals per day, may need multiple cameras to ensure it is covering all areas. We are clear that it will need to cover all areas, including unloading areas, areas where there is lairage, areas where stunning takes place and the bleed areas. Right up until the point that the animal is dead, there must be a clear CCTV recording.

The hon. Gentleman asked who will decide where the cameras should be placed. The FSA is currently working with the Department to put together guidance on that. Ultimately, the Food Standards Agency and the official veterinarians employed by the FSA in each abattoir will be the final adjudicators on where cameras should go. We envisage it being a discussion with the food business operator, which will need to satisfy the local FSA inspector that the areas where it plans to locate cameras are adequate to satisfy the legislation.

The Minister has visited slaughterhouses, as I have, so he knows it is not an easy job. If there is a dispute, will the final say-so be with the FSA or DEFRA?

We have designed it in such a way that we will trust the FSA official veterinarian to make that final judgment call and to ensure that the abattoirs that they are responsible for inspecting comply with the legislation. Will I potentially end up with letters from people complaining? Quite possibly. Will I have to get involved? Quite likely. But the intention is that the FSA OVs will lead on that.

The hon. Gentleman asked who would be responsible for inspecting the recordings. Again, that will be the official veterinarians. He referred to local authorities, but it is important to recognise that the FSA is responsible for food safety policy and, in abattoirs, also responsible for enforcing animal welfare policy, although it is not responsible for animal welfare policy. So DEFRA is responsible for animal welfare policy, but the FSA is responsible for implementing in the abattoirs the policy that we set for it.

The hon. Gentleman asked about public access. We do not intend there to be public access to the recordings. I shall explain why. The Farm Animal Welfare Committee looked at the issue in depth and made a very sensible point: used properly, CCTV in slaughterhouses can be an important aid to food business operators. He made the point that a job in an abattoir is not an easy one, and sometimes things go wrong. Most of the time when things go wrong, it is not deliberate—sometimes errors are made. The argument made by FAWC therefore is that we need to create a space where those recordings can be used to help educate and train staff and to pull people up where mistakes might have been made. It might not always be appropriate for that to be publicly available or for there to be a prosecution in every instance.

The hon. Gentleman asked about religious slaughter and slaughterhouses engaged in that. I confirm that yes, the requirements in the draft regulations will apply to religious slaughter, just as they will to any slaughterhouse. There is no exemption for religious slaughter when it comes to the requirement to have CCTV. That is important to enforce existing provisions in national legislation on things such as standstill times and the additional requirements for animals slaughtered in accordance with religious requirements.

The hon. Member for Stroud also asked who will enforce the provision that recordings be kept for 90 days. Again, we will expect that of the official veterinarians. They are full time in the slaughterhouses, and we believe that they can enforce that provision because if they are there every day, they would have a pretty good idea if recordings started to go missing or there were any type of fraud.

The hon. Gentleman asked finally about CCTV after slaughter, but the purpose of the draft regulations is narrow: to protect animal welfare. He is right that there have been some instances in the news recently of wider problems and other types of food fraud being committed, but we have introduced these regulations to protect animal welfare.

I now turn briefly to some of the points made by the hon. Member for Bristol East. She talked about her concern that things were not always followed up and that there is not always enforcement. I would say, however, that just because decisions are made not to withdraw an operator’s licence, that does not mean that action has not been taken. Indeed, the WATOK regulations, which govern the welfare of animals at the time of killing, create the powers—though we had similar provisions under the Welfare of Animals (Slaughter or Killing) Regulations 1995—to issue stop notices, for example, so an OV can stop a line or any production until something is sorted out. We also take regular action to reduce or remove the licences of individual slaughtermen, where there has been abuse, although we might stop short of reducing or removing the operator’s licence. Other facilities such as improvement notices and so on are also included under the WATOK regulations. Lots can be done short of closing a facility down, which is obviously a severe sanction that we rightly reserve for those activities with which we have the greatest problem.

The hon. Lady mentioned the development in the United States of—as she put it—high-speed slaughter. We have a very different animal welfare culture in the UK from the US, and we have been absolutely clear that we will not reduce our animal welfare standards—far from it; indeed, we would like to enhance them. We are working with a number of organisations on issues such as improving the slaughter of pigs, in particular the gas mixture used, and we have no intention of taking the US route.

On EU nationals, finally, the hon. Lady is right: we have a lot of EU nationals in our slaughterhouses. The Prime Minister has been very clear that we will protect the rights of those who are here and, as a number of hon. Members will know, the Migration Advisory Committee is looking closely at our labour needs after we leave the EU.

Question put and agreed to.


That the Committee has considered the draft Mandatory Use of Closed Circuit Television in Slaughterhouses (England) Regulations 2018.

Committee rose.

Landfill Tax (Disposals Of Material) Order 2018

The Committee consisted of the following Members:

Chair: Sir David Crausby

Alexander, Heidi (Lewisham East) (Lab)

† Blunt, Crispin (Reigate) (Con)

† Bruce, Fiona (Congleton) (Con)

† Caulfield, Maria (Lewes) (Con)

† Drax, Richard (South Dorset) (Con)

Efford, Clive (Eltham) (Lab)

† Francois, Mr Mark (Rayleigh and Wickford) (Con)

† Grogan, John (Keighley) (Lab)

† Jenrick, Robert (Exchequer Secretary to the Treasury)

† Johnson, Dr Caroline (Sleaford and North Hykeham) (Con)

McGinn, Conor (St Helens North) (Lab)

† Reynolds, Jonathan (Stalybridge and Hyde) (Lab/Co-op)

† Rowley, Lee (North East Derbyshire) (Con)

† Rutley, David (Lord Commissioner of Her Majesty's Treasury)

† Smith, Jeff (Manchester, Withington) (Lab)

† Walker, Thelma (Colne Valley) (Lab)

West, Catherine (Hornsey and Wood Green) (Lab)

Peter Stam, Committee Clerk

† attended the Committee

Fifth Delegated Legislation Committee

Monday 30 April 2018

[Sir David Crausby in the Chair]

Landfill Tax (Disposals of Material) Order 2018

I beg to move,

That the Committee has considered the Landfill Tax (Disposals of Material) Order 2018 (S.I. 2018, No. 442).

This statutory instrument builds on changes made to landfill tax for England and Northern Ireland in the Finance Act 2018, which clarified what a taxable disposal is for the purpose of the tax, and extended landfill tax to sites that do not have an environmental permit but should have—in layman’s terms, illegal waste sites. In 2008, the Court of Appeal ruled that some materials received on a landfill site are not waste, and therefore not taxable. Clearly, that has created uncertainty about what constitutes a taxable disposal, and has led to increased complexity for landfill site operators, as well as litigation. The order addresses that uncertainty; it will support the legitimate waste management industry by simplifying the tax system and by providing clarity for legitimate landfill site operators.

The order ensures that, for permitted sites, the scope of the tax will remain unchanged. The changes do not alter the burden of the tax or create any additional administrative requirements. The Finance Act cracks down on illegal waste sites by making it harder for rogue operators to profit from evading landfill tax. That is in direct response to calls from industry to remove the financial advantage that rogue operators have over legitimate businesses. As part of that, HMRC has been given the power to pursue complicit individuals across the supply chain. Not only will those individuals be liable for the tax that will be due on the waste, they could additionally face a penalty of up to 100% of the tax liability. In the most serious cases, individuals could be sent to prison, bringing this criminal behaviour in line with other such activity, such as VAT fraud.

The order goes further; it allows certain materials that are prohibited from permitted landfill sites, such as tyres, to be taxable when they are disposed of at sites that do not have environmental permits or licences in place. That ensures that we do not create an obvious loophole and that we further strengthen HMRC’s position on illegal waste sites.

Landfill tax was introduced with the specific aim of discouraging the disposal of waste to landfill, and to encourage more sustainable ways of managing waste. In that, it has been successful in the years since it was introduced, in 2000. The amount of waste sent to landfill has fallen by over 65% in the UK. Over the same period, recycling rates have jumped from 18% to 44%. But changing the economics of sending waste to landfill has in part resulted in fly-tipping and, on a large scale, illegal waste sites, because rogue individuals and criminals have seized the opportunity to undercut legitimate businesses. We are all aware of the prevalence of those sites in many of our constituencies—mine included—and the impact that they have on local communities and the environment. They are a blight and, at times, a risk to health.

It is becoming increasingly clear that a minority of those sites are a direct consequence of organised crime, which appears to have infiltrated the waste industry. At its most serious, those criminals are linked to other concerning areas of criminality, including the drug trade. We take that extremely seriously, but addressing it will take action from across government. Clearly, there is a role for the tax system to play, and that is why we have made these changes to landfill tax in the Finance Act. They are intended to act as a deterrent to individuals looking to profit from this behaviour at the expense of our local communities.

Building on that, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs has taken steps to strengthen the powers of the Environment Agency. In 2017-18, the Environment Agency took 93 successful waste crime prosecutions, resulting in fines totalling in excess of £380,000 and 17 prison sentences. But we must go further. As of this year the Environment Agency has the power to lock the gates of illegal waste sites and block entry, ensuring the prevention of further waste piling up on the sites and increasing all the associated risks to health and the environment.

In the Budget last year, the Chancellor provided the Environment Agency with an additional £30 million specifically to support its work in tackling waste crime, doubling the total provided since 2014. The Environment Agency works with the police and law enforcement agencies to tackle the organised crime element behind much of the problem. We want to see much more aggressive enforcement by the Environment Agency and rogue individuals and criminals brought to book.

The changes implemented by the statutory instrument will help to simplify the tax system and will provide greater clarity and certainty to legitimate landfill operators, but the instrument is only one part of our response to the issue of illegal waste sites, which undercut legitimate businesses, threaten the environment and blight local communities. By making these changes to landfill tax we are taking further steps to tackle the issue. I commend the order to the Committee.

Thank you for calling me to speak on these measures today, Sir David.

According to the Environmental Services Association, landfill tax avoidance is estimated to cost the Exchequer between £150 million and as much as £1 billion a year: a considerable amount of money that could be put into vital public services. In addition to that, as someone who represents the edge of the Greater Manchester conurbation with Derbyshire, we are blighted by the problems of organised fly-tipping in my constituency, so I welcome the chance to speak from the Front Bench today about the measures to ensure that tax is paid at sites that do not have an environmental permit, and I welcome the clarification in the Government’s note that the individuals involved may also be liable to penalties for non-compliance or face prosecution.

Bringing non-permitted sites into the scope of the landfill tax will hopefully make it a less attractive and lucrative option for those seeking to break the law, so we are supportive, although I have some questions for the Minister regarding the changes. Since the introduction of the landfill tax, the Government have stated—the Minister has just repeated it—that the amount of waste going to landfill has reduced by 65%. Can the Minister comment on whether that figure includes the calculation on waste diverted to non-permitted sites? If so, how much further does he expect the amount of waste going to landfill to reduce because of the new measures?

My hon. Friend the Member for North Durham (Mr Jones) has previously spoken at great length in the Chamber on issues related to landfill tax. One issue that he raised was money laundering, a timely issue given the debate that we will have tomorrow. Running a landfill site is a high volume business that can involve large amounts of money, so has the Minister done any research into the prevalence of money laundering in the sector? I understand that, according to the Government’s calculations, there were 622 known illegal waste sites in the UK in 2015-16. Will the Minister update us on how many there are now?

Also, are there currently any plans to increase the monitoring of high volume landfill operators through the use of technology? Could we not have a system similar to those used in slaughterhouses and weighbridges where cameras record how many vehicles enter the sites? Given the amount of money estimated to be lost each year through tax avoidance, a small investment in such technology could potentially pay for itself in a short space of time.

There is no doubt that extending the scope of the landfill tax to include non-permitted sites is a positive step that has been welcomed by the industry and those willing to abide by the rules. However, we are also eager to see whether there is more that the Government can do to stamp out illicit activity in the sector, and I look forward to hearing how the Minister plans to address those issues. It seems strange that the measure appears to treat unauthorised sites the same as authorised landfill sites by applying the tax, as the Minister has explained. That seems to show that the current regulatory system for illegal landfill sites is not sufficient. Is it not possible for any resulting funds from the measure to be redirected into the Environment Agency so that it can actually stop the illegal sites in the first place?

Finally, as Members are aware, landfill is devolved in Wales and Scotland. Will the Minister comment briefly on how the Government co-operate with the Welsh and Scottish Governments to deal with the issue if the material illegally deposited is a cross-border problem?

I am grateful for the constructive comments by the hon. Member for Stalybridge and Hyde, and I appreciate his concerns. In fact, I met the Mayor of Greater Manchester recently, who mentioned a site near the hon. Gentleman’s constituency in Gartside Farm. I have a site in my constituency, and several members of the Committee have them in theirs, so that is something shared by hon. Members in all parts of the country. We take the issue seriously, and I am grateful that the hon. Gentleman appreciates that and is supportive of the measures that we are taking today.

The hon. Gentleman made several points. I do not have the figures for the number of sites to hand, but I am happy to write to him with those. I am advised, however, that the number of illegal waste sites has not increased substantially in recent years. That is not to diminish the fact that there are a large number of them across the country, some of which are deemed by the Environment Agency to be in a state that poses significant risk to the public.

As for monitoring the sites, as I outlined in my opening remarks, we have given the Environment Agency new powers to lock the gates of illegal waste sites and so block entry to ensure that further waste is not piled up, because in most of the more egregious situations the waste takes a number of days, or even weeks, to enter the site. The agency now has more powers.

On funding, so that the Environment Agency can take the action required, as I said the Chancellor has provided the agency with an additional £30 million specifically to support its work in tackling waste crime. That amounts to doubling the total provided since 2014. I work very closely with the Minister responsible at DEFRA, the Under-Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, my hon. Friend the Member for Suffolk Coastal (Dr Coffey). I intend to continue doing so, looking at specific sites, at how we might be able to help and at ensuring that the Environment Agency has the powers and resources it requires. That is a dialogue we intend to continue.

On money laundering, there is increasing evidence that the more severe instances of illegal waste sites are linked to organised crime and at times to serious organised crime. That includes money laundering, which is exactly why we are taking the action in the order—to make it less lucrative, and easier for HMRC to take action against criminals and rogue individuals.

More action can be taken in the area, and we at the Treasury are elevating its importance with our colleagues at the Home Office and with those involved in tackling serious organised crime, to ensure that all parties appreciate that illegal waste sites are an extremely concerning area of activity that has progressed from simply fly-tipping to something that poses significant risk to the public.

I have met a number of colleagues from across the House who have such sites in their constituencies, and the evidence we have is only anecdotal, but it is that the individuals behind some of the sites appear to be linked to a range of different criminal activities. That is something that the police and the Environment Agency are aware of and following up on, but I have no specific evidence to bring before the Committee. However, that is certainly the view that has been expressed to me by law-enforcement officers across the country when we have looked into such matters.

While we have the Minister here and on the landfill tax, I wish to make a brief plea for the landfill tax credit scheme. A number of companies have operated the scheme to provide charitable donations for a whole range of causes, which I will not list now: suffice to say that the scheme is extremely important. Each year, in the run-up to the Budget, the Treasury runs the rule over the scheme and has tightened up some of the scheme criteria, which is fair enough. May I make a plea, however, that when the Treasury does so again next year the scheme is maintained, because it does such good work?

My right hon. Friend makes an important point. I will not comment on what may or may not be in a future Budget, but the point he has made is one that has been heard at the Treasury, certainly in the build-up to and after the most recent Budget and previous ones. From my own constituency, I know the good works that the landfill credits do for local community projects. We are certainly very aware of the point he makes, and we will bear it in mind as we approach the Budget.

Question put and agreed to.

Committee rose.