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General Committees

Debated on Tuesday 29 October 2019

Delegated Legislation Committee

Welfare of Animals at the Time of Killing (England and Northern Ireland) (Amendment) (EU Exit) Regulations 2019

The Committee consisted of the following Members:

Chair: Philip Davies

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

† Bowie, Andrew (West Aberdeenshire and Kincardine) (Con)

† Brereton, Jack (Stoke-on-Trent South) (Con)

† Cooper, Rosie (West Lancashire) (Lab)

† Crouch, Tracey (Chatham and Aylesford) (Con)

† Debbonaire, Thangam (Bristol West) (Lab)

† Drew, Dr David (Stroud) (Lab/Co-op)

Farrelly, Paul (Newcastle-under-Lyme) (Lab)

Flint, Caroline (Don Valley) (Lab)

† Goldsmith, Zac (Minister of State, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs)

† Jones, Ruth (Newport West) (Lab)

† Prentis, Victoria (Banbury) (Con)

† Slaughter, Andy (Hammersmith) (Lab)

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

† Stewart, Iain (Milton Keynes South) (Con)

† Tracey, Craig (North Warwickshire) (Con)

† Tredinnick, David (Bosworth) (Con)

Yohanna Sallberg, Committee Clerk

† attended the Committee

Eighth Delegated Legislation Committee

Tuesday 29 October 2019

[Philip Davies in the Chair]

Welfare of Animals at the Time of Killing (England and Northern Ireland) (Amendment) (EU Exit) Regulations 2019

I beg to move,

That the Committee has considered the Welfare of Animals at the Time of Killing (England and Northern Ireland) (Amendment) (EU Exit) Regulations 2019 (S.I. 2019, No. 1308).

It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Davies. This statutory instrument, which was laid before the House on 7 October, makes simple and technical amendments to domestic legislation so that we meet our obligations under the UK-Ireland common travel area with regards to certificates of competence for slaughterers upon exit.

After exit day, a slaughterer will have to hold a certificate of competence issued by a UK-competent authority in order to work in the UK. This will ensure that any future changes we make will apply equally to all slaughterers operating in the UK. It will also ensure that we can take effective enforcement action, as currently only the member state that issued a certificate of competence can suspend or revoke it.

It is, however, the case that we continue to have reciprocal arrangements with the Republic of Ireland under the UK-Ireland common travel area, which provide a right for Irish citizens to work in the UK and have qualifications recognised, and vice versa. This instrument ensures that we will continue to recognise training and examination carried out in the Republic of Ireland after we leave. It does this by amending the definition of

“evidence of training and examination”

contained in regulations 3(1) of the Welfare of Animals at the Time of Killing (Northern Ireland) Regulations 2014 and the Welfare of Animals at the Time of Killing (England) Regulations 2015.

This means that when applying for a certificate of competence from the competent authority in England and Northern Ireland, the applicant may refer to training and examination undertaken in the Republic of Ireland to support their application. The applicant will not need to undergo further training or take an exam if they have passed the relevant modules in the Republic of Ireland.

The Foods Standards Agency and the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs, which are the competent authorities in England and Northern Ireland respectively, consider that very few applications are likely to rely on evidence of training or examination from the Republic of Ireland, estimated at around two applications a year. Any impact would be positive, as the applicant would not be required to undergo additional training or examination and would not incur additional costs, which would be approximately £225.

Animal welfare is a devolved issue. Each devolved Administration is responsible for its own regulations in this area, but I can inform the Committee that the Scottish and Welsh Governments have made similar amendments. We have decided that in the interest of legal certainty in Northern Ireland, the UK Government may take through the necessary secondary legislation for Northern Ireland in some circumstances, in close consultation with the Northern Ireland Departments. This is one such instrument.

The Government have taken care to avoid using the urgency procedure under the European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2018, but we considered its use be appropriate in this instance to ensure the continued application of our obligations under the common travel area at the point of EU exit. I hope colleagues across the Committee will join me in supporting these regulations. I commend them to the Committee.

I am delighted to serve under your chairmanship. Mr Davies. I welcome the Minister to his place. It is nice to have someone else in the Government to respond to; I usually respond to the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, and I used to respond to his predecessor, the right hon. Member for Scarborough and Whitby (Mr Goodwill).

This is an incredible narrow statutory instrument; we are talking about two cases a year. What about the 95% of vets who come from elsewhere in the EU and who keep our abattoirs going? Without those vets being in place, the line stops. If this is a precedent for the Republic of Ireland, it would be useful to know what is going to happen with all the other vets. We need to be clear where we are going to get our supply of vets if they are not going to come from elsewhere in the EU.

We will not oppose this statutory instrument, because it is common sense that we recognise the competences of other countries. Given the fact that vets from the Republic can work in the north, and vets in the north can work in the Republic, two seems a very low number. I imagine there is much more transferability on the island of Ireland. It would be interesting to know whether this is just the people who do not have the qualifications, and whether there are many more who have common qualifications, because as far as I know, veterinary schools recruit both north and south. How many people would be affected anyway? As I said, slaughterhouses are entirely dependent on people from outside the UK in the main, Ireland being slightly different.

It is important to bear in mind that this is part of a wider debate—I will not stray too far, you will be pleased to know, Mr Davies. The British Veterinary Association, in which I declare an interest as an associate, is very clear about the need to introduce stunning of all animals killed at slaughter. It would be worth while exploring where we are on this whole issue. We had a petition debate, and it is something that some of us feel very strongly about. I know about halal and shechita religious exemptions, but it important that we have some way of knowing that the Government have in hand the direction of travel that the general public want us to take, which is that only animals that are stunned are slaughtered, and that they are willing to talk to the Jewish community and the Muslim community to see if there is at least some compromise.

Another important point is that we discussed and passed measures on CCTV in slaughterhouses in previous SI Committees. I submitted a written question about how far we are from making sure that all slaughterhouses have CCTV and that someone is examining it to make sure that the practice is in place. I know that that is slightly away from the issue of competences, but we need to discuss how the operation of slaughterhouses can be as transparent as possible. It is no good having competences in place if we do not expect the highest standards from people. The most difficult bit of the meat trade is that animals are slaughtered, and we would hope they are slaughtered as humanely as possible. That is common across all those vets who supervise the process, but more particularly, those foreign vets on whom we rely to a very great extent. The question from the Opposition will always be: where is the alternative? As far as I can see, unless those vets seek settlement, we will have a serious problem.

I thank the hon. Gentleman for his comments and all hon. Members for attending the Committee. I will try to answer his questions. First, this statutory instrument is about slaughter and not about veterinary surgeons, but I take his point. The Government have already made operability amendments to Veterinary Surgeons Act 1966 so that, after exit, we can recognise equivalent qualifications from anywhere in the world. There should not be a barrier to the recruitment of vets who come to work in the UK as long as their training is recognised by us or the standards are considered to be as good.

In terms of numbers, my understanding from DEFRA research is that if and when this SI is passed, there will be on average only two people a year from the Republic of Ireland who will benefit. It matters to them for the sake of tidiness, and as the hon. Gentleman, it is common sense and needs to happen, but it is not a particularly cumbersome regulation. It is a straightforward and, as he said, narrow SI.

The hon. Gentleman mentioned the quality of animal welfare standards applied within slaughterhouses. He is right about that. We have done several things, including mandating the use of CCTV in all slaughterhouses. It is hard to imagine that that has not had a significant impact on the behaviour of slaughtermen in those establishments.

We are also, as the hon. Gentleman knows, taking steps to deal with—I must be careful what I say, because we are in consultation—the live export of animals for fattening and slaughter. One reason for that is that we do not believe it is possible to send animals on very long journeys while simultaneously respecting the need for good animal husbandry: 30, 40 or, in some cases, 50 hours is not compatible with animal welfare. The other reason is that we are not convinced that the quality and standards in slaughterhouses in many other countries, to which are animals are often exported, are anywhere close to the standards that we expect and apply in this country. We are taking steps to improve things at the point of slaughter.

The hon. Gentleman mentioned the more complicated issue of stunning pre-slaughter. He finished by saying that we should try to find a mechanism to bring the stakeholders together to see if we can find a solution that respects religious freedom and has an eye to animal welfare. The previous Secretary of State initiated a series of roundtables with stakeholders from across the board. Those discussions continue and I am now involved in them. I have had some very good meetings with stakeholders in the last month. It is not the right time to pre-empt what we will deliver as a consequence of that, but we will deliver steps that I think will satisfy the stakeholders’ concerns and improve animal welfare at the point of slaughter. I hope the hon. Gentleman will bear with me on that and I hope to talk more about it should I still be in this place in a few weeks’ time—who knows about that?—but we are making progress.

I think I have answered the hon. Gentleman’s questions. I thank hon. Members for their attendance and my counterpart for his contributions. I hope that hon. Members are reassured on these points. To reiterate, this regulation does no more than meet our existing obligations under the common travel area.

Question put and agreed to.

Committee rose.

INSPIRE (Amendment) (EU Exit) Regulations 2019

The Committee consisted of the following Members:

Chair: Mr Laurence Robertson

† Afriyie, Adam (Windsor) (Con)

† Bruce, Fiona (Congleton) (Con)

† Burden, Richard (Birmingham, Northfield) (Lab)

† Courts, Robert (Witney) (Con)

† Davies, Glyn (Montgomeryshire) (Con)

† Fitzpatrick, Jim (Poplar and Limehouse) (Lab)

† Johnson, Gareth (Dartford) (Con)

† Law, Chris (Dundee West) (SNP)

† Morden, Jessica (Newport East) (Lab)

† Morris, James (Halesowen and Rowley Regis) (Con)

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

† Pow, Rebecca (Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs)

Powell, Lucy (Manchester Central) (Lab/Co-op)

† Prisk, Mr Mark (Hertford and Stortford) (Con)

† Snell, Gareth (Stoke-on-Trent Central) (Lab/Co-op)

† Sturdy, Julian (York Outer) (Con)

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

Kenneth Fox, Committee Clerk

† attended the Committee

Ninth Delegated Legislation Committee

Tuesday 29 October 2019

[Mr Laurence Robertson in the Chair]

INSPIRE (Amendment) (EU Exit) Regulations 2019

I beg to move,

That the Committee has considered the INSPIRE (Amendment) (EU Exit) Regulations 2019 (S.I., 2019, No. 1352).

It is lovely to see you here bright and early this morning, Mr Robertson. I am delighted to be serving under your chairmanship again. The regulations were laid before the House on 15 October. INSPIRE is a framework directive that has been in effect since 2009, and it requires EU member states to operate a national spatial data infrastructure, using common standards for spatial data and spatial data services. In case anyone is worried about what spatial data is, let me explain that it is data that identifies the geographic location of features, boundaries and events, which means natural features such as rivers, elevation and marine, constructed features such as roads, buildings and wind turbines, and events such as noise levels, air quality and industrial emissions.

The use of common standards means that spatial data is interoperable and can be easily found, used and combined with other data. The rationale for the INSPIRE directive is to improve environmental policy making at all levels of government. The regulations update two sets of earlier EU exit regulations relating to INSPIRE to ensure that the UK spatial data infrastructure can continue to be effective and operable on leaving the EU.

The first legislative update is to the INSPIRE (Amendment) (EU Exit) Regulations 2018, which were laid before this House on 12 December 2018. Those regulations brought most of the INSPIRE directive, and its directly applicable implementing rules, into legislation covering England, Wales and Northern Ireland. Scotland has its own INSPIRE regulations and made its own amending legislation in 2018.

The second legislative update is to the Environment (Legislative Functions from Directives) (EU Exit) Regulations 2019. Those regulations brought the remainder of the INSPIRE directive into UK legislation. They were debated in this House on 17 July and made on 15 October.

I do not want to appear too much of a digital mapping geek, but perhaps the Minister could tell me what role the Geospatial Commission, which has a co-ordinating role in Whitehall, would have in terms of the sub-national bodies that she refers to.

That was a timely intervention. My constituency, Taunton Deane, is hoping that the geospatial hub that is currently being commissioned will be based in Taunton; I am not trying to influence the debate, but the UK Hydrographic Office is in Taunton. It deals with most of the world’s shipping maps, so it is already a specialist in that space, in marine data. It makes great sense to link up such things. There are other spatial hubs, for other things. The Ordnance Survey relies on one that I think is based in Southampton. Interestingly, the Geospatial Commission, which I just mentioned in relation to the hub for Taunton—I hope—is due to publish its geospatial strategy next spring. The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs will work with the commission as required, to help to develop the strategy.

The legislative functions regulations transferred to the appropriate authority the functions of the European Commission in the EU INSPIRE directive and other directives. The functions transferred by those regulations in respect of INSPIRE are for the appropriate authority to make new sets of implementing rules and to revoke implementing rules that are no longer needed.

As the SI being debated today amends the Environment (Legislative Functions from Directives) (EU Exit) Regulations 2019, it must be debated under the affirmative procedure. It corrects a reference to an implementing rule that is no longer needed and replaces it with a reference to a new implementing rule, Commission implementing decision 2019/1372, which was made in August 2019. At the request of the Scottish Government, similar amendments are made to the INSPIRE (EU Exit) (Scotland) (Amendment) Regulations 2019.

To be clear, the SI we are debating is specifically about incorporating into UK law new arrangements for monitoring and reporting on the use and implementation of the INSPIRE spatial data infrastructure. I stress that there are no policy changes in the new arrangements, which are to simplify monitoring and reporting of the use and implementation of the INSPIRE spatial data infrastructure.

I should say that officials from my Department persuaded the Commission to introduce the new arrangements. The previous arrangements for reporting on implementation and use were unhelpful because they did not allow comparisons to be made between member states’ efforts on INSPIRE so as to ensure a level playing field. The new system for reporting requires the Commission to write and publish a “country fiche” assessment on how INSPIRE is being implemented and used in each member state. The country fiche highlights progress on the various areas of INSPIRE implementation and presents an outlook of planned actions for INSPIRE implementation. It is a high-level assessment. Our officials, who spotted the issue in a meeting with all their EU colleagues, should be thanked for their perceptiveness. Member states are required to check their report at least once a year and to update it as necessary.

Using the same system as our European neighbours to report on INSPIRE implementation after the UK has left the EU will mean the UK can consider our efforts on INSPIRE against those of our neighbours. As colleagues will be aware, environmental matters do not respect borders. Continuing to use the common standards of the INSPIRE spatial data infrastructure will make it easy for the UK to track and compare data from our neighbouring countries on, for example, marine matters—I know those are very important to the shadow Minister—and pollution.

In summary, the purpose of the SI is to update earlier amendments to UK INSPIRE legislation to ensure that an operable legal framework is in place on EU exit day. There are no policy changes. For those reasons, I commend the regulations to the Committee.

I thank everyone for turning up bright and early to discuss this inspiring piece of spatial legislation. [Hon. Members: “Oh!”] I always try to get a good one in early; sadly, that was not a good one.

The Minister will be pleased to hear that the Opposition have no intention of opposing this change. I am pleased that the House has already legislated to stay in line with the INSPIRE regulations, and that we are still committed to sharing our spatial information after we leave the European Union and to creating our data in a way that makes it possible to share it with our EU friends and further afield.

Working together and sharing information on energy, groundwater, air quality, transport networks, water quality and a whole host of other datasets has come in handy on more than one occasion, most notably after the volcanic eruption in Iceland, which saw planes grounded and ash cover in the air. Sharing information on air quality and transport was useful then, and we must continue sharing that data with our EU friends. I do not believe that sharing spatial data has yet appeared on the hit list of our hard Brexiteer chums, who want us to have unique ways of doing things. In an interoperable, globalised data world, which the INSPIRE directive effectively contributes to, we must ensure that we keep pace with our EU friends.

I am grateful to the Minister for setting out the success of UK officials in persuading the EU to update its regulations. I wonder what will happen after our exit. As we have seen, Macron and France are taking advantage of our exit. Will the Minister set out how, in using these standards, we will be able to have an influence and to correct and highlight errors such as those she mentioned? It is important that we maintain data integrity and robustness to ensure not only that we are in compliance but that the regulations we follow, even though we do not necessarily have a seat around the table, are suitable for the needs of UK industry and science.

I am pleased that we are committed to the INSPIRE set-up and the framework around it. This amendment makes updates in line with the EU regulation and decisions taken since we last discussed the INSPIRE regulations. I would be grateful if the Minister could set out, in relation to the regulations that she mentioned that are being corrected by these regulations, which amendments are being removed and replaced with the August committee decision from the EU. I think we need to ensure that we continue to share data with our EU friends and, as a result, the Opposition have no problem with the way this is going.

You will know about this issue, Mr Robertson, because I have talked about it in many Committees, including, I think, a Committee with you; it relates to the explanatory notes. I understand that DEFRA will shortly be bringing back SIs that we have already passed, because of errors in the explanatory notes. We look forward to their arriving back with us in due course. On page 4 of this explanatory memorandum, under the heading “Impact”— I still make this case and will do so each and every time until the Government, I hope, adjust the language—paragraph 12.1 states:

“There is no, or no significant impact on business, charities or voluntary bodies”

as a result of the regulations. No impact and no significant impact are two very different things. I would be grateful if the Minister, who I hope will tire of my saying these things in SI Committees, would use her good offices to persuade the House authorities, which the Government control, to adjust the language, because those are two very different things.

As we have seen from the number of SIs that the House is being asked to correct because they contain errors that could have effects in the wider economy, we need to understand whether there is no impact or no significant impact, because for certain businesses and our precious environment, a small impact could still have a very big impact on biodiversity and climate change.

I thank the shadow Minister for pretty much agreeing that we are going to agree and for making, as ever, some perceptive comments. He raised a couple of points that I will touch on. One was about how we will ensure that we keep up with this system. The point is that we have all signed up to it; it is an EU-wide policy, on which we have already had major influence. There is absolutely no way at all that we would not be keeping up with it. It is in everybody’s interest. Actually, it is global, realistically. If there are various spatial commissions in which we want to play a major role, it is crucial that we keep updating the agenda and that we are part of this.

The directive requires member states and us to report on the use and implementation of this national spatial data infrastructure continually. The country fiche, which is the reporting mechanism asking for the data, is a baseline. It was made in 2016. DEFRA will be publishing its reports, most likely on the website, so we will be able to see what is going on and keep up with it. There is no absolutely no intention whatever of not keeping up with it, because it is in everybody’s interest in widely diverse areas.

The shadow Minister asked about the regulations that this measure has replaced. They were the 2018 amendment regulations, which were made in exercise of the powers in section 8(1) of the European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2018 to address failures of retained EU law to operate effectively and other deficiencies arising from the withdrawal of the United Kingdom from the EU. They relate to the categories of deficiency in retained EU law specified in various sections. What I could do is share the information that I have with the hon. Gentleman. There are a lot of numbers, letters and names, and I would be very happy to give him the information, which he is right to ask for.

That brings me to a close. I thank the shadow Minister and other colleagues very much for their input. As we prepare for the UK to leave the EU, it is obviously important that we have operable legislation in place to allow the UK spatial data infrastructure established by the INSPIRE directive to continue to operate. Maintaining equivalent reporting on the use and implementation of our national spatial data infrastructure to that of EU member states, particularly that in our neighbouring countries, will allow easy comparisons to be made.

I hope that hon. Members now fully understand the need for these regulations. As I have outlined, the SI updates earlier amendments made to UK INSPIRE legislation to reflect the new arrangements for monitoring and reporting on use and implementation. It does not make policy changes. In fact, it simplifies and creates a less onerous set of arrangements for monitoring and reporting. The SI ensures that on EU exit day the UK will have an operable legal framework for INSPIRE that is equivalent to that of the EU member states.

I am not sure whether I have inspired anyone here this morning, but I thank all colleagues for their time and thank you, Mr Robertson, for chairing our Committee.

Question put and agreed to.

Committee rose.