I beg to move, That the Bill be now read a Second time.
First and foremost, I pay tribute to my good and hon. Friend the Member for Wolverhampton North East (Jane Stevenson), who has put in a huge amount of hard work to bring this private Member’s Bill forward, and is hugely disappointed that she cannot be here today due to illness. I am sure that everybody in the Chamber will wish her the very best, and I know that she is watching proceedings as we speak. She would like to thank the team at the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, the House Clerks and all the animal welfare organisations that have helped her to bring the Bill to this stage.
Perhaps it would help if I started by explaining why I consider it to be crucial to ban the use of glue traps to catch rodents in all but the most exceptional circumstances. For those who do not know, these primitive traps are exactly what they sound like, and the way in which they are often used is every bit as barbaric as Members might imagine. Glue traps are cardboard or plastic boards with non-drying glue applied to them, and are set to catch rodents that walk across them. To quote the British Veterinary Association, animals caught in these traps can suffer from
“torn skin, broken limbs and hair removal and die a slow and painful death from suffocation, starvation, exhaustion and even self–mutilation.”
In modern Britain—a country that seeks to achieve the highest animal welfare standards in the world—we simply cannot allow these traps to be used in everyday life anymore. If countries such as New Zealand and Ireland can restrict these traps without any demonstrable impact on rodent control, I can see no reason why we cannot follow suit in England.
Hundreds of thousands of glue traps are sold every year in the UK, with many users unaware of how to deal with the animals that they may catch. Like many organisations, Humane Society International has worked hard to raise awareness about the harm that glue traps can cause. A survey that it conducted in 2015 unearthed some truly upsetting information.
Just 20% of the people surveyed would recommend killing a trapped animal using the method advised by the professional pest control industry—a manner that is regarded as humane by experts. Some 15% said that they would recommend drowning an animal, throwing it away alive or just leaving it to die in such a trap. All these are inhumane and could be considered an offence under the Animal Welfare Act 2006. More than two thirds, or 68%, of respondents agreed that glue traps should be banned.
People who have used glue traps have shared their experiences online and say things such as:
“Please don’t use glue traps. I naively didn’t think what they would entail when our next door neighbour had a rat and when we put a glue trap a small mouse got caught and I cried for hours because it was so horrific. It was dying slowly and all its limbs were broken. I gave it some water and food and my husband had to end its life because it was obviously in so much pain.”
My hon. Friend is outlining the reasoning behind the Bill and the horrific deaths that these poor creatures can endure. Will she explain why the Bill refers only to rodents and not some of the other small wild animals that can be affected and hurt dreadfully?
Glue traps are generally bought to be put down for rodents, so we can legislate for that. They are often used to catch other animals—and other animals can be caught unintentionally—but they are not necessarily put down for that purpose. Legislation is already in place—I cannot quite remember, because it is not my Bill, but it is either the Animal Welfare Act 2006 or the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981—to protect wild birds, but the Bill will go one step further to protect all animals, not just rodents, albeit that we can only really legislate for that.
A housing estate in my constituency has plagues of rats—so much so that I have seen them going round on the fencing and into people’s houses where their young children are trying to play. What is my hon. Friend’s view about rats?
Where do I start? That is a horrendous problem; once such problems get out of hand they can be extremely difficult to get under control. I hope my hon. friend will forgive me if I make some progress; perhaps he will hear how we can tackle such things later in my speech. In short, though, in all these circumstances prevention is better than cure, and alternative methods can be used to help with situations such as the one he described.
Let me return to the experiences we have read about online. Another lady said that her husband
“found three mice last winter stuck to”—
a glue trap—
“and told me never ever again to use it. He said they had started to bite their legs off to get free.”
I must make a confession. When I discovered that I had to step into the breach for my hon. Friend the Member for Wolverhampton North East, my mind went back to when I lived across the river in Kennington 20 years ago. We were on the third floor of an old house that had been made into flats and we had a mouse problem. I was quite squeamish—I still am, to a certain extent—so my housemate decided that he would take care of it and put down one of these glue traps. The next morning, I got up for work early—much earlier than him—and saw a mouse in the trap. It was horrible: it was twitching and had not quite died but I could not bring myself to do anything. I feel so guilty, but I am not the sort of person who could just plonk an animal on the head, so I had to wake him up and ask him to deal with it. So I have seen this with my own eyes and it is just horrible. Nobody would do this on purpose to a cat, dog or any other living creature; I do not know why we think it is acceptable for animals by which we are repulsed, such as rats or mice. We really need to do better.
The examples I have given are far from exhaustive. Glue traps also pose a risk to other animals—as mentioned, wild birds, hedgehogs and cats have all been caught on glue traps, often fatally. Those are just some of the incidents that have been reported to the RSPCA, which has seen hundreds of cases over recent years—and those are just the tip of the iceberg. Some Members may remember the harrowing story of Miles, a black and white cat who was found in an alleyway in north London last year with four glue traps stuck to him. Miles was scared, in extreme pain, and suffering with such horrific injuries that unfortunately he had to be put to sleep.
I thank my hon. Friend for filling in for my hon. Friend the Member for Wolverhampton North East (Jane Stevenson). How can she be sure that the proposed restrictions on the use of glue traps will not lead to problems with rodent control?
As I said earlier, many alternatives can be used. For example, similar legislation was introduced in New Zealand some time ago. The Bill would introduce a licensing scheme, to which I will refer later; in New Zealand, with its population, the number of licences and instances of use is still in single figures and we are not aware of an overwhelming rodent problem in New Zealand. The industry has moved on. It is about managing problems in a better way, similar to how pest-control professionals use chemicals and such like.
I commend my hon. Friend for stepping into the breach because of the absence of my hon. Friend the Member for Wolverhampton North East (Jane Stevenson). She makes a persuasive case about the unpalatable nature of this treatment. Does she have a view on the overall effectiveness of glue traps in the totality of pest control? Does she think that, by banning these awful things, there will be a negative effect on our ability to control rodent populations?
As I alluded to earlier, that does not seem to be the case because of the alternatives already available to the industry and the examples that we see in other countries.
What can people use instead? As always, prevention is better than cure, and effective rodent-proofing is always the best solution. However, when the problem has already been identified and got out of hand, people can consider live capture and release, which is much more humane, and lethal options such as the good old-fashioned snap traps from “Tom and Jerry” cartoons, which are designed to kill instantly. Although that might be horrific, it is a better, quicker and more humane death for the rodents. Many businesses already stock those alternative traps, and an increasing number of people are refusing to stock glue traps, already believing them to be inhumane and entirely unsuitable for amateurs.
The Bill, as we see in clause 1, would make it an offence to set a glue trap for the purpose of catching a rodent or in a manner that gives rise to a risk that a rodent could become caught in it. That would also prevent such traps being used where they pose a risk to other animals. The maximum sentence of six months in prison and/or an unlimited fine is consistent with sentences for similar trapping offences in the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981.
In exceptional circumstances, the use of glue traps by professional pest controllers may unfortunately still be necessary. Glue traps may capture rodents more quickly than other methods, so they could still be needed when a rapid capture is required for reasons of public health or safety, such as in the cockpit of a jumbo jet before it is due to take off or if there was a risk of a fire in a hospital. If rodents have got in and are gnawing wires where other types of traps cannot be placed and we think that public safety is at real risk, glue traps might need to be used. To cover such eventualities, clause 2 sets out the provisions for a licensing regime that will allow the Secretary of State to authorise a pest controller to use a glue trap to catch a rodent if that is needed to preserve public health or safety and—this is key—no other satisfactory solution is available. Such situations are expected to be very rare, as I mentioned in the New Zealand example. A licensing regime has the benefit of allowing strict conditions to be imposed on the use of said glue traps, such as the frequency of checking traps, to minimise any detrimental impacts on animal welfare. That is key. If such traps must be laid, a qualified pest controller would be on hand to put the poor thing out of its misery, should it get trapped.
Clause 2 would allow the Secretary of State to delegate the licensing functions to any competent public authority. That is currently expected to be Natural England, which is already responsible for administering other licences relating to wildlife. Provision is made to charge fees for licence applications to enable the recovery of costs for processing applications and monitoring for compliance.
The Bill would grant enforcement powers to police constables and, in clause 5, to authorised inspectors. Inspectors would be authorised by the Secretary of State and are expected to be employed by the licensing body. Authorised inspectors would have the powers to inspect pest control businesses authorised to use glue traps under licence to ensure that those licence conditions were being complied with.
Clause 10 would allow for the Bill’s provisions to be commenced by regulations made by the Secretary of State. The expectation is that offences in clause 1 will be commenced two years after Royal Assent. That will allow the users of glue traps ample time for any transition to other legal methods of rodent control that are already available. It will also give sufficient time to put a suitable licensing regime in place, in consultation with the pest control industry and other stakeholders. Regulations relating to the licensing regime may be commenced prior to the two years to allow the said licensing regime to be in place before the offences in clause 1 are applicable. As wildlife management is a devolved matter, the Bill applies only to England. I am aware, however, that the Welsh and Scottish Governments have indicated an interest in legislating to restrict the use of glue traps.
I thank my hon. Friend the Member for Wolverhampton North East (Jane Stevenson) for promoting the Bill, and she would like to thank everybody who has been involved—I will probably miss some names out, so forgive me—including Animal Aid, the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, the Humane Society International, the British Veterinary Association and many more, not least the Conservative Animal Welfare Foundation.
It is often said that we are a nation of animal lovers, and I believe that we are. All Members will recognise the truth of that through the correspondence that we receive from our constituents on animal welfare matters. The hon. Member for Sheffield, Hallam (Olivia Blake) and I have been on the Animal Welfare (Kept Animals) Bill Committee this week; this issue is very emotive and we always strive to do the best that we can on a cross-party basis. We must take this opportunity, therefore, to continue to raise the bar on animal welfare in this country and ban the use of glue traps in all but the most exceptional circumstances. I urge all hon. Members to support the Bill from my hon. Friend the Member for Wolverhampton North East in its smooth passage through the House and on to the statute book.
Even though it is a Friday, for the avoidance of doubt—as there seems to be some confusion—if hon. Members wish to speak, they should stand up; that means, “I wish to speak”. If they do not stand up, that means that they do not wish to speak and they will not be called. Let us get that absolutely straight.
Thank you, Madam Deputy Speaker.
I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Truro and Falmouth (Cherilyn Mackrory) on her powerful speech about glue traps and particularly on her confession about having used them. I rise to make the same confession: I have used glue traps and I deeply regret doing so. Although they look very good in terms of their effectiveness and getting rid of vermin, I had to deal with the consequences of trapping a mouse using glue traps. I had to dispatch it to put it out of its suffering when it was caught in the glue trap, and it is exactly as she said: it is a very brutal and horrid form of vermin control and it is absolutely right that we are introducing a Bill to get rid of them.
As for our personal vermin control in my household, I have a Frazzle—a ginger rescue cat who is the No. 1 enemy of vermin in my local area. If anything, Frazzle is too effective at vermin control, because every day he brings us gifts of the vermin that he has got rid of locally.
It is clear that other methods can be used that are not as cruel. An important point is that although we all recognise the very negative impact of mice and rats as carriers of disease, all the damage that they cause and the fact that we need to keep them under control, they are sentient creatures who can feel pain. They have the neurological structures in their brains that mean they can experience suffering. They are not stupid creatures and it is correct that we bring forward measures to control them in the most humane way possible. Banning glue traps is absolutely appropriate in order to drive that forward and I commend my hon. Friend for introducing the Bill today.
It is a pleasure to rise to support the Bill prepared by my hon. Friend the Member for Wolverhampton North East (Jane Stevenson). Her commitment to animals and their welfare is absolutely not in doubt, and I congratulate her on the Bill. I also congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Truro and Falmouth (Cherilyn Mackrory) on introducing it so brilliantly; she did our colleague proud. I am pleased to support both colleagues.
My mother—I hope she is not watching—has an almost cartoon-like reaction to rodents of any description. She would leap on to any elevated surface—a chair or whatever—to avoid them and would be absolutely panicked. I recall from when my son was younger a film called “Ratatouille”, which was a brave attempt to rehabilitate and rebrand rats in kitchens. That did not quite wash with me, and I am sure it did not with other people.
However, as my hon. Friend the Member for Truro and Falmouth said, we are a nation of animal lovers; it sounds clichéd, but we are, and we should be proud of that aspect of our national character. I listened to her with horror. I have not seen one of these traps in action—following this debate, I hope I never will—but I certainly would not want to see animals suffering in the way that she described.
I think this all comes down to humanity. My hon. Friend the Member for Christchurch (Sir Christopher Chope) raised an important point about circumstances where rodents need to be controlled, which can be horrific for people. Clause 2 plays into that very clearly; if something is potentially so inhumane in the wrong hands, we should give it to a professional to deal with it properly in order to reduce the risk of really inhumane consequences, even though there might be circumstances in which they can be justified, while there are other options that are more appropriate in less trained hands.
That is the important distinction that the Bill makes. If something is humane, I could use it. If the general public do not have to be trained in it and do not need to mind the consequences of what they are doing, they can handle it. However, if its potential consequences, not just for rodents but for other animals—birds, small mammals and pets such as cats—are so catastrophic and upsetting, then we should leave it to a professional to use it in very prescribed and definite circumstances. That is an issue that the Bill addresses effectively.
There is no hierarchy of animals and whether they should suffer. Even those of us who eat meat—I am a meat eater—do not want animals that are slaughtered for that purpose to be treated in an inhumane way. That is the important principle in legislation and in what this Bill is trying to achieve. Let me give an example. For those of us who supported Brexit, one of its important features was that, as a nation and as a Government, we could stop cruel, long and unregulated animal exports because of the inhumanity involved. I remember seeing pictures of the carnage of 50 dead sheep at Ramsgate port a few years ago, and I remember the passions that that cruelty raised in people. As I say, there is no hierarchy of suffering for animals; where we see it, we should address it.
That is what this Government are trying to achieve; that is our direction of travel. We have put restrictions on imports from the ivory trade, on trophy hunting and on primates as pets. We have the Animal Welfare (Sentience) Bill and, in the Ministry of Justice, we have the pet theft amendments to the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill. That all plays into a very welcome direction of travel, which I think most of us across the House want to see, on humanity to all creatures.
I think I have reached the end of my comments. I thank my hon. Friend the Member for Truro and Falmouth for introducing the Bill so brilliantly, and I am pleased to support it.
I congratulate the hon. Member for Wolverhampton North East (Jane Stevenson) on the Bill, and wish her a speedy recovery. May I add that the hon. Member for Truro and Falmouth (Cherilyn Mackrory) did an excellent job in opening the debate?
Although Labour Members have some reservations about the scope of the Bill, which I shall come to later, it is definitely a big step in the right direction. The proposal to ban glue traps is backed by an overwhelming number of people and organisations, including the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, the Royal Humane Society and the British Veterinary Association, and earlier this year more than 40,000 people signed a petition asking for a ban. Ending this inhumane practice also featured in Labour’s animal welfare manifesto. It is good to see that greater regulation is now supported in all parts of the House, including on the Government Front Bench.
Glue traps are clearly cruel and inhumane. I was shocked to read the report from the RSPCA that in just four years it had received 236 call-outs to animals caught in these traps, and that many suffered long drawn-out deaths owing to the horrific injuries that they sustained in trying to escape—as described by the hon. Member for Truro and Falmouth—or simply from hunger, stress, dehydration, exhaustion, or suffocation. That is not humanity in any form, and it is a horrible way for an animal to die. The traps are also indiscriminate, affecting not only rodents but all small vertebrates. Again, some of the stories are quite shocking, with kittens, hedgehogs, squirrels and even parrots and snakes becoming trapped and killed or seriously injured.
I should also point out that glue traps are not the only cruel and indiscriminate form of trap in use. We have just finished the Committee stage of the Animal Welfare (Kept Animals) Bill, and it was disappointing to see the Government vote against a ban on the use of snares in areas where kept animals could become trapped. I hope that the consultation on snares about which we heard in Committee will bring their thinking more into line with their approach to glue traps. Labour certainly believes that snares should also be banned.
As I said at the outset, the Bill is a step forward, but there remain some issues which I hope can be resolved as it proceeds further. The first is its limited scope. I pointed out earlier that rodents are not the only animals affected by the traps, and while I take on board what was said by the hon. Member for Truro and Falmouth, we feel that the language is rather too exclusive. We hope that that can be rectified in Committee. Secondly, I know that many organisations have expressed concerns about the licensing arrangements described in the Bill. Those concerns are well founded, certainly in so far as they relate to who licences might be issued to and what kind of training those people would need to possess a licence. The Bill could be strengthened with far clearer language on both those issues.
Finally, we should revisit any training required of licence holders, given the guidance issued by the industry. Currently, the British Pest Control Association recommends that traps should be visited within 12 hours, but it seems to me that that allows plenty of time for animals to do harm to themselves as they try to escape: 12 hours is an incredibly long time for suffering to continue. It is hard to envisage a feasible, economic way of using these traps humanely without having to return to them frequently over short periods. For that reason, an outright ban seems more feasible than a licensing regime, and I do wonder why that was not considered by the Member for Wolverhampton North East. The Bill is extremely welcome as a stepping stone towards a further reduction in the use of glue traps, but a ban would be in line with the view of the Scottish Animal Welfare Commission, which has said that
“there is no way that glue traps can be used without causing animal suffering.”
The commission recommends an immediate outright ban, which is what our animal welfare manifesto calls for.
The Opposition welcome the Bill, which brings Government Members into closer alignment with our thinking on the use of traps. They are not quite there yet, either on glue traps or on other traps such as snares, but I congratulate the hon. Member for Wolverhampton North East on introducing the Bill. If it receives support today, we will wish it well through its remaining stages.
When I was preparing for this debate, my mind was drawn to the question of how long we, as a community, have been considering our responsibilities for and relationship with the animal kingdom. I thought of Genesis 1:26:
“Let us make humankind in our image, according to our likeness; and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the wild animals of the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps upon the earth.”
Genesis is traditionally attributed to Moses, who lived at roughly 1,200 BC, but modern scholarship suggests that it is slightly more modern, from about the 6th century BC. Either way, we have been considering our relationship with the animal kingdom for at least 2,500 years. During that time, public attitudes towards our relationship with animals have developed enormously, although perhaps not so much in the first 2,000 years; right hon. and hon. Members will recall that man traps with teeth were outlawed only in 1827. I wonder what the devout members of our community would have thought of the Bill if we had introduced it in 1826. As a matter of passing interest, man traps were not outlawed in their entirety until 1861, which was not actually that long ago.
I am very pleased to say that public attitudes towards animal suffering—and human suffering, for that matter—have developed over the past 150 years or so. Section 8 of the Pests Act 1954 introduced restrictions on trapping animals, including restrictions on non-approved spring traps, albeit with an exception for
“rats, mice or other small ground vermin.”
The Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 included further prohibitions on cruelty to animals. It focused particularly on traps and snares, whose use was controlled but not outlawed entirely; from memory, there were exceptions for agriculture and public health. A wider, more all-encompassing approach to our relationship with animals was taken in the Animal Welfare Act 2006. As hon. Members will recall, it created a wider offence of allowing or causing unnecessary suffering to any animal—including trapped animals, of course.
The underlying factor in all that legislation was an increasing concern, reflected in the views of the public, about suffering—particularly the suffering, over time, of animals that might need to be controlled for public health or other reasons. Public attitudes have changed, so I think it is right to consider the prohibition of glue traps for vermin. They do not cause a quick death; the animal is just stuck. It is not like fly paper; these are intelligent animals, as hon. Members have said, and they are physiologically capable of suffering.
The British Veterinary Association has expressed concerns about how animals caught in glue traps die. It notes that they
“can suffer from…torn skin, broken limbs and hair removal and die a slow and painful death from suffocation, starvation, exhaustion and even self-mutilation.”
Should we really allow that kind of animal control in the society that we have the honour to represent? The RSPCA has received about 200 reports of non-target species being caught, often fatally, in just the past five years. That includes birds and hedgehogs, as well as people’s pet cats.
Glue traps are an important issue that we need to address. I welcome the action that the Bill proposes to control their use, but we have to recognise that rodents equate to a significant public health risk. In large numbers, they can breed incredibly quickly.
Members may have been amazed by television footage from Australia from about a month ago that showed an absolute explosion in numbers of, I think, mice. I am pleased to say that we do not suffer from such plagues in this country, but it highlights the need for ongoing control of rodent numbers. We need to retain an effective range of measures to control our rodent populations.
I welcome the licensing regime element of the Bill—I vary in that view from Opposition Members—because there are certain circumstances, perhaps in an operating theatre, where the public health imperative is so overwhelming that we need to accept such measures. They should be licensed, however, and operated by pest control professionals.
Although I am concerned that we retain effective and quick measures when other systems are not available, it is crucial to maintain regular monitoring and follow up by humane dispatch or killing of the rodents that are caught in glue traps, as is already addressed in the Animal Welfare Act 2006. Originally, when I read this Bill, I was concerned that there was an omission, but on reflection I think that the 2006 Act encompasses that.
I have one concern with clause 1(5), which I wonder if the Minister will consider in her response. It proposes creating an offence if a passer-by sees a glue trap and does not take effective action to remove it and make it harmless. I am deeply concerned that we are at risk of criminalising passers-by who may, or in fact are very likely, not to have any idea of the legislative status of a glue trap, particularly as it could be legal in some circumstances under the terms of the Bill.
What steps does a passer-by have to take to satisfy him or herself that the glue trap that they have seen is one that potentially exposes them to criminal liability if they do not take steps to make it harmless? That is a recipe for chaos if a pest control professional has spent time, effort and money properly laying a glue trap in legal circumstances, only for the good samaritan to throw themselves on the glue trap to prevent their own criminal responsibility. We need to perfect that area at a later stage of consideration.
With that exception, I support the Bill. It shows that we are listening to the changing attitudes of our society and are being responsive as legislators.
It is a pleasure to follow my hon. Friend the Member for Broadland (Jerome Mayhew). His last point was very important, and I hope it will be taken on board by the promoter of the Bill. I wish my hon. Friend the Member for Wolverhampton North East (Jane Stevenson) well and I hope that she is soon back in her place in this House.
In my many years of assiduously attending Fridays, I have seen some extraordinary Bill titles, but this is the first time that we have had what is essentially a rat protection Bill. It is difficult to explain to our constituents that we need to protect rats through legislation. Rats carry disease, particularly Weil’s disease which, as my hon. Friend the Member for Runnymede and Weybridge (Dr Spencer) will know, is a bacterial infection also known as leptospirosis. It is carried most commonly in rats and can be caught by humans by being in contact with rat urine or faeces. There are a significant number of cases of Weil’s disease in our country every year.
We know that rats breed incredibly rapidly, and reference was made by my hon. Friend the Member for Broadland to that. The figures are that brown rats can have 2,000 babies in a single year. It is commonplace to have 22 in a single litter. For that reason, we should take very seriously what seems to me to be growing evidence of a plague of rats across large parts of our country. In my constituency, there has been what I regard as inappropriate housing development on former forest and heath. What has happened in many respects is that the rats that were living there naturally beforehand have taken over the new area that has been built and are creating mayhem for residents.
Why are we bringing forward legislation that is effectively designed to try to make people think of rats as friends rather than enemies? They are enemies to our public health. If we are going to wait for two years before we introduce these constraints and the regulations set out in the Bill, what will be the test as to whether things have improved in that period?
I appreciate the points that my hon. Friend is making, but I want to clarify a point before he carries on down that road. The Bill is absolutely not to protect rats; I certainly would not support a Bill that protects a rat population. If there are rat populations in his area, as he suggests, perhaps the banning of glue traps will not make any difference to that, because they are not making any difference to that at the moment. There are other methods in circulation that are more effective and more cost-effective. If there is a problem such as the one that he describes, a licensed pest controller can be brought in to deal with it forthwith.
I can assure my hon. Friend that licensed pest controllers have been very active on this housing estate. I have spoken to them, and they have said that it is fantastic; it is money for old rope, because nothing that they do has any lasting impact, which is one of the problems.
Some people—this happens with farmers and people who keep chickens and so on—say, “To deal with rats, I am going to get a cat as a ratting cat”, but what do cats do? They do not only attack rats; they also attack birds and wildlife, so much so that that is a real crisis in our country. Rats themselves often attack small birds, and they certainly take birds’ eggs. We would be going down a very slippery slope if we tried to treat one of these areas of the whole balance of nature in isolation. Basically, nobody likes the idea that glue traps will result in suffering for other animals, any more than I like the idea that as a result of the behaviour of cats, a lot of birds are dying needlessly. We have got to have a balance.
The Bill sets out the offences and so on in clause 1, but it does not require the Secretary of State to issue any licences in clause 2. It just says that the Secretary of State “may” grant a licence, so there is no connection between the creation of the offences and ensuring that the Secretary of State has to issue licences to try to counteract the consequences of outlawing glue traps used by unlicensed people.
I am concerned about this Bill, and I do not think my constituents will understand it at all. I hope we can have stronger confirmation from the Government that we are going to eliminate rats before we start dealing with eliminating the means by which we may be able to control rats. As I said at the beginning, rats and rodents are dangerous to public health, and we ignore that at our peril.
I will not take it to heart, Madam Deputy Speaker.
First, I thank my hon. Friend the Member for Truro and Falmouth (Cherilyn Mackrory) for taking this role on at extremely short notice. I spoke to my hon. Friend the Member for Wolverhampton North East (Jane Stevenson) this morning, and she still sounded a little under the weather. I would like to add my voice to those wishing her well and a speedy recovery. I also wish to thank all who have spoken in today’s debate, because the point of our Friday sittings is that we discuss the challenges, where the holes might be and where we might need to come back in Committee to do that extra work to make sure that everybody feels that the law is a useful one, with belt and braces.
We have heard that glue traps are an inhumane way of trapping rodents, as well as posing significant risks to other animals, and that it is right to ban them in all but exceptional circumstances. I thank my hon. Friend the Member for Truro and Falmouth for the clarity with which she laid things out. The Bill does have Government support; I will come to the issues raised by some hon. Members, but we will do all we can to support its passage. The UK has a strong history of leading the way on animal welfare, as my hon. Friend the Member for Hertford and Stortford (Julie Marson) said, and we are looking to improve those standards further. In the “Action Plan for Animal Welfare”, published in May, we announced that we would like to restrict glue traps, as part of that series of ambitious reforms to raise the bar on animal welfare. We are planning further reforms: the new Animal Welfare (Kept Animals) Bill, which I know several Members have been talking about in Committee this week, will improve welfare standards through a range of measures for pets, farmed animals and kept wild animals, and through a ban on keeping primates as pets.
The Glue Traps (Offences) Bill will restrict the use of glue traps, keeping them completely out of the hands of non-professionals and ensuring that they are used only in exceptional circumstances, where there is no satisfactory alternative, thereby improving the welfare standards for rodents, as well as for other animals that may fall victim to their use. At this point, it would be useful to set out the fact that other more humane rodent control measures are available. Any business currently relying on glue traps will have ample time to transition; that is why we have given two years. As we have heard, pest controllers should be using such traps only as a last resort, including on the grounds of public safety. One such example might be that of the airline cockpit, when electrical wires are being chewed through, but they might be used in other areas such as hospitals—that was mentioned during the debate. Pest controllers have many other methods of rodent control at their disposal. Under the licensing regime, it is thought that these traps could still be used in exceptional circumstances, but we would try to avoid their use at every opportunity should we be able to do so. Having this balance of being able to use them has come about because New Zealand, where their use was completely banned, had to pull back so that they could be allowed in exceptional circumstances. This measure is written in a way that means that we do not have to approach the matter in that iterative way, where we go back and ask for something when we have banned it in the first place. It is not the ideal way, and we would much prefer deterrence and exclusion to be achieved by rodent proofing buildings. As the hon. Member for Christchurch (Sir Christopher Chope) said, having rodents coming into properties in the first place is quite revolting, not least because of the public health risk—they carry Weil’s disease and so on. Arguably, the same is true of mice. Given that they go into properties, leave their droppings all over the places where people usually eat, they are highly unpleasant. There are plenty of other more humane, effective and inexpensive rodent traps that are already widely available, including spring traps and capture and release traps, which we have heard about. These have the advantage of being reusable in most cases, which further reduces costs, while, at the same time, actually helping things.
Where there is a large rodent infestation, we would always say that professionals are needed. They will do their job and help communities get on top of the problem. My hon. Friend the Member for Broadland mentioned the appalling situation in Australia where it has had to face the challenge of literally millions of mice.
Making the use of glue traps an offence and ensuring that professionals use the best methods will improve welfare standards for wild rodents as well as helping other animals that may fall victim to their use. We have heard about wild birds, hedgehogs and pet cats to name but a few. The hon. Member for Sheffield, Hallam (Olivia Blake) mentioned a parrot. I have heard about buzzards and all sorts of small animals being caught in these traps and, as we have heard, having the most appalling, painful deaths. We need to make sure that we can cover that through the use of humane pest eradication where we can, so that we can stop the use of glue traps. Some Members asked why we are not just banning the use of these traps completely—I hope that I have answered that point with the New Zealand example. A total ban on these traps is, arguably, desirable, but there are rare circumstances where we might need them, which is why I want to ensure that the Bill has a degree of flexibility. The safeguard is that only professionals can use them, which is overlaid with the licensing work as well.
The ban in New Zealand suggests that professional users move away from glue traps. There, the ban was introduced in 2015, allowing exceptions only by ministerial approval. The pest control industry has adapted well, and the number of approvals in New Zealand has declined each year and is now only in single figures.
The licensing regime in the Bill, which has been mentioned several times, will allow conditions to be placed on the use of glue traps in order safeguard welfare, such as the regular monitoring of traps in those rare cases where they are needed. I would like to spend a minute on the licensing regime. Some Members asked when licences would be issued. It would only be on an exceptional basis in order to preserve public health or safety when there is no satisfactory alternative. The use of licences will allow strict conditions to be imposed on the use of glue traps to safeguard welfare, such as the regular monitoring of traps. Many of the decisions over whether licences will be general, class or individual have not yet been taken, and the precise details of the licensing regime will be worked out in consultation with the pest control industry and other stakeholders before this comes into force—again, we have had a short period of time. Whether licences will be time-limited will be decided in consultation. However, we would expect them to be time-limited for an individual case, because someone cannot say that they are using the traps for an exceptional circumstance and then just go on ad infinitum. More than likely, they would need to be applied for annually.
Let me turn to licences issued to pest controllers. As defined in the Bill, the only time that we will issue such licences is when the use of the glue trap is needed to preserve public health and safety and
“there is no other satisfactory solution.”
My hon. Friend the Member for Broadland raised that matter. The question of how we ensure that glue traps will be used appropriately goes in part to my hon. Friend’s point about the passer-by.
Glue traps will have professional oversight. The Bill grants enforcement powers to authorised inspectors as appointed by the Secretary of State and expected to be employed by the licensing authorities, and inspectors will have the power to inspect pest controllers who are authorised to put down glue traps in order to ensure compliance.
The point about the passer-by was well made. A passer-by who knowingly sees the inappropriate use of a glue trap will be able to report it to the police in the usual way and the police will be able to respond accordingly, but my hon. Friend the Member for Broadland made a good point, on which I will reflect. We are not asking people to do the impossible in order to achieve the objective, because how do we know what we do not know? I think that that was his basic point.
The Minister has covered many points of concern that have been raised. Will she also tell us about her Department’s policy on the burgeoning population of rats that are such a threat to public health? What is her Department doing to reduce the number of rats?
We are working with pest control companies and so on to ensure that they have all the tools at their disposal to keep down the population of rodents—both rats and mice—appropriately in areas such as those mentioned by my hon. Friend, where housing has perhaps encouraged a bigger population. We want to ensure that such companies can use effective measures to control that population.
I am glad that Frazzle came up. My hon. Friend the Member for Runnymede and Weybridge (Dr Spencer) brought Frazzle into the conversation on Second Reading of the Animals (Penalty Notices) Bill the other week. I thank my hon. Friends the Members for South West Hertfordshire (Mr Mohindra) and for Bracknell (James Sunderland) for the points that they made about when traps might be needed.
The licensing regime will allow conditions, such as the monitoring of traps, to be placed on their use in order to safeguard welfare. This will also allow for the scale of glue traps used by pest controllers to be monitored. The provision in the Bill for inspection of authorised pest controllers will ensure compliance with licences and allow enforcement if terms are breached. A transition time of two years will also allow us to work with the devolved authorities to ensure that we walk in lockstep, hopefully, as we improve the situation and ban glue traps.
I close by reiterating how grateful I am not only to my hon. Friend the Member for Truro and Falmouth but to my hon. Friend the Member for Wolverhampton North East, who is probably watching us, for introducing the Bill. My officials and I will do all we can to support the Bill and we will hopefully see it on the statute book.
With the leave of the House, I wish to address a few of the points made in the debate.
The hon. Member for Sheffield, Hallam (Olivia Blake) was concerned about the possibility of 12 hours of suffering. The technology is now available: some of the glue traps used by professional pest controllers have pad sensors that alert the pest controller that there is something on the trap, so they can be there an awful lot quicker than 12 hours. One would therefore hope that it would not be that long in practice. She also asked about the Bill being confined only to rodents; rodents are the reason why people buy glue traps—people do not buy them to catch birds—so if the legislation covers the use of glue traps for rodents, it will cover the vast majority of purchases.
I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Broadland (Jerome Mayhew)—having come late to this issue and having read the Bill very late, the issue of passers-by jumped out at me, too, so I am pleased that the Minister addressed it. We should not forget that there will be two years between Royal Assent and the introduction of licences, so a huge amount of education can go on among the general public—in respect of retailers, labelling and whatnot—so that people know what is going to happen. If somebody stumbled across a glue trap, they would probably think they needed to do something about it.
I reiterate to my hon. Friend the Member for Christchurch (Sir Christopher Chope) that this is not a rat-protection Bill; all it will do is remove one method that the public use on a daily basis to deal with rodents. There are many much more effective and cost-effective alternatives. I hope that that reassures my hon. Friend.
I again thank my hon. Friend the Member for Wolverhampton North East (Jane Stevenson). I am sorry that she could not be present today—she is desperately disappointed not to have been able to present the Bill.
Question put and agreed to.
Bill accordingly read a Second time; to stand committed to a Public Bill Committee (Standing Order No. 63).