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Docking of Working Dogs’ Tails (England) Regulations 2007

Volume 690: debated on Wednesday 28 March 2007

rose to move, That the draft regulations laid before the House on 8 February be approved.

The noble Lord said: My Lords, the lateness of the hour is self-evident, and I apologise in advance for the length of my speech. I shall deal with the three regulations in one speech and will move the other two Motions later. I do so having had the benefit of the start of the debate in Grand Committee and subsequent discussions with noble Lords and colleagues. People can obviously make their speeches—I am not trying to stop that, and clearly cannot anyway—but I hope that I will give most of the answers to the issues and doubts raised, as it will be much better to do that for completeness. I welcome the opportunity to deal with the three sets of regulations.

The Mutilations (Permitted Procedures) (England) Regulations 2007 consolidate existing legislation relating to the mutilation of animals. The Animal Welfare Act 2006 prohibits all mutilation of animals other than for the purpose of medical treatment, but subject to any exceptions as may be specified in regulations, and it is the latter permission that the Government are exercising here. It is commonly agreed that certain mutilations are necessary for an animal’s long-term welfare, whether for reproduction control or better management. In addition, some forms of mutilation—for example, ear-tagging of certain animals for identification purposes—are required by law. The procedures to be permitted are set out in Schedule 1, with the conditions on how they may be performed or who may perform them in Schedules 2 to 9.

In deciding which mutilations should be permitted and the conditions attached to their use, we have largely repeated those permitted under existing legislation but also consulted widely on other procedures that should or should not be allowed. The status quo has been replicated in most cases. However, unlike present legislation, where certain procedures are banned, the Act and these regulations together ban any mutilation not specifically permitted. This means that outdated and unacceptable practices not specifically outlawed or subject to regulation will now be banned. We identified 20 practices not subject to legislation but which are no longer generally considered justifiable on animal welfare grounds, and those will no longer be permitted. They include devoicing cockerels and the ear-cropping of dogs.

The mutilations regulations are accompanied by the Welfare of Animals (Miscellaneous Revocations) (England) Regulations 2007, which revoke current legislative provisions relating to certain mutilations of farmed animals which are now replaced by the mutilations regulations.

The Docking of Working Dogs’ Tails (England) Regulations 2007, which will concern us most, supply the necessary mechanisms by which the principle of a ban on tail-docking of dogs, with limited exemptions, may have effect. In March last year, there was a very thorough debate on the issue in the other place, and all the main parties allowed Members of Parliament a free vote. I add that the regulations passed through the other place earlier today. With the commencement of Section 6 of the Animal Welfare Act, and subject to the approval of these regulations by your Lordships' House, the docking of dogs’ tails for cosmetic purposes will now be banned. It will be easy to see that as the shows come around the country, whether they be the big ones such as Crufts or others; it will be self-evident.

The exemption for working dogs allows a dog that is likely to be used for certain specified types of work to have its tail docked by a veterinary surgeon. The dog will have to be not more than five days’ old when the docking is performed, and the veterinary surgeon will have to certify that he or she has seen specific written evidence that the dog is likely to work in one of the few permitted areas. As is currently the case, the vet’s decision whether to dock is entirely discretionary. This legislation does not require a vet to dock an eligible dog’s tail. Of course veterinary surgeons will continue to be permitted to dock or to amputate the tail of a dog of any type and at any age where it is necessary for its medical treatment.

Many of my noble friends have concerns about the exemption for working dogs. We are all of the same mind—hence the nature of the debate in the other place—that it is crucial to ensure that only dogs that are genuinely likely to work have their tails docked. We are confident that these regulations close any potential loopholes.

Regulation 3 outlines the evidence that the vet must see in order to certify the dog as a working dog. The vet must reasonably believe that the dog is not more than five days old and he or she must see the dam of the dog. In addition, another piece of specific documentary evidence relating to the work that the dog is intended for must be shown to the vet by the person presenting the dog.

At five days old or less, the dog will self-evidently not be a working dog; therefore, we can require only that there is evidence of a genuine intention that the dog will work or be likely to work. It is possible that a dog that is legally docked will not go on to work—because it is not of the right temperament, for example. However, the requirement that documentary evidence be shown and that the owner make a declaration that the dog is intended for work—a false declaration is an offence—is a rigorous yet proportionate way of establishing a genuine intention that the dog will work.

Regulation 3 and Schedule 1 provide that the dog can be only of a certain type; namely, a spaniel, a terrier, or a hunt point retrieve breed. The inclusion of the types of dog as groups rather than breeds does not mean that the Government anticipate that King Charles spaniels or Yorkshire terriers will be seen out retrieving game or sniffing for explosives. We are aware that some breeds within those types rarely, if ever, work. However, there were a number of reasons for including spaniels, terriers and hunt point retrieve breeds as groups, one of which was the recognition that a considerable number of cross-breeds, particularly in the terrier group, make very effective working dogs.

In addition, we rejected including a requirement that a dog should be a 100 per cent pure-bred example of a specific breed. It would be difficult to be certain of that fact without, for example, DNA evidence or the production of detailed kennel-book pedigrees. Working dogs are more likely to have been reared for their working abilities than for the purity of their pedigree or their cosmetic perfection as to breed conformation. Rather, we opted for attribution to type on the basis of the identity of the dam; so, for example, a terrier for the purpose of these regulations is the puppy of a dam that can herself be described as a terrier.

I reiterate that these regulations will absolutely not increase the number or type of dogs whose tails are docked. At present, any dog can have its tail docked by a veterinary surgeon. However, only certain types have their tail docked at present. These measures actively limit the dogs that can have their tail docked to those types included in the exemption, so there is no logic in the argument that the regulations will increase the numbers of dogs affected. I appreciate the correspondence from many members of the public and dog-lovers on that matter. It is therefore important to be clear about this.

It is worth reiterating that a dog cannot have its tail docked unless it meets all the requirements in the regulations. It must be five days old or less, be accompanied by the documentary evidence and one of the specified types, which will be shown by the presentation of the dam.

Regulation 4 describes how a docked dog must subsequently be identified. This must be done by microchip before the dog is three months old. That stems from the requirement in Section 6(8)(b) of the primary Act that the dog be identified before three months of age. We expect that in most cases docking and microchipping will be done at the same time. However, at the time of drafting Section 6 of the Act, we received representation from some vets and animal welfare groups concerned that, given the size of a puppy at less than five days old, it may not always be appropriate to microchip at that time. Therefore, it was felt best to leave this to the discretion of the vet and to enable him or her to microchip later if it was felt more appropriate to do so. Microchipping is a known and effective identification tool and is already compulsory for dogs with pet passports.

In a small number of cases, a vet who has not docked the dog’s tail may be asked to carry out the microchipping. In this case, the vet will also be asked to sign the certificate, which will have been signed by the docking vet at the time of docking. If the second vet has any concerns about the identity of the dog being presented for microchipping, he or she can check with the previous vet or their practice, whose contact details and signature will be on the certificate. If any worries remain, the vet does not have to microchip the dog; it is discretionary.

Concerns have been raised about how the legislation will be enforced. This has been the subject of much informal discussion between noble Lords and officials in the department and between officials and other groups. We believe that we have struck the correct balance in a system for enforcement which is both strong and proportionate. The compulsory certificate, which a legally docked dog will have throughout its life and which will change hands when the owner changes, will be the primary enforcement tool.

Concerns have been raised about the absence of a specific offence of refusing to produce a certificate to an authorised person to prove that the docking has been done legally. We did not see the need for this offence, as the reasonable assumption was made that anyone accused of one of the tail-docking offences would voluntarily produce the certificate where this would exculpate him or her. Nevertheless, should they be necessary, there are wider enforcement powers in Section 23 of the Act, which cover entry and search powers in connection with offences. These are available to police and inspectors should they feel it necessary to use them. I remind noble Lords that the offence of docking a dog’s tail is punishable by imprisonment up to a maximum of 51 weeks or a fine of up to £20,000, or both. Although the Government are confident that these regulations can be effectively enforced, we will take a very active interest in their enforcement and may review the enforcement provisions if concerns continue to be raised.

Tail-docking continues to be a contentious issue, partly because of the anecdotal nature of much of the evidence surrounding docking and tail injury. We understand that discussions are under way at the Royal Veterinary College about a potential study comparing the working dog exemption in England and Wales with the total ban in Scotland. The Government welcome any scientific evidence in this area and will be interested to see the results of this work.

I very much hope that the House will approve the regulations. Obviously, the consequences of not approving them are that the docking of dogs’ tails for cosmetic purposes will continue, and I do not think that anyone wants that. The regulations represent an effective and proportionate approach to fleshing out the principle agreed by the other place last year. To reject them now would mean that Section 6 of the Animal Welfare Act would not come into force on 6 April, and docking for cosmetic purposes would be permitted to continue.

I apologise for the length of my speech but I hope that I have covered many of the issues that have concerned noble Lords. I commend the regulations to the House.

Moved, That the draft regulations laid before the House on 8 February be approved. 9th Report from the Statutory Instruments Committee.—(Lord Rooker.)

My Lords, I declare my interests as an honorary associate of the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons and the British Veterinary Association.

I am most grateful to the Minister for his extended explanation of the Docking of Working Dogs’ Tails (England) Regulations 2007, as, indeed, I am to him for arranging, a fortnight ago, for noble Lords interested in the regulations to meet him and his officials in an attempt to clarify the intentions behind them.

The noble Lord has a copy of the briefing that I asked for from the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons, so I do not intend to take up the time of the House by repeating what he already knows. The RSPCA has also asked me to express its ongoing reservations and disappointment that its continued pressure on the issue of enforcement has failed to elicit a satisfactory solution from Defra. The RSPCA stresses that, for it, the key issue is enforcement and the need for effectiveness and efficiency. It does not want to lose the important prohibition of docking for cosmetic reasons. The society maintains that, with the exemption, the regulations as drafted will be very difficult to enforce and that the suggestion that it will be possible to obtain a warrant is unlikely, in its experience, to provide a viable solution.

It has been said many times before, by me and by others, that a respected law is one that is reasonable, clear and enforceable. Unfortunately, the regulations do not meet the last two qualities. A number of the organisations that responded to consultation documents—the RCVS and the RSPCA among them— have expressed their regret that Defra officials seem to have turned a blind eye and a deaf ear to many of the submissions that they made about amendments that they believe would have clarified the position for veterinary surgeons, dog owners and enforcers.

It is not my intention to delay any further the introduction of this very important addition to the animal welfare armoury. I am sorry that the Minister is not prepared to make the few amendments that I believe would make the regulations stronger. I do, however, ask the Minister whether he feels able to offer his assurance that the regulations will be—not may be—reviewed after a reasonable time—say in two years’ time—to ensure that they are effective. As well as seeing the royal colleges’ research, would he also consult with his Northern Irish, Scottish and Welsh counterparts to compare the effectiveness of their legislation with this?

In the mean time, if my advice were sought by someone considering docking a newborn puppy's tail, whether a vet, a dog owner or a prospective buyer, I would remind him of Mr Punch's advice to those about to marry: “If in doubt, don't”.

My Lords, I thank the Minister for his explanation on the mutilation of animals regulations. I declare an interest as someone who keeps sheep. I am interested to see that Regulation 5, on those who may carry out permitted procedures, states that any procedure,

“may only be carried out by a veterinary surgeon or any other person permitted to carry out that procedure under the Veterinary Surgeons Act 1966 … or the Veterinary Surgeons (Exemptions) Order 1962”.

I am interested to know whether those exceptions require people to have a certificate from the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons or whether a qualification in general animal husbandry is considered adequate. As someone who keeps blackface sheep, I am interested in the reference to the mutilation of sheep. The removal of the insensitive tip of a horn is also included. That is a fairly constant problem. Noble Lords are probably aware of the curly horns of the blackface sheep. Very often they grow into the face of the sheep and have to be treated, which can be done by a vet or sometimes by a shepherd.

My Lords, I shall be brief. On the docking of working dogs’ tails, the Minister has rightly reminded us that if we do not pass these regulations the status quo will continue. That is what the Government have offered us. Of course, they could have chosen to go down the Scottish route. I was very grateful to the noble Countess, Lady Mar, on a previous occasion, for relating the history of why docking occurred at all. It was for reasons of tax and not as a tradition or for the welfare of working dogs.

To continue the theme of kings, dogs and docking, my noble friend Lord Roper observed that Edward VIII, when Prince of Wales, said that if he could pass only one law, it would be to prevent the docking of puppies’ tails. We are where we are, and we should regard this as a step forward, although I am sorry that the Government have not offered us the Scottish route.

I have three brief questions on mutilations. First, the permitted procedures regulations talk of unhygienic conditions. Does that have a regulatory definition, or will it be up to professional interpretation by vets and farmers. Secondly, the regulations on rubber ringing talk about the procedures having to be undertaken by a veterinary surgeon. Is that practical in the lambing season? There appears to be an exemption for pigs under seven days old but not for other animals. Can the Minister confirm that those exemptions are listed elsewhere? If so, would it not have made sense to consolidate the legislation and include the provisions here?

On the docking of pigs’ tails, the farmer is required to,

“improve environmental conditions or management systems”.

How does the ministry intend to enforce that rule? Presumably it will be up to the veterinary surgeon, who the farmer usually calls in. The view of veterinary surgeons is that this may get in the way of their relationship with the farmer. When the pigs are less than seven days old, who will ensure that the farmer tries other methods to stop tail biting before he resorts to docking? Will this also be down to the vet, even though it is not a veterinary procedure until the animals are older than seven days?

Finally, on page 11, I wonder if a word has been left out. Subcutaneous contraception is talked about as part of a “conservation breeding programme”. I wondered whether it should be a “conservation non-breeding programme”.

My Lords, I welcome this legislation. As a veterinary surgeon, I have been concerned about mutilations of all animals, including dogs, for a good number of years. The explanation given by the Minister this evening has been most helpful. He has particularly clarified certification of when and how a veterinary surgeon might dock a dog if he is motivated to do so.

I will not bore your Lordships by repeating my previous comments on the docking of dogs’ tails, except to emphasise again that there is no peer-reviewed scientific information independently supporting the view that prophylactic docking is effective in preventing tail damage. I am pleased to note that the Minister has said that there will be a study of it conducted by the Royal Veterinary College, I think with funding from the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons, which may put the issue to sleep at long last and give us the benefit of scientific evidence on the issue.

A substantial issue of the docking of dogs’ tails which keeps coming up is that of pain. There is now substantial evidence, not with puppy dogs but certainly with other neonates and even animals in utero, that such animals can experience pain when subjected to it. It is interesting that the pain pathways are intact in the neonates, but the down regulation of the pain has not yet developed. It is therefore likely that puppies of up to five days of age experience more pain rather than less, and more than is believed by pro-docking individuals. Hence I am firmly of the opinion that the premise for docking is invalid, that we will know that from the study to be undertaken by the Royal Veterinary College, and that the scientific basis of the absence of pain is unacceptable. If docking is to be performed, it should be done by a veterinary surgeon using a local anaesthetic, because of the evidence of pain upon removal of part of the tail.

My guess is that docking will, in due course, gradually cease to be done. The whole range of mutilations performed on animals—done, it was thought at one time, for the benefit of the animal in one way or another—has gradually lost favour and they are no longer done. There is a substantial list of mutilations that are still done, and we believe that they are done for the health and welfare of the animal.

However, over the years, I have noticed that because of improvements in medicine, surgery, anaesthesia and so on, they have gradually disappeared. I suspect that the docking of dogs’ tails will do the same. One reason why it might disappear is that an increasing number of veterinary surgeons are unwilling to undertaking docking, largely because they believe it to be an unnecessary mutilation if it is done only for cosmetic purposes. Where it is necessary for therapeutic purposes, it is an entirely different matter.

One would not wish to object to this order because that might cause considerable trouble and lead to docking for cosmetic purposes, which I am not in favour of. I thank the Minister for his explanation and wish this part of the Animal Welfare Act a fair passage.

My Lords, I thank the Minister for his work since the regulations were withdrawn and for having been able to meet members of his team twice. I also thank him for his lengthy introduction, which was very helpful. Anybody looking back at this legislation will have a chance to look at Hansard and seek clarification on one or two issues that they might be concerned with. I do not propose to go into the detail as the Minister has done that and I do not intend to repeat it. I should declare that I am an honorary associate member of the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons and the BVA. The noble Countess, Lady Mar, covered the reasons why she is now quite happy since she clarified the issue with the royal college. I am more than happy to accept the regulations and I thank the Minister for his time in going into detail.

I would like to support these statutory instruments, but I would also like to record my concerns, which, as the Minister will remember, I expressed in Committee on the Bill. My gripe—and I put down in bold English that it is a gripe—is that the way that we deal with Bills that come to Parliament in a skeleton form and have to be followed up by regulation at some time in future is not a satisfactory way of conducting business. Had we debated the Bill more fully in Committee, some of these issues would have been ironed out and we would not have had to return to them later. That does not affect just this Bill; it also affects many other Bills that the Government bring forward where we have to wait for regulations later on. When we seek clarification, the Minister has to try to clarify the Government’s position, but, as he knows very well, we cannot change orders, unless they are defective, and so we have to accept orders that we might have tried to change while the Bill had its passage.

We support the proposals in the Docking of Working Dogs’ Tails (England) Regulations. As the Minister indicated, we expect them to reduce the number of dogs who have their tails docked for cosmetic reasons by 90 per cent. I do not agree with docking, and I am delighted to see that it will be going. We are also pleased that veterinarians will have discretion about whether to dock dogs’ tails. That is something that the noble Lord, Lord Soulsby of Swaffham Prior, was particularly keen to raise tonight. The switch of this business from last night, when he could not have been with us, to tonight, when he could be with us, was a bonus because it is good to have somebody who dealt with these matters on a daily basis giving his expertise.

I would like to ask two further questions. First, I return to a subject I raised before—the desirability, where possible, of microchipping puppies at the time of docking. If possible, it is much wiser to microchip then rather than having puppies brought back at a later stage to be microchipped. Secondly, will the Minister put on the record and clarify the position of, say, an English-based family with a working dog or working puppies, which were perfectly legitimately docked in this country, who move to Scotland and find themselves in an obviously different environment. I think that the Minister indicated that they will have to keep some sort of proof to be able to say that the dog was docked in England and had a certificate. Presumably that certificate will have to remain with them until they die.

I should check whether, under the regulations in Scotland, it will be an offence to bring a dog over the Border from Scotland into England to have it deliberately docked. The one issue the Minister did not touch on tonight was what happens on those farms which border both regions. How does one decide whether that holding is in England and therefore English rules apply, or whether it is in Scotland? At the moment, that is not clear to me.

What about somebody who, for example, lives at weekends in Scotland but works in England and brings their dogs with them? I did not manage to find the answer to that issue on reading of the provision. The Minister earlier said, quite rightly, that shows will in time reflect whether dogs have been docked in the permitted way. I suspect that it will take a few years before that works through. Even at Crufts some of the dogs are older rather than necessarily being young ones.

The Minister will have received representations, particularly from the RSPCA, suggesting that Section 23 of the Act, to which other noble Lords have referred, does not, in its view, solve the problem that has been raised already. The society does not believe that the provision has enough strength. A magistrate must be persuaded that there are reasonable grounds for granting a warrant. How can he be persuaded of that if there is no way of knowing whether evidence of an offence will be present on the premises, or may not even exist? Again, I would be grateful for more clarification on that angle from the Minister when he responds.

I make no comment on the whole question of fines and imprisonment. But I pick up from my colleagues who have asked that this legislation should be reviewed. The noble Countess, Lady Mar, asked for two years. I think that she may be too early. I would be quite happy with a three to five-year period, but no longer than five. We really must revisit that.

I turn to the mutilations order. I raised issues which I thought were important about the desirability to use anaesthetics more often than is laid down in these regulations. For cattle and goats anaesthetics have to be given for castration after two months have expired, whereas for sheep the time lapse is three months. My noble friend the Duke of Montrose has spoken about his interest and work with sheep. Why is there that time lapse? Is it because the sheep are up in the hills and therefore it is more difficult to get them down? Looking at the discussions on this in another place, I understand that the Farm Animal Welfare Council is examining the whole question of sheep castration. It is due to report shortly. When is that likely to be?

I raise one further issue, which has been raised with me again today. As the Minister knows, it is a difficult operation to make sure that ear tags stay on sheep’s ears. It is a welfare problem. I believe that we have a derogation that allows only one ear tag in a sheep’s ear, but that we may well have to go back to having two. Again, as we are treating this as a mutilation, I wonder whether the Minister might comment on that aspect, as it is a continuing problem to try to ensure that two ear tags remain firmly on the ears of sheep. As the Minister will know, they tend to go rubbing in hedges and the ear tags become loose.

In principle, we support the regulations. I will, if I may, go back to where I started and thank the Minister and his team for going through them so clearly with us to enable us to reach this stage in the House tonight.

My Lords, I am most grateful for the contributions that have been made tonight. I shall answer some of the queries tonight, and will write to noble Lords on those that I cannot answer tonight.

The noble Countess mentioned a review, but this is a statutory instrument, which brings me back to the point made by the noble Baroness, Lady Byford, about putting all this into primary legislation. If we rely on primary legislation, knowing the pressure on parliamentary time, nothing will happen. A change may be required, but this will not be top of the slot. Regulations deal with the nitty-gritty so that one can adjust to changing circumstances. If things do not work out as one intended, one can at least change the regulations more easily than looking for parliamentary time to make primary legislation. It is simply not a runner to say that everything should be done by a Bill. Notwithstanding that, I have no doubt that the legislation will be under constant review by the RSPCA and other animal welfare groups and in Parliamentary Questions. No action on prosecutions is expected shortly. We may get nothing for 12 months because various situations would have to arise. Undoubtedly from the RSPCA’s point of view, the first body to bring a prosecution on this issue has to get it right and win it. One cannot afford to have any doubt here, so being sure of the circumstances and getting the evidence right is obviously essential. This is a very sensitive area.

I have made it clear that Defra and Ministers will take an active interest in the enforcement provisions of the legislation, which are the key area in a way. Indeed, if concerns continue to be expressed and there is evidence to support those concerns, we will have the matter reviewed. There is no doubt about that. I have no doubt that the Select Committee in the other place will want to have a review. This is of great interest to both Houses because it is of great interest to the public. No doubt it is also of interest to Defra and the Home Affairs Committee, because there is a slight connection there.

Schedule 2 contains narrow exemptions for working dogs for,

“armed forces identification; emergency rescue identification; police identification; prison service identification; HMRC identification”.

All those bodies are scrutinised in one way or another by Select Committees in the other place, so if there is any evidence that things are not working out as planned, there is ample opportunity for Parliament to take an active interest. I would imagine that, in the normal course of events and in the flow of the way in which the Act is implemented, there will be opportunities for review, as the noble Countess said. I cannot guarantee a review of an independent committee, but if this has not been given proper parliamentary scrutiny in three to four years, with the Government and outside bodies giving evidence, I will eat my hat. I would encourage Select Committees to do that. After all, the scrutiny side of the process of legislation is just as important as the executive side. As noble Lords have said, there are some difficulties, and I do not have all the answers. For example, tail-docking tourism, as I think it was described, across the Border is clearly a potential difficulty.

The noble Baroness, Lady Byford, asked about the desirability of microchipping. I made the point that our preference would be to microchip when docking takes place. However, because the Government have discussed this matter with outside bodies, it was put to us that the size of some puppies is such that microchipping would not be appropriate at that time. But the safeguards are there. The certificate should be signed by the vet who did the docking, although the same vet does not have to do the microchipping. Vets have total discretion. They can say, “No, we just don’t do tail docking here. Don’t ask us: refusal offends”. They do not have to give a reason. From that point of view, vets are in control.

On the English family travelling to Scotland—whether to live or on holiday—presumably the dog would have been lawfully docked, so there would not be an offence under Scottish law. However, they would have to maintain that certificate and must be able to show it. Otherwise, they would be subject to potential prosecution.

Holdings that straddle the Border will depend on the location of the farmhouse. This reminds me of single farm payments where many farms straddle the Border and someone has to make a decision. The holding can straddle the border, but I do not think any farmhouses have an address that straddles the Border. However, that is the case in Northern Ireland. Some farmhouses quite deliberately straddle the border, for reasons that are nothing to do with this. On the residency of the owner, having been in the other place, my argument would be, “Who is your MP? You have only got one and there is no argument about who it is. You are on a boundary and you have an address”. Quite clearly, there is a domiciled address and there cannot be any argument. That should satisfy that question. So there are issues relating to that.

The Farm Animal Welfare Council advises and assists the Government, but I do not know when it will report. The noble Baroness, Lady Byford, also mentioned ear-tagging, which I fully understand. I visit many farms and I get my ears bent about the double-tagging of cattle, as I will tomorrow when I visit farms in Gloucestershire. There are serious problems, which I understand. The large plastic tags get snagged, but they are readable at a distance, which can be quite important because there can be tragedies—I read about one earlier today. Sheep are no different—they get to places that cattle do not—and there are serious difficulties about snagging in fences. This is not just about UK law, we are also dealing with EU legislation. This is also part of the traceability of the food chain. It is not done for the sake of it. For sheep and cattle, it is part of traceability of where the animals have been and what holdings they have been on. If difficulties arise, as they have in the past, at least we can trace them.

The noble Duke asked about goats and sheep, but I may not have all the answers. The dehorning of adult sheep must be carried out by a veterinary surgeon as potential problems may require veterinary knowledge. However, the removal of the insensitive tip of an ingrowing horn may be done by a layman as that is not classed as mutilation, so there are some areas there where work can be carried out. So there are some areas where work can be carried out.

Further to an EC directive, the docking of piglets’ tails is not permitted as a routine procedure in the UK. It can be done only where there is evidence that injuries to other pigs’ tails has occurred as a result of tail biting. The procedure cannot be carried out unless other measures to improve the environment or management systems have been taken in an attempt to prevent the tail biting in the first place. We would like to see a reduction of tail docking. These regulations will reduce tail-docking of dogs, there is no question about that, but we want also to see a reduction of the practice in pigs. However, it is a complex area and many factors are involved. That is why the Pig Welfare Code gives detailed advice to farmers on actions they can take that may help to reduce the level of tail biting.

The noble Baroness, Lady Miller, asked about the definition of “hygienic conditions”. This is a generally understood term so there is no problem with it. If necessary it would be interpreted by a court because that is where the issue would arise. It would also be for the vet and others bringing a prosecution to go to court and explain the situation with photographs and descriptions. However, it is a generally understood term that the courts have dealt with before.

I was not sure whether the noble Baroness was being light-hearted about contraception and the pig breeding programme. There is a serious point here. The draft is okay and the word “not” is not missing. It relates to a conservation breeding programme, and contraception can be a crucial part of it. It is used to avoid genetic over-representation. There are issues here and I understand why the noble Baroness raised the point.

My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord for giving way. Can he answer the other question I put to him? It may be asking rather a lot, but can he explain the words,

“any other person permitted to carry out the procedure”

under the two Veterinary Surgeons Acts? We are all aware that large animal practices are in great difficulty because vets do not have a lot of work. However, it would turn the whole thing on its head if a vet had to be called out for every castration and tail docking, which is what the wording suggests.

My Lords, I will see if there is an answer, but if not I shall reply to the noble Duke by letter.

The noble Baroness, Lady Miller, asked about rubber ringing either by vets or others. This will continue to be carried out by those permitted to do so under the Veterinary Surgeons Act 1966 and the orders under that legislation. That, I hope, answers her question.

I am grateful to see the noble Lord, Lord Soulsby, and I appreciate that he is here tonight. I was here last night, but that is why we are here at this time tonight. I welcome his contribution. I always say to Members of the other place that in this House you are among practitioners and professionals with a mass of expertise that, by definition, elected Members of Parliament cannot have. I know that the noble Lord has made a major contribution to the legislation as it has gone through. He is right to say that over a period of years docking will probably diminish. It is now being severely restricted through the definition of the kind of dogs that may be docked and the kind of people who can take a dog to a vet in the first place. The pressure is moving in one direction, and that is for the reduction of tail docking. I do not say “suck it and see”, but it will be a test of how practical and effective the regulations are when cases arise. That goes with what I was saying about the review of the enforcement procedures.

Section 23(1) of the Animal Welfare Act 2006 provides that, on application by a policeman or an inspector, a warrant may be issued by a magistrate to search for evidence of an offence as long as there are sufficient grounds for believing that an offence has been committed and that evidence may be found on the premises concerned. The general application of common sense and expertise by the police when making an application for warrants is a factor.

That is probably what happens in other walks of life—there is a feeling that something has taken place, and someone can make a reasonable commonsense case to the prosecuting authorities or the investigating authorities. The police can get a warrant and make a case to a magistrate, but it cannot just be done as a fishing expedition. I am a non-lawyer, but I can say that with absolute certainty. There has to be a scintilla of a commonsense reason why they are asking for the warrant, but they can get a warrant to search for the evidence. They do not have to have the evidence, but they have to have reasonable grounds for believing or being informed that the evidence may be at a particular premises. They would be able to go to the magistrate on the basis that it could not be challenged, and a reasonable person would grant them a warrant to do the search.

If I have missed anything, I will certainly come back and send a brief note. I am always reluctant to do that, as it is much better that information goes on the record for people who read our proceedings. I probably do not have the answer for the noble Duke, but time is up. I have finished, and I cannot keep going any longer. I am grateful for the support for the regulations. I am a Johnny-come-lately on this issue, as noble Lords know; the legislation had gone through, and I carried the very end of it for colleagues in Defra. I know Ben Bradshaw, the animal welfare Minister, will be delighted at the passage of these regulations in both Houses today.

On Question, Motion agreed to.