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Grand Committee

Volume 790: debated on Tuesday 27 March 2018

Grand Committee

Tuesday 27 March 2018

Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) (Custodial Premises) Subordinate Provisions Order 2018

Considered in Grand Committee

Moved by

That the Grand Committee do consider the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) (Custodial Premises) Subordinate Provisions Order 2018.

My Lords, in bringing forward this statutory instrument the Government are seeking to restore the long-established principle that responsibility for enforcing fire safety regulations across the whole of the Crown’s custodial and detention estate should lie with those who have been appointed or authorised as Crown inspectors by Ministers in England and in Wales. At present, Crown inspectors in England and Wales are not the enforcing authorities for fire safety in the small number—about 7%—of custodial and detention premises where the Government have contracted out the provision of services to private providers.

That this was a significant issue became apparent in 2016 when responsibility for Crown inspectors in England transferred to the Home Office. Crown inspectors, the Home Office and the Ministry of Justice instigated an investigation into the contractual arrangements in place for the provision of custodial or detention operations. As a result of this detailed review of contracts and ownership arrangements, it became clear that a number of contractual arrangements had been put in place for the operation of these premises, which had had the effect of transferring ownership or occupation for the purposes of the fire safety order away from the relevant Crown departments to private companies. Where this has happened, the responsibility for enforcing compliance with fire safety regulation has similarly been transferred away from our dedicated teams of Crown inspectors, and lies instead with the individual local fire and rescue authorities in which the relevant premises are located. This is not what was intended when the fire safety order was enacted in October 2006.

At that time, the then Government were clear that, irrespective of any contractual arrangements that were in place with the private sector for the provision of services, they wanted Crown inspectors to be the sole enforcing authorities in these types of premises. Indeed, they went so far as to spell this out in the guidance on enforcement that they published, to which all those with enforcement responsibilities under the fire safety order are required to have regard.

Now we are aware that the policy intent no longer aligns with the law, we want to rectify the position and ensure that the original policy of Crown inspectors inspecting, and where necessary enforcing, fire safety regulation across the whole of the Government’s custodial estate is re-established. We want to ensure that there is absolute clarity, both now and in the future, about the scope of enforcement responsibilities for the fire and rescue authorities and the Crown inspectors. This order therefore amends article 25 of the fire safety order to set out specific legal definitions of the full range of custodial premises for which the Crown inspectors are to be responsible. These will be established beyond doubt and will not, as is currently the case, be contingent on the often complex contractual leasing or ownership arrangements that may now be in place. Essentially, this order delivers through legislation the clarity that was intended by the 2007 policy guidance on enforcement.

It is the Government’s intention, shared by our counterparts in Wales, for there to be a single national organisation in each of our areas of jurisdiction: an organisation charged with the responsibility and invested with the specific skills and expertise necessary to provide three key things.

First, we want Ministers and relevant departments—which of course have the ultimate responsibility for fire safety in these types of custodial and detention premises—to benefit from the strategic oversight of fire safety compliance across the whole of the Crown’s custodial estate that is available where a single national body is in place. Secondly, we want there to be a clear and easily accessible route established for ensuring that any concerns relating to fire safety in our custodial estate can be raised immediately and addressed promptly by those with day-to-day responsibilities for fire safety management. Where reluctance or poor communication militates against appropriate action, we want an immediate escalation mechanism—direct to Ministers, if necessary—to be in place and delivered through our national fire and rescue advisers. In England, this means the Chief Inspector of the Crown Premises Fire Inspection Group. In Wales, as in Scotland, it means the Welsh Government’s Chief Fire and Rescue Adviser. Thirdly, we want a dedicated cadre of fire safety inspecting officers, each with the necessary training, maintained and regularly updated, to operate safely and effectively in this unique type of premises, where the risk to life in the event of a fire is generally high.

The order will re-establish robust national arrangements across all of the Government’s custodial estate. As such, it will specify the full range of custodial premises for which the Government are responsible, providing absolute clarity on the scope of the Crown’s responsibility for inspection and enforcement. This will ensure that our dedicated team of experienced Crown inspectors are clear that they have the powers to ensure that appropriate fire safety standards are in place to protect the lives of those living in, working on or visiting the Government’s custodial or detention estate. I beg to move.

My Lords, I am grateful to the Minister for introducing the order. I heard from what she said that this anomaly, whereby privately run prisons and custodial premises were not being inspected by national inspectors, was stumbled across when responsibility for Crown inspectors was transferred from the Ministry of Justice to the Home Office. Will she confirm that that is the case, and is it not a little worrying? How long might it have continued if that transfer had not taken place? Clearly, it is very important to have consistency across all privately run prisons and other places of detention, rather than to have the potential for different standards being applied by local fire and rescue services. On that basis, we support the order.

My Lords, like the noble Lord, Lord Paddick, I am very happy to support the order before the Grand Committee. It is certainly very sensible to have the experts in fire safety and security to be looking after the whole of the estate. I am very happy to support it.

I have one query; it is a little disappointing—I refer to page 5 of the impact assessment at paragraph 1.9. I am surprised that we still have this ridiculous “one in, three out” rule. It does not apply here because the Government have clearly tested it against that ridiculous rule. It is an example of the worst kind of ideological, political dogma. You would have thought, in the aftermath of a tragedy such as Grenfell, we would not be using it, but clearly the Government still are. I hope that any regulation is in force at any time because it is necessary and proper. I cannot believe we still have this arbitrary rule. It is a matter of much regret, which I will probably take up elsewhere. Other than that, I am very happy to support the order, but I was surprised to see this when I read through the papers this morning.

I acknowledge the frustration of the noble Lord, Lord Kennedy, but first the noble Lord, Lord Paddick, said that we “stumbled across” this issue. Fire and rescue services were inspecting private prisons during the said period. Responsibility for Crown inspectors transferred from MHCLG in January 2016, but, going back, when the regulatory reform order was implemented in October 2006 the then Government issued statutory guidance to all those bodies that had a duty to enforce its provisions in the range of premises to which it applies. The guidance, to which all enforcing authorities are required to have regard, specifically addressed the issue of enforcement in the custodial estate. As it made clear:

“For the avoidance of doubt all civilian prisons, young offender institutions, immigration detention, holding or removal centres, court custody suites, customs and excise detention areas are the responsibility of the Fire Inspectors of the Crown Premises Inspections Group regardless of whether they are operated by the relevant Government department or contracted out”.

But as we know, what the law actually says does not always align with the policy intent, no matter how sound the principles are on which it is based. The principles are sound, as they were in 2007 when the guidance was issued, and they remain so. I hope that the statutory instrument before the Committee clarifies the situation and I beg to move.

Motion agreed.

Police Powers of Designated Civilian Staff and Volunteers (Excluded Powers and Duties of Constables) Regulations 2018

Considered in Grand Committee

Moved by

That the Grand Committee do consider the Police Powers of Designated Civilian Staff and Volunteers (Excluded Powers and Duties of Constables) Regulations 2018.

My Lords, noble Lords will recall the debates we had on the Policing and Crime Bill during the last Session—it seems a long time ago. The Bill received Royal Assent on 31 January 2017 and many of its provisions are already in force, with a number of further measures due to be implemented on 1 April.

The Committee will recall that the Act provided the legislative underpinning for a number of important reforms which included provisions enabling chief officers to make better use of police staff and volunteers, freeing up police officers to focus on their key tasks. Chapter 1 of Part 3 of the Policing and Crime Act 2017 amends Section 38 of the Police Reform Act 2002 to enable civilians employed by police forces to be designated with additional police powers. These reforms also enable volunteers under the direction and control of a chief police officer to be designated with powers for the first time. Part 1 of Schedule 3B of the Police Reform Act 2002 sets out a list of powers that are reserved solely for use by constables and cannot be used by police staff or volunteers. Included within that list are some of the most intrusive powers available to constables such as stop and search and arrest.

When we consulted on these reforms in 2015, the Police Federation proposed the removal of one of the original powers of detention officers made available in 2002, that of carrying out an intimate search when a medical professional is not available. While the number of intimate searches conducted by police staff rather than constables is very low—they have been carried out three times nationally in 15 years—this is a very intrusive power and I committed in our debate to restrict its use. Unfortunately, due to an oversight in the drafting process, the Act does not in fact restrict the use of this power, so these draft regulations would deliver on that commitment. Regulation 2 would add the power to undertake an intimate search when a medical professional is not available, under Section 55(6) of the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984, to the list of excluded powers and duties. As with the other powers already on this list, they are reserved solely for use by constables and cannot be used by police staff or volunteers.

The addition to the schedule of excluded powers and duties of the power to conduct an intimate search in the absence of a medical professional will ensure that the most intrusive powers remain available only to police officers, thus preserving the office of constable as central to the delivery of policing in England and Wales. These draft regulations deliver the full intent of the measures already approved by noble Lords in the last Session. On that basis, I commend them to the Committee.

My Lords, I am grateful to the Minister for introducing this statutory instrument. I recommend that it is used by Radio 4 as one of its puzzles of the day because the complexity of the legislation had me going for a little while.

As I understand it, the Policing and Crime Act 2017 allows chief constables to confer powers of a constable to community support officers and community support volunteers unless the power is specifically excluded by its inclusion in Part 1 of Schedule 3B of the Police Reform Act 2002. I am getting reassuring nods from the Minister’s officials. The Government have woken up to the fact that this would include the power to conduct an intimate search if a police inspector or above—it used to be a superintendent but that was changed in other legislation—considers that an intimate search by a registered medical practitioner or registered nurse is not practicable. This would be, presumably, where there was concern that something was concealed that might cause harm to the individual or to other people, or that important evidence might be concealed which could be lost if the search did not take place straightaway.

I was going to ask the Minister to explain how this power was highlighted as not being suitable for PCSOs or volunteers to undertake but she has already explained that it was the Police Federation which raised this as an issue. However, I wonder how many other powers should be included in Part 1 of Schedule 3B of the Police Reform Act 2002 that we are yet to discover. I was also going to ask how many times the power had been used by PCSOs or volunteers but the Minister said that it had been used three times in the past 15 years.

During the passage of the Bill we made quite clear our concerns about powers that should be reserved for police officers potentially being given to police community support officers and police community support volunteers. However this is an important and welcome addition to Part 1 of Schedule 3B of the Police Reform Act 2002 and therefore we support it.

My Lords, like the noble Lord, Lord Paddick, I am happy to support the regulations before the Grand Committee. It is obviously sensible that civilians are designated as having certain additional police powers as and when an appropriate police officer believes they are needed. Equally, of course, it is important that certain things are prohibited, and certainly an intimate search should not be in the hands of anyone but a warranted police officer. That is why I fully support this order.

I thank both noble Lords for their contributions. On the question asked by the noble Lord, Lord Paddick, about how many other powers should be included, he is right that the Government should keep these excluded powers under review. They will give careful consideration to any request to add powers but it should be noted that the regulation-making power within Section 38(6)(c) of the 2002 Act can only be used to add powers to the list—that is, to remove further powers from designated staff and volunteers. The noble Lord probably knows that primary legislation would be required to remove any powers from the list and enable them to be designated to staff or volunteers.

Motion agreed.

Non-Domestic Rating (Rates Retention and Levy and Safety Net) (Amendment) Regulations 2018

Considered in Grand Committee

Moved by

That the Grand Committee do consider the Non-Domestic Rating (Rates Retention and Levy and Safety Net) (Amendment) Regulations 2018.

My Lords, these regulations, which are highly technical, make changes to the regulatory framework governing the day-to-day operation of the business rates retention scheme. The amendments in these regulations are necessary to ensure that the regulatory framework properly reflects the impact of the 2017 business rates revaluation, our decision to create new 100% business rates pilots in London and 10 other areas of the country, and changes to the compensation arrangements in enterprise zones.

Before saying something about each of the changes, I remind the Committee that the rates retention scheme was introduced with effect from 1 April 2013. For the first time since 1990, it allows local authorities to keep a percentage of the business rates they collect from local ratepayers and gives them a direct financial interest in maintaining and extending their business rates’ bases.

When the scheme was first set up, local government was able to keep 50% of locally raised business rates, subject only to a redistribution mechanism that requires authorities which have more business rates than their relative needs to pay over some of that income as a so-called tariff, while authorities that have a lower business rates income than their relative needs receive a top-up payment.

In 2017-18, we allowed local authorities in five newly created 100% pilot areas to keep all the local business rates they raised. Additionally, we increased the GLA’s share of business rates from 20% to 37% and, in return, it took on direct responsibility for financing Transport for London’s investment grant from its additional share.

In December last year, we announced that we would create a further 11 100% pilot areas, including in London. In 2018-19, therefore, local authorities in Berkshire, Cornwall, Derbyshire, Devon, Gloucestershire, Greater Manchester, Kent, Leeds City, Lincolnshire, Liverpool, London, Solent, Suffolk, Surrey, West of England and the West Midlands will all keep 100% of the business rates they raise locally. The regulations before the Committee this afternoon will give administrative effect to the 11 new 100% pilots that will come into force on 1 April 2018. They will ensure that the sums paid and received by the pilot authorities over the course of the year reflect the new pilot arrangements.

As well as amending the administrative arrangements of the rates retention scheme to reflect the new 100% pilots, the regulations also make changes to tariffs and top-ups following the revaluation. As I said earlier, tariffs and top-ups are the way in which we redistribute local tax income between richer and poorer authorities under the rates retention scheme. They were originally set in 2013-14 based on the difference between the business rates that authorities were expected to collect in that year and their relative need, as established in that year’s local government finance settlement. Since then, they have been uprated only by inflation.

However, as a result of the business rates revaluation that took effect on 1 April 2017, the amount of business rates that authorities will actually collect in 2017-18 will be very different from what they collected in 2016-17. If, therefore, we were simply to uprate the existing tariffs and top-ups by inflation, as we have done in the past, authorities could find their income from business rates substantially changed, for reasons quite unconnected to their efforts to secure growth. Therefore, when we set the scheme up in 2013, we announced that we would adjust tariffs and top-ups to strip out the impact of revaluations.

In the 2017-18 settlement, we announced adjusted tariffs and top-ups for all authorities, but, as we said at the time, we would revise them in the 2018-19 settlement to reflect updated data. These revisions were duly made in February as part of the local government finance settlement for 2018-19. However, the revised values are also used in the calculation of levy and safety net payments under the rates retention scheme. The changes made by the regulations before the Committee this afternoon ensure that the revised values for tariffs and top-ups in 2017-18 and 2018-19 will be used in levy and safety net calculations. Without these regulations, the calculation of the levy and safety net payments due to or from authorities would be wrong. Authorities that needed a safety net payment would fail to get one, and other authorities might be forced to pay a levy that they could ill afford.

Finally, the regulations make changes to the financing of enterprise zones. Under the rates retention scheme, certain areas have been designated as enterprise zones. In those zones, authorities are entitled to keep all of the growth in business rates income. The growth is used by local enterprise partnerships, or LEPs, to help regenerate the zones. Enterprise zones were first set up in 2013, and there are now more than 200 separate zones in nearly 100 local authorities. As well as keeping all the growth in business rates in an enterprise zone, authorities are also able to give business rates relief to new businesses relocating there, thus further stimulating economic development. Where authorities use their powers to award relief, they can be compensated by central government for the reduction in their income. Compensation is given to local authorities by allowing them to deduct the cost of the relief from the 50% share of business rates that they otherwise pay to central government under the rates retention scheme. Of course, with the advent of 100% business rates pilots, any compensation owed to 100% pilot authorities will be paid via a Section 31 grant because there is no longer a central share from which it can be deducted.

When the first enterprise zones were set up in 2013, authorities were entitled to receive compensation for the relief they gave for a period of five years until 31 March 2018. That period, set out in the rates retention regulations, has not changed since, despite the fact that we have set up new enterprise zones in 2014, 2015, 2016 and 2017. In order to ensure that every enterprise zone is treated on an equal footing, regardless of the date that it came into being, the regulations ensure that authorities can be compensated for up to five years after the enterprise zone came into existence, regardless of whether that was 2013, 2017 or any year in between.

To sum up, the regulations make technical changes to the administration of the business rates retention system to reflect the impact of the revaluation. They allow the new 100% rates retention pilots to operate from 1 April 2018, and they put all enterprise zones on a level playing field. Without the changes, authorities would be unable to receive the income from the business rates retention scheme to which they are entitled. I commend these regulations to the Committee.

I register my interest as a councillor in the borough of Kirklees, which is part of the Leeds combined authority, rather than Leeds City, for the 100% business rates retention scheme. The people in Kirklees would not be happy to think they were part of Leeds City, so we had better make that clear.

Not ever, I would say. As the Minister said, these are quite complex technical amendments, which, in the circumstances, I particularly welcome. Obviously, as he has indicated, they are to enable the so-called 100% business rates retention pilot authorities to come into existence next week.

I do not think that the Minister referred to the fact that the pilots lasted for only two years, as I understand it. That comes up against the deadline for the loss of government revenue support grant, and I would like to comment on that. First, the Minister described this as a very technical document, which it is. On other occasions I have referred to the opaque way in which these changes are referenced, and perhaps the Minister will be able to explain what they all mean. For instance, one of the formulae that amends Schedule 4 reads, in Regulation 9(4):

“(A-(B+C-D-E)) x 33%”.

It would be great if those of us involved in local authority finance were able to fathom what that means, because nowhere in the document is there any reference to what any of those letters refer to. One thing that we should do in these technical documents is to make it clear what the letters in the formulae refer to. I know that the regulations refer back to the original Act but I do not think that that is helpful for anybody who just looks at the amendments.

Secondly, the headline reference to 100% retention of business rates is misleading. It would help understanding and discussion at the end of the pilot period if that phrase were not used to describe what actually happens, which is that 100% goes out but then you have tariffs, top-ups, levies and safety nets to take into account. Certainly in some areas, those tariffs and top-ups are significant, and they change the way that we look at the delegation of business rates. Therefore, in my view we are looking not at genuine fiscal devolution but at changes in the way that business rates are redistributed. I support what is happening but we need to recognise that we are not talking about 100% due to the way that the money is divvied up.

Can the Minister provide us with some reassurance as to the progress of the fair funding review? How will the business rates retention scheme fit with that model, and how will an ever-diverging local government tax base be addressed to provide for equalisation of the funding system? This will be a challenge for government but it will be a very big headache for local authorities unless what the funding looks like and how the business rates retention scheme fits with that are made much clearer and more transparent.

Any business needs to plan two or three years ahead. We are facing 2020—which is 18 months away—when local authorities will be making decisions about their budgets, but those of us in local authorities have no idea what the funding system will look like. Will there be more—we optimists live in hope—or less, which is more likely? Where will the money come from and what will the requirements be from government for spending the ever-decreasing fund that we have?

I appreciate that these are very technical regulations and I broadly support the move towards giving local government greater control and responsibility over the funds that it has, but I look forward to the Minister’s response to some of my queries.

My Lords, I refer the Grand Committee to my relevant interests as a councillor in the London Borough of Lewisham and as a vice-president of the Local Government Association. I should say at the outset that I am happy to support these regulations. As the noble Baroness, Lady Pinnock, has just said, this is a technical document and she made a valid point when she highlighted the formula. I must say that the key she is after would have belonged in the Explanatory Notes. It is strange that we have notes but no explanation of what the letters mean. It cannot be changed now, but perhaps it is something that the department should take back for the future. However, as I say, I support the regulations which are useful and will be helpful.

I hope that the Minister will be able to answer a couple of questions. We will have 10 pilot authorities. How many actually applied for this? I might be wrong, but I think that it was around 24 authorities. What is the department doing in terms of providing feedback to the unsuccessful authorities to explain why they were not selected? If I was a member of an authority which had not been selected, I would certainly like to know why that was the case. There may be all sorts of reasons, but it would be useful to know what is said to those authorities which are not to be part of the scheme.

The noble Baroness also mentioned the fair funding review. I hope that the noble Lord will be able to say a little more about that. Can he confirm whether any councils will see a reduction in their income as a consequence of the fair funding review? Will everyone get a bit more or will they all remain as they are now? It would be useful if he could respond to that.

There is also the question of the business rates appeals. I think that something like 150,000 appeals have been hanging around since 2010. We have to deal with them because at the moment the system is not working. The Valuation Office Agency needs more resources to speed up its work because it would be better for everyone if these issues were resolved as quickly as possible. Some of these appeals now go back almost eight years so they need to be sorted out. Again, I would be grateful if the noble Lord can tell us something about the position.

I am also aware of the grant error set out in a Written Ministerial Statement published on 20 March. There appears to have been an overpayment of £36 million which the Government are not going to claw back this year, but may do so in the next financial year. How did the error come about? I would like to understand what has happened because it is quite a large sum of money. Has provision been made for councils to hand the money back or will the repayment be spread over future years?

With those few points, I am happy to approve the regulations.

My Lords, I thank the noble Baroness, Lady Pinnock, and the noble Lord, Lord Kennedy, for their contributions and I shall try to deal with the points raised. I am flying solo at the moment so one or two caveats may be entered here and there.

On the technical issue raised by the noble Baroness and echoed by the noble Lord about the nature of some of the schedules with the figures and letters set out in them which make Einstein look rather straightforward, perhaps I may get back to them to try to explain how they work.

I shall take up the point made by the noble Baroness about Leeds City Council. I have checked the schedule where it is referred to simply as “Leeds”, but I very much take the point she made about the fierce local loyalty in Kirklees and I readily understand the point she is making.

I gently disagree with the noble Baroness on fiscal devolution. This is significant fiscal devolution. Obviously, at the end of the day there have to be adjustments, which I think we all support. Without a smoothing mechanism, so that rich authorities contribute towards poorer authorities, the system would break down as being totally unfair. I understand the point that she makes, but I think that this is significant fiscal devolution.

Both the noble Lord and the noble Baroness raised the fair funding review. In a sense, we have twin-track processes, both of which kick in in 2021. Significant work is being done on the fair funding review. I say to the noble Lord, without anticipating precisely what the review will show, which of course I cannot do, that I would be amazed if everywhere got a larger sum of money. That is not how it will work. I would have thought that some will get a lesser sum of money, while others will get more. The essence of it is that it will be fair.

The noble Lord asked how many applicants there were to be pilot authority areas. Twenty-six made an application. We have sought to explain to those authorities that were not chosen that the field was competitive, that there was a lot of interest and how we made the decisions. He then, fairly, raised the issue of appeals. He will know—we were both party to the discussion—that the check, challenge and appeal process that we are now adopting will significantly cut down the time taken for appeals. We are working alongside those that are appealing to cut down the time further. Considerable work needs to be done, but we are progressing that.

Lastly, the noble Lord, again fairly, raised the issue of Section 31 overpayments. We have taken the decision not to claw back the overpayment for the last financial year, so to that extent the authorities affected are all better off by virtue of that, but for the next financial year, 2018-19, we have decided that we are not going to overpay. Those authorities will get the correct amount of money. It is not as if we are clawing it back, as it has not been paid yet, but it will be a lesser amount than we were proposing to pay, because we got the figures wrong in the department. Mea culpa on that—lessons are being learned and there are red faces. As I say, this has resulted in a windfall for those authorities overpaid last year, but we are ensuring that this year we pay the correct amount—some £80 million less than it would have been if the error had not been spotted.

I am grateful to the noble Lord and the noble Baroness for their support. I will ensure that I respond to them on the points that I was unable to deal with, particularly the technical one about the figures and letters in the schedules. As I say, I am grateful for their support and I commend the regulations to the Committee.

Motion agreed.

European Union (Definition of Treaties) (Work in Fishing Convention) Order 2018

Considered in Grand Committee

Moved by

That the Grand Committee do consider the European Union (Definition of Treaties) (Work in Fishing Convention) Order 2018.

My Lords, I ask that this order, which was laid before the House on 22 February 2018, be considered. This draft order would give the Government the powers to implement the Work in Fishing Convention into UK law by declaring that this 2007 convention, ILO Convention No. 188, is to be regarded as an EU treaty as defined in Section 1(2) of the European Communities Act 1972. As a result, the provisions of the 1972 Act would apply in relation to the convention and could then be used to implement the convention. The order does not in itself implement it; that will require new and amending statutory instruments, which will be laid later this year, if this order is approved, under negative procedure.

So what is the Work in Fishing Convention? It was adopted in Geneva by the International Labour Organization—the ILO—on 14 June 2007 and entered into force internationally on 16 November 2017. It entitles all fishermen to written terms and conditions of employment, decent accommodation and food, medical care, regulated working time, repatriation, social protection and health and safety on board. It also provides minimum standards relating to recruitment and placement. Sadly, in too many cases, as the Committee may be aware from reports in the press during the last year or so, such basic requirements are not always met.

The convention provides global minimum standards for decent work and a framework which enables both flag states and port states to enforce them. The UK should therefore ratify the convention to tackle the fortunately rare cases of labour exploitation in the UK industry and to give the Maritime and Coastguard Agency—the MCA—the tools to enforce the same standards on non-UK fishing vessels visiting UK ports. At a domestic level, it will also help to further safety.

Fishing remains the most dangerous industry in the UK and the Government are committed to making it safer. The MCA works with the Fishing Industry Safety Group to improve fishing vessel safety. One issue which has hindered progress is that much of the UK legislation covering fishermen’s health and safety, and living and working conditions, applies only to employed fishermen when a large proportion of the UK fleet is manned by self-employed share fishermen. The Government consider that the implementation of the convention into UK law is an important step forward in the development of health and safety policy for the fishing industry, as it provides protection for all fishermen regardless of their employment status.

ILO conventions must be ratified as a whole. UK legislation is already compliant with parts of the convention, while the Merchant Shipping Act 1995 provides the necessary powers to implement other parts of it. However, some provisions of the convention cannot be implemented under that Act. This order will allow us to use the powers contained in the European Communities Act 1972 to give effect to those provisions.

The MCA conducted a public consultation on proposals to implement the convention between November 2017 and January 2018. These proposals were developed through extensive discussion with industry representatives. Consultation responses generally supported implementation in principle but raised some concerns about the practical implications. That is why the MCA is considering these responses and will work with industry representatives to mitigate any impact before implementing regulations are made.

I should like to make clear the thinking behind having this choice of instrument, as opposed to new primary legislation. The convention is ancillary to the EU treaties because it contains some matters that lie within the competence of the European Union, although the EU is not itself able to be party to the convention. Other matters are ancillary to the transport and employment provisions of the EU treaties, in particular the promotion of social protection and the raising of the standard of living and employment of fishermen. As an EU Council decision was passed authorising ratification by EU member states, a directive has been adopted on the European social partners’ agreement on the convention; and, as it is not possible to ratify conventions piecemeal, it is appropriate that the convention is deemed to be ancillary to the treaty. I hope the Committee followed all of that.

There is also precedent. The convention is a sister convention to the Maritime Labour Convention 2006. The MLC, widely regarded as a bill of rights for seafarers, was implemented into UK law in 2014. This House approved the European Communities (Definition of Treaties) (Maritime Labour Convention) Order 2009 to use the powers in the European Communities Act to implement the MLC into UK law. As this convention is intended to provide similar protections for fishermen as the MLC did for merchant seafarers, it is appropriate that the same method be used to provide powers to implement the convention.

I therefore propose that this order be made under Section 1(3) of the European Communities Act 1972 in order to use the powers in Section 2(2) of that Act to facilitate the implementation of those provisions of the convention that are not either already implemented into UK law or capable of being implemented using existing powers, thus enabling the United Kingdom in meeting its international obligations and improving working conditions within the fishing industry.

The draft order before the Committee is intended to ensure that the Government have the powers to fully implement the convention into law to improve the health, safety and well-being of all fishermen in the UK. It is fully supported by the UK social partners and by the Government. I beg to move.

My Lords, I declare an interest as a board member of the Marine Management Organisation.

I thank the Minister for her explanation but I still do not get how we will use this legislation. This specifically is not EU legislation. The fact that this process might have been used before should not act as a precedent for repeating something that is wrong. None of the areas covered by this—minimum age and some on the medical side—are exclusively EU competencies. There is a number of EU competencies which are exclusive under the common fisheries policy, but these are not them. This is the wrong instrument with which to effect these measures and I will be interested to hear the Minister’s comments.

As this has an EU context, I am particularly interested in whether all 28 EU member states are signatories to the convention and whether there has been a pan-European signing-up to it.

I welcome the convention. The Minister made the valid point that the order applies to foreign vessels that might come into UK ports and enables us to enforce this. The vast majority of vessels will be from either EEA or EU member states and I would be surprised if they were not meeting the terms of the convention. However, it is an excellent backstop.

It is interesting that the Minister used exclusively the term fishermen whereas the convention refers to fishers. Certainly in North America, “fishers” is the English word that is always used in this context. Will the Government in future always use the term fishers rather than fishermen when they refer to this industry and its participants? Fisherman is an ancient term, it is gender-specific and inappropriate to this industry in the 21st century. I do not accuse the Minister of being inappropriate while she was making her explanation because that has been the way in which we do it in this country, but it is time for change.

My Lords, perhaps I might raise a query. I thank the Minister for introducing the convention order. My query is on the medical aspect that was picked up. Paragraph 4.2 of the Explanatory Memorandum refers to ILO 188 and “medical care”, but paragraph 4.5 refers to “shared competence”. It then goes on to describe,

“medical treatment on board vessels”.

Obviously the vessels will vary in size. Can we be given any clarification on what is expected in the difference between medical care and medical treatment on board vessels?

My Lords, I follow my noble friend Lord Teverson by saying that we support the basic aims of ILO 188, but I have some questions for the Minister. I start with a really easy one. Paragraph 3.2 of the Explanatory Memorandum on the territorial application says,

“this instrument includes Scotland and Northern Ireland”.

What happened to Wales and to England? It then says that,

“it is not a financial instrument that relates exclusively to England, Wales and Northern Ireland”.

What happened to Scotland then? I find that particular paragraph confusing.

This whole process has been very slow. ILO 188 was laid before Parliament in 2008. The Government say they now hope to rectify this as soon as possible. Given that we are a decade on, when will that be? Is that what the Minister was referring to when she said that the Government hope to take further action by later this year? Do we have any clarity as to exactly what that phrase means?

The Government are making this order under the European Communities Act 1972 to facilitate the implementation of ILO 188. My noble friend drew attention to the appropriateness, or not, of using this method, but the Government have chosen to do it by that system. It raises a wry smile, of course, at this stage of our attempts to leave the EU, but nevertheless that is the Government’s chosen path. One has to ask: what would be the implications of Brexit on how we implement this? There are obviously issues of shared competence here. It is not that the EU has remained uninterested in this. The Council exhorted member states to ratify it by the end of 2012. We are clearly lagging behind that timescale, but at least the work is now being done. One applauds that.

I realise that this is a mechanism for further implementation, but the impact statements say that there will be “no impact on business” and that it,

“does not apply to activities that are undertaken by small businesses”.

What we are doing by agreeing to this is unlocking the door to rules and regulations that will surely apply to small businesses. I am confused by the lack of an impact assessment and by the statements on the lack of impact on business. Are the Government saying that there is no impact because we do all this anyway? I thought that might be the answer, but in fact the Minister just stood up and said that very often these rules are not observed. We need to receive an explanation to find out exactly why the Government feel that an impact assessment is not necessary.

Finally, I refer to regulated working time, to which the Minister referred earlier. She pinpointed the fact that these standards often are not met. I wonder what the Government have in mind to improve conditions in relation to regulated working time.

My Lords, I am a late draftee to this Committee and already I feel out of my depth—I tend to feel out of my depth in three feet of sea-water, but I will get accustomed to the situation, I am quite sure. I understand that this may well be the Minister’s last speech, as she is leaving the Front Bench. Of course, we all wish her well. I do not have the slightest doubt that she will, with her usual skill, answer the challenging questions that have already been presented to the Committee, and I can reassure her that I do not have a challenging question.

Although I was born in south Wales, I was brought up 14 miles from Stratford-upon-Avon, so of course we lived by the works of Shakespeare. I remember when I played the part of Orlando, who was proud enough to boast,

“yet am I inland bred. And know some nurture”.

In other words, he was born in the Midlands, a long way from the sea, and was therefore a polite, dutiful citizen and well respected; and heaven help those people who went anywhere near where rougher trades were practised—for which I have no doubt fishers qualified.

I very much enjoyed the point that the noble Lord, Lord Teverson, made, and I am sure that the Minister will respect it. After all, I thought it had a biblical origin—“ye shall be fishers of men”, not “fishermen”. So the word has a tradition to it, and I am sure the Minister will accept that point.

I also recognise the obvious fact that the issue of small businesses is bound to apply as far as fishing is concerned. My own perspective on fishing was that it used very small vessels indeed, until eventually, by some mischance, I arrived in Ullapool—actually, it was deliberate: we enjoyed Ullapool very much. The amount of fish being landed there and the activities of the trawlers were enormously impressive. However, what seems be going on is the absolute reversal of 16th-century trade patterns. Whereas Drake went to the Spanish Main and brought home Spanish treasure, it looked to me as though the great trucks came from Spain to take Scottish treasure—the catches brought in by the local trawlers—back to Spain.

Let me assure the Committee that we are in favour of this instrument. We recognise the point that it is not an EU document. Nevertheless, I am sure that the Minister will explain why we continue to use this framework and why it will stand us in good stead. It needs to, because there is no doubt that in recent years there has been growing anxiety about the conditions in which men—it is almost universally men—are employed in the fishing fleet. Many are in ships in which conditions can be quite deplorable.

A recent development is the recognition of people trafficking. I do not know how far back it goes, but I can certainly recall a time when the concept of trafficking did not apply to people who worked on British fishing vessels. The trafficking that has been exposed must be a shock to us all, and it involves people from a very long way away indeed—Sri Lanka is very far away for a fisher involved in work on a British vessel to claim to be in home waters, and certainly he did not arrive on that vessel when it was directly off the coast of Sri Lanka. But it is an indication of the extent to which people trafficking is an increasing problem. We know it most acutely, of course, in the migration in the Mediterranean, but it is not just there that it is happening: ask the Australians about the problems in their part of the world.

We are aware of the fact that there are cases of British vessels being involved with people who look as though they have appeared in the crew not through orthodox recruitment but through trafficking, where it is the intermediaries who make all the money out of them. Often, therefore, they work in appalling conditions on vessels, and they have great difficulty working out any strategy for escape. It is difficult to know what the correct word for “work” is if you have no escape from it and no control at all over conditions—I suggest that it is some form of modern slavery. That is the seriousness with which we should address this issue today. I am very glad, therefore, that both in the other place and here my party is fully behind these steps to improve the situation—and not before time.

I am interested in the question of enforcement measures, and perhaps the Minister might dwell a little on these. If the legislation is not directly anyone’s, the problem is who then takes responsibility for the effective policing and operation of these areas. I am sure that the Minister has a clear answer to that question.

This may be a brief document and a brief debate, but it is about the most serious of issues. We certainly want our fishing industry to be clear of the malpractices that have been identified here. Of course, it may be that it is always foreign vessels identified in British waters that are involved, but we cannot be too careful. We need the response of international action because, of all industries, fishing is so obviously an international practice for so many—fishers do not just stay in home waters.

The other dimension is obvious as well. There is no industry with a greater casualty risk than the fishing industry. Only two days ago, I was talking to a steeplejack—retired, I hasten to add. He had been in the employ of the Church Commissioners and had spent all his working life working on contracts for English cathedrals. What a joy that must have been in so many ways, and he was a wonderfully enlightened man. When I questioned him about the risks involved in his industry, he said, “We don’t take risks; we’re professional in what we do and accidents are few and far between”. Would that that were entirely true of our fishing industry also.

I thank all noble Lords who have taken part. I particularly thank the noble Lord, Lord Davies, for his kind words. Unless there is an Urgent Question, which can easily happen, this probably will be the last time I stand up from the Front Bench. But that is probably just as well, because when I finish replying to this I will probably get the sack anyway—I have to say that I have found it quite a difficult order to understand. However, I thank everybody for their words and I will try to answer all the questions.

The noble Lord, Lord Teverson, mentioned the words “fishermen” and “fishers”. Funnily enough, I brought that up when I was given my brief. It turns out that, even though in academic circles “fishers” is the term it is thought should be used, apparently the industry particularly said that its members still want to be known as fishermen. That is why we are referring to “fishermen”, but it will be interesting, as time goes on, to see whether that does indeed change.

The noble Lord, Lord Teverson, also asked why we are implementing the convention in this way, as it has nothing to do with the EU. Some aspects of the convention come exclusively within EU competence, but an EU directive that comes into force later in 2019 requires the implementation of the social partners agreement, which incorporates the provisions of the convention only for employed fishermen. Therefore, the convention will form part of EU law and Section 2(2) is appropriate for that reason. That is why we are doing it in this way.

The noble Lord also wanted to know how many states had signed up to the convention so far. The answer is three of the 28.

The noble Baroness, Lady Randerson, talked about impact assessments. A full impact assessment has been done on the SIs that have been introduced to implement ILO 188 and this has been subject to public consultation. The noble Baroness also talked about the speed of implementation and asked why it has taken so long. The measure was originally laid before Parliament in May 2008 and we then started consultation with the fishing industry. Some Governments have continued to support the policy, but I am afraid that it has taken time to get round to implementing it.

My noble friend Lady Byford asked about medical treatment. There is what I suppose you would describe as a trained first-aider, with equipment, on board vessels. If somebody falls ill while they are abroad, the owner of the vessel has to pay the bills for any hospital treatment. However, part of the point of implementing the convention is that we wish to highlight safety on vessels and the need to check the health of fishermen, ensuring that they are fit when they go to sea.

The noble Lord, Lord Davies, talked, quite rightly, about the problems of modern slavery in the fishing industry. There have indeed been such problems, and in fact I think that there was a case last year. It is felt that this measure will tackle the scourge of modern slavery in the industry through enhanced inspections and regulations. That is being borne very much in mind, as is the safety of all fishermen. As we know, it is one of the least safe industries in which to work, which I suppose is not surprising when you consider what fishermen are up against on the sea.

I think that I have covered all the questions. If there are any that I have not answered, I will make sure that I write to noble Lords. However, I hope that the Committee will agree that the Work in Fishing Convention will help to overcome the dangers associated with the fishing industry. The Government are committed to improving safety in this sector and it is right that all fishermen are afforded the protections within the convention relating to working conditions. I commend the draft order to your Lordships.

Motion agreed.

Animal Welfare (Licensing of Activities Involving Animals) (England) Regulations 2018

Considered in Grand Committee

Moved by

That the Grand Committee do consider the Animal Welfare (Licensing of Activities Involving Animals) (England) Regulations 2018.

My Lords, I am delighted to bring forward this important set of regulations which introduce a new system of local authority licensing of activities involving animals in England. The regulations form part of an important package of reforms that the Government are delivering to improve animal welfare.

These regulations meet the Government’s manifesto commitment to continue their review and reform of the pet licensing controls and specifically to update the licensing system for dog breeding, pet sales, riding establishments and animal boarding establishments. They also modernise the system for animal exhibits, which are currently regulated under the Performing Animals Act 1925. The current licensing and registration system that covers these five animal activities is outdated and complex. The new regulations create up-to-date minimum welfare standards for these five activities in England, while streamlining the system for both local authorities and businesses. We have worked closely with stakeholders from the sector, animal welfare organisations, local authorities and veterinary bodies in drafting these regulations and are very grateful for their support, in particular the work of the Canine and Feline Sector Group and the Equine Sector Council for helping to co-ordinate this.

One of the key issues with the current licensing system is that the animal welfare standards with which businesses are required to comply have not been updated for many years. The schedules to the new regulations include detailed animal welfare standards for each of the activities that have been developed in close consultation with stakeholders. These will ensure that anyone who receives a licence for dog breeding, selling pets, boarding dogs and cats, hiring out horses or keeping or training animals for exhibit will need to meet these new minimum welfare standards. This should help to drive up animal welfare standards across all of these sectors.

Many people and organisations have been calling for more restrictions to be placed in particular on the breeding and selling of dogs, where it is felt that there are unscrupulous businesses that breed dogs in poor conditions for maximum profit. The regulations address this issue in a number of ways. We are making changes to the definition of dog breeding so as to ensure that the regulations capture both large-scale dog breeders as well as smaller-scale dog breeding businesses. Under the new regulations, anyone who is in the business of breeding and selling dogs will need a licence. In addition, breeders that are not classed as a business will also need a licence if they breed three or more litters a year and sell any of them. Overall, this will ensure that more breeders are captured under the regulations and will need to comply with the high animal welfare requirements set out within them. They ensure that we can crack down on unregulated backstreet breeding.

It is important to acknowledge the sad fact that many unsuspecting potential buyers are providing a lucrative market for rogue dog breeders and animal dealers who work illegally outside the licensing system. The regulations therefore include a number of measures that will help consumers to identify these rogue traders and make more informed decisions when purchasing an animal. No licensed breeder or pet seller will be able to sell a puppy, kitten, ferret or rabbit which is below eight weeks of age. In addition, we have ensured that the recently updated welfare codes for cats and dogs carry the same requirement, so that no one should be separating puppies or kittens from their mothers before eight weeks of age unless there are genuine welfare reasons for the mother or the offspring.

Following the excellent work undertaken by the Pet Advertising Advisory Group, we have placed a number of the PAAG voluntary minimum standards in the regulations. Licence holders are now required to publish their licence number on all adverts, including online adverts, so that consumers can check this with the relevant local authority to make sure that it is a legitimate business. Adverts will also have to include a photograph of the animal and state its country of residence and origin. All licensed businesses will also receive a risk rating from one to five stars, based on the welfare standards that they adopt and their compliance record. This is a similar system to the one used in the food hygiene rating scheme.

For puppies, there is an additional requirement for any sale of a puppy to be completed at the premises where the puppy was bred, to make sure that the purchaser sees the puppy and the conditions that it has been kept in before making the final purchase. All licensed breeders can only show a puppy to a prospective purchaser if it is together with its mother, unless separation from the mother is necessary for welfare reasons. All licensed pet sellers are also required to provide purchasers with information about how to care for the animal they are buying. These measures will ensure that consumers are able to make more informed decisions when buying an animal, and are better able to care for it once they have taken it home. This is particularly important for more exotic species such as reptiles.

Many people are concerned about the increase in the online sale of pets. Currently, the legislation is not clear on whether or not these businesses require a licence, and so enforcement is inconsistent across the country. Under the new regulations, all commercial sales require a licence, including those that take place online. All of these businesses will have to comply with the minimum welfare standards set out in the regulations. These measures will ensure that the licensing system is consistent and fit for purpose in this modern age.

The licensing system is run by local authorities and funded by full cost recovery, so there is no financial burden on local authorities. Licences can be issued at any point in the calendar year, which will help to spread the workload across the year. The maximum licence length that can be issued is increased from one to three years, with longer licences going to businesses with earned recognition. This should reduce the workload for local authorities, allowing them to spend more time on enforcement of unlicensed businesses and on the less compliant businesses.

This will also reduce the burden on good businesses, such as those that operate to a particularly high standard of animal welfare and those associated with a body accredited by UKAS—for example, breeders in the Kennel Club’s assured breeder scheme. Such businesses will already be exceeding the requirements of the regulations and so will be able to achieve longer licences for a lower fee. This clearly also provides an incentive for businesses to improve welfare standards.

We recognise that the implementation of these regulations will be crucial to their success, and so local authority inspectors will be required to undertake specific training on licensing and inspection. This will ensure that they are suitably qualified to undertake inspections for all of the animal activities covered by the regulations. To that end, the City of London has worked with the pet industry to develop a syllabus for a level 3 training course for animal activities inspection, which inspectors will be required to attend. Local authorities will be able to recoup all their reasonable costs for this training from the licensing regime.

The regulations have been drafted in consultation with stakeholders from the industry, animal welfare organisations, local authorities and veterinary bodies, and we are very grateful for their assistance. The regulations are proportionate and targeted and will help to improve animal welfare across a number of sectors. For these reasons, I commend the regulations to the Committee. I beg to move.

My Lords, I am grateful to the Minister and his officials for their time and explanations regarding this SI and for his comprehensive introductory remarks. I declare my interest as a district councillor. It is now two years since Defra’s initial consultation on this important issue and I welcome moving it forward.

This SI covers a number of domestic animal welfare issues that are of great concern to the public, including the breeding and selling of animals, animal boarding establishments and, as the Minister said, the hiring out of horses. While it is essential to ensure that animal welfare is paramount, I welcome the introduction of requiring only one licence instead of the two previously needed. This is a sensible cut in bureaucracy. The Minister has provided assurances that those working in the sector have been consulted in the form of the equine, feline and canine organisations and that the Government have been working closely with them and with vets. A licence lasting up to two years instead of being renewed every year will be welcomed, as will the risk-based approach to the length of the licence and the ability for it to be given at any time during the year, not just at the year end.

My colleague and noble friend Lady Parminter has raised the issue of puppy farming on a number of occasions inside and outside the Chamber, and was extremely concerned that there should be adequate regulation of this often very distressing industry. Defra launched a call for evidence on the third-party sale of puppies and kittens on 8 February. This consultation will close on 2 May and we look forward to its results. We would be grateful if the Minister could give us an indication of when the results might be published.

We welcome the restriction of the number of litters that a bitch may have to one a year as a great step forward. The prohibition of the sale of a puppy—as well as kittens and other animals—below the age of eight weeks, and the need for a puppy to be shown with its mother by breeders prior to sale, will also be welcomed by those legitimate breeders and owners who have the best interests of their animals at heart. Similarly, the detailed restrictions on the size, height and type of boarding kennels and catteries should ensure that domestic animals can be left by their owners, in confidence that their pets will be well looked after during their absence.

As a local councillor, I am aware that local authorities are under tremendous pressure with budget restraints. I fully support the move to allow them to have full-cost recovery for their work in granting licences, as well as being able to raise fees for reasonable enforcement. In the past, it has not always been possible for the cost of extra work passed to local authorities to be recouped in this way. There will, of course, need to be an adequate number of suitably qualified inspectors to ensure that this legislation is properly enforced. I welcome the comments that the Minister made about the new qualification. I understand that it will take three years to meet the necessary standard and that vets on the list of the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons will carry out some of this work.

While Defra is going to publish guidance, this will not be available until the regulations come into force. Does the Minister believe that this will give enough time to local authorities to be prepared to issue the new licences in an efficient and responsive manner?

I fully support the measures covered by this SI but I have one concern. Part 4 of the schedule, which covers the hiring out of horses, does not appear to cover riding for the disabled. While the regulations cover the welfare of animals in a commercial operation, they do not apply to those which operate on a charitable basis. I would be grateful if the Minister could reassure us that if establishments which offer riding for the disabled are operating not on a charitable basis but as a business, they will be covered by this new legislation. That apart, I believe that this is a great step forward and look forward to its implementation eagerly.

My Lords, I generally welcome these regulations. I declare an interest as an owner of a rescue mutt, which we are told is a cross between a poodle and a Shih Tzu. I would welcome suggestions from noble Lords as to what we should call that breed.

It must be right that puppies are not sold below the age of eight weeks. It is also right to draw the line at three litters a year. I am in favour of a risk-based approach to licensing and inspections by local authorities. In the same vein, it is helpful to avoid a backlog of inspections by operating on a basis of fixed-term licences set at any point in the year. I support the regulation of advertisements, as these regulations do, although I ask my noble friend how this will all be enforced. Are there the funds to allow the necessary inspections and monitoring of advertising? Perhaps PAAG and the excellent dog charities can help with the latter. However, what about enforcement?

I note that these regulations apply in England and I wonder what discussions my noble friend has had with the Welsh Government with a view to ascertaining whether they might do something similar. Not that it is introduced by these regulations, although they refer to it, but I have a concern about the dead hand of bureaucracy, which demands that someone who very occasionally looks after someone else’s dog, and perhaps has done so for years, should be required to obtain a licence if they are to be even modestly recompensed. Having said that, there is no excuse for poor welfare conditions for animals, and, as I have said, I generally support these regulations.

My Lords, I strongly support these extremely welcome changes to activities licensed by local authorities under five earlier Acts through regulations under powers in the Animal Welfare Act 2006. These licensing conditions will now reflect the welfare requirements of animals as required in that Act and as will be required in the specific guidance being produced in association with this instrument—guidance that will be statutory, which is very important. The activities have been outlined by the noble Lord and I commend Her Majesty’s Government for introducing this instrument, which will undoubtedly have a very positive effect on animal welfare. I should like to make one or two comments and ask one or two questions.

On the breeding of dogs, the measure to reduce the numbers of litters per year from five to three, at which point a licence is required, and to apply various sensible measures, such as a prohibition on the sale of pups less than eight weeks of age, the requirement to provide information to the buyers and other sensible measures, are very welcome. However, it is worth emphasising, as the noble Lord did, that these requirements would apply to anyone breeding and selling puppies, even from one litter, if it was deemed to be a business. My understanding—the Minister may want to correct me on this—is that Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs regards a profit of more than £1,000 a year as a business, but that needs clarity.

In toto, this instrument addresses several serious animal welfare concerns which many have had for some time. They include online sales, which have been addressed, exotic pets, for which more guidance will now have to be given at the point of sale, and various aspects of the breeding and sale of puppies.

Another measure with which I strongly concur is relevant to current concerns about the breeding of dogs where their conformation or genetics predispose to health or welfare problems among mothers or puppies. This is contained in paragraph 6(5) of Schedule 6 of the guidance:

“No dog may be kept for breeding if it can reasonably be expected, on the basis of its genotype, phenotype or state of health that breeding from it could have a detrimental effect on its health or welfare or the health or welfare of its offspring”.

This is extremely welcome. It clearly has relevance to issues of current concern, such as brachycephalia, where short-nosed breeds have a much higher incidence of respiratory disorder. There is even a name for it: BOAS—Brachycephalic Obstructive Airway Syndrome. There will clearly need to be consideration and discussion of the words “reasonably be expected” but I very much hope that this guidance will hasten current efforts to improve the health status of various breeds that intrinsically have a higher risk of suffering ill health. Indeed, I hope it will persuade dog owners and breeders to be much more selective in the dogs that they buy and breed.

I have some questions for the Minister. The guidance is essential to this instrument, so can the Minister assure us that it will be available by 1 October when the instrument is enacted? Will local authorities be given enough scope to charge reasonable fees? Will those fees be ring-fenced so that they cover all the costs incurred by local authorities—not just the training costs, about which we have heard a little, but all the costs of the measures—so that no local authority can claim insufficient resources to enforce this instrument?

My Lords, I too welcome this animal welfare regulation before us. I think that there are two of us here in Grand Committee who took the original Bill through, back in 2006, and I know we spent many hours on the Bill trying to get it right. Clearly, however, times have moved on—there was no such thing as buying and selling animals online in those days, which, as other noble Lords have mentioned, is a challenge.

I want to follow up on the last comment made, about breeding healthy dogs, because that is a huge problem. I do not know if it is so relevant in cats—it could well be—but it is certainly relevant for dogs. Therefore, I am glad to see it mentioned and hope that the Minister will be able to reinforce it. However, I have one question: what about some of the dogs that come in from abroad? Again, that is a question relating to their health and breeding.

In general terms, I welcome this improvement and tightening up of some of the regulations, and I know that a lot of outside bodies were consulted so that they could comment. I have four specific questions that I would like to raise about the document. I turn first to paragraph 5(2) of Schedule 3, which states that anybody who wants to buy a cat or dog has to go in person to see it. But I am thinking of those who are housebound: in that situation, those who want a cat may not necessarily be able to go and see it. Has any thought been given to this? Could a carer or somebody else go on their behalf?

My second question relates to paragraph 8(4) of Schedule 4: why do boarded dogs require daily exercise only once but breeding dogs require it twice? It seems to me slightly strange that they are not both under the same regime, because surely they both need good exercise. However, I suspect that the Minister will have an answer.

My third question concerns Schedule 7, which talks about private persons who train or show one or more pets. This may not apply directly to farm animals, but many of us in the Grand Committee go to county shows where animals are shown. They are perhaps not trained in the technical sense, but they are trained to show. Originally, I presumed that they would not be classed as a business, but some of the animals at these shows become very valuable if they manage to win championships. I have not found an answer in what is before us as to whether they would qualify and need a licence, or whether they are not regarded as a business, although they might be a business. It is fairly fine line and I would be grateful for some clarification.

My last question, which has been picked up by other noble Lords, goes back to the responsibilities that have been placed on local authorities. I accept that local authorities are able to claim back and get full costs, but will those local authorities that do not have many demands on them under the regulations have different charging rates? I am sure that that is not the intention, but how will we overcome this? The best way forward is not clear to me. There is a responsibility on local authorities and the move from one year to three years will help to lessen the demands on people’s time and expertise, but I would be glad to hear some clarification from the Minister when he responds.

My Lords, when I was looking through the regulations, I was trying to see whether they would stamp out the bad practice of illegal, back-street puppy farming. I welcome the provisions on the eight-week period and viewing with the mother. I was also pleased to see that the regulations require non-commercial breeders to obtain a licence if they breed three or more litters per year, which is down from five or more previously. That will make it more difficult for breeders to claim that they are non-commercial in order to avoid having to have a licence.

Let me play devil’s advocate for a moment. It is not difficult to see that, if a breeder wanted to avoid this restriction, he could say that he owned two bitches, his wife owned another two bitches and each of his children owned two bitches. It would be impossible to prove otherwise. I think that the regulations have missed a trick. If the requirement for a licence for more than two litters per annum was applied not to the breeder but to the premises, it would be much more difficult to circumvent the rules. My question to the Minister is this: is there any way that the Government could add to “breeder” the words “and/or premises”, perhaps in the guidance notes to the local authorities?

My Lords, I was about to refer to the noble Baroness, Lady Byford, as my noble friend—we have been friends for such a long time, even though I am independent and she is a Conservative. She touched on something that is absent from this statutory instrument, which is the breeding of cats. Just as with the dogs that the noble Lord, Lord Trees, mentioned, you are getting cats with flat faces, because they are attractive to people who think that they look like babies. It is a real menace in the cat world and should not be allowed. Many people acquire cats—we have two farmhouse-bred moggies. Cats living on farms have litter after litter, and I feel that there needs to be some regulation on spaying or castrating them so that we can reduce the overall number of cats and breed nice, healthy animals—like ours.

My Lords, I just want to say a few words. First, I declare that I am a member of a local authority. I welcome the new regulations on minimum welfare standards. I hope that we will have tough customs checks when puppies come into the UK. I also welcome the important provisions on streamlining, enforcement and full costs for local authorities. As previous speakers have said, this is an opportunity to stamp out unscrupulous, back-street puppy farms, which should be banished as soon as possible.

My second declaration is as a dog lover: I have dogs and I love them dearly. I agree with the comments made by the noble Earl, Lord Cathcart, on the breeding of dogs, under Part 5 of Schedule 1. I acknowledge the move from five to three litters, but I think that if something is a business it should be licensed, even if there is only one litter. It is a commercial enterprise and obviously it is going to make a profit. Instead of having it go down to three, it should be one. If it is a commercial enterprise it should breed a litter to sell. It is a business. Could the Minister clarify that for me?

My Lords, I am grateful to the Minister for setting out the intent behind the regulations. As he says, the proposals provide a long overdue update on a number of aspects of the regulations about keeping and selling animals as pets, which, as he says, are well out of date. We welcome much of the content, which would improve the licensing requirements of owners, breeders and sellers alike. I might have been guilty of this, but while we have used the Secondary Legislation Scrutiny Committee reports to criticise the department, it is also worth placing on record its unusual praise on this occasion in drawing the regulations to our attention. It says:

“We commend Defra on a well-judged and informative”,

Explanatory Memorandum. I echo that and say well done to the staff.

We welcome the new licensing approach, which encourages businesses to become low risk through delivering high standards, with those that conform being able to have licenses for a longer period, rather than having to reapply each year. That seems to make sense. However, it is important that this flexibility is used for the right reasons and that it is not just seen as an easy option for local authorities that do not have the staff or the resources to visit premises only every two or three years. It is important that that high standard underpins all this and that it is not traded off for financial constraints. We also welcome the obvious thing of having one standard licence rather than multiple licences. Again, that is good common sense, but we have some concerns about the application of the licensing system, which I will come back to shortly.

In addition, we have campaigned for a long time to require puppy sales to be completed in the presence of the new owner, for a ban on the sale of puppies and kittens under eight weeks old, and for the licensing threshold for dog breeders to be reduced, so we welcome all of those developments. However, as the Minister knows, we very much regret that the opportunity was not also taken in these regulations to ban the third-party commercial sale of puppies and kittens. Indeed, it is not really clear how many of the other improved welfare standards that underpin these regulations can be enforced while third-party sales continue, many of which happen under the radar and are not properly regulated.

The reality is that, as the noble Lord said, there has been a huge rise in online sales of puppies and kittens fuelled by “rogue traders”—I think that was his expression—which are often overseas and are sadly renowned for having poor welfare standards. This all has a knock-on effect. The poor animals that are traded on this basis have health and behavioural problems associated with long journeys, often travelling many hundreds of miles in unhygienic conditions, and often with premature separation from their mothers, who themselves are often kept in exploitative and inhumane puppy farms abroad. There have been numerous whistleblowing cases where we have seen examples of this—in particular in eastern Europe, but they come from all sorts of places across the continent.

I still do not feel that the measures before us address this problem. The noble Lord was talking about curtailing adverts. Obviously those sorts of measures are welcome, but we are still seeing that illegal trade taking place. I do not see that it will be dealt with until we have that third-party commercial ban. We believe that it is time to stamp out this trade, which is why we support such a ban. However, the fact that the Government have now issued a separate consultation that revisits this issue has given us some hope. We look forward to participating in that debate and hope that, in time, the Government will see the error of their ways on this issue.

In the meantime, I have some questions for the Minister arising from the regulations before us. First, as the noble Baroness, Lady Bakewell, said, there seems to have been a very long delay between the end of the consultation in March 2016 and the appearance of these regulations today. That seems to be a bit of a hallmark of the department. Can the Minister explain why it has taken two years to process the regulations?

Secondly, the regulations are to be supported by more detailed schedules and guidance, but the way in which they are written at the moment uses very simple language. In one sense that is great, because it is easy to understand. However, they use phrases such as “adequate” facilities, “sufficient” space and a “suitable” environment, all of which are open to interpretation, so it is important that as soon as possible we have measurable requirements so that local authorities can make a proper assessment of whether welfare standards are being maintained. When will that more detailed guidance be provided so that we can be assured that there will be proper ways to measure the improvement in welfare standards?

Thirdly, has any further thought been given to introducing a microchip database recording microchip numbers on entry to the UK and extending microchipping to cats? Does the Minister agree that this would help to cut down on the illegal trade in puppies and kittens?

Fourthly, a number of noble Lords have talked about the new inspection arrangements. We are concerned that local authority inspectors will be undertrained and underresourced to manage the new licensing regime successfully. What, if any, additional resources are being provided to local authorities to carry out these duties? Is the Minister concerned that the proposal for level 2 qualifications for inspectors is not really high enough for them to understand the complex animal welfare needs that they will be required to inspect? Indeed, what plans are there to require licence holders themselves—the actual owners of these animals—to demonstrate minimum competence standards and meet best practice?

The impact assessment assumes a one-off familiarisation for businesses and local authorities of two hours a week. Does the Minister agree that this is wholly inadequate and that a much more rigorous training regime needs to be developed? Can he shed some further light on how the licensing fees will be established? In response to questions in the Commons, the Minister there said that the licences would be,

“funded by full cost recovery … so there is no financial burden on local authorities”.—[Official Report, Commons, 20/03/18; col. 5.]

We understand what that means, but how will it be calculated in practice? We are talking about a differential cost for licence holders in every different local authority. Will all licensed operators be compelled to pay a contribution not just towards the inspections of the good guys, if I can put it like that, but towards the enforcement activities taken against all the illegal operators too? The people who own up and pay up will be paying for the policing. It differs in different parts of the country, but there could be quite widespread potentially illegal activities, and that does not seem very fair. Is that not a case of penalising those who play by the rules, rather than getting everyone to up their game?

Lastly, the regulations address only certain kinds of commercial animal services, such as providing boarding for cats and dogs and day care for dogs. Several noble Lords have mentioned other kinds of commercial animal services. My bugbear, which I have mentioned to the Minister in the past, is that commercial dog walkers are becoming big business these days: they often deal with large numbers of dogs during the day, yet they do not seem to be covered by these regulations. Has any thought been given to requiring commercial dog walkers to have a licence? Are any reviews of other animal licensing arrangements currently taking place for new businesses that are developing?

In conclusion, while we welcome many of these proposals, there seems a lot more work to be done in raising animal welfare standards across the board. We therefore look forward to receiving these details from the Minister in due course. In the meantime, I look forward to hearing the Minister’s response to the many very pertinent questions that have been raised today.

My Lords, this has been a very important discussion, and I am most grateful to the noble Baroness, Lady Jones of Whitchurch, for recording what I would call some praise, but some chastisement as well. Her genuine praise was for the officials who have been engaged on this matter over a considerable period. I will be in longer form in a moment but the most important thing is to have got these regulations right. They may have taken some time but it is better to get them right, because this has involved fairly intricate work with a number of parties, which I will explain in greater detail.

I am very struck by the universal endorsement of the spirit of what the regulations are seeking, which is to enhance animal welfare. Again, I acknowledge that it would not have been possible to get to the detail that we will have without the support of the Canine and Feline Sector Group, the Equine Sector Council, the local authorities, vets charities and participants in this sector generally. We always want to root out the bad but we should also remember that there are some extremely good and dedicated dog and cat breeders, who care immensely for their animals and would not dream of selling them to what they identified as an indifferent home, so these things can work both ways. The purpose of much of what we have been wrestling with is to ensure that we endorse the good, raise the standard of the intermediate and root out the bad. In my lay man’s terms, that is how I see our objective.

The noble Baronesses, Lady Jones of Whitchurch and Lady Bakewell, raised the issue of third-party sales. As has been mentioned, we have issued a call for evidence in relation to a ban on the third-party sale of puppies and kittens. I should say that part of the issue was that not all the interested parties in the animal charity world were of a common view on this. But—I stress “but”—I acknowledge that there are strong feelings on this issue, and such a ban would prevent commercial sellers selling puppies and kittens unless they had bred the animal. As the noble Baroness, Lady Bakewell, said, the call for evidence closes on 2 May, after which we will consider the way forward. We are seeking to publish that by the end of July. One possibility, if we were to go down this route, would be to amend these regulations using the powers under the Animal Welfare Act 2006. However, we felt that in the meantime it was not sensible to delay the implementation of what are already advances in the range of these regulations. Clearly, as always, guidance is where we will have further and better particulars, and I say to the noble Lord, Lord Trees, and the noble Baroness, Lady Jones of Whitchurch, that we are very conscious that guidance needs to be published. We aim to publish by the end of July precisely for many of the reasons that have been outlined.

I will seek to answer some of the questions asked and if, in my view, I have not answered any sufficiently, I will of course write to noble Lords. The noble Baroness, Lady Bakewell of Hardington Mandeville, queried whether organisations such as charities that provide riding for the disabled would require a licence for the hiring out of horses. I can confirm that the regulations apply only to commercial businesses, so it is extremely unlikely that a registered charity would be required to hold a licence. But I emphasise that it depends on what might be undertaken in each individual case. The point is that these regulations deal with commercial businesses.

The noble Baroness, Lady Jones of Whitchurch, asked about dog walkers, and indeed I am now thinking about dog groomers and the range that could be considered for inclusion in the licensing system. As is understood, they are not currently licensed and we are not of the view that sufficient evidence was presented during the consultation for the inclusion of these additional activities. However, the regulations will need to be reviewed after five years. If during that time evidence is presented demonstrating that these activities need to be licensed for the welfare of the animals involved, they can indeed be added to the regulations.

My noble friend Lady Byford highlighted her experience of being involved in the Animal Welfare Act 2006. It is wonderful to have noble Lords who can point us in the right direction, and of course it is probably due to the advice of the noble Countess, Lady Mar, that we are here now since she was material to the gestation of what we are considering. A number of more detailed points were raised. I take very seriously the importance of animals and pets to people who are housebound. In those circumstances, a person who is housebound could certainly ask their carer or an alternative representative to purchase and collect an animal on their behalf. These things should pass the test of reasonableness, and this is clearly one of them.

Noble Lords raised daily exercise—we all need exercise—in terms of the regimes covering boarded dogs and breeding dogs. I do not know the precise details so I will have to discuss this with representatives from the canine sector, but obviously a lot of information came to us through their specialist advice. Boarded dogs are more likely to be being held temporarily so it is acceptable to provide them with less exercise during that time as compared with breeding dogs, which are much more likely to be in kennels permanently. It is therefore important that they are given adequate opportunities for exercise over the period that they are kept as breeding animals.

My noble friend also made a point about the keeping and training of animals for exhibition. I thought I would help myself by going to Part 6 of Schedule 1, which refers to:

“Keeping or training animals for exhibition in the course of a business for educational or entertainment purposes”.

The truth is that even if my noble friend had a splendid prize animal at an agricultural show, my guess is that she will be there to display the wonders of her animal rather than for any other purpose. However, I will ensure that the guidance provides details on how to determine whether a person is running a business and takes into account factors such as making a profit. From my experience of seeing many farmers at agricultural shows, it costs them money to show their animals. They do it for the love of their animals and to enable the public to see them, and thus it is unlikely that they would be classed as a business.

A number of comments were made about implementation, which I take extremely seriously because it is important that local authorities are ready. We have been working with local authorities to develop the regulations since 2015 and, because of the benefits they will provide for local authorities, there is a lot of enthusiasm for them. There is no set date for when they should start and a distinction is made about the period before the UKAS-accredited schemes come in, so that those who do not achieve high standards is taken into account. All of this has been designed precisely to enable local authorities to concentrate on what is necessary. We will be working on the detail of the regulations—we did not want to presume to get the consent of your Lordships or Members of the other place—and we want to continue with that work over the next few months so that we are ready.

My noble friends Lord De Mauley and Lady Byford also raised the issue of local authorities. As I said, the full-cost recovery is clearly important but I had examples of where local authorities are working together. Local authorities are teaming up on the provision of services, sometimes using the provisions of a primary authority. I met someone in one of the London boroughs, which are working together so that they get the specialism to work on these matters. The City of London is also a good example of this: for instance, it acts on behalf of all London boroughs on welfare and transport controls and I know that it is very successful at Heathrow, where it has great experience on animal matters. We want to work closely with local authorities; there are ways to do that and it is absolutely imperative that the enforcement is taken extremely seriously.

As I say, the local authorities will enforce the legislation with the powers to charge a fee to applicants. This can include a charge for enforcement and they will have the powers to inspect unlicensed premises which they suspect should have a licence. They will have the powers to raise money for that but the noble Baroness, Lady Jones of Whitchurch, is absolutely right that there will be different fees. I am turning round just to make sure that I am not going off piste but that is the whole purpose of having the UKAS-accredited scheme within the embrace of this provision. We and the local authorities will clearly not need to have the fee rates for the UKAS-accredited scheme and there will be a longer scheme. There will be a more proportionate approach so that we can deal with raising the intermediate and rooting out those who should not be breeding animals.

The noble Lord, Lord Trees, mentioned the upper limit and the guidance. I can confirm that the guidance will include the amount, which is drawn from the existing HMRC guidance on the business test. That guidance will be available by the end of July and we will be developing these guidelines with local authorities and stakeholders. But it is very important that all breeders recognise that these new regulations should command their attention.

My noble friend Lord Cathcart asked an intricate question about whether an example of various family members could be a ruse to counter the spirit and intention of these regulations. I emphasise that anyone in the business of breeding and selling dogs—in other words, trading—must be licensed by a local authority. Non-businesses producing three or more litters a year must also be licensed. It will be a matter for the local authority to decide in that situation whether the litters were all on the same property. The regulations tie the activity to the premises, so in our view there is no loophole here. Given what my noble friend has said, we clearly need to look at the scope for all the possibilities that anyone may use. However, I am assured that the regulations tie the activity to the premises and I think that covers the point about rogue breeders—or whatever we want to call them; perhaps “unscrupulous breeders”—and people associated with them. If any one of those breeders were running a business and selling or breeding puppies, I emphasise that they would need a licence. I trust that we will cover that.

My noble friend Lord De Mauley asked about devolved Administrations. He will of course know that animal welfare is a devolved issue, so it is for the devolved Governments to decide. For instance, the Welsh Government updated their legislation on dog breeding in 2014. We have of course shared the regulations with the Scottish and Welsh Governments and we understand that they are considering whether to take further and similar action.

The noble Countess, Lady Mar, raised the issue of cats. The breeding of cats was specifically raised in the Chamber by my noble friend Lord Black of Brentwood and we are very conscious of the issue. Anyone selling animals on a commercial basis is included within the scope of the regulations. Whether they breed the animals themselves or source them from elsewhere, they will have to comply with the welfare requirements for pet sales and the cat code applies to all cat owners and cat breeders. Cat breeding is covered in general terms. As I said in the Chamber, the breeding of cats and dogs with defective elements is self-indulgent of people. It is not right. All breeders should be working on—I say in my utterly amateur way—breeding out defects and certainly not breeding animals with such defects, which are injurious to the offspring. We all need to think strongly about that and to work with charities, breeders and breed societies. I know from my discussions with the Kennel Club that it well understands that we must wrestle with this important issue.

The noble Baroness, Lady Jones, referred to cat microchipping, which we support. As to making it compulsory, we consider that the nature of cats makes microchipping more awkward. When we understood that dogs should be compulsorily microchipped we gave proper consideration to whether cats should be, too, but there was a feeling that the nature of the cat’s world would make it rather difficult. Clearly we do not want cats to stray, injuring themselves or causing problems, and again it is in the interests of owners of cats and dogs to look after their pets. One great advance due to microchipping is that it has enhanced the reuniting of owners with their pets whether they are cats, dogs or horses. It has been a great advance in many ways.

In my opening and closing remarks, I have sought to deal with the importance of a training regime. That is why I mentioned the City of London and its level 3 training. We will spend time working with local authorities. We have introduced the concept of full recovery precisely to enable the enforcement and implementation of the regulations, which will advance animal welfare in so many respects and enable people to feel more confident that they are buying their much-loved pets from reliable sources.

I do not doubt that there will be people at home and abroad who not only flout these regulations but act illegally. That may be a consideration for another day but I am seized of the importance of this issue and I commend the regulations.

I am confused about one thing. It is not to do with the Minister’s response to my questions—for which I thank him—but my noble friend Lady Redfern referred to needing a licence for fewer than two litters and the Minister said that you need a licence if you are selling your puppies. In the Explanatory Notes it states that these regulations remove the existing exemption whereby someone who breeds from their own pet dog does not need a licence to sell puppies. So if one of my dogs has puppies and I want to sell a few, give them away or whatever, do I have to get a licence for that?

My Lords, I might look sideways slightly as I say this, but the precise distinction is if the owner is in the business. In other words, the point is that if you have three or more litters you must have a licence, but if you are in the business you would have to have a licence even if you had only one litter. That distinction of being in business will be set out in the guidance. The whole purpose is to capture those who are in the business of dog breeding if they have any number of breeding bitches. It is important that we can license those who are in the business, but we have a catch-all that if you breed and sell more than three litters and you are not in the business, you have to be licensed as well. I say to all breeders who are breeding and selling to look at the regulations. Obviously the purpose of this is not to be bureaucratic, but to raise animal welfare standards. I will reflect on what my noble friend has said. If there is a clearer response I will of course write to my noble friend and all noble Lords, but I think that Hansard will report what are the varying elements of requirements for a licence from the local authority. If there are any ambiguities and noble Lords would like to ask me afterwards so I do not confuse myself, I would be very pleased.

If, as my noble friend Lord Cathcart said, you are in the business and you breed one litter, then should you not be licensed because you are in business? That was the emphasis of my intervention earlier.

I think my noble friend answered that. If someone is in the business the number is irrelevant, so that is caught.

Motion agreed.

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

Considered in Grand Committee

Moved by

That the Grand Committee do consider the Mandatory Use of Closed Circuit Television in Slaughterhouses (England) Regulations 2018.

My Lords, I am very pleased to introduce these important regulations on the mandatory use of closed circuit television in slaughterhouses in England. These regulations meet the Government’s manifesto commitment to make CCTV recording in slaughterhouses mandatory. Our manifesto commitment reflected widespread public concern over animal welfare in slaughterhouses. They are made under powers in Section 12 of the Animal Welfare Act 2006.

The Government have encouraged the voluntary uptake of CCTV in slaughterhouses, but the number of slaughterhouses with CCTV has stalled in recent years, with only 50% of red meat slaughterhouses and 70% of white meat slaughterhouses having some CCTV for animal welfare purposes in 2016. Those slaughterhouses which had installed CCTV had not always done so comprehensively. In 2016, only 46% of those slaughterhouses with CCTV had coverage in the unloading area. The level of CCTV coverage was even lower in the stun area, with less than 40% of slaughterhouses having CCTV in this area or in the bleed area. So even in slaughterhouses where CCTV is installed, key areas are not currently covered by cameras.

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

Will my noble friend confirm that this is not taking away the need for a vet to be present for the inspection?

I will of course address that. I am grateful to my noble friend.

FAWC also identified the significant benefits of CCTV systems to slaughterhouse operators, from in-house review of their operations and effective staff training to providing evidence of due diligence, which can increase public confidence in the meat industry and its adherence to the UK’s high animal welfare standards. FAWC’s report provided a useful basis for the Government’s proposals on mandatory CCTV which we published last summer. We received nearly 4,000 responses to this public consultation, with more than 99% in favour of mandatory CCTV recording in all slaughterhouses.

These regulations will require all slaughterhouse operators to install and operate a CCTV system that provides a clear and complete picture of areas where live animals are present. This will include where animals are unloaded, lairaged, handled, restrained, stunned and killed. We would expect CCTV installations and their use to be proportionate to the size of premises and their throughput. Slaughterhouse operators will be required to provide access to CCTV recordings for the official veterinarian of the Food Standards Agency and other authorised inspectors. An official veterinarian is required in every slaughterhouse when in operation. Access to CCTV recordings for monitoring, verification and enforcement purposes is essential and will be especially useful where the official veterinarian is undertaking other duties in the slaughterhouse and does not directly witness an incident.

We would expect official veterinarians to carry out a timely review of CCTV to address any immediate welfare incidents and take advisory or enforcement action. Nevertheless, the slaughterhouse operator will need to retain recorded images and information for 90 days. This is in line with the requirements of some farm assurance schemes. While CCTV should not replace, reduce or be considered a substitute for the current inspection and control of slaughterhouse practices by official veterinarians, access to CCTV recordings will provide more opportunities to assess compliance with animal welfare requirements on a proactive and reactive basis. Requirements for mandatory CCTV recording should be applied to all approved slaughterhouses on the basis that all animals should be offered the same level of protection at the time of killing.

Ninety-five per cent of our meat is killed in abattoirs which have CCTV in some form. The regulations ensure that all slaughterhouses of whatever size must now have CCTV at all stages of the process.

My Lords, I am sorry to intervene, but I want to clarify something at the beginning of the debate. The Minister said that the Government expected the arrangements to be “proportionate”. Can he explain what “proportionate” means, because it might worry some of us?

My Lords, it may be for the convenience of the Committee if the Minister introduces the regulations. I can then put a Question to the Committee and we can have a debate.

My Lords, I would like the opportunity of finishing these remarks. I am afraid that I am not acquainted with the practice of not permitting a Minister to introduce regulations. I will be more than pleased to receive comments when I have unfolded the argument. That helps the flow for the Minister. My task is to give a respectable introduction, deploying all the points of the regulation. I will then of course be very pleased to answer the questions that come from it.

We are conscious that some of the businesses that will be affected by this legislation are small, so we thought it appropriate that the regulations should allow six months for them to become compliant. In view of the considerable gains to animal welfare and the many other benefits identified, particularly for the slaughterhouse operator, the Government consider that the benefits justify the costs involved and do not deem financial support to the sector to be borne by the taxpayer.

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

These regulations have been widely welcomed. Indeed, following our recent announcements, I have heard from a number of farmers who are pleased that we have ensured a respectful end for the animals they have cared for throughout their lives. These regulations will also assist the Food Standards Agency, which has been most supportive, as has the British Veterinary Association as well as a large number of other interested parties. I want to emphasise once more that the regulations will work in the interests of the slaughterhouse operator. It is the case that many people will be reassured that with the enforcement of these regulations, animals are much more likely to reach the end of their lives in a manner which shows them respect.

Many noble Lords along with many Members of the other place have been extremely supportive of these measures. For all those reasons, I endorse the regulations. Again, they are proportionate. I have mentioned specifically that for smaller slaughterhouses, the extent and cost of their installations will clearly be less than those for larger enterprises with no CCTV provision. Again, 95% of our meat is killed in abattoirs that already have CCTV in some form. For those operations, the regulations may be about updating or if necessary upgrading their systems so that all the stages of the process are covered. For those with no CCTV provision, it will be a cost, but the Government believe that this measure is in the interests of the sector. I commend the regulations to the Committee.

My Lords, the Minister has already said why the voluntary take-up of CCTV has been disappointing. I am certain that this regulation will satisfy customers, consumers, retailers, certification/assurance scheme operators, NGOs and animal welfare organisations who have been pressing for CCTV in 100% of slaughterhouses. I should probably declare that I farm in Norfolk and we have livestock. We like to give all the livestock a really good life while they are with us on our farm, and when they go to meet their maker, we want that to be to the best possible standards, stress-free and humane. If that does not happen in slaughterhouses, perhaps CCTV will help.

I want to concentrate on two areas. The first is the cost and the second is the effective viewing or reviewing of the CCTV footage. I know that the Government think that the installation will cost only about £2,500 per slaughterhouse, but I think that is way too low. Even a small slaughterhouse needs about five CCTV cameras to ensure that all areas are covered. At £1,000 per camera, that alone will come to £5,000. I have been told that it will cost between £5,000 and £10,000 per slaughterhouse to install.

In 2012, it was reported in the Scottish Parliament that the cost of installing CCTV in a slaughterhouse in Scotland varied between £6,000 and £25,000. Whatever the cost, it will be considerably more than the Government’s £2,500. For small plants, that cost may be prohibitive, and that is not the only cost. There is also the annual cost of maintenance, which will vary according to the number of CCTV cameras and could be between £500 and £1,000 per annum. Then there is the cost of a secure, locked cabinet to store the 90 days of footage per camera to prevent tampering with the evidence. Then there is the cost of training and employing CCTV monitoring staff.

That brings me neatly to my second point: who, if anyone, will be viewing or reviewing the CCTV footage? Obviously where there is a known incident the relevant footage can be pulled out and looked at, but CCTV is really effective only if it is viewed or reviewed, and here is the rub. One of the limitations of CCTV is that it is rarely viewed or reviewed in a systematic, consistent and effective manner by the slaughterhouse operator, enforcement agencies or the official vet. If it were, considerable costs would be incurred in training the staff required to view the footage in real time—that is, as it is happening—or to review large amounts of footage from multiple cameras. Whether this is done by the slaughterhouse operator or the official vet, ultimately the cost will be borne by the slaughterhouse, which already balks at the hourly rate charged by the official vet—£70 to £80 an hour or around £600 for an eight-hour day.

Twenty years or so ago, there were probably six or eight slaughterhouses near my farm in Norfolk; now there is one large one quite near me. In the past 20 years, about 100 small slaughterhouses have shut down, as have a further 100 medium-sized ones. This does no good at all for the welfare of animals as they must now travel further to their final destination. I can understand the need for this regulation, but I hope that an unintended consequence will not be that more slaughterhouses have to close down.

My Lords, first, I will deal with the issue of cost. The costs of the CCTV equipment have dropped dramatically over the past seven or eight years. In many areas, they are a quarter of what they were. So it is quite probable that the estimates that have been given by the Government are not accurate, even though the ones that were given in Scotland will have been accurate at the time.

What drew me to this issue was paragraph 42 of the FAWC report of February 2015, where it says:

“Where examples of animal abuse have been brought to light … FBOs, AWOs and OVs”—

that is, food business operators, animal welfare officers and official veterinarians—

“have consistently asserted that they were unaware of such abusive practices”.

That is a shocking statement. Professionals went into slaughterhouses where the law was being breached, yet they were unaware of what was going on. I congratulate the Government on bringing in this extremely important measure, which I warmly welcome. I also welcome the policy position of my own party on this matter: the document produced by Sue Hayman, our spokesperson in the other place, which has come up with some fairly radical measures to deal with this problem in slaughterhouses.

In addition to that concern, I noticed in the Explanatory Memorandum the following statement, in paragraph 8.1, under the heading “Consultation outcome”:

“The responses from slaughter industry bodies and abattoirs were more balanced”—

when I hear those words, I always think, “Oh yes, here it comes”—

“with a number arguing against the proposal on the basis of proportionality of application of the requirements to all slaughterhouses regardless of size or record of compliance and the length of time records should be retained for”;

in other words, there was opposition. I would like to know what the scale of the opposition was. Perhaps it is reflected in the fact that, as we were told before, only 50% of slaughterhouses have even introduced these cameras. In the case of the ones that have introduced them, we are told, as I think the Minister alluded to, in paragraph 7.1 of the Explanatory Memorandum:

“Moreover, those slaughterhouses that have installed CCTV have not generally installed cameras in all areas where live animals are kept and where animal welfare could be compromised”;

in other words, there is a real problem out there and I regard these regulations as a good attempt to deal with it.

However, I have one or two concerns. One is about the retention of documentation. The committee recommended three months. In this measure, is it nine months?

Oh, it is 90 days. So basically we are talking about three months. So the Government followed that recommendation. But I wonder why not five years? We are talking about equipment which produces a tiny disk, I presume—why not keep it long term, unless it deteriorates? If we are talking about prosecutions, we may need more evidence than simply one or two occasions. It might be that consistent breaches can be revealed only in the event that there is far longer retention of the tapes in question. So I suggest not 90 days but five years—let us really retain this in case we have to prosecute.

Another issue that interests me is the question of visits. I heard someone refer earlier to a charge of £80 an hour for veterinarians to visit. I presume that there must be many slaughterhouses that rarely get a visit, if visits are charged up to them. Why do we not have more impromptu visits? So many visits in such areas are never impromptu. I remember when I was dealing with nursing homes some years ago, we found out that the managers were often informed in advance of when the so-called impromptu visits by the Care Quality Commission, or its predecessor, would be made. I presume that in these cases, too, information may well be provided to a slaughterhouse that there will be a visit by a veterinarian officer, charging for his services at £80 or £90 an hour. I would like more impromptu visits to these places. Then they would be more on guard against potential abuses.

Under “notices”, the regulations say:

“Any notice required or authorised to be served under these Regulations on any person may be served by … delivering it to the person; … leaving it at the person’s proper address; or … sending it by post to the person at that address”.

Can we presume that there are no options? In the case of slaughterhouses, a number of routes could be used to ensure that they actually received the notice. If the attitude of slaughterhouses is as my earlier quotation from paragraph 42 of the report suggests, it seems that there will still be some resistance in the industry.

As in all such cases, even with the presence of cameras, people will try to find their way round the regulations in some way. They may perhaps even position the cameras in such a way that they do not fully reveal what is happening in that slaughterhouse. Who decides where the cameras will be? Who decides whether a certain camera is going to point here or there? At the moment, this comes out only in the enforcement proceedings. I could not find anything in the proposed arrangement that said that the authorities—I presume that would be the veterinarians—would tell people where to put the cameras to ensure maximum coverage. There was one reference to requiring,

“any person to produce or make available for inspection any images or information retained and stored”,

and making,

“any enquiries, and take recordings or photographs”.

There is nothing really, although there is something about requiring,

“any person to provide such assistance, information, facilities or equipment as is reasonable, without delay”.

There is nothing about directing slaughterhouse owners to use the equipment in a particular way so that it will reveal fully what is going on. That is a bit loose in the regulations.

Perhaps, in winding up, the Minister can give us an assurance that that will be dealt with, and that more than guidance will be given. There should be requirements; there should be some sort of arrangement whereby, at the beginning of this process, people are required to place the cameras in a particular position so that there is no avoidance of what is intended under the law.

I have the FAWC recommendations here. They start in paragraphs 90 to 94, and there is then more detail. I want to go through them briefly. I am sorry if I am delaying the Committee. I normally speak quite briefly in such Committees, but I want assurances that all this is being implemented—that there has not been a selective acceptance of what is required. They say:

“CCTV systems should be installed in all live animal areas within the slaughterhouse including those used for unloading, lairage, moving live animals through the facilities, stunning and killing”.

I think the Minister said that before, but I was not absolutely sure whether a word or two had been missed. I would like an assurance that that will be the case—that that recommendation has been accepted. The recommendations continue:

“CCTV … should be recorded at all times when animals are present in the areas listed above … CCTV … should be installed so as to permit a clear and uninterrupted view of the processes being recorded at all times … Cameras should be installed in a manner that facilitates easy access and repair … CCTV cameras should record continuous visual images but, if audio is captured, should not record conversations between slaughterhouse personnel … footage should be viewed, whether in real-time or from recording, from designated areas that permit detailed review”.

I will stop at that point.

Can I assume that civil servants, in reviewing the debate, will go through that list of FAWC recommendations as a checklist from paragraph 90 right through to paragraph 101 and give us an assurance that they intend to implement every one of those recommendations fully? We will know then if any of the FAWC recommendations have not been accepted and that they will be subject to further scrutiny, perhaps at a later stage.

Finally, I repeat that I thoroughly welcome this. I think it will be one of the big changes from this Government. To some people it might not seem important but for people outside, animal welfare is a huge issue, as we know. I believe that if this policy is managed, organised and implemented properly, it will be a feather in the Government’s cap.

My Lords, I am happy to follow the noble Lord, Lord Campbell-Savours, because getting this right is hugely important. I do not know whether anybody happened to see the response to the Question that I tabled the other day on the number of abattoirs, because this reflects and follows on from some of the concerns that have been expressed. I asked what the number of small and medium-sized abattoirs was between 2001 and 2017. The data provided for that—if I go through it—was that back in 2001 there were 32 large abattoirs but 463 small ones. Looking at the last ones—I will not go through them all for the Committee; that would not be fair—the change that has taken place is that the number of large abattoirs has gone up from 32 to 44 but small and medium-sized abattoirs have declined from 463 to 276. As far as I am concerned that rings huge bells for animal welfare.

I welcome the move to have CCTV in all abattoirs. The noble Lord, Lord Campbell-Savours, identified some of the things that I would have done. Cameras need to be in the right place, at the right time and they need to be consistent. My query would be: what happens if you get a power cut? Do they automatically keep going? The power cut could happen naturally or could be from deliberate tampering. I do not think there is anything in these regulations that would cover that. I am afraid in this instance I am very concerned about some of the staff operating in our abattoirs and the way they have been dealt with.

I look back to a shocking case where halal abattoir staff taunted sheep before they were slaughtered. Halal and the way stunning is done or not done is not addressed here—and I know there are good reasons for that—but I think on this occasion it should be raised. It is crucial that we get right the whole question of how we deal with animals, how we look after them—we are not livestock producers—and how the end of life comes.

Bearing in mind my early comments I have a couple of queries. I draw the Committee’s notice to page 5 of the regulations before us. I am very keen that where penalties can be legally introduced they should be really strong. At the end of the awful case that I brought to the mind of the Committee, two halal slaughtermen were found guilty of causing suffering and were given,

“16 weeks and 18 weeks imprisonment—both suspended for 12 months”.

Alongside that, they had to do 250 hours of unpaid work. Both were disqualified from control over sheep and ordered to pay £500 costs. I would have preferred to see something much stronger there. I hope that other noble Lords will reinforce the idea that we have an opportunity here to make sure that the correct fines are in place where they are clearly needed.

I apologise—I have deviated a little. I come back to Regulation 12, which concerns penalties. The footnote to this regulation states:

“Section 12(4) of the Animal Welfare Act 2006 provides that the power in subsection (1) does not include power to create an offence punishable with a fine exceeding level 5 on the standard scale. Section 85(2) of the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012 (c. 10) allows the power to be exercised to create an offence punishable by a fine of any amount”.

I do not quite understand what is going on here. With one piece of legislation the fines are limited, whereas another gives the option to create an offence punishable by a fine of any amount. I seek clarification on this because it is hugely important. We have the opportunity today to try to improve animal welfare. CCTV plays a part in that but it is important that we have a chance to debate fines and the way that we deal with people who are proved to be guilty of unacceptable behaviour, whether that involves halal slaughter or the way that animals are stunned—sometimes stunning is not done in the best way possible. I suspect that noble Lords who follow me will be able to clarify that.

Going back to an earlier comment, my understanding is that veterinarians have to be present at all times. It is not a question of making unexpected visits; veterinarians should be there all the while. If it is suggested that veterinarians are not doing a good job and that, in addition, experts should be brought in, that is another matter, but for the benefit of the Committee I seek confirmation that a veterinarian has to be present when abattoirs operate.

I hope that what I have said will prompt others to comment because we are at a crossroads in dealing with end-of-life issues. There are certain things that I would love to have seen in the regulations but we want to make sure that what is in them will be enforced and will work properly.

My Lords, I welcome these regulations, which, as other noble Lords have said, are hugely important. My one question is this: why has it taken so long? That is a rhetorical question, not a criticism of the Government, whom I congratulate.

We live in a country that is hugely surveilled. I understand that there is one CCTV camera for every 13 of us. By my calculations, that amounts to 5 million CCTV cameras throughout the country. Every day we see how important they are in investigating and solving all sorts of wrongdoing, yet we have failed to get them introduced into every corner of every abattoir. It is great that 95% of animals are under surveillance but surely it is the other 5% that we should worry about because, if malpractice is likely to happen, it will surely happen in the places where people do not volunteer to have surveillance.

Therefore, this measure is very important in ensuring compliance with the rigorous regulations that, rightly, are in place to ensure the welfare of animals in our abattoirs through the inspection of their health and well-being, both in the lairages where animals are often kept overnight or for 12 hours and more, and then throughout the killing process. Your Lordships may not have been in an abattoir—they are not very nice places—but the killing lines often move very fast and it is very difficult for a veterinarian to be everywhere at once. With things moving so fast, things can happen that can go unseen. I would suggest, and it has been mentioned, that CCTV is also useful to aid training and management by those who own the abattoirs. So there are two benefits, but the benefit to animal welfare is obviously the major one.

Stunning and non-stun has come up. I do not want to labour the point, but there are breaches of regulations that can happen in both situations. These rules will be extremely important in helping us to ensure that the regulations in both types of killing process are observed. There are some particularly stringent regulations pertaining to non-stun such as standstill times after the neck cut, which must be 30 seconds in the case of cattle beasts and 20 seconds in the case of sheep. That is a long time to hold a killing line, but it is essential for the welfare of the animals, if we are to permit non-stun, that those standstill times are honoured. CCTV will help us to ensure that that is happening because it is sometimes difficult to supervise.

I absolutely share the noble Baroness’s concerns about the loss of our abattoirs. There is very much an animal welfare issue in terms of the distance animals have to go between the point of rearing and the point of slaughter. That distance should be minimised as much as possible. We are all therefore keen to ensure the financial sustainability of abattoirs, big and small, but I remain to be convinced that these costs would be the last straw. If they are critical, we must find other ways in which to address that problem, not simply give up on enforcing these regulations. As has been mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Campbell-Savours, the technical costs of cameras these days are incredibly low; people are putting these sorts of cameras in birds’ nest boxes, and so on. I understand that the observation of the stored material, to which the noble Earl, Lord Cathcart, referred, is going to be done by the official veterinarians of the Food Standards Agency who are already employed. I would have thought that they would incorporate that observation as part of their working day.

In conclusion, this is a long overdue and extremely welcome innovation that we should all endorse.

My Lords, I understand why Her Majesty's Government are following this course of action and I am aware of some fairly horrible cases, which means that CCTV is prima facie desirable in slaughterhouses. We are all on the same side in trying to ensure the least suffering for animals. As the noble Lord, Lord Trees, has just said, there is nothing nice about slaughterhouses or what animals have to go through. I take the points made by the noble Lord, Lord Campbell-Savours—he made a number of strong points. But I would just point out that not so long ago almost every rural town of a reasonable size had a slaughterhouse. From figures produced by my noble friend the Minister for my noble friend Lady Byford I can say that in 2001, Great Britain had 495 slaughterhouses. By last year that number had fallen to 320, which is a drop of 35%. The adverse effect on the welfare of animals which have to travel long distances to slaughter have been well aired. Those slaughterhouses closed down because they became commercially unviable. In many cases, it does not take much additional cost to tip any commercial operation from the black into the red. I take issue with the noble Lord, Lord Campbell-Savours. CCTV of the standard required is not inexpensive. You cannot just buy it on eBay. The system needs to be robust, built to last, operated in quite demanding circumstances and positioned carefully, out of reach of tampering and so on. In addition, as my noble friend Lord Cathcart said, it has to be watched, which costs money. I would therefore like to hear from the Minister what research has been done into how many of the remaining 320 slaughterhouses are on the margin of commercial viability. The crunch point for me is whether they will be tipped over the edge.

We all want a better outcome and less suffering for animals. I just hope that the Government have done enough homework to ensure that animals will not end up having to travel much further in what are often, to say the least, uncomfortable conditions, and perhaps even to countries with less rigorous rules than our own.

My Lords, I have had some experience of this subject over the last 20 years. I declare an interest in that I farm in Northumberland and have livestock. During the 1990s I chaired the Meat and Livestock Commission for eight years, during which time we had the outbreaks of BSE and foot and mouth disease. Noble Lords might be interested to know that when I took over there were about 750 abattoirs, and I presided over the decline of a large number during that period.

Noble Lords have quite rightly highlighted concern about the geographic positioning of abattoirs and their importance to local and regional food production. I continue to monitor this as chair of the Prince’s Countryside Fund because we have been requested to assist where abattoirs appear to be under threat. The most recent case was in Orkney where the abattoir was closed, although it is crucial to the economy of Orkney. Work has been taking place to try to assist in the retention of critical small abattoirs. However, according to the association, over the last two years the decline has stabilised and the number of closures has been matched largely by new abattoirs opening. I am quite encouraged by that recent data.

I will ask the Minister four questions and then make a final comment. First, I absolutely agree with the noble Lord, Lord Campbell-Savours, that inspections should be unannounced and made at random. I assume and hope that the Food Standards Agency will adopt the practice. Secondly, I hope that the CCTV system will include views of the lairages so that the standard of animal welfare there is also monitored by the cameras. Thirdly, I hope that if CCTV footage is not retained for 90 days, and there is evidence, it would fall under a penalty. I know that mistakes can be made and footage can be lost, but it is often too easy to lose the CCTV footage to cover up potential breaches in regulations. I hope that that will also be regarded as attracting a penalty.

Fourthly and finally, on the issue of proportionate penalties, like the noble Baroness, Lady Byford, I was horrified to read of these suspended sentences. If that is an example of how penalties will be applied under this legislation, it is not good enough. We need to make sure that the penalties are penalties and that they are meaningful so that businesses are stopped if it is proved that their animal welfare standards have fallen short of what is desirable.

My final comment is that the Secretary of State has made it very clear that he wants Britain to be seen, post Brexit, as a nation with very high animal welfare standards. We should be trading in a world where animal welfare standards are recognised and provide us with a potential commercial advantage. It is essential that that happens and that we use this regulation to help present ourselves as having very high animal welfare standards. I remember only too well through the 1990s how confidence in our abattoirs and our meat processing was at an all-time low. That was because of bad practice. We must never let that happen again.

My Lords, again I thank the Minister and his officials for their time and extensive briefing ahead of today’s debate, and for the Minister’s introduction. We welcome these regulations. I declare my interest as a district councillor.

The public are extremely concerned about animal welfare in slaughterhouses, regardless of whether they eat meat or are vegetarian, as everybody has demonstrated. Currently, CCTV is in place in some slaughterhouses but the coverage is not comprehensive and the cameras may not be in the right places. CCTV is present, as the noble Lord has said, in 50% of red meat and 70% of poultry slaughterhouses. Making it compulsory in all slaughterhouses regardless of size will reassure the public and, we hope, ensure that animal distress is kept to a minimum. We note that the CCTV film has to be kept for 90 days and be available for inspectors to scrutinise at all times. The film and equipment will be owned by the slaughterhouses but they are still required to conform to the regulations. Enforcement for slaughterhouses with no CCTV is to be welcomed, as is making it an offence to obstruct an inspector in his or her duty.

We are concerned about the cost of installation for smaller slaughterhouses, and I agree with the noble Earl, Lord Cathcart, about this. We understand that installation can cost about £2,500, although there seems to be some debate about the actual cost. Obviously systems will be proportional and therefore smaller outfits will need smaller installations, but we do not want smaller slaughterhouses to be put out of business, resulting in animals having to travel further to the next nearest slaughterhouse. The transportation of live animals is in itself a stressful process for them, as has already been said by the noble Earl, Lord Cathcart, and the noble Baroness, Lady Byford. I attempted to find a map of the slaughterhouses in England on the Food Standards Agency website, but I was not successful. We would be grateful if the Minister could provide such a map so that it is possible to see just what kind of coverage there is, especially in deeply rural areas.

There has been a lot of debate about the reduction in the number of slaughterhouses. Since 2001, many slaughterhouses have fallen victim to the catastrophic foot and mouth outbreak in that year. I have not seen the figures on the reduction but I suspect that quite a number will have closed as a result of that outbreak. There are 290 slaughterhouses in England—or 270, depending on your maths—and it is of some concern that there may not be enough staff and vets to oversee what is going on. Other Members have made that comment. Many vets are EU migrants. Is the Minister confident that there are currently sufficient numbers to ensure animal welfare at the point of slaughter? What are the arrangements for overseeing vets? As well as the issue of the sufficiency of overseeing vets, is he confident that the current numbers can be retained, given the impact of the impending Brexit Bill? Official veterinarians are currently partly paid for by the slaughterhouses themselves, as the noble Lord, Lord Trees, has said, and partly by the Food Standards Agency—that is, by the taxpayer—so we need to ensure that there are sufficient OVs.

As well as CCTV monitoring, there are also meat hygiene responsibilities. We understand that 80% of the slaughterhouses in England are owned by two companies—although that is not what the noble Baroness, Lady Byford, said, so there may be some discrepancy in the figure. This has led to larger rather than smaller operations. In the larger plants, meat inspectors will also be needed on site. Given their current budget constraints, are local authorities able to fulfil their requirement to provide meat hygiene inspectors for those larger plants?

We fully support the introduction of this statutory instrument, which comes into place in May, with enforcement coming in six months later. I thank the Minister for his time and effort in explaining the processes.

My Lords, I am grateful to the Minister for setting out the details of these regulations today. I should say at the outset that we support the regulations, which have been a manifesto commitment of our party and are long overdue. More importantly, as we have heard from the noble Lord, Lord Trees, and others, it is something that vets themselves have been calling for and will undoubtedly help them in driving up animal welfare standards in slaughterhouses. The introduction of the regulations is important, as more than 4,000 serious breaches of animal welfare laws in British slaughterhouses were reported by the Food Standards Agency in the two years to August 2016. Indeed, its audit report showed that not one UK slaughterhouse was in full compliance when the data was analysed in June 2016.

We welcome the measure today, but of course it is only one tool in tackling the problem. The vets, the RSPCA and indeed the Minister have made it clear that access to CCTV footage should not replace physical observations by the official veterinarians, and we agree with that. The vets on the ground still have to have the ultimate responsibility for upholding welfare standards and prosecuting when necessary.

My noble friend Lord Campbell-Savours, and the noble Baroness, Lady Byford, clarified that vets are expected to be on the site the whole time when killing is taking place. However, that raises the question of why all these animal welfare issues are still arising. It has to be a matter of real concern that so many incidents of animal cruelty have come to light only because of covert filming on the premises by whistleblowers and so on rather than by the vets themselves, even when a vet has been in attendance. This is an ongoing problem that we have to address. Hopefully, the added deterrence of CCTV in all quarters of the animal’s journey—from arrival to slaughter, as the Minister spelled out—will prevent further abuse.

I listened carefully to the noble Earl, Lord Cathcart, and the noble Lord, Lord De Mauley. Of course there is concern about the cost and about small abattoirs, but I did not really hear from the noble Lords what the alternative is. If the alternative is the status quo then I think that is unacceptable. We should be tightening up on these standards, and if that means we have to make unpalatable decisions, then we should do so. I agree with the noble Baroness, Lady Byford, that, if anything, we should be looking at higher penalties. We need to clarify what the penalties are in the proposals before us.

In giving these measures broad support, I have a few questions of clarification for the Minister. First, how will the department ensure that the CCTV cameras are installed and used correctly to avoid blind spots? Can he confirm that the requirements for storing the CCTV records once they have been taken will be such that they cannot be tampered with or have times and dates changed after the event? I have some sympathy with what my noble friend Lord Campbell-Savours, said: although 90 days is a start, I can well see that there is a case for a longer period of storage because these cases might unfold over time rather than happen in a short period. There is a case for longer storage, and perhaps the Minister can reflect on that.

Secondly, apart from the official veterinarians, who else will be entitled to view the tapes? For example, if there are allegations of cruelty that have not been addressed by the OVs, will the police and other enforcement agencies be entitled to view the tapes? On the other side of that, can we be assured that the tapes will be used only for animal welfare purposes and not, for example, for staff to be observed by immigration officers or other people who are not concerned with animal welfare? Also, many animal welfare organisations have called for additional independent monitoring of CCTV footage. Has the Minister given any consideration to introducing that extra layer of oversight? That might go some way to addressing the issue of impromptu inspections, which was raised this afternoon. Maybe that is where that extra intervention could come from.

Thirdly, as the noble Baroness, Lady Bakewell, said, the vast majority of slaughterhouse vets are EU nationals, so how can we be assured that sufficient vets will be available to oversee the 290 slaughterhouses post Brexit? If those vets are asked to leave because of new migration rules, can we be assured that their places will be taken only by other qualified vets and that there will be no attempt to deskill the role?

The internal impact assessment states that the costs to Government are assumed to be broadly neutral, even though there will now be additional duties on the shoulders of the official veterinarians. This does not seem to make sense: if the vets are expected not only to staff the premises in real time while killing is taking place but to inspect the tapes, surely that will bring additional hours and costs. Will the Minister comment on how he intends to keep those costs under review?

Finally, what support and training will be offered to smaller abattoirs on how to install and secure the CCTV tapes—this is obviously not their primary skill function—so that they cannot use a lack of skills as a reason for not complying with the new regulations?

We have had a wide-ranging discussion and I know that there are many other questions about slaughterhouse practice and slaughter that remain to be addressed, not least stunning before slaughter, which several noble Lords touched on. However, I realise that this strays beyond the confines of this SI. Therefore, with that in mind, I look forward to the Minister’s response.

My Lords, this has been a really worthwhile debate. I have learned a great deal about the intricacies of this matter from some of the experiences of noble Lords, but I repeat that we are absolutely clear that these regulations require all slaughterhouse operators to install and operate a CCTV system that provides a clear and complete picture of areas where live animals are present. To directly reply and reaffirm to the noble Lord, Lord Curry, this will include where animals are unloaded, lairaged, handled, restrained, stunned and killed. It is the complete operation within the slaughterhouse.

Some really fascinating questions have been asked and I will take them in the order they were asked. The noble Lord, Lord Campbell-Savours, encapsulated that this is a matter of zero tolerance, in which nothing can be as important as ensuring that welfare during the operation at a slaughterhouse is of the top order. I will not go into the other questions associated with this because they are not directly germane to the CCTV issue, but this is precisely the point that the noble Lord, Lord Curry, spoke about and that noble Lords alluded to. If this country wishes to have a recognition and a reputation for high animal welfare standards, this is precisely the sort of area where we can say to consumers at home and abroad that we are doing everything possible to assure them that the meat they consume is of the top animal welfare quality through our farm assurance schemes, that it is produced and lives a life to good animal welfare standards—in fact, above the norm of animal welfare standards—and that the animal has met its end in a proper and dignified and respectful manner. The contribution that these regulations make is that it will be absolutely clear to everyone, from the operators and everyone engaged through to the official veterinarian, and indeed to the person undertaking the work, that this really is of prime importance.

For instance, the noble Lord, Lord Campbell-Savours, asked who would decide about the positioning of the cameras. FSA official vets will discuss with operators where the cameras should be sited in order to meet the requirements set out in Regulation 3(1) which states that the CCTV system must provide,

“a complete and clear image of killing and related operations”.

That is essential. The noble Lord, Lord Campbell-Savours, also talked about the FAWC recommendations being implemented. Those which were directed to the Government are precisely what is set out in the regulations and the guidance. They all address the challenges which have been posed to Government, which is why we are dealing with them today. I do not have in front of me the precise wording of the recommendations, but I identify what the noble Lord has said as being the very essence of the creation of these regulations. Let us remember that some of the FAWC recommendations were directed at the industry as well.

My noble friend Lord Cathcart asked about who will be viewing and reviewing. As a part of normal duties, official veterinarians will view about 10 minutes to 20 minutes of the footage, but I emphasise that the moment they think something needs to be looked at, they will be able to do so. The point of keeping these records is that they will be able to go back and review the situation. The FSA welfare assurance scheme will also review footage as part of any audit process, and the number of audits depends on the size of the operation.

The noble Lord is talking about viewing and reviewing the operation. There may be a dozen slaughtermen of whom just one has been identified as being at risk of bad practice. Surely a far more extensive backlog of material will be needed to nail that one slaughterman. You need to look at this selectively over a long period of time. That is the argument behind the 90-day period. It is not sufficient to gather enough material to identify one particular abuser of the law.

I understand the essence of what the noble Lord is saying. The FSA feels that 90 days is sufficient for its enforcement purposes. However, because I believe in zero tolerance in these issues, I contend that with all the CCTV provision, I expect that the official veterinarian will be able to identify someone who is not behaving properly very much earlier. The point about the 90-day period is that we are looking at the official veterinarian and the other means which I will come on to.

I am sorry to come back on this again, but I go back to my opening comments where I quoted from paragraph 42 of the FAWC recommendations which points out that in many cases the officials were unaware of what was happening in terms of animal abuse.

I understand that. It is why CCTV will cover all areas, and that will provide the extra scrutiny. The FSA and the official veterinarian will be able to enhance animal welfare and, if necessary, identify people in slaughterhouses who are not behaving properly. Obviously the CCTV will need to cover all areas of the operation and the official veterinarian will need to look at the footage. The whole purpose of this is to enable the official veterinarian to see when any elements of the operation are not being undertaken properly.

I think some of this will unfold in a way that I hope will satisfy the noble Lord that we are really keen to get this one properly sorted. As I say, the FSA will be viewing the tapes. The noble Baroness, Lady Jones of Whitchurch, and, I think, my noble friend Lord Cathcart may have raised this in terms of viewing the tapes. The FSA inspectors will include the OVs, meat hygiene inspectors and FSA auditors from the health and welfare angle. In addition, I will be mentioning random visits; it is somewhere in my papers.

The noble Lord, Lord Curry, asked whether it is an offence not to retain footage for 90 days. This is indeed an offence under Regulation 9(1)(b). The penalty for a breach is a fine of unlimited amount. I say to the noble Lords, Lord Curry and Lord Campbell-Savours, and a number of your Lordships who have raised this, official veterinarians must be on the premises at all times, but the FSA also undertakes random inspections and risk-based audit visits of slaughterhouses. So with the requirement of the official veterinarian being in place at all times, the random visits, the arrival of this new regulation and the work we will need to undertake in that respect, I believe this advances these points.

Excuse me for coming in at this point. When you were talking about the official veterinarian being there at all times, I presume that means all times when the slaughterhouse is operating officially. Will the cameras run at other times or will the cameras switch off when the official veterinarian leaves?

Again, I may look slightly sideways. The whole purpose of these regulations is so that at all times that the slaughterhouse is in operation—I stress “at all times”—whether at the arrival or at the end, the CCTV has to be on. If no animals are present or if everyone has gone home, the CCTV camera would not be in operation. But when any animal is present, at all the stages that I have outlined, there will be a requirement for CCTV to be in operation so that it can be viewed by the range of people that I have outlined. I think that is very much a positive.

A number of your Lordships, including my noble friend Lady Byford, have raised the level of the fine. The level of fine that can be imposed under these regulations is unlimited. By way of background, the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012 removed the cap on level 5 fines, allowing them to be unlimited in amount.

My noble friend Lord Cathcart raised the question of costs. I can only, in this honest venture, set out what I know from the impact assessment. The impact assessment published with the consultation last summer estimated the average cost—I underline “average”—to be £2,500 for installation. The cost of installation in slaughterhouses will clearly be proportionate to the size of premises and whether CCTV is already installed. The costs would be incurred only to cover live animal operations not previously covered. This is estimated to be about £500 per area. Again, in the figures I have, total one-off costs to the English slaughter industry for the installation of CCTV were estimated at £670,000. Ongoing costs, to include staff, maintenance, replacement and electricity, were £250,000, with a view that the cost to the regulator was considered to be minimal. I am going to go on to talk about small slaughterhouses. One knows the benefit of these regulations for animals, but what they mean for the provenance and reputation of British food is also very strong.

The noble Lord, Lord Trees, mentioned the issue of standstill periods. Animals which are subject to religious slaughter and which are not stunned must not be moved after the neck has been cut until the animal is unconscious—that is at least 20 seconds for sheep and goats and 30 seconds for cattle. We are very clear on that.

My noble friends Lord De Mauley and Lady Byford raised the issue of small slaughterhouses. We appreciate the role of small and medium-sized abattoirs, which meet the needs of producers in more remote areas. We are also aware of their decline. I think it is fair to say that the result of consolidation in the retail sector has a part to play in this; that is, there has been a drive for greater efficiency. The correctly increasing requirements for higher meat hygiene standards in abattoirs has also played a part, and this issue is of the highest order whatever size the abattoir is.

As for the map, we have already asked the FSA for a geographical spread of abattoirs, and I will certainly let the noble Baroness, Lady Bakewell, have a copy of that.

The noble Baronesses, Lady Bakewell and Lady Jones of Whitchurch, asked about the sufficiency of OVs. The FSA is working with its delivery contractors on this. As your Lordships will know, the FSA has an arrangement with delivery contractors on plans for the recruitment and retention of sufficient veterinary resources to maintain the necessary oversight of meat hygiene and animal welfare at approved slaughterhouses. The department is also working very strongly with the veterinary profession on capability and resources post Brexit, and I think that veterinary professionals would acknowledge that we are most serious in ensuring that there are sufficient resources.

The noble Baroness, Lady Jones of Whitchurch, also asked a number of questions about storage and tampering. Cleary, any tampering would be in breach of regulations.

I have mentioned the length of time for enforcement: the FSA feels that 90 days is sufficient for its purposes but we do not need to wait 90 days to root out bad behaviour. We need to ensure that bad behaviour does not happen, and that requires the proper training of the people undertaking this task for those of us who wish to eat meat.

I will check Hansard because there have been a considerable number of questions, and I have probably already used far too much of my ration, as it were—the noble Lord opposite and my noble friend probably entirely agree. I hope your Lordships will agree that the whole thrust of these regulations is for the benefit of animal welfare. In addition, I passionately believe that they will put slaughterhouse operators in a position in which they feel much more comfortable that the consumer knows that, at the end of its life, the animal providing their meat has been cared for and had its welfare considered at large. That is why I recommend these regulations. They will be most helpful for all the reasons I have outlined.

Motion agreed.

Sitting suspended.

First-tier Tribunal and Upper Tribunal (Composition of Tribunal) (Amendment) Order 2018

Considered in Grand Committee

Moved by

That the Grand Committee do consider the First-tier Tribunal and Upper Tribunal (Composition of Tribunal) (Amendment) Order 2018.

My Lords, the principal purpose of the draft order before us is to provide the Senior President of Tribunals, to whom I shall refer as the SPT, with greater flexibility in setting panel composition within the First-tier Tribunal. These changes are being made with the support of the senior judiciary in order to address restrictions in the existing law. The order will also introduce a level of ministerial involvement with panel composition in the First-tier Tribunal and Upper Tribunal, bringing their processes in line with other parts of the justice system. The current SPT, Sir Ernest Ryder, has been consulted on the draft provisions and has confirmed his support.

Tribunals were designed to be user-friendly, allowing citizens to seek impartial redress. The tribunal system should be proportionate, accessible and simple to use, though it has become increasingly complex and burdened with bureaucracy. The Government have therefore committed to reforming the tribunals as part of our wider reform of the justice system, delivering a tribunal system that is more efficient and delivers better value for money. This will involve a greater use of technology. New online processes will enable tribunals to be more accessible and easier for users to navigate. As these reforms progress, the use of tribunal panel members should be more tailored and flexible. This will ensure that the tribunal can benefit from panel members’ specialist expertise and knowledge when it adds specific value to the decision-making process.

The terms of the existing composition order specify that in setting panel composition in the First-tier Tribunal, the SPT must have regard to the arrangements that existed before its creation. That requirement means that many tribunal panels are based on historical precedents, dating back over 10 years to 2008 and earlier. In a system that will be reliant on digital processes, the provision of specialist expertise should be looked at afresh to ensure that it remains appropriate. The current legislation restricts the SPT’s ability to do so.

I shall explain further. Tribunal reform will see the introduction of continuous online resolution. Parties will be able to submit a claim and evidence online, and judges will be able to review and request additional information, meaning that where appropriate a decision can be reached without the need for a physical hearing. This will be possible because, unlike the current system where the first interaction between the judge and tribunal user is usually the hearing, there will be an opportunity to offer information and resolve disputes earlier in the process. It will essentially be a triage system, where the most straightforward cases are resolved online and more complex cases continue through to a full hearing.

In this digital context, it would not be reasonable to require the SPT to have regard to panel arrangements that were in place before these alternative means of resolving disputes existed. Rather, the SPT may wish to consider whether specialist expertise could be provided in alternative ways that were more compatible with new online processes. The draft order therefore intends to remove the existing requirement on the SPT to have regard to previous panel arrangements. Instead, it will provide for a requirement to consider the nature of the matter and the means by which it is being decided, as well as the need for members of tribunals to have particular expertise, skills or knowledge.

I turn to ministerial involvement in panel composition. The existing provisions delegate the Lord Chancellor’s responsibility for setting panel composition to the SPT. The current arrangements have been made in practice statements, which do not include any form of ministerial involvement. It is intended to introduce a requirement for the SPT to set panel composition by practice direction. The process for doing this, as set out in legislation, is subject to consultation with the Lord Chancellor. There is nothing unusual about the use of practice directions, and they are used in other parts of the justice system. In the civil courts, decisions on judicial allocation and assignment are similarly matters for the judiciary, and are set by practice direction after consultation with the Lord Chancellor. The existing determinations made by practice statement, however, would continue to apply until such time as they are superseded. Although the SPT will be required to consult the Lord Chancellor, panel composition decisions will remain a judicial matter and the SPT will continue to make the final determination.

As to the number of panel members, two years ago the MoJ consulted on proposals to amend the panel composition provisions. At that time, it was proposed to introduce single-member panels as a default and to provide the SPT with the power to specify where additional members should be used. The intention was to ensure tribunal panel composition was proportionate to the case being determined.

However, we listened to our stakeholders and the Government subsequently announced that they would not proceed in this way. Instead, this statutory instrument provides that the SPT will determine whether a panel should consist of one, two or three members. While this still allows for some cases to be heard by a single-member panel—indeed, many tribunals are already ordinarily heard by a single member—the SPT will have regard to the nature of the matter and the means by which it is to be decided, and the need for particular expertise. We can therefore be confident that single-member panels will be used only in appropriate circumstances. Previous changes to panel composition have not proved to be controversial. In 2014, a former SPT conducted a pilot in the tribunal’s special educational needs and disability jurisdiction, reducing the number of panel members from three to two. This did not affect user experience. Importantly, the tribunal was flexible enough to ensure panel composition could be adapted according to the complexity of the case.

The Government of course recognise the valuable contribution that panel members make to the tribunal system. While there will continue to be a need for specific experts, the greater use of technology and new ways of resolving disputes will be an important new factor to consider. This instrument will not itself change panel composition. It will be for the SPT to review and consider whether new panel arrangements are needed.

There are sufficient safeguards to ensure that users are not adversely affected by any panel changes implemented under this order. The SPT has an existing statutory duty: to have regard to the need for tribunals to be accessible; for proceedings to be fair and handled efficiently; and for members of tribunals to be experts in law or the subject matter applied in cases. Additionally, as I have already stated, the revised order will specify that the SPT must have regard to the nature of the matter to be decided and the means by which it will be decided, as well as the need for members of tribunals to have particular expertise, skills or knowledge. Previously, wherever the SPT has sought to amend panel arrangements, he has done so in collaboration with senior members of the judiciary, who in turn have undertaken consultation appropriate to, and proportionate with, the nature of the proposed changes. The SPT has confirmed that he would remain committed to that practice.

In conclusion, the proposed measures will provide the judiciary with greater flexibility to ensure that tribunal panel composition is proportionate and suitable to the case being heard. I commend the order to the Committee.

My Lords, I have two main concerns as to this order. The first is the risk of damage to the quality of tribunal decision-making because of the reduced recourse to specialist expertise. We welcome the fact that in response to the consultation, as the Minister said, the Government have abandoned their proposal for a default position that tribunals should be single member. Nevertheless, we are concerned that tribunals may not benefit from specialist membership when they would otherwise do so.

My noble friend Lady Thomas of Winchester, who was planning to stay and speak but has had to leave because of the hour, is concerned about the composition of tribunals hearing personal independent payment cases. Her views apply equally, of course, to employment support allowance and disability allowance cases. Presently such appeals are heard by a tribunal judge together with a doctor and a disability specialist. It is important that experts have full membership of the tribunals in important cases because, in my noble friend’s experience, assessors advising tribunals are not always, as she puts it, up to the job. Her views are fully supported by Disability Rights UK, which has done a great deal of work in this area.

My second concern is the risk of a rising number of appeals as a result of first-instance hearings going wrong, increasing costs on both sides and the strain on applicants, for whom the effects of delay can be devastating, particularly vulnerable applicants seeking enhanced payments. This is a particular problem in social security tribunals, which have a history of a high proportion of appeals and of appeals having a high proportion of success.

It was a concern raised by the Bar Council in its response to the original Ministry of Justice consultation that errors of fact, and therefore appeals, would increase if specialist expertise were reduced. Furthermore, errors of fact do not always give rise to appeals, so applicants may often be stuck with unjust decisions. There is huge benefit to getting it right first time.

I appreciate that there is a duty on the senior president under paragraph (3), as the Minister said, to have regard to the need for members of tribunals to have particular expertise, skills or knowledge, and that the senior president must issue a practice direction. I have no objection to the practice direction procedure as such, but I ask the Minister to make it clear that any practice direction must provide for sifting out cases that raise questions of fact that are expertise-sensitive. These include involving medics and disability experts for PIP and other disability hearings, accountants for tax hearings, and educational experts and mental health experts for special educational needs cases. It is really only cases involving pure points of law—generally interpretation and application of statutes and regulations—that justify single-member tribunals, as well as, possibly, cases involving fact that is not expertise-sensitive.

Expert membership of tribunals is an important feature that distinguishes them from courts. There is a clear distinction between expert evidence given by expert witnesses to judges in court, where the judges are decision-makers, and expert tribunal members taking a full part in decision-making and lending their expertise informally in discussion as well as formally to the other tribunal members. The difference in roles is important and valuable, and I suggest that it enhances public confidence in tribunals. We would not wish it to be threatened.

Important also are questions of balance. The practice direction needs to ensure that the composition of tribunals strikes a balance between opposing parties’ interests. That should be a perceived balance, clear to the public, as well as an actual balance. The classic case, of course, is three-member employment tribunals, with one lay member reflecting the employer’s interests and another the employee’s interest, alongside an employment judge. In First-tier Tribunals in respect of disability appeals, Disability Rights UK cites a disability expert member of tribunals as explaining that such experts are uniquely able to see cases from the perspective of the disabled person.

I question the wisdom of removing the requirement that the senior president should have regard to past practice. Of course, I can see why we should move on from having regard to practice at the original creation of First-tier Tribunals. That would become steadily more out of date, as the Minister pointed out. But the senior president could still be required to have regard to the composition of panels prior to any change. Existing practice can act as a salutary check on any change without excluding it.

I point out that the requirement to have regard to a practice does not require the senior president slavishly to follow it. All I say is that we can learn from experience. In fact, the system works pretty well. We appreciate the need for it to be proportionate and efficient. Broadly, we accept that that means introducing cost-saving measures, and they are fine if they will have no impact on fairness. At best, the order could keep that, but at worst, the impact could be serious. We suggest that having regard to experience is often helpful in preserving the best of what we have.

My Lords, the noble Lord has just mentioned the little question I was going to ask and I apologise if my noble friend covered the point while I was scribbling some notes and trying to listen to the technical detail. It is simply about the cost: is there any additional cost to this measure or is there a cost saving? That is all I want to know.

My Lords, there is no objection to reviewing the composition or indeed the working of tribunals in a system that covers significant areas of public policy and provision but which also extends to areas of law and practice in which the Government do not have a direct interest. The effect of the order as drafted is to enhance the role of the Senior President of Tribunals, notably in relation to the composition of panels, which hitherto has been the responsibility of the Lord Chancellor.

In many areas the tribunals will be adjudicating on claims and issues between the citizen and the state in relation to a variety of claims, and it may be that in many and even perhaps most of the cases in this category the proposed changes will not be controversial. There are, however, real concerns about the impact of the changes on the employment tribunal system in which the adjudication is between two independent parties, employees and employers, rather than the citizen and the state in one of its many manifestations. This is already an area in which the Government have intervened when they imposed fees for applications to the employment tribunals, an action which was of course struck down by the Supreme Court last year. The number of claims to employment tribunals has since risen by 60% with no perceptible increase in staffing and a consequential growing backlog in cases, to the detriment of both employees and employers. Can the Minister say what measures will be taken, and when, to address this issue?

However, there are issues about the application of the provisions of this order to employment cases. In a previous incarnation I had some professional experience of employment law, in all but one case on the part of employees. Employment law is, as the TUC has pointed out, a complex and specialist field of law. Among other things it is frequently concerned with equalities issues and, at least for the moment, the provisions of European law. There is therefore a very strong case for excluding these tribunals from the general provision in the order removing the requirement for the panels in the First-tier Tribunal and Upper Tribunal to have expertise in this area of law. In this I concur with what the noble Lord has said.

The TUC urges that the panels from which employment tribunals are drawn should be composed of people with experience of employment law, although not necessarily lawyers. This has the support of the CBI and other employers’ organisations. A majority of those responding in 2011 to a government consultation on the issue opposed the proposal to limit the role of lay members in unfair dismissal cases. Specifically, the TUC urges that lay members should sit in all employment-related cases, including fast-track cases, unfair dismissal and discrimination cases. It concedes, however, that where a case involves complex legal issues and, importantly, all the issues of fact are uncontested, employment judges should have discretion to sit alone.

The Government are keen, perhaps for understandable reasons, to promote virtual hearings and teleconferencing. Can the Minister say whether this extends to tribunals in general, and employment tribunals in particular? There are concerns about the reliability of these approaches and the stress on those who are unfamiliar with these systems, among whom I would probably have to include myself. There would need to be safeguards where, for example, the parties to an employment case give evidence of that kind rather than in a conventional forum, and there are some doubts about the ability of panel members to assess the credibility of witnesses or parties when such approaches are used. At the very least, will the Government pilot such methods before requiring them to be applied across the piece? Finally on this aspect, do the Government agree that virtual hearings of this kind should have to be agreed by both parties?

My Lords, I thank all noble Lords for their contributions. I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Marks, that the system does indeed work pretty well. The proposals today are just to make sure that it works slightly better than it currently does by focusing resources in the areas where we need them most.

Perhaps I could tick off an easy win by turning to the question raised by my noble friend Lord Blencathra. There are no costs relating to the proposals and indeed, there may be some cost savings, but of course the proposals themselves do not assume that. It will be up to the SPT to do the panel composition. However, in certain circumstances, lay members may not be required as a member of the panel, and in that case there will be a saving. One might assume that if there was a 25% reduction, for example, the saving would be somewhere in the region of £3 million. Again, I do not think that we should bank that; we need to be aware that resources need to be used effectively, but that is one possible consequence.

I turning to the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Marks, about the risk of damage to the quality of decision-making. I would point him to the changes which have already been made to panel composition and various other elements. For example, the Immigration and Asylum Chamber made some changes in June 2014. It decided that there would no longer routinely be a non-legal member on those panels. Over the period it looked at the proportion of cases that went to appeal and found that there was no change. I think that there is evidence that there is no risk of damage to the quality of decision-making. It will always be front of mind for the SPT to make sure that the panels are made up appropriately.

The appropriateness of the panel was raised by a number of noble Lords. It is clear that the SPT must ensure that in making these decisions, he or she has a legal duty to consider the need for tribunals to be accessible, for the proceedings to be fair and to be handled quickly and efficiently, and where needed, for the members of the tribunal to be experts in the subject matter. We do not see that that would need to change under this order. It will be up to the SPTs to decide the panel composition, whether that is for different types or groups or cases or sometimes on a case-by-case basis for very complex cases. I would go back to the original thing about this order which is that it will respond to the sort of triage system that we hope will come into force, whereby some very straightforward cases can be dealt with much more swiftly within the new system, which is good in terms of access to justice for people wishing to make a claim. On the impact of the changes in the panel composition, HM CTS routinely collects data relating to all tribunals, covering success rates, appeal rates and overturn rates of first instance appeals. We will continue to monitor that data as these changes come into effect.

The noble Lord, Lord Beecham, referred to employment tribunals. The order does not impact on those at all as it is not related to them, so it is probably not wise for me to go down that particular road today. We may look at similar provisions for employment tribunals in the future, but that would come under a different type of legislation and it is certainly not on the short-term horizon. If there are issues about employment tribunals that the noble Lord mentioned, I will be happy to write, but I am afraid that at the moment it is not wise for us to discuss it.

The provisions we have discussed today are an essential component of the Government’s ambitious plans to modernise Her Majesty’s Courts and Tribunals Service, and I commend the draft order to the Committee.

Motion agreed.

Committee adjourned at 7.29 pm.