My Lords, on behalf of my noble friend Lord Randall of Uxbridge, I beg to move that this Bill do now pass. I declare my interest as a member of the National Farmers’ Union.
I know that my noble friend Lord Randall of Uxbridge was delighted to be asked to sponsor this important Bill by my honourable friend the Member for Romford in the other place. I give great credit to my honourable friend for introducing the Bill and for skilfully steering it through all its stages in the other place. I also take the opportunity to thank the Minister for his support of this Bill in your Lordships’ House. I also thank my honourable friends the Member for Bury St Edmunds and the Member for Banbury for their valuable support in the other place.
As your Lordships will be aware, this Bill will enable the introduction of penalty notices for existing offences relating to animal health, welfare, biosecurity and products, with a maximum fine of £5,000. The Second Reading debate showed that the Bill was supported from all sides of this House, and I am sure all noble Lords will agree that it is reassuring that there are matters on which we can all wholeheartedly agree—such as the one before us today on improving protections for the animals that we keep.
I congratulate the Government on their continued support for this Bill; their dedication to improving the lives of animals is commendable. I also take this opportunity to thank noble Lords for their considered and important contributions. I am grateful to noble Lords for being considerate of the time constraints attached to Private Members’ Bills in general, and I am delighted that no amendments were tabled.
I also extend my thanks to those long-standing advocates for animals outside Parliament who have supported the Bill. They include many charities and other organisations, such as the National Farmers’ Union, the RSPCA, Battersea Dogs & Cats Home, Cats Protection, the Dogs Trust, Blue Cross and World Horse Welfare. I commend them for supporting this Bill and the benefits it will provide.
Finally, I extend my thanks to the civil servants in Defra and the Whips’ Office for getting us to this point just before this parliamentary Session draws to a close. Given this Government’s commitment to strengthening animal health and welfare, I am sure that this will be one of many measures that we will see.
My Lords, I thank the noble Earl, Lord Shrewsbury, for so ably introducing the Motion on behalf of the noble Lord, Lord Randall of Uxbridge, who has so well steered it through this House so far. I also pay tribute to Andrew Rosindell, who sponsored the Bill in the other place.
We welcome any increased measures against those who break animal welfare laws deliberately, so we are pleased to see this Bill passing into law. But can I ask the Minister some questions about some other animal welfare legislation we are waiting on? It will be good to see the Animal Welfare (Sentience) Bill pass—fingers crossed—next week, and I was pleased to see that the Leader of the House in the other place has confirmed that the kept animals Bill will be carried over to the next Session. However, I am concerned, as are many others, about the fate of the animals abroad Bill, which would look to ban foie gras, fur imports and trophy hunting imports. Many people right across the parties support these Bills, and I would be grateful for an update from the Minister.
My Lords, I start by congratulating my noble friends Lord Randall and Lord Shrewsbury on progressing the Bill to this stage. I echo the thanks to Andrew Rosindell, not only for stewarding the Bill we are discussing today but for his efforts on behalf of animal welfare over many years.
This Bill is one of several animal health and welfare reforms being supported by the Government. Before I move on to the specifics of this Bill—although I will keep that very brief—I will address the comments and questions put to me by the noble Baroness. She is right that the kept animals Bill is progressing, is safe and is happening. I am very pleased, as she is, that that is the case. The sentience Bill, too, is in good shape, and I cannot see any obstacles to that Bill. She will be aware, as other noble Lords will be, that we set out much broader plans in the animal welfare action plan, which included measures relating to protecting animals abroad, as she might imagine. A number of those proposals are moving ahead well, so I can provide absolute reassurance in relation to trophy hunting, for example. Our commitment to ban the import of hunting trophies, as described by the Government in the paper they produced, is on track and will happen. I say “on track”, but there have been delays. It would be foolish to pretend that there have not been delays, but it is on track and the commitment remains absolute. I assure the House that that proposal will go through, and I hope that it will become law, subject to the approval of both Houses.
In relation to other measures in what would be the animals abroad Bill, we have discussed in detail measures to ban the import and export of shark fins. We are working through those measures, and the noble Baroness will not be surprised to hear that I am completely committed to making sure that those measures go through. Likewise, on fur, foie gras and low-animal-welfare entertainment, we see masses of campaigning on this issue and some really shocking images—for example, of elephants being broken in in an utterly depraved manner in order to provide entertainment for tourists who often do not know the back story of those animals. So, all these measures are progressing, and I give the House my assurance that I will I do everything I can to ensure that they make it into law. I thank the noble Baroness very much for her positive pressure on these issues and for her co-operation.
As was discussed at Second Reading, penalty notices will serve as an important tool to encourage animal keepers to follow the rules and discourage those who break them from committing more serious offences through this early redirection. Continued engagement by noble Lords, both at Second Reading and today—of course, we also had plenty of engagement in the other House—testifies to the importance of this Bill and highlights that animal health and welfare is and will continue to be a key issue for this House. The Bill will directly benefit this country’s farmed and kept animals, including zoo animals and companion animals, and it will increase accountability when our biosecurity is put at risk. Penalty notices will bolster our existing enforcement measures and will give enforcement authorities more options to influence positive behaviour when it comes to caring for our animals.
I am very grateful for the support this measure has received. A number of the organisations which have engaged closely with us and invested much of their time have already been named by my noble friend. I am grateful to them as well for carefully considering how this will work in practice and for sharing their views so that we can make this measure as effective as possible. In particular, I echo the thanks to the RSPCA, Battersea Dogs & Cats Home and the National Farmers’ Union, as well as many others. Their support has been invaluable.
I also thank the Delegated Powers and Regulatory Reform Committee for its report on the Bill. I completely agree that appropriate parliamentary scrutiny is necessary, both for this Bill and, of course, for all others. That is why the guidance will be laid before Parliament and why we will work closely with stakeholders to ensure that we get it right.
I echo the thanks of my noble friend Lord Shrewsbury to the Whips’ Office and to all those who have worked on this Bill. I hereby conclude on behalf of the Government.