Skip to main content

Animal Welfare (Livestock Exports) Bill

Volume 838: debated on Tuesday 14 May 2024

Third Reading

Scottish and Welsh Legislative Consent granted.


Moved by

My Lords, I assure noble Lords that I will not hold business up for very long. I particularly assure the noble Baroness, Lady Fookes, that I am very much in favour of the Bill. But it is very important that noble Lords understand that, while we may be patting our backs and saying that it is wonderful that we have gone ahead with banning the live export of animals for slaughter, this is not a United Kingdom Bill; it is a Great Britain Bill. Once again, Northern Ireland has been left out. It has been left out, of course, because Northern Ireland has been left in the European Union single market.

There will be more discussion of the repercussions of that on the Rwanda Act. Whatever you think of the Rwanda Act, it was meant to be a United Kingdom Act. As we saw yesterday, the High Court has now said that it is disapplied in Northern Ireland.

As far as this Bill is concerned, the noble Lord who has been taking it through has been extremely kind and helpful in trying to placate me and some others on this issue, making it clear that when animals move from Great Britain to Northern Ireland, they will have to stay for some time—30 days—before they can be moved over the border. Let us be honest: there is a frontier. The Republic of Ireland is a foreign country. Therefore, there would be no incentive for people to move animals to Northern Ireland in order to send them on to the Republic of Ireland.

Therefore, what concerns us is not that specific movement but the fact that there is no guarantee that animals from Northern Ireland, which are under no restriction whatever, will not be moved to the Republic of Ireland and then onwards on a long journey down to the south of Ireland and across the sea to France and then Morocco, with loads of sheep packed together. Yet we are saying that this is wonderful, that we have changed things and that leaving the European Union has allowed us to ban live exports. I just hope noble Lords realise that this is one of many provisions that now cannot be applied to Northern Ireland, because this Government have basically sold out Northern Ireland and left it under the European Union for so many regulations. Unless we wake up and start to realise that, this will be the very beginning of the end of the union of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.

My Lords, I will make a couple of points. The Minister got Scottish and Welsh legislative consent for this legislation, but the Northern Ireland Assembly was not asked to give its consent, even though a lot of this area is devolved under existing legislation. The Minister went on to say that there would be potential repercussions to extending the ban to Northern Ireland—for example, under the terms of the trade and co-operation agreement. In effect, the issue here is: is this matter a policy choice or a legal necessity under the trade and co-operation agreement? It would be most helpful to get clarification.

As the noble Baroness, Lady Hoey, said, we had a very significant court decision yesterday. It was dismissed out of hand in the Safeguarding the Union document at paragraph 46, which made very clear that this was only a matter of trade. It specified—in black and white —that immigration would be excluded; that is what the Government said. It went on to say that those suggesting that there would be an issue with immigration were entirely wrong, and that all of the United Kingdom would be treated as an individual unit in the UK’s policy on immigration. We have not only a trade border up the Irish Sea but an immigration border and now an animal export border. Is it not time that people were told the truth, instead of being misled?

My Lords, I thank my noble friend the Minister for his engagement during the passage of the Bill and for the letter he sent me, which I read this afternoon. I echo the concerns expressed by the noble Baroness opposite, because I raised the concerns expressed by the NFU and others that there is still a potential loophole that my noble friend and his department might like to address.

I press my noble friend on reaching a phytosanitary agreement with the EU, the absence of which has meant that poultry producers have lost £85 million in chicken exports to the EU. Poultry exports decreased in value by 69% in the first quarter of 2021. The additional costs and burdens that they had to meet amounted to £60 million in 2021 alone. Those costs are not met by the EU producers, as there are no border controls.

I applaud my noble friend for taking up the issue of labelling, which we discussed on Report. I urge him to ensure that, at the very least, consumers will be made aware that the food they might be about to purchase has been produced in an EU country or a third country and does not meet the standards imposed on our home producers.

Finally, I ask him to use his good offices to ensure that the potential of a first border control post on the EU continental mainland will be achieved at Hook of Holland, using and converting the equine facilities there. Can he use his good offices to ensure that the port of Harwich can be identified as a reciprocal port, to make sure that we have the possibility of a border post and that our food exports reach the EU in a timely and affordable manner? Can he also ensure that we have an SPS agreement with the EU at the earliest possible opportunity?

My Lords, we are at Third Reading; I will be brief and will not ask questions. I thank the Minister for his good humour and patience during the passage of this vital Bill, which had total cross-party support from the most ardent animal rights supporters in the Chamber. Although some of us might have preferred amendments, it was essential that the Bill pass without delay, and I congratulate the Minister on achieving its speedy passage.

My Lords, as it is Third Reading and this is supposed to be formal, I shall be very brief and just say how delighted I am to see how swiftly the Bill has made its passage through both Houses. It is an important Bill that many of us have campaigned to see for many years, and I very much welcome it and thank all those who have been involved.

To be honest, that was a slightly longer list of questions than I was expecting at this stage.

First, I thank all those who have been so kind to support the Bill. I am acutely aware that an awful lot of individuals, Members of this House and the other place, members of the public and other organisations, have been campaigning for this Bill for a very long time, and I am delighted that we have got it to this stage. I am also acutely aware that there are some challenges in certain places where I have been unable to satisfy the noble Baroness, Lady Hoey, and the noble Lord, Lord Empey, on the specific details. However, I think that they are acutely aware that it is probably beyond my remit to address those issues. I have tried extremely hard through both individual engagement and the debates that we have had up to this stage to put the Bill in the position that I think we all want it to conclude on, which is one where it will pass.

Therefore, I feel sad that I cannot satisfy everybody in this space, but I genuinely believe that we can collectively be proud of this Bill, and it does exactly the right thing at this moment in time.

Bill passed.