This Government are committed to the highest standards of animal welfare. Our manifesto made it clear that we will bring in new laws on animal sentience, end excessively long journeys for farm animals and ban the keeping of primates as pets. We have introduced one of the world’s toughest ivory bans and will be supporting the Animal Welfare (Sentencing) Bill.
I was disappointed that, because of coronavirus, the Second Reading of the Animal Welfare (Sentencing) Bill was delayed. Will my hon. Friend assure me that it will be heard in the House at the earliest opportunity?
We all shared my hon. Friend’s disappointment, and I am pleased to be able to reassure her that the Bill is due to have its Second Reading on 23 October.
Our constituents expect us to uphold animal welfare and high food standards. Does my hon. Friend therefore agree that maintaining the UK’s high food standards and excellent animal welfare record is, among other things, in the Government’s interest, as that is what customers at home and abroad expect and demand from UK producers?
I absolutely agree with hon. Friend on that. The Government are proud of the high animal health and welfare, and environmental standards that underpin our high-quality produce. The UK’s growing reputation for quality food and drink, with high standards of food safety, animal welfare and sustainability, serves as a great platform from which to expand our exports.
The Minister has been hearing a strong message from the House this morning about animal cruelty, because, sadly, the lockdown has seen an increase in it, with the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals reporting 47,000 incidents —the Daily Mail calculates that that is one case every two minutes. As we have heard, the Animal Welfare (Sentencing) Bill has been constantly delayed. The Bill has cross-party support. The Government are supposed to be supporting it and they are supposed to be running this place, so will the Minister guarantee that Finn’s law will be on the statute book by the end of the year and available to the courts?
As I said a moment ago, 23 October is the date available for Second Reading. I have supported the Bill from the beginning and I am pleased it will be moving forward just as quickly as we can do it.
Food insecurity is a great issue, especially with the covid virus. Evidence we are taking in the Select Committee on Environment, Food and Rural Affairs shows that a lot of people are in need of good food. I congratulate the Secretary of State on the system of getting food straight from the farms to those who most need it, but can he extend it even more? I ask because after the pandemic and before the economy recovers properly people are going to need more and more food.
My hon. Friend raises an important point. The Government have made available £16 million to partners such as FareShare to ensure that we can get food to thousands of food charities across the country to support those in need. In addition, we have been looking at other ways in which we can support those who are financially vulnerable at this difficult time.