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Animal Welfare (Livestock Exports) Bill  

Volume 743: debated on Monday 15 January 2024

Considered in Committee

[Relevant documents: First Report of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee of Session 2021-22, Moving animals across borders, HC 79; and the Government response, HC 986.]

[Mr Nigel Evans in the Chair]

Clause 1

Prohibition of export of livestock for slaughter

I beg to move amendment 2, page 1, line 16, after “goats,” insert “(da) alpaca,”.

This amendment would add alpacas to the definition of livestock covered by the Bill.

With this it will be convenient to discuss the following:

Amendment 3, page 1, line 16, after “goats,” insert “(da) deer,”.

This amendment would add deer to the definition of livestock covered by the Bill.

Amendment 4, page 1, line 16, after “goats,” insert “(da) llamas,”.

This amendment would add llamas to the definition of livestock covered by the Bill.

Amendment 1, page 1, line 17, at end insert “(f) reindeer.”

This amendment adds reindeer to the definition of “Relevant livestock”.

Amendment 5, page 2, line 7, at end insert—

“(7A) An appropriate national authority may by regulations extend the list of ‘relevant livestock’ in subsection (4).

(7B) ‘Appropriate national authority’ in relation to the power under subsection (7A), means—

(a) in relation to livestock kept in England, the Secretary of State;

(b) in respect of livestock kept in Scotland, the Scottish Ministers;

(c) in respect of livestock kept in Wales, the Welsh Ministers.

(7C) The Secretary of State may not make a statutory instrument containing regulations under subsection (7A) unless a draft of the instrument has been laid before, and approved by a resolution of, each House of Parliament.

(7D) Regulations made by the Scottish Ministers under subsection (7A) are subject to the affirmative procedure (see section 29 of the Interpretation and Legislative Reform (Scotland) Act 2010).

(7E) The Welsh Ministers may not make a statutory instrument containing regulations under subsection (7A) unless a draft of the instrument has been laid before, and approved by a resolution of, Senedd Cymru.”

This amendment would allow the appropriate national authority to extend, by statutory instrument subject to the affirmative procedure, the list of livestock species which may not be exported for slaughter.

Clause stand part.

Clauses 2 to 7 stand part.

I am grateful for the opportunity to speak from the Opposition Benches on the Animal Welfare (Livestock Exports) Bill. We have tabled amendments inspired by Labour’s track record of delivering on animal welfare, from ending the testing of cosmetic products on animals and stopping the cruelty of fur farming to cracking down on horrific hunting practices. They allow us to compare our record with that of this Conservative Government and their shameful failures. They have bottled their manifesto promises to end the import of hunting trophies and crack down on puppy farming, to name just two of their animal welfare failures. As I indicated on Second Reading, Labour welcomes this legislation, but we regret that it has taken so long to bring this unnecessarily cruel trade to an end. We will seek through our amendments to make the Bill as fit for the future as possible.

It will be no surprise to the public that Labour is the party of animal welfare. Before turning to the amendments in my name and those of my hon. Friends the Members for Croydon North (Steve Reed), for Kingston upon Hull West and Hessle (Emma Hardy), for Cambridge (Daniel Zeichner) and for Chesterfield (Mr Perkins), I would like to acknowledge and thank the many campaigners and stakeholders watching these proceedings for their hard work, campaigning and commitment. Our amendments do not seek to delay the Bill or to put the Government off doing anything at all. Labour wants to make this Bill as strong and purposeful as possible and see it signed into law at the earliest opportunity.

The Tories have taken a weak approach to animal welfare in recent years, from pulling Bills that were meant to be debated in this place to caving in to the extremists on their Back Benches.

The Labour party has long called for a ban on live exports for fattening and slaughter from and through Great Britain. Why does my hon. Friend think the Government have taken so long to bring in this Bill and why does she think they scrapped the Kept Animals Bill?

My hon. Friend makes an excellent point. I am not sure I know the answer to those questions, and I would be grateful if the Minister answered them in his winding-up speech. The delay has been too long, as my hon. Friend says, and for too long animals have continued to suffer unnecessarily. That is why amendments 2, 3, 4 and 5 are necessary and I am delighted to speak in support of them today.

The Minister will know that the export of live animals from the UK grew substantially during the 1960s and 1970s. Live sheep exports ranged between 85,000 to 411,000 from the 1960s to the 1980s. At the same time beef and veal, including live exports, increased from approximately 65,000 in the early 1970s to nearer 200,000 in the 1980s, and live pig exports rose dramatically from 30,000 to 60,000 in the 1970s, peaking at 619,000 in 1982.

Those dramatic rises and the patterns we have seen more recently make amendments 2, 3 and 4 more important. They are probing and preventive in equal measure. The amendments force us to think about the macro picture facing us and highlight a major inadequacy in this Bill: Ministers have chosen to list the species covered by this legislation on the face of the Bill. We agree and support covering the listed species, but what happens when they are banned? Where will those seeking to profit from the live export of animals look next? With apologies for the pun, Mr Evans, which species and which animals will be moved up the pecking order?

Amendments 2, 3 and 4, like amendment 1 in the name of the hon. Member for Westmorland and Lonsdale (Tim Farron), which we support, would help to force Ministers to take up and recognise a comprehensive, bigger-picture approach—not a race to the bottom to get the bare minimum over the line and no more of a Government simply wanting an easy life. We will demonstrate to our constituents, from Newport West to Northampton North and from Epping Forest to Erewash, that this Parliament takes animal welfare seriously and we have a plan to get things right.

I turn now to amendment 5 in my name and those of my colleagues. This important amendment would allow the appropriate national authority to extend, by statutory instrument subject to the affirmative procedure, the list of livestock species that may not be exported for slaughter. As clause 1 of the Bill sets out, the prohibition on live exports would currently apply to calves, sheep, pigs, wild boar, goats and equines. While those are historically the main farmed animal groups subject to live exports for slaughter, it is not an exclusive list, and other animals could potentially be exported live from GB.

It is also the case that a lack of historical precedent for a particular animal is not a guarantee that live exports will not take place in future, especially as UK livestock farming continues to evolve. That is why we must be vigilant and take whatever preventive measures we can, which we have a unique opportunity to do today with amendment 5.

Labour believes it reasonable for the Secretary of State and the devolved Governments in Holyrood and Cardiff Bay to have the power to extend the export ban to other species if they feel that the science justifies such a move. It may be that the power is never needed, but it seems sensible to allow for the possibility that other species may need to be added to the exclusion list in future, without the need for further primary legislation. Amendment 5 would provide that power, enabling the Secretary of State in England, and Ministers in Scotland and Wales, to add groups of livestock to the Bill through a statutory instrument subject to the affirmative procedure. That would effectively future-proof the Bill and properly make it fit for purpose.

I am proud to support the Bill and the Labour party’s amendments to add deer, alpacas and llamas to the livestock covered by the ban. However, I am conscious that the Government faltered on ending imports of hunting trophies and shied away from cracking down on puppy farming, so how can we ensure that the Bill will be properly enforced if our amendments are successful?

My new hon. Friend is quite right: we must ensure that we future-proof the Bill today. I am not convinced at the moment that the Government are completely sympathetic to all our amendments, which I find surprising.

If the Minister is looking for comparable examples, a similar power exists in the Animal Welfare (Sentience) Act 2022. Section 5(2) essentially states that, should the science materialise in sufficient strength to persuade the Secretary of State of the need to identify other animals as sentient beings, other species can be added to the legislation via secondary legislation. The suggested addition to this Bill would follow that precedent, and I urge the Minister to do the right thing by accepting the amendment. If he does not want to do it for me, I hope that he will do it because the Minister who took the Animal Welfare (Sentience) Act through the House, the hon. Member for Bury St Edmunds (Jo Churchill), did exactly the same thing, for which I pay tribute to her.

This simple, holistic measure could help to expedite the progression of the Bill through Parliament. Would not that be a good thing for one and all? I want the Minister to know that in tabling amendment 5, I am trying to be helpful. I hope that he will accept my help and amendment 5. If the same principle is good for some animal welfare legislation, it has to be good for all animal welfare legislation.

Let me turn to the other amendments before the Committee. I have already indicated that amendment 1—rather like my amendments 2, 3 and 4—will do important work and would have the support of the Labour party if pushed to a vote. Today we are seeking to amend the Bill to ban the live exports of alpacas, llamas and deer, and to ensure that species can be added to the legislation at a later date. It is about future-proofing the legislation and making it fit for purpose. Amendment 5 is important.

I noted today a very interesting piece in The Telegraph, of which I know the Minister is an avid reader, talking about constituency-led multi-level regression and post-stratification polling carried out in September 2023. It found that more than two thirds of the British public feel that a political party that announced plans to pass more laws designed to improve animal welfare and protect animals from cruelty would have the right priorities. I hope that the Minister will accept our amendments, or, if not, be as detailed as possible in explaining his excuses. The people of this country are crying out for change and for a Government with the right priorities. If the Tories cannot deliver that, they should get out of the way, because we can.

I am delighted that the strong cross-party support for the Bill is evident in the Chamber this evening. We all want to end live exports. After the disappointments of the Animal Welfare (Kept Animals) Bill, it is heartening to see the rapid progress that this new Bill is making through the House. The earlier Bill was blighted by a range of Opposition amendments on other issues that were not relevant to the core problem of preventing animals from suffering in long-distance transportation. I welcome the fact that the amendments tabled for today are less controversial and more specific to the matter that the Bill seeks to address.

I would certainly like to see the ban on live exports apply to Northern Ireland, but I am also very much aware of the need to comply with international trade rules. Animals are routinely moved across the border into the south for slaughter. Those are essentially local movements, so they do not give rise to the same animal welfare concerns as long-distance transportation and exports. Preventing those north-to-south movements entirely would be problematic, but finding a way to legislate to allow those exports to the Republic of Ireland to continue while stopping all others from the UK is not straightforward, particularly as the most favoured nation principle means that whatever trade benefits we give to one country outside of a formal trade agreement should generally be offered to all trading partners. I accept that there are exceptions to that, some of which include public concerns and ethical considerations, but it is a problem that is not easy to solve.

It is not just the Windsor framework standing in the way of applying this new law to Northern Ireland, but the Committee should recognise that the ban on using Britain as a land bridge for such exports is likely to make them pretty difficult to continue in practice. I hope that the question of Northern Ireland is one to which we can return on a future date as part of wider reform to address the inadequacies of the Windsor framework, so that the Bill can genuinely apply across the board. I would certainly like to hear from Ministers whether we can take action to prevent any re-export of UK animals from the Republic of Ireland. For the moment, however, as much as I understand and sympathise with the points made by the DUP this evening, the priority must be to get the Bill in statute as the best means to prevent the resumption of transport of live animals to continental Europe for slaughter.

Mr Deputy Speaker, with a few honourable exceptions, the Labour party did everything it could to thwart Brexit and prevent the referendum result from being respected. Time and again, Labour MPs stood up and demanded a second referendum, or they wanted us locked forever in the regulatory orbit of the EU, applying its single market rules without any say over them. If Labour had succeeded, we would not be having this debate today. The trade in live exports would have continued as it had for decades, protected by the European Court of Justice and single market rules.

During the seemingly endless Brexit votes, there were many times when it felt as if Labour remainers would succeed in stopping Brexit. The current the Leader of the Opposition was among the most vocal on that. It felt as if the power of the remain-supporting establishment would be too strong, but people in this country held out. The 2019 election result sent a clear signal that they wanted us to get Brexit done. Thanks to that decisive result, and the exit treaty that it enabled the Government to negotiate, we can now finally make our own decisions over our own laws in this country, including on animal welfare and live exports. The right to be governed only by laws made by the people whom we elect to this Parliament, and whom we can hold to account, was hard won over centuries. Now that it has been restored to us, let us use it to improve protection for vulnerable sentient creatures who have no means to defend themselves from cruel treatment.

The fact that we rear millions of animals for food means that we have a special responsibility to ensure the welfare of farmed animals, which would not exist without our intervention. To let them be exported over excessively long distances—subject to the stresses, strains and suffering with which we are all so familiar—to jurisdictions with lower standards, and poorer compliance with such rules as do exist, means failing to live up to that moral responsibility to those farmed animals.

We in this country have some of the most extensive legal protections for animals of any country in the world, as well as a domestic farming sector that is committed to the highest standards of animal welfare. That reflects this country’s long-standing recognition of the importance of animal welfare, which dates back to before the Victorian era. It was not just the anti-slavery campaign that motivated William Wilberforce; it was also the need to protect animals, as he was one of the founder members of the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, when it was set up in 1824.

Mr Deputy Speaker, today allows us to use our new Brexit freedoms in a really positive way: to continue our country’s long-held mission to prevent cruelty to animals, implement a change for which our constituents have been calling for many years, and ensure that the animals we produce in this country retain the protection of the laws we make in this country. Along with others in this House, I have championed reform in this area for many years—as an MEP, a Secretary of State, and a Back Bencher. I strongly urge hon. Members to support the Bill in the Division Lobby this evening, so that we can end live exports once and for all.

I remind hon. Members that the occupant of this Chair is acting not as Deputy Speaker, but as Chair of the Committee of the whole House—I did try, but anyway, we all now know.

Thank you, Chair.

This is an issue that I am personally passionate about—I have spoken on animal welfare issues from both the Back Benches and the Opposition Front Bench many times since coming to this place six years ago. I am very pleased that Labour Front Benchers are supporting the Bill, but recognise the need to strengthen its provisions and for the protection of animal welfare to go much further. All animals deserve protection. I know two things about the British public: one, they are disappointed that it has taken us so long to get to this point; and two, they want to see much more. Where is the ban on keeping primates as pets? Where is the foie gras ban? Where is the action on puppy smuggling, and why has the trophy hunting ban not gone through as an Act?

The Bill is long overdue. In the 2019 general election, the Conservative party included this prohibition and many other animal welfare policies in its manifesto. Five years have passed, and we have had setback after setback. Maybe that reflects the number of Prime Ministers we have had over that period and their varying views on animal welfare, but this is the last in a series of delays that are being put right. Last year, when I was a Front Bencher, I was hugely disappointed that the Government abandoned the kept animals Bill. When I was at the Dispatch Box trying to bring that Bill back, they even voted against a number of their own policies. The British public will not forget. Maybe the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs is different now, but the Minister is the same Minister who opposed us on that occasion. How many animals have needlessly suffered because of this delay? There are victims here—it is not a victimless delay.

It took a private Member’s Bill introduced by the hon. Member for Guildford (Angela Richardson) to tackle animal exploitation in the wild tourism industry, a measure that we all supported. The approach of the Government for a whole year, which they now seem to have abandoned, was to try to achieve animal welfare improvements through private Members’ Bills. I am glad that we are now back to having Government Bills on these issues, but where is the animals abroad Bill?

Order. Just to help the hon. Member, could he refer to the amendments or new clauses that he is addressing? His speech sounds awfully like a Second Reading speech.

Thank you, Chair. I will come to those now.

The amendments in the name of my hon. Friend the Member for Newport West (Ruth Jones) include a number of provisions to extend the scope of the Bill. I want to say a little bit about alpacas, which I believe are dealt with in amendment 2. In my constituency, I have seen a growth in alpaca farming. There are alpacas in Cookridge in my constituency, on the way to Leeds Bradford airport; Meanwood Valley urban farm, which is just over the border in the constituency of my hon. Friend the Member for Leeds North East (Fabian Hamilton), has alpacas; and, on Queensway in Yeadon, I recently spotted a number of alpacas in a field. This is clearly an area of expansion in the British farming industry, but there is also now quite a lot of alpaca breeding, so there is no need to export live alpacas to this country, because there is sufficient depth of alpaca farming to carry on that work. The same goes for other animals, including llamas and deer. We are overrun with deer; we certainly do not need the export of them.

Being overrun with deer is usually a forestry issue. They are wild animals and are not covered by this Bill, and they are certainly not covered by these amendments.

I thank the right hon. Member. Obviously, there are wild deer and deer farmed for venison; both types exist in this country.

I do not want to hold up the debate for too long, so I will conclude. As my hon. Friend the Member for Newport West said, the Labour party is the party of animal welfare—that is a strong priority for Labour. We have long called for a ban on live export for slaughter. Every year, millions of farm animals are at risk of facing long-distance journeys, including the new animals that we have tabled amendments to cover. Amendment 5 aims to future-proof the Bill. Particularly as the climate changes, farming will change, and we need to be able to evolve and update the legislation as practices change. I support amendments 2, 3, 4 and 5, which stand in the name of my hon. Friend, and I hope to see the Bill go much further.

I strongly welcome the Animal Welfare (Livestock Exports) Bill. It is absolutely right that we ban the disgusting practice of live export for slaughter. We have driven it from Dover, and when the Bill becomes law, it will mean that it cannot come back. That is fantastic news.

This is an issue of great interest and impact for my constituency, because at the peak of that activity, we saw 100 transportations through the port of Dover. Excellent local campaigners, particularly Yvonne and Ian Birchall from Kent Action Against Live Exports, have worked tirelessly over decades to get us to this position, and I congratulate them on that. They have been very diligent in keeping me and many Members from across the House informed of the pernicious activities involved in this particularly despicable trade, but I have never heard them mention a concern about reindeer, which are dealt with in the amendment tabled by the hon. Member for Westmorland and Lonsdale (Tim Farron). I will come on to the other breeds mentioned in the amendments that are before the Committee.

This issue is still live in the constituency that I have the honour to represent. It came to the fore with the introduction of Irish Ferries, which became the third ferry provider into Dover a short time ago. I strongly welcome Irish Ferries to Dover, but when that company arrived, I had to seek assurances from it that it would not be engaging in live exports across the channel. The reason for that has been very well explored in the instruction debate: it is something that can and does happen in the island of Ireland. In relation to the land bridge issue, it is concerning that a difference between parts of our United Kingdom will continue to exist. It is unfortunate that a change as important as the one we are making today, which is enabled by our Brexit freedoms, throws fresh light on a gap that has been growing since the implementation of the Windsor framework. I would welcome the Minister’s comments on the effectiveness of the road bridge, because we are legislating, which means that this issue is important enough to legislate on. An answer that relies on a commercial solution suggests a weaker position in relation to that land bridge than some of us would like to see.

Let me turn to the Opposition’s amendment 5, tabled by the hon. Member for Newport West (Ruth Jones). I note that it seeks to apply a regulatory extension—secondary legislation—for deer, llamas and alpaca in relation to this important issue. I am mindful that even the campaign group Compassion in World Farming has said in the last 48 hours that it is not aware of any activity that would fall into the fattening and slaughter definition we are looking at today for those particular breeds. The reason I draw this to the Minister’s attention is the context of the comments he made about the World Trade Organisation and other international trading laws to which the UK is subject. I pause at that point to repeat that those are laws to which the UK as a whole is subject, not just Great Britain.

Does the Minister think that amendment 5 would be weaker and more open to challenge than an amendment in primary legislation, as he is doing in the Bill on the other specific breeds? It is important to address this point, because the House of Commons Library has confirmed that the WTO issue—the application of international trading laws and our domestic compliance with them—is open to challenge in relation to the primary legislation we are bringing forward today. I would be grateful for the Minister’s comments on the amendment before us, since it is of a different nature within the legislative framework and may be treated differently. In that context, I draw back to the remarks I made about the assessed risk or likelihood for these particular breeds, because if this is just a theoretical or umbrella arrangement, the Minister may have a reflection on whether that is more or less likely to be challenged in relation to our international trading obligations.

I strongly welcome the Bill. I am very pleased that it has got to this stage, and I look forward to the other stages being concluded rapidly. I think there are important issues to address in relation to the amendments before us, and I look forward to the Minister’s comments.

Order. I remind the remaining speakers that they should be focusing on the amendments and clauses. They should be speaking to those, not making a Second Reading debate speech.

Of course, my party tabled amendments to the Bill that cannot be discussed and decided on because of the House’s earlier decision about the instruction to include Northern Ireland in the scope of the Bill. We will support many of the amendments that have been tabled, because we believe that the scope of the Bill should be as wide as possible and that while it mentions specific animals, there are other animals that may well be subject to exports in the future.

I do not know if those who tabled the amendments have noted the irony of what we are discussing. This is a Bill to ban the export of live animals, and we are seeking by various amendments to make sure that any other animals not named in the Bill can also be included. Here is the irony: since 2020, the area of the United Kingdom to which the Bill applies has not exported any live animals; the only part of the United Kingdom where there are substantial exports of live animals is the part of the United Kingdom that is not included in this Bill. I do not know if people have noticed the irony of that.

In fact, I remember that at the time when there was criticism of the Government for not bringing forward this legislation, one of their defences was that we had not had any live exports. Of course, we could have live exports in the future, but the Bill addresses an issue that is not an issue for the area included in the scope of the Bill and it ignores the part of the United Kingdom where there are massive exports. Some speakers have said that at least the problem of exports will be made a bit less of an issue because the land bridge is no longer available for exports from Northern Ireland to the rest of Europe. However, that is not the answer, because exporters will of course simply use a more circular and tortuous journey through the Irish Republic.

I first became involved in this issue maybe 20 years ago when I was on a motorbike holiday through the Alps in France. I had not spoken to anybody who could speak English for about two weeks, and I noticed a lorry with a Northern Ireland registration number. I was a member of Belfast City Council at the time, and we had closed our abattoir because the conditions did not meet EU standards. I thought, “There’s somebody from Northern Ireland. I’m going to follow that lorry, and when it stops, at least I’ll have somebody I can talk to.” I thought I would find somebody who could speak English and could understand my sort of English.

I followed the lorry along a long and windy road through the Alps outside a town called Nyons, and it finally stopped at an abattoir in a small village and unloaded its sheep. The sheep came from outside Ballymena, and the driver told me they had come down through the Irish Republic, across the sea, through France and up into the Alps. That journey had taken me on a motorbike—and not because I was going slow either—about three days, and these animals were being transferred to a slaughterhouse. Because I was interested in the issue, I wanted to see what the slaughterhouse was like. We had closed that slaughterhouse in Belfast, but the place to which these animals were being transferred for slaughter from Northern Ireland was like an outhouse of the slaughterhouse that we had closed in Northern Ireland because it did not meet EU standards.

That awoke me to the issue, because I did not think that animals were transported such a distance. This Bill, even with the amendments that have been tabled, will still leave that route open. The objective that the Government are seeking to achieve will not be achieved. It is ironic that we have a Bill about animal welfare that ignores the main source of concern about the transport of animals across the continent of Europe.

I know what the Minister said about the challenges, but I wonder whether he has considered the challenges for this Bill under WTO rules, which the Library has highlighted. There is a reason for not including Northern Ireland, but would he like to comment on the challenges that the Government anticipate may occur and what their response would be? Are they going to use the response of making exceptions?

Lastly—I emphasised this in my speech earlier and other Members have mentioned it—unlike the hon. Member for North Down (Stephen Farry), who is not here, I am more concerned about the objective of the Bill of protecting the welfare of animals than about protecting the relationship we have, through the Windsor framework, with the EU. I find it disgraceful that someone who represents a constituency where I know there is large concern about animal welfare is more concerned about keeping good relations with the EU than respecting and dealing with animal welfare considerations in the region with the biggest exports of live animals in the United Kingdom.

I wish the Bill well, and it may well be that without it there would be a return to live animal exports. It may well be that it is addressing a problem that is not there in GB. It is there in Northern Ireland, but it is not going to be addressed. I hope there will not be a loophole, because unfortunately, as a result of the agreements that the Government have made with the EU in respect of Northern Ireland, even the Hunting Trophies (Import Prohibition) Bill, which the hon. Member for Crawley (Henry Smith) has spent so much time on, is in jeopardy of being circumvented, because the hunting trophy exports could come through Northern Ireland and get into GB. That is one of the problems that need to be addressed, and it will not be addressed by this legislation, which will only exacerbate the difference between the part of the United Kingdom that I belong to and the rest of the United Kingdom.

The right hon. Gentleman has been speaking eloquently this evening on two important principles that I hope every Member of the House will support: the principle of the Union of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and the principle of ending suffering through improved animal welfare. While I am sorry that the amendment he sought did not come to a vote this evening, I hope that the Government will reflect on the fact that, whether it is in live animal exports from the United Kingdom or the importation of the body parts of endangered species, those principles of the whole Union and animal welfare should be paramount.

I thank the hon. Gentleman for that intervention, which I hope the Minister will listen to, because otherwise—despite all the amendments that have been tabled and that, if pushed to a vote, we will support—the problem will still exist, it will not have been addressed and the protection of animals that the Bill is designed to provide will not be fulfilled.

I rise to speak about the amendments, in particular those tabled by the Opposition Front Benchers. They did so in good faith, but I do think there are issues with them. If we look at this issue as a nation and are honest about why there has been so little or no exporting of live animals, it is public opinion that made that happen. That is what stopped it at Dover and some of the smaller ports.

I had the honour of being a researcher for the late and departed Sir Teddy Taylor, the former MP for Rochford and Southend East. Among many things, he campaigned hard to ban the live export of animals. Before I came into this House, I did a little bit of journalism among many other things, and as journalists, we followed lorries, as the right hon. Member for East Antrim (Sammy Wilson) did, down to Italy, believe it or not, without them stopping for fodder or water.

I get where the amendments are coming from, but to suggest that animals such as llamas or deer might at some future time be moved for fattening and slaughter is stretching the imagination. This place is for debate. The Labour Front Benchers disagree with me—I absolutely get that—but I am sent here to express a view. We have major problems with deer in our forests—not just muntjac, but other species—to such an extent that some farmers are going to give up their leases on some of the National Trust land they farm. They say it is not viable. We are not going to export those deer—we will not send them across for fattening. Llamas are not going to be sent for fattening and slaughter. The Bill is targeted at an industry.

I have every sympathy with my friends from Northern Ireland, and I know exactly where they are coming from, but it will not be financially viable for wholesalers—that is normally who it is—to take cattle from the Province into the Republic and send them on that huge sea journey. That journey is not cost-effective and just will not happen.

We are sent here to protect and not just to talk about financial viability, and this Bill is important. Yes, I would like to have seen it earlier, as I think we all would. It was a manifesto commitment that I stood on, and I think manifesto commitments are important. However, we cannot divide this sovereign Parliament and give those duties to, for instance, the Scottish Parliament or the Welsh Assembly. I do not think that is right; it is for this country to set what is right and wrong in terms of those international obligations.

The right hon. Gentleman said that the closure of the land bridge will make it less commercial for animals to be exported that way. I had a response from an agriculture Minister in Northern Ireland talking about the export of animals from Northern Ireland via Dublin and then on to Rosslare and Le Havre. He said:

“Analysis by my officials has shown that calves exported from Northern Ireland via a Republic of Ireland port (Dublin or Rosslare) are rested on the truck in the Republic of Ireland for at least one hour before sailing to France. It has not been considered necessary to date to feed the calves during this rest period to achieve compliance with the EU regulation”.

The practice was already happening before this legislation. It closes one route—the land bridge—but is likely to lead to even greater suffering. The EU regulations and Department officials do not even consider it cruel to rest the animals for one hour and then send them on a 24-hour boat journey without any food.

This House thinks the practice is cruel, and that is why we are changing things with this legislation today. Frankly, what our European friends do, now that we are out of there, is down to them. We can talk to them, be friends with them and do lots of things with them, but we do not have to do what they tell us to do anymore. That is crucial.

There is one amendment that I would have been the first to support, had the Opposition or the Government wanted to table it, and that is on foie gras. I cannot understand why they have not. I spoke on Second Reading about amendments that should have been tabled. Why on earth is something whose production is banned in this country, because it is cruel, allowed to be imported and sold in this country? That is a mistake in the Bill. I am sure that amendments might be tabled in the other House. If they were tabled in this House, they would be agreed. Those amendments should be made to the Bill, but perhaps I will speak a bit more on that on Third Reading.

It is a pleasure to speak tonight in favour of the Labour amendments and to briefly pay tribute to constituents who have raised these important matters with me and other colleagues. I stress the significant public interest in this issue. Like other colleagues, I have had a large amount of correspondence. We all want to see this change. We do not want to see live animal exports in any shape or form, and I appreciate the effort my colleagues have gone to in identifying future risks, which should be taken seriously.

I welcome the legislation, but I regret the delays in it coming to the House. I also ask the Government again to support wider measures to improve animal welfare. I commend the work of the hon. Member for Crawley (Henry Smith) and the right hon. Member for Hemel Hempstead (Sir Mike Penning) who just spoke about the possibility of tackling foie gras. Those are serious points, and the hon. Member for Crawley has done excellent work on trophy hunting. I was proud to be able to support that work.

I will turn to the Labour amendments, which are in the name of the shadow Minister, my hon. Friend the Member for Newport West (Ruth Jones). As she said, the Bill leaves open the possibility of other animals being exploited. She is right to point that out, because some of the species mentioned in the Labour amendments are farmed in the UK. There is deer farming and the hunting of deer in woodland. I have seen llamas being farmed in the Thames valley. I understand there is a possibility that these species could be traded. I am concerned by that, and we are right to raise these points from the Opposition Benches.

The point that my hon. Friend made about the way that the live animal export trade developed rapidly and expanded between 10 and 20 times in scale over a 10-year period is a salutary reminder of what some unscrupulous business people are willing to do in this industry. I urge the Government to think again about these probing amendments, which are wise and sensible and highlight some serious future risks as agriculture changes and develops. We would be wise to address that by looking at the species in the amendments and adding them to the Bill to ensure that those animals are protected in the same way as other animals. I urge Ministers to consider the thoughtful amendments tabled by Labour Front-Bench Members.

I am pleased to speak in support of Labour’s amendments 2 to 5, particularly those regarding banning the live export of alpacas, llamas and deer, and ensuring that species can be added to the legislation at a later date. As the shadow Minister said, Labour supports the Bill, but the amendments would ensure that the legislation is future-proofed and fit for purpose.

The ending of the cruel trade in live exports for slaughter and fattening is long overdue. Millions of farmed animals are at risk of facing long journeys, which can cause mental exhaustion, physical injuries, hunger, dehydration and stress because, as we know, animal welfare can be compromised during long-distance live transport, which can include inappropriate stocking densities, inadequate ventilation and temperature control systems, and unsuitable feeding and watering facilities.

As has been mentioned, proposals to ban livestock exports were previously included in the Animal Welfare (Kept Animals) Bill, which was thrown out by the Government last May, but the public have been pressing for urgent action. A recent parliamentary petition calling for the UK Government to

“Find the time to take the Kept Animals Bill through Parliament and make it law”

was signed by more than 100,000 UK residents. My constituents across Luton, Caddington, Slip End and Hyde feel strongly about this issue, whether they are farmers who care deeply for the living standards of their livestock or consumers who expect to be able to buy ethically reared produce.

Labour has long called for a ban on live exports for slaughter and fattening from or through Great Britain. We recognise that it is important not only to pass the Bill but to table amendments to improve it as an important step in asserting our reputation as a nation of animal lovers prepared to act against any cruel treatment that they face. In fact, Labour has a track record of doing so in government, from ending the testing of cosmetic products on animals in 1998 to stopping the cruelty of fur farming in 2000, the introduction of the Hunting Act 2004, and bringing in the landmark Animal Welfare Act 2006. Unlike Labour with those actions, the Government have dithered and delayed somewhat, as has been mentioned by Members on both sides of the House. They delayed action on livestock exports and reneged on a manifesto promise to end, as was so eloquently put previously, the sickening import of hunting trophies.

I reiterate my support for amendments 2 to 5. I welcome the Bill’s ending of livestock exports and the fact that it will contribute to continuing on the path to improving animal welfare standards.

It is nice to see you in the Chair, Dame Eleanor. I will speak from a Scottish perspective. The Bill legislates in an area that is largely devolved to Scotland and the Scottish Government, and we in the SNP are committed to maintaining high animal welfare standards and protecting our farmers and our agricultural communities. The Scottish Government have given consent to the Bill, and the relevant legislative consent motion has been laid in Holyrood by the Scottish Minister. The SNP Scottish Government prefer consistent animal transport legislation right across Great Britain and that, of course, makes it necessary to have UK-level regulation in this area. However, we must continue to make it clear that any changes must not disadvantage Scottish farmers, particularly regarding livestock movements between the Scottish islands and the Scottish mainland. The Bill does indeed make provisions in this area and seeks to protect Scotland’s unique characteristics in doing so.

In relation to amendments 2 to 4, tabled by the Opposition, and indeed amendment 1 tabled by the Liberal Democrats, we see no notable cause for concern. We are supportive of the aims of amendment 5, tabled by the hon. Member for Newport West (Ruth Jones) on the Opposition Front Bench, so should the Government not agree to the amendment and the House divide later tonight, we would vote for it.

The SNP and the Scottish Government stand resolute in their commitment to safeguarding animal welfare, pledging to legislate continuously to enhance the wellbeing of animals both in Scotland and across the United Kingdom. As we forge ahead, we are looking to ensure that our actions align with our values of compassion and responsibility towards the animals that share this world with us.

I will have more to say in the remaining stages of the Bill, but for now I thank all those interested parties, stakeholders and animal welfare activists and campaigners on reaching this milestone. It has been two years and four DEFRA Ministers since the kept animals Bill was first mooted—and, of course, shelved. There is so much more work to be done in specific areas; we can go into more of that at the next stage. It is pleasing for many interested parties across the United Kingdom that we have reached this point, and I congratulate them on that.

I am delighted to speak to the amendments and grateful to hon. Members for their continued interest and engagement in ensuring that this ban on live animal exports for slaughter is effective and comprehensive. The question of which species should be included in the ban is indeed crucial and is one to which we have given careful consideration. When we carried out a wide-ranging consultation on banning live exports in 2020, we were clear about the species that we were seeking to apply the ban to. We received no evidence then, and have received none since, that a ban on other species was at all necessary.

In the 10 years prior to EU exit, the live export trade for slaughter and for fattening mainly involved sheep and unweaned calves. The numbers of deer, llamas and alpacas kept in the UK are extremely low compared with the species for which a significant slaughter export trade had existed in the past. For example, the June 2021 agriculture census records showed that there were about 45,000 farmed deer, 12,000 alpacas and 1,000 llamas in the United Kingdom, compared with 33 million sheep and 10 million cattle. About 35,000 cattle and 220,000 sheep are slaughtered every week in England and Wales.

I can reassure the hon. Member for Westmorland and Lonsdale (Tim Farron), who is not in his place, on his concerns in relation to his amendment about reindeer. Although reindeer are kept in the UK, they are not really farmed, and they are small in number. Of course, they are imported mostly for use in visitor attractions, especially at Christmas.

We are not aware that any species proposed in the amendments are exported for slaughter or for fattening. It is important to make that distinction: we are talking about the export of animals for slaughter and for fattening. The numbers of llamas and alpacas might be increasing, but they are not consumed as meat in the United Kingdom. Although there is no evidence of demand for trade in live exports from the EU to elsewhere, the definition of relevant livestock covers all live exports where major animal welfare concerns have been identified and a trade existed in the past.

The Minister is detailing the species involved in the Bill and those potentially not involved. I heard what my friends in the Democratic Unionist party said about animal health and welfare issues in Northern Ireland, and I am sympathetic, not least on the supply of veterinary medicines in Northern Ireland. Although the point has been made that there have not been live exports from the mainland since Brexit, the Environment Food and Rural Affairs Committee has taken much evidence from World Horse Welfare—horse is a species included in the Bill—that hundreds if not thousands of horses have been illegally exported to Europe under the guise of sport or breeding when they were actually for slaughter. This welcome Bill will stop that illegal movement of horses.

I pay tribute to my hon. Friend for not only his comments but his campaigning against the export of horses for slaughter. He is a tenacious campaigner in this area and I pay tribute to him for his work.

I understand the desire by hon. Members to ensure that the ban applies to all livestock species. I share their ambition to see exports on the hook rather than on the hoof. However, I firmly believe that the current definition is comprehensive. It is enough already, particularly taking into account the past data on slaughter export trade. I hope that I have reassured Members on that point. I therefore ask hon. Members to withdraw amendments 1 to 5.

Amendments 6 to 12 have been withdrawn, so let me turn to some of the general points made by colleagues in the debate. There was commentary that as a Government we have done very little on animal welfare. Indeed, hon. Members mentioned the three or four things that the Labour party did while it was in power, but it would be remiss not to remind the House briefly of some of the things that this Government have done, not least recognise animal sentience in law and launch the committee to advise Government.

Order. Is the right hon. Gentleman certain that he wants to do that at this stage, or does he want to save it for Third Reading, where it would be more appropriate?

I am not someone who understands subtlety all the time, but on this occasion you seem to have broken through, Dame Eleanor. I will take your inspiration and leave my comments for Third Reading.

I hope I have done enough to reassure colleagues across the House that the amendments are not necessary, but we take them seriously. To be clear, if there were a change in the dietary habits of our colleagues in the European Union, and they decided to consume other species of animal such as llamas, alpacas, squirrels or whatever, we would be able to come back to this House to introduce new legislation to stop that trade. But at this time, the Bill covers all those necessary exports. I hope that colleagues will decline the amendments and support the Bill as tabled.

I do not wish to detain the House any longer than strictly necessary. I welcome the speed with which we have gone through the Committee stage this evening, but it beggars belief that it has taken so long to bring this unnecessarily cruel trade to an end. That is why Labour supports the Bill. We have long called for the ban on live exports for slaughter and fattening from or through Great Britain. It has already been said in expert speeches that, every year, millions of farmed animals are at risk of facing long-distance journeys to export them for fattening and slaughter, causing unnecessary suffering. We are willing to withdraw amendments 2 to 4, but we wish to pursue amendment 5. I will leave it there. I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Amendment proposed: No. 5, page 2, line 7, at end insert—

“(7A) An appropriate national authority may by regulations extend the list of “relevant livestock” in subsection (4).

(7B) “Appropriate national authority” in relation to the power under subsection (7A), means—

(a) in relation to livestock kept in England, the Secretary of State;

(b) in respect of livestock kept in Scotland, the Scottish Ministers;

(c) in respect of livestock kept in Wales, the Welsh Ministers.

(7C) The Secretary of State may not make a statutory instrument containing regulations under subsection (7A) unless a draft of the instrument has been laid before, and approved by a resolution of, each House of Parliament.

(7D) Regulations made by the Scottish Ministers under subsection (7A) are subject to the affirmative procedure (see section 29 of the Interpretation and Legislative Reform (Scotland) Act 2010).

(7E) The Welsh Ministers may not make a statutory instrument containing regulations under subsection (7A) unless a draft of the instrument has been laid before, and approved by a resolution of, Senedd Cymru.”—(Ruth Jones.)

This amendment would allow the appropriate national authority to extend, by statutory instrument subject to the affirmative procedure, the list of livestock species which may not be exported for slaughter.

Question put, That the amendment be made.

Clauses 1 to 7 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

The Deputy Speaker resumed the Chair.

Bill reported, without amendment.

Third Reading

I beg to move, That the Bill be now read the Third time.

It has been a privilege to shepherd the Bill through the House, delivering on our manifesto commitment to end live animal exports.

I thank the Minister for giving way. We are happy to see the legislation, although I am disappointed that no amendments were made. The Government have already got rid of the Animal Welfare (Kept Animals) Bill. They stated that they expected legislation to cover further areas of animal welfare through private Members’ Bills, and so on, but we have seen only one private Member’s Bill relating to animal welfare. Does the Minister expect further legislation on animal welfare—for instance on puppy smuggling—and if so, when?

A number of Opposition Members have commented that the Government have done very little for animal welfare. It is worth my pointing out that we have recognised animal sentience in law, and launched the committee that will advise the Government on how policy decisions should be made. We have ramped up enforcement. We have increased the maximum sentences for animal cruelty from six months to five years of imprisonment. We have launched the consultation on financial penalty notices, with the power to charge up to £5,000 in fines, in addition to existing penalties under the Animal Welfare Act 2006. We have introduced new protections for service animals under Finn’s law. We have improved farm animal welfare. We have launched the animal health and welfare pathways, with new annual vet visits and grants for farmers.

We have implemented a revised welfare-at-slaughter regime, and introduced CCTV in all slaughterhouses. We have banned traditional battery cages for laying hens, and permitted beak-trimming only via infrared technology. We have raised standards for meat chickens. We have significantly enhanced companion animal welfare. We have revamped the local authority licensing regime for commercial pet services, including selling, dog breeding, boarding and animal displays. We have banned third party puppy and kitten sales with Lucy’s law. We have made microchipping compulsory for cats and dogs. We have introduced offences of horse fly-grazing and abandonment. We have introduced new community order powers to address dog issues. We have provided valuable new protections for wild animals, and have banned wild animals in travelling circuses. We have passed the Ivory Act 2018, including one of the toughest bans on elephant ivory sales—[Interruption.] I have a long way to go yet. We have given the police additional powers to tackle hare coursing. We have banned glue traps. We have supported private Members’ Bills which were passed in the last Session, including the Bill to ban the trade in detached shark fins, and launched the consultation to ban the keeping of primates as pets.

Apart from those few items, we have done very little.

I thank the Minister for going through such a detailed and lengthy list; I can only apologise for interrupting him. That list clearly shows that the Government have animal welfare at the heart of their policies. On behalf of the people of South Leicestershire and on behalf of animal welfare organisations such as the excellent Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, I thank the Government for doing the right thing.

I am grateful to my hon. Friend, and I am also grateful to all my colleagues who have supported the legislation during its passage through the House.

Thank you very much, Madam Deputy Speaker.

Given the hugely impressive list that the Minister has just read out, putting the United Kingdom in the vanguard of animal welfare matters—and this is yet another piece of trailblazing legislation to add to that—is there any indication that our former European Union partners are intending to follow suit and up their game in this regard when it comes to the transport of live animals?

As my hon. Friend will know, I am not responsible for EU legislation. During conversations with friends in the EU, I have been told that they are currently looking at the issue of live animal transport, but that is, of course, a matter for them.

I, too, thank the Minister and the Government for their fantastic legislation and great track record, of which we can be truly proud. Is it not the case that this Bill would not have been possible when we were EU members, and that we have put right that wrong? I urge the EU to catch up.

I have held the hon. Lady back for too long, so I will give way, but I am conscious that we need to move on.

I thank the Minister for giving way. I shall be very quick.

With respect to the Minister, I did not ask him what the Government had done; I asked him what measures that were in the Animal Welfare (Kept Animals) Bill, which was thrown out by the Government, we might expect to see in the future. I know what the Government have done, because I pay attention. I am asking what they intend to do.

I hope the hon. Lady will recognise that tonight is a big step forward. We have a huge chunk of the kept animals Bill, and I believe that early in March there will be a private Member’s Bill, on which we will of course deliver. Let me contrast that with what happened under Labour by taking the hon. Lady back to July 2009. This was the answer to a question from a Labour Member about what Labour intended to do about the export of live animals:

“The export of live animals is a lawful trade and to restrict it would be contrary to free trade rules. Such trade must, though, adhere to the standards set out in health and welfare rules.”—[Official Report, 20 July 2009; Vol. 496, c. 716W.]

The Labour Government had the opportunity to do this in 2009, and chose not to.

Let me now turn to Third Reading. I do not want to detain the House for too long, but I am hugely grateful to Members on both sides of the House who have contributed to the scrutiny of the Bill and have been present during its passage to ensure that this trade is consigned to history. I know that the topic of live exports is close to the hearts of a great many Members, and it is been cheering and wonderful to hear so many parliamentarians speak in support of the Bill.

While the Minister is receiving accolades from the Members behind him for the work that he has done on animal welfare, may I express, on behalf of people in Northern Ireland, the disappointment that is felt about the fact that a Conservative and Unionist Government have not applied the same law to the place where most live animal exports come from? The Minister has not extended the animal welfare protections because the Government are more interested in cosying up to the EU than in dealing with the issues that affect people throughout the United Kingdom.

I am not going to argue with the right hon. Gentleman. We agree on much more than we disagree on, and I will not sour this moment by being drawn into such an argument. The right hon. Gentleman knows how much sympathy I have for his political desires, and I am enormously sympathetic to his desire to hold the United Kingdom together. He has my commitment to work with him and his colleagues to ensure that the United Kingdom remains intact.

When the Minister read out that long and impressive list of achievements, I think he failed to mention the complete ban on animal testing, a decision made by the Home Secretary last year. Does he agree that that is yet another example of the Brexit dividend?

It was not an extensive list. There are many examples of the Government taking action, and we will continue to do so.

I thank the Minister for giving way, because after sitting here for three hours or so, I would have been very disappointed not to be able to bring up the subject of foie gras yet again—you gave me the look, Madam Deputy Speaker, which was understandable. The Minister produced a long list of what we had done, but what we can do in the future is ban the import of foie gras. Its production is banned in this country because it is cruel. Why are we still importing it, and why are we not banning it?

The Bill deals with the export of live animals, not the import of products. I am sure that there will be many opportunities for colleagues to continue to raise animal welfare issues, and they will of course have a sympathetic ear from the Government.

Let finally put on record my sincere thanks to animal welfare groups, particularly Compassion in World Farming but also the National Union of Farmers and other stakeholders that have helped with consultation responses, for their support as the Bill has made progress. Let me also thank my excellent civil service colleagues, who have been very supportive throughout the drafting of the Bill, for their work to help bring it to this point. The Bill will reinforce our position as a world leader on animal welfare, and that is something of which we can all be very proud. I look forward to following its progress through the other place, and I commend it to the House.

I do not want to detain the House for any longer than is strictly necessary.

This is an important Bill, and I welcome its relatively speedy journey through the House. It beggars belief that it has taken so long to bring an unnecessarily cruel trade to an end, and that is why Labour supports the Bill, even if it is long overdue. Indeed, we have long called for a ban on live exports for slaughter or fattening from or through Great Britain. It has been said already that every year millions of farmed animals risk facing long-distance journeys as they are exported for fattening and slaughter, causing them unnecessary suffering. These journeys can cause animals to become mentally exhausted, physically injured, hungry, dehydrated and stressed, and that is why Labour has sought to strengthen the Bill to make it fully fit for purpose.

The Labour party has a proud track record of delivering progress on animal welfare in government. The Minister has been proud to shout about what his Government have done over the course of 14 long years, but he did not really answer the question from my hon. Friend the Member for West Lancashire (Ashley Dalton) about their future plans on puppy smuggling, ear cropping and hunting trophy imports, so I look forward to hearing imminent news on those important areas as well. When Labour was in government, we made progress on animal welfare, including ending the testing of cosmetic products on animals in 1998 and stopping the cruelty of fur farming in 2000. We introduced the Hunting Act in 2004 and we brought in the landmark Animal Welfare Act in 2006. We continue that fine tradition with our support for this Bill tonight.

I would like to acknowledge the team who have worked with me and supported me as the Bill has travelled through the House. I thank my colleagues in the shadow DEFRA team—my hon. Friends the Members for Kingston upon Hull West and Hessle (Emma Hardy), for Cambridge (Daniel Zeichner) and for Chesterfield (Mr Perkins) and the shadow Secretary of State, my hon. Friend the Member for Croydon North (Steve Reed)—as well as all the people who support us day in, day out, especially Adam Jogee in my office.

I thank all the organisations who have helped, as the Minister has done, including Compassion in World Farming and the NFU. I also acknowledge the work of the officials in the Department and the Minister’s private office, and I am grateful to the Minister—it is not often I say this—for the time he has taken to talk to us. I also thank the wonderful team in the Public Bill Office, who are just brilliant. As the Bill moves on to the other place, my final thanks go to the campaigners, stakeholders and true believers who want realistic, pragmatic and strong animal welfare rules and regulations here in Great Britain.

I wish the Bill well and look forward to proper, timely and real action on animal welfare in the months and years ahead.

It is a pleasure to speak on Third Reading. It was important, when the Animal Welfare (Kept Animals) Bill was set aside, that a commitment was made to bring legislation forward, and this is a key element of it. It is a key element of our manifesto commitment that we will fulfil, and frankly those on the Oppostion side of the House should stop bleating about this element. We will get the other aspects done. I myself am taking a private Member’s Bill through that covers one elements of the kept animals Bill. We should not be playing tit for tat on this. It is about something that really matters, the welfare of animals, and this is a really important stage.

The Minister has read out a litany of what we have achieved in our time in office. The one person who cannot speak in this debate is my hon. Friend the Member for West Dorset (Chris Loder), who took through the Animal Welfare (Sentencing) Act 2021 with the support of the Government. As the chief executive of the RSPCA said, that was a monumental moment for animal welfare legislation, empowering the courts to hand out sentences that more accurately reflect the seriousness of these crimes.

I strongly support the Bill. I say to the House, and to the other House, that it is a simple, straightforward Bill and it could get through by the end of March and be done by Easter, without question. This is not the moment to add other elements left, right and centre. Let us keep it simple and keep our manifesto commitments. I hope the House of Lords respects the will of this House, and I look forward to the Bill not coming back but becoming an Act before the end of the spring.

It is a pleasure to speak in the Bill’s Third Reading debate. Before I begin, I thank all Members and parties for the collegiate and cross-party manner in which we have worked to finally drag the Government to this point, as well as to all stakeholders, animal rights campaigners and the National Farmers Union of Scotland. Together, we are resolute in our pursuit to enhance animal welfare standards and we will persist in our legislative efforts to achieve our shared goals. I would like to single out my hon. Friends who sit on the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee, which is so ably chaired by the right hon. Member for Scarborough and Whitby (Sir Robert Goodwill). I also thank my hon. Friends the Members for North Ayrshire and Arran (Patricia Gibson), for Aberdeen North (Kirsty Blackman) and for Angus (Dave Doogan) for their previous excellent work on the Committee and across all matters of animal welfare. I also pay tribute to Josh Simmonds-Upton and Aaron Lukas for their support and for the fantastic amount of work they have put into this area.

As this Parliament comes to an end, after repeated failures by the Government to bring the Animal Welfare (Kept Animals) Bill forward, we might finally see a live export ban in the UK that follows the lead and the wishes of the Scottish Government, who have remained steadfast in their determination to see this Bill come to fruition. I say “finally” because it has been two years and four DEFRA Ministers since we first heard of the kept animals Bill, but finally the promised livestock export ban has come.

In Scotland we remain cautious, but why? Because the Bill must be delivered in a way that protects Scotland’s traditional crofting and island communities and does not undermine our agricultural sector. We in the SNP have noted with great concern the dalliance of the UK Government to prioritise animal rights and welfare abuse mitigations by the shelving of the Animal Welfare (Kept Animals) Bill. We are concerned because we are wholly committed to protecting the welfare of animals and will continue to bring forward legislation to improve the welfare of animals in Scotland and across the United Kingdom.

My hon. Friend is making some excellent points about how long it has taken to get to this stage. Does he share the concern of many of my constituents that the Government do not seem to be treating animal welfare with any great priority, given the way in which they have treated the Animal Welfare (Kept Animals) Bill?

My hon. Friend is right. The reality is that this place does not match the ambition that we have in Scotland and in Holyrood to maintain the highest possible standards of animal welfare, while protecting our communities and the fantastic, exquisite produce that our farmers make.

The Scottish Government have experience in managing stringent animal welfare standards to the highest levels. We are matching the EU’s ambitions, but we are concerned that the UK is lagging behind. There is no question about that. Currently, livestock can move for 28 hours with a one-hour mid-journey break, followed by a 24-hour rest period before the next movement. During these journeys, it is unquestionable that the animals will be distressed, that their normal or instinctive behaviour will be restricted, and that unavoidable vehicle motion might cause stress. Other concerns include exhaustion, dehydration and overcrowding. The Scottish Government’s preference is to have consistent animal transport legislation across Great Britain. That will necessitate UK-level regulation, so the Scottish Minister has tabled a consent motion in the Scottish Parliament.

However, it is important to emphasise that any changes must recognise Scotland’s established patterns of livestock movement from the islands and the remote areas of Scotland to the mainland, and must not disadvantage Scottish farmers and crofters by banning movement between the islands and the mainland. The ban must also not include animals being exported for breeding, which is a vital part of Scotland’s agricultural sector, especially in trade with the Republic of Ireland, as we have heard today.

This is an area of largely devolved policy, and the SNP is determined to maintain the highest standards of animal welfare, as well as to protect our farmers and ensure that our exquisite produce retains its world-beating status. The Scottish Government will continue to work with the UK Government and other devolved Administrations to ensure the Bill’s smooth implementation. Our officials remain vigilant, closely monitoring and engaging with DEFRA on matters that might extend into Scotland or potentially impact the country, with a particular focus on livestock exports, which are a vital facet of our agricultural landscape.

I simply want to use the opportunity of Third Reading to emphasise the point I made on Second Reading and in Committee, as we come to the conclusion of the debate on this Bill. As a citizen of the United Kingdom, I represent people who believe that being a member of the United Kingdom means that the laws that apply should apply to them as well as to everybody else. I find it obnoxious that a Bill that the Government say is to help animal welfare should not apply to the part of the United Kingdom to which I belong. This is an example of the long-term danger that I and my party have highlighted—namely, that as a result of the Windsor framework and the Northern Ireland protocol, there will be regulatory divergence, legal divergence and eventually constitutional divergence between Northern Ireland and the rest of the United Kingdom.

It does not matter how the Government try to dress it up. I had a long discussion with the Minister last week, and I know he is sincere. I know he has a love for Northern Ireland, but the truth of the matter is that, no matter what he wants and no matter how he views things, he cannot live up to the promise of wanting to work to ensure that the same standards apply in Northern Ireland as apply in other parts of the United Kingdom, because the first duty of this Government, it seems, is to ensure that they do not annoy their masters in Brussels to whom they have subjected themselves as a result of the Northern Ireland protocol.

I thank my right hon. Friend for responding to this very important issue on behalf of the Democratic Unionist party. Does he agree that the notion that the Bill is trailblazing, and the consequent backslapping, sends a dire message to the people of Northern Ireland who want to see us improve and enhance our animal welfare standards even further? The message from this Government is very much that Northern Ireland does not matter in this regard.

My hon. Friend is absolutely right that Northern Ireland is regarded as a place that has to be treated differently. As I said earlier, the irony is that there have not been any live exports from GB to outside GB since 2020. The Bill leaves out the part of the United Kingdom where animal welfare concerns should be highest, because, at present, we are the area of the United Kingdom that exports animals. We export animals to the south of France, the south of Spain and all over the place, with those journeys taking days.

Before the Government congratulate themselves, they should address the main problem that, because of EU diktat, this Bill cannot apply to the part of the United Kingdom from which animal exports primarily occur—the part of the United Kingdom to which I belong. So much for taking back control. I hope the Government will address this problem.

Unless the application of EU law to Northern Ireland is addressed, we will see more examples of divergence. In fact, when we consider the Safety of Rwanda (Asylum and Immigration) Bill tomorrow, we will find that this immigration legislation cannot apply to Northern Ireland, leaving Northern Ireland as a back door. There is a big problem that needs to be addressed, and it cannot be ignored. The people of Northern Ireland, those who are Unionists, cannot be ignored.

More importantly, where the Government set objectives, as they have for animal welfare in this Bill, those objectives can be thwarted by the constitutional arrangements that have been put in place between this Government, the European Union and Northern Ireland.

Question put and agreed to.

Bill accordingly read the Third time and passed.