rose to move, That the draft regulations laid before the House on 14th January be approved [7th Report from, the Joint Committee].
The noble Lord said: My Lords, I will also speak briefly on the draft codes of recommendation for the welfare of pigs and cattle, which were laid on 9th January.
The regulations implement Council Directive 2001/ 88/EC and Commission Directive 2001/93/EC by amending the Welfare of Farmed Animals (England) Regulations 2000 as they apply to pigs. The key provision of the directives is an EU-wide ban on close-confinement sow stalls, to be in place by 1st January 2013. Noble Lords will be aware that that provision has already been implemented in the UK, not without some controversy, and sow stalls for housing dry sows have been banned in the UK from 1st January 1999. We are therefore ahead of that change. I will deal with the other main changes that will be brought about in the regulations, which are mainly to Schedule 6 to the 2000 regulations.
Schedule 6, Part II, covers general additional conditions. All animals must have permanent access to manipulable materials to enable investigation and manipulation activities. There are also detailed provisions for concrete slatted floors. Schedule 6, Part IV, on sows and gilts now contains a requirement to group-house sows and gilts, minimum space requirements, minimum pen-side lengths and a minimum continuous "solid" lying area for sows and gilts. Existing buildings have, again, until 1st January 2013 to comply. Part V of Schedule 6 concerns piglets and introduces an increase in the minimum weaning age from 21 to 28 days, with the exception of "all-in/ all-out" systems.
The pig directive will be subject to reviews in 2005 and 2008 that will cover other matters including castration, space allowances and floor types for weaners and rearing pigs. The 2008 review will also consider farrowing systems. Proposals to amend the directive will be based on Commission reports.
I shall turn briefly to the codes of recommendation for the welfare of pigs and cattle. In both cases, the existing codes date back to 1983. New codes have therefore been prepared in what I hope is a more user-friendly format, highlighting legal requirements alongside the advice sections. Welfare codes are made under Section 3 of the Agriculture (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1968. In the event that a livestock keeper is prosecuted for causing unnecessary pain or unnecessary distress or suffering, a breach of the code can be brought forward in evidence.
The pig welfare code provides guidance on the new regulations for farmers. The new cattle code is issued in the absence of specific EU legislation. However, it takes account of the recommendations in the independent Farm Animal Welfare Council's dairy cattle report, and the Council of Europe's recommendations on cattle.
I need to point out a couple of drafting errors in the version of the cattle welfare code before us today. The references to "pigs" in paragraphs 23 and 40 should, fairly obviously, read "cattle". Following this debate, the correct version will be the one used for guidance to cattle farmers.
The regulations and new codes apply to England only. All three have been subject to full public consultation. Similar regulations and codes are in the process of being produced in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. The regulations and welfare codes are an important part of the Government's animal welfare strategy, and with that in mind I commend the draft regulations to the House.
Moved, That the draft regulations laid before the House on 14th January be approved [ 7th Report from the Joint Committee].—( Lord Whitty.)
My Lords, before I go into the detail of the regulations, perhaps I may express my dismay to the Minister. I think that he is already aware of my concern, because he referred to the errors in the cattle code. At best, it is sloppy; if not sloppy, it is shoddy; if not shoddy, it is complacent. What is the department doing?The NFU brief to my colleagues in another place for the debate that took place on Tuesday was dated 26th January, the date when the NFU picked up the errors. The matter was raised by my honourable friend Jonathan Sayeed when he referred to the mistake in his speech on Tuesday. I understand—I can only say that I understand, because no Hansard is available to us at all at this stage—that the Minister, Mr Morley, said that it was a typing error.Erskine May and typing errors may be all right on Tuesday, but it is two days later, yet the House is asked to approve something that is not correct. The noble Lord may brush it off lightly, but it is not a light matter. I would like him, perhaps after my and any other comments, to come back to the issue of whether we should approve the cattle code in particular, in which the errors occur. It is very difficult when Hansard is not available to us, and I understand that it will not be available before Monday at the earliest. I do not know whether the Minister has a brief of what went on, but I cannot get one. I have tried here in the Printed Paper Office and through the Library in the Commons. I also understand that in the debate that took place in another place on Tuesday the Minister implied that the copies ready to be sent out to farmers were correct, and said "cattle" and not "pigs" where they should say "cattle". If those copies were available, why on earth were they not made available to us? It seems nonsense to have a correct copy available and yet ask us to consider something incorrect. Perhaps the noble Lord will comment on that. The noble Lord pointed out the two errors that were picked up in two paragraphs. However, paragraph 137 of the cattle code refers to "animals". Does that mean cattle, calves or something else? If it means calves, surely the provision should be in the section that starts at paragraph 95, which deals with calves. The cattle section also talks about electronic prods. Although we are all keen that those are used very sparingly and obviously not used on animals under six months of age, they are still a valuable way to try to get cattle to move forward if there is space when perhaps they are reluctant. The National Pig Association raised several queries with the pig code. At the outset, I should say that obviously all farmers support and want to work towards high standards of animal welfare, something that we have traditionally always done and would continue to do. However, I want to ask several questions of the Minister. Does the code of recommendations that deals with pigs apply equally to those pigs kept outdoors? That is not made clear. Obviously, some recommendations refer to indoor pigs, but I am not sure whether the code covers outdoor pigs. What evidence do the Government have that the new welfare measures, for example, will be fully implemented in other member states? Do the measures mean that third-country imports that reach us will, also have been subject to the same animal welfare standards? If not, will the Government ban the importation of such meat? The Minister will know clearly—he has only to look at the figures on the production of sows in our sow-breeding units in this country—that we have already exported much of our pig trade. It is totally unacceptable that we set standards and are within the EU, which also accepts those standards, if other countries can import into the EU and the UK meat produced to standards that we ban. All that is happening is that, in the first instance, we are putting our farmers out of business. Even more worryingly, we are exporting animal welfare problems. I am sure that the Government do not wish to do that. Does the Minister accept that if such regulations and requirements are gold-plated in this country, that puts UK producers at a competitive disadvantage? What are the Government doing to encourage trade in Britain's high-welfare pigmeat at home and abroad to ensure sustainability in the industry? It is hard to see how the industry can be sustainable if additional requirements continue to be placed on it. The number of UK sows has contracted by 40 per cent and has been replaced on the home market by cheaper imported products, which come from units that use lower standards. I understand that DEFRA's regulatory impact assessment puts the implementation costs of the proposed legislation at between £8 million and £14 million. Are the Government considering giving any aid to the industry to help with that, or do they expect the industry to absorb those costs? The code of conduct refers to sudden noise and continuous noise and suggests that that is not acceptable. I understand what "continuous noise" means but can the Minister explain what "sudden noise" means? How is that assessed and how can farmers avoid it? I turn to the inspection and enforcement of the regulations. Will they be EU-wide or will it be up to each country to implement them? Other EU countries have sometimes borne the costs of additional legislation. Will that be the case with these new codes and, if so, which countries will adhere to them? Will the Minister confirm that the codes are suggestions and do not implicitly have legal status? Will all other countries implement them? I turn to a matter that is not directly relevant to our debate. The House of Commons Library produced information about pig farrowing crates, in which a DEFRA official spokesman said:
There are also pig welfare codes that encourage good husbandry. Failure to follow those codes of recommendation can be used in evidence in court to support welfare prosecutions. Will the Minister enlarge on that? Either a code is a code or it is a way of bringing evidence against someone. The situation needs to be clarified. The code does not refer to the position of fallen stock. Why was it not included in the code? If it is included and I have overlooked it, I apologise to the Minister. Finally, much though we encourage and welcome high standards of animal welfare—we are happy to pursue that, provided that other countries do the same—do the Government accept that what consumers buy is invariably determined by price rather than their hearts? While some people would like to buy British food, they often buy the cheaper food on offer. I apologise to the House for taking so long. I hope that the Minister will return to my first complaint in particular, which was that the code of conduct is unacceptable as it is because it is still technically incorrect."Indeed, in Britain we have some of the strictest legislation in the EU to protect the welfare of pigs … and in several respects these go beyond EU requirements, most notably by banning from the beginning of 1999 the use of closed confinement in stalls and tethers".
My Lords, I would like very much to—
My Lords, I am so sorry; do forgive me.
My Lords, from these Benches, I look forward to hearing from the noble Lord, Lord Jopling. However, I believe that it is my turn now.I want to make some brief points—if I do not make them briefly, I expect that the Conservative Front Bench will concede that there will be no time for the Minister to reply to the noble Baroness or myself.
My Lords, will the Minister clarify that this is not a time-limited debate?
My Lords, I apologise to the Front Bench; I understood that it was.
My Lords, I apologise to the noble Baroness.I, too, was surprised that no Official Report of the Commons debate on Tuesday was available to help me. I am afraid that not having Hansard means that we may duplicate some of the points that were made from our Benches in that debate. Those points may have received a reply but we have no official record of that, which is very unhelpful. I turn to the substantive points of the new code. It is pleasant that we in this country are ahead of the game for once. We can rightly be proud of our standards of animal welfare. If as a society we have decided to eat meat, we have as a society a moral obligation to ensure that animal welfare standards are an important consideration. The current supermarket consolidation issues mean that we have been bombarded by supermarkets telling us what a good job they are doing sourcing their fresh meat from British producers. That is increasingly the case with fresh meat but I fear that it is far from being the case with processed meat and ready meals. Considerably more can be done on that issue in terms of customer awareness, not least by the Government, to encourage further moves in terms of labelling. We have had several assurances that that will happen but the evidence in the freezers is still not there. I agree with the Minister that the welfare codes are plainer, which I welcome. There is a list of publications at the back of the codes with which farmers must comply; it contains a frightening list of reading material that must be completed. Some of it relates to the new regulations and farmers' duties to themselves and their employees—they must ensure that employees are trained and knowledgeable about all the relevant issues. Those requirements are very complicated. What progress have the Government made in terms of DEFRA advisers helping farmers to work their way through that? Has DEFRA made any forecasts about the effect of the cost of implementing the codes on a diminishing industry? I understood that the costs were just over £14 million. Does DEFRA intend to help in any way? The new regulations refer in a couple of places to energy issues, such as heating for piglets and lighting requirements. Is DEFRA doing any work on energy-saving plans for farmers and more innovative ways in which energy issues can be approached, such as heat exchanges and so on? I regret the fact that animal regulations were the subject of rather cheap jokes about pigs and football when serious matters were being raised. The debate should have offered a good opportunity to examine the issue of animals living as naturally as possible while under severe confinement. I ask that the UK Government address the issue of electric goads, which, I understand, will continue to be permitted. However, we feel that if the training were sufficient, the use of such goads should diminish over time. Technology has enabled us to use them, but they are not used by the many very competent stock handlers with whom I am personally acquainted, who do not regard them as necessary. I turn to two final small points. In reconsidering the code, I wonder whether the Government will concede that the section on injurious weeds needs to be reconsidered in view of the fact that many public agencies—for example, Network Rail, the Highways Agency and, indeed, local authorities— have a long way to go, particularly with regard to ragwort. Finally, I turn to the new agri-environment schemes on which the Government are currently consulting. Paragraphs 79 and onwards of the cattle code set out a requirement for outdoor shelters, such as hedges and trees. Will that be read over into the type of agri-environment scheme help that farmers are considering grant-aiding?
My Lords, first. I declare an interest in that I have a family farm in the hills and uplands of Dumfriesshire. I wonder whether, for a good farmer, the regulations are necessary at all. Any good farmer carries out most of these tasks as a matter of course. Obviously, they are, and must be, approved to ensure that there is a general standard of good welfare in relation to contained animals.I want to ask a simple question concerning the end of the chain of husbandry—that is, the slaughterhouse. Like other noble Lords who have complained, I asked at the end of last week for the two pamphlets from the noble Lord's department, but I received them only an hour or so before today's debate. I wonder whether any work is being carried out on the way that we slaughter animals as against the methods employed by other religions. Do we do so in a centralised slaughterhouse on the basis of hygiene? More and more animals are being sent to a central point and are having to wait for the end, so to speak. I believe that that period creates, or could create, a chemical change inside the body of the animal, similar to that which takes place in a fox when it is chased, as referred to in the Burns report. There may be a simple answer to my question but it is an issue to which I cannot find a reference. There has been a great increase in the incidence of cancer in the western world—mainly intestinal cancer and so on. Has any research been carried out on people who eat red meat and on the rate of cancer that occurs following what I call the "Christian" way of slaughtering—that is, slaughter carried out under regulations governing the welfare of red meat animals at slaughter, those concerning pre-slaughter handling, and the stunning and sticking pocket guide that we use? I wonder whether a difference exists in the various methods of slaughter and whether any work has been done on that. The idea of a centralised slaughterhouse may be based on hygiene, with the conditions laid down by the European Union being adhered to throughout Europe. But I am concerned that, because a larger number of animals now wait to be slaughtered, that may create a chemical change inside the body of the animal. I do not know what effects are brought about—I am not a doctor; nor am I a vet—but I suspect that a change may take place which has a consequent effect when the meat is consumed. Perhaps I may return to the subject of the point of death in an animal, whether as a result of hunting, in a slaughterhouse, or by the Islamic or Jewish method of slaughter—when a man in holy orders is present and the moment is considered to be almost sacred. When we slaughter animals in this country, there is much noise, shouting and banging of steel, and one is aware of the terrified silence of the animals as they await their turn. Has work been carried out on this matter? We have done a tremendous amount of work on the constitution of the fox when chased by hounds, but that meat does not go into the food chain. How much work has been done on the subject of the slaughterhouse and its possible effects on the high incidence of rectinal and stomach cancer? Do we experience a higher rate of cancers in this area than in areas where meat is slaughtered in a different way? My point is that, if there is any risk that we are slaughtering animals in the wrong way, we should reconsider the regulations. Of course, I approve of them because they appear to be eminently sensible in terms of good husbandry. But are they sensible in governing the way that red meat enters the food chain? I cannot find any papers on the subject. I regret that I have not had time to prepare fully for this debate, but I have not read anything that gives me any comfort that our method of slaughtering animals is the correct one.
My Lords, I want to ask about the propriety—a point raised by my noble friend on the Front Bench—of discussing a document which is clearly wrong. I begin by declaring an interest as a farmer, although at present I do not own either cattle or sheep and I have no plans to do so.I believe that it is totally contrary to parliamentary practice knowingly to debate a document which is faulty. I quote in support of that argument an experience that I recall from many years ago when I was a government Whip in another place. There was a great panic within the Whips' Office at that time because, in transferring a Bill from Committee to Report stage—I cannot remember what the Bill was— there had been an error in transposing a comma. After a day or more had been spent on the Report stage, I remember very well the advice of the parliamentary draftsman that the Bill should not be proceeded with and that, strictly speaking, the Bill should be withdrawn because there was a wrongly transposed comma between the two versions of the Bill. I recall the discussion in the Whips' Office at that time concerning the disruption that that might cause to the Government's programme. I believe that it was a controversial Bill. The conversation in the Whips' Office and the business managers' discussions went something like this: "Perhaps the Opposition won't notice it. Let us see if we can get away with it". On that occasion, we did get away with it because the Opposition did not notice. On this occasion, the Opposition have noticed. As my noble friend said, the Opposition and other groups noticed some time ago. I received the NFU's brief some days ago and noticed that it claimed that there was an error in the drafting of the document dealing with cattle. I thought that, by the time we came to debate the matter, no doubt the document would have been rewritten and we would have the correct version before us. But that has not happened. As my noble friend said earlier, that was some time ago and has been known for some time. Remembering the experience of the early 1970s, which I recounted, if the parliamentary practice was wrong then I am perfectly sure it is wrong now. I can imagine the discussions within the department and with the business managers over this document on cattle where an error in the drafting is pointed out and the advice is, "Well, let's go ahead with it. Let's pretend it was just a typist's error. Let's just pretend it's neither here nor there". If it was wrong to proceed over a comma, certainly it is wrong to proceed over a matter of transposing cattle and pigs. I see an old friend of mine on the Government Front Bench who was, some years ago, associated with the Opposition Whips' Office in another place. Perhaps I may say to him that our old friend Sir Walter Harrison, who if there was any justice in the world would now be a Member of this House, would have made his teeth meet over this matter. The Government would have been kept up all tonight and probably all tomorrow in forcing the withdrawal of this document and urging that the matter be dealt with in the proper way. I believe that we are proceeding in a totally improper way. The Government should withdraw this document and let us debate one which is correct.
My Lords, I rise on a similar point to that raised by my noble friend Lord Jopling. I am not concerned with the substance or merit of the regulations. Nor indeed am I concerned with or surprised by the incompetence of DEFRA in supplying faulty documents. However, unless there are clear precedents which make it appropriate in parliamentary procedural terms—having had a cursory look in Erskine May, I have not found any— to state that Parliament may approve legislation in any form knowing that it is incorrectly drafted, in my view the Government should take away their regulations and bring them back when they are correctly drafted.If we were to accept this and there were no other precedents, we would be creating what I believe would be a most undesirable one.
My Lords, without commenting on the points which have just been raised, except to deplore the fact that we have been given this faulty legislation, I should like to comment on the substance of the regulations on behalf of the Green Party and Compassion in World Farming.We welcome the implementation into English law of the 2001 EU directive on pig welfare, and it is about pigs which I shall speak. The directive and the English regulations will bring about many improvements to existing legislation. Sow stalls and tethers will be banned, as they have been in the UK since 1999, which I applaud. They will now be banned across the EU by 2013. That is most welcome. Sow stalls are so narrow that the sow cannot even turn around and is kept like that throughout her 16-week pregnancy. The tethering of sows was banned in the 1991 pigs directive. That ban comes into force in Europe from 2006. We also welcome the ban on routine tail docking and the requirement that pigs be given straw or some similar material. Tail docking, if properly done, is something to which I have no personal objection. It is usually done without pain or trouble. However, the EU's own scientific veterinary committee has concluded that it sometimes leads to prolonged pain. Therefore, I believe it is a step forward to ban it with a ban which is rather more enforceable than the one we have. That brings me to the splendid idea that we should give pigs toys to play with. I grudge pigs nothing. I am afraid that I like eating their flesh, when I can. I am a great pig lover from that point of view. I like to think that they will be well looked after when they are being farmed. But I doubt if even Lord Emsworth would have thought of giving them footballs to play with. Although I have no objection to that, it should not be an alternative to what they really need; that is, straw, hay, wood, sawdust, mushroom compost, peat or a mixture of such, which enables them to indulge in what are called "investigation and manipulation activities". Certainly, they should not be an alternative, as appears from the wording of the regulations. I should like an assurance on that from the Minister. The directive is due to be reviewed partly in 2004 and partly in 2008. During that period the overcrowding of fattening pigs should be carefully considered. The majority of the EU fattening pigs are kept indoors throughout their lives in severely overcrowded, barren and often filthy sheds. It is right that we should consider the question of castration, which causes severe pain and distress. It is true that castration is not really needed in a country such as ours which kills its pigs at an early age so that the meat does not have boar taint. However, the whole question of the age at which pigs are killed is one which is constantly open to review. Therefore, I believe it is right that we should ban castration. Serious consideration must be given to banning farrowing crates. While sow stalls are to be banned under the directive, farrowing crates will remain in use during the few days before birth and for three to four weeks afterwards. We believe that they should be replaced by systems which allow the sow to move around and perform nesting behaviour, while at the same time giving proper protection to the piglets. I know that the pig industry believes that farrowing crates reduce the number of piglets crushed by the sow as she lies down. However, there is now research which demonstrates that well-designed and managed farrowing pens which allow the sow proper movement can lead to piglet mortality rates which are no higher than those found in crates, to put it at its mildest. We urge the UK Government to take a lead within the EU, as we already have—more credit to the Ministers and governments concerned—to push for all of these changes when the pigs directive is reviewed. It introduces some welcome reforms. However, much needs to be done to ensure proper enforcement of the directive. Some of the key steps required to achieve pig husbandry in Europe which is truly humane remain outside of the directive and must be incorporated into the directive during the 2004 and 2008 reviews. With that, I offer a general welcome to the regulations before the House.
My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Marlesford, has properly demanded a precedent for what the House should do about the printing of these regulations. There is a precedent. This is not my business. It is not for me to say which way that precedent should be taken to point. However, noble Lords might like to have it before them.The Education (Student Loans) Regulations 1990 came before the House, I believe in October, with a large number of last-minute corrections made in ink, tightly bound, consisting of several pages. They had been extremely imperfectly photocopied so that a number of the words were partially or totally illegible. The Minister did his best to explain what the meaning of those words was or should be. The House fairly rapidly arrived at two principles for consideration. First, though correctitude is of great importance, one should not unnecessarily disrupt the business of the House if the meaning of the regulation is clear. That was the advice which I, from the Front Bench, gave to my Chief Whip. But it also took up another principle, which is that one should tolerate this kind of error only if—I repeat "if"—the department concerned has made every proper effort to put it right. We were just about to bite on the bullet and pass the regulations, when Lady Young rose from her seat with clearly printed copies of the regulations which she had just obtained from the Minister's office. At that moment, the House decided that its patience was exhausted and it adjourned on the joint Motion of Lord Boyd-Carpenter and the noble Lord, Lord Callaghan of Cardiff, until correct regulations were provided. They were a formidable pair. I understand from my noble friend that the Minister has provided a correct version of what the regulations should have stated. Was that done with the case of Pepper v Hurt in mind? If so, one might argue that it is in law binding and clear and could be correctly interpreted by the courts. That is the key question. The other question is: does there exist anywhere, as there did in 1990, a fully corrected text which has not been put before us? If so, it should be put before us. If not, and if the meaning is clear, I think the House should exercise a forbearance, however reluctantly, which is in its discretion.
My Lords, I do not wish to undermine in any way the points made by the noble Earl, Lord Russell, but I want to return to the main purpose of the regulations. My noble friend Lady Byford from the Front Bench has admirably covered the implications of these regulations. I feel very strongly that this country is rapidly descending into a situation in which some of these European regulations are becoming a farce.Farmers are constantly being told that every regulation that emanates from Europe will be gold-plated. Yet time and again, when other countries do not do the same, the net result is that our farmers are undermined financially. The noble Baroness, Lady Miller, said that we have moral—I think she used that word—obligations to ensure that animal welfare standards are high. I do not disagree with that. But we also have a moral obligation to ensure that our farmers are not put at a disadvantage. Many noble Lords have made reference to the briefing produced by the National Pig Association. I draw your Lordships' attention to a previously clear example of such legislation; that is, the UK legislation which banned stalls in early 1999. That was an admirable objective. However, the EU stalls ban will not be fully implemented by other EU countries for another 10 years and during that process our farmers will continue to be undermined by it. What assurances can the Minister give that these new regulations will be implemented by other European countries, so that our farmers will not be disadvantaged? Can the Government prevent meat being imported into this country by producers from European countries which have not implemented them? I do not know the answer to those questions. I say only—and I reiterate the point—that farmers in this country are heartily sick of being undermined by European regulations with which we must comply while other countries do not. I ask a final brief question. How can farmers avoid what is described as "sudden noise" when, as in my part of the world, they are constantly being overflown by RAF jets? I simply ask the Minister whether the MoD has been consulted on the matter.
My Lords, I intervene to respond to the point made by the noble Earl, Lord Russell. Although I was not the Minister at the time, I remember the occasion well and I think the outcome was the right one. It was important that there should have been an adjournment so that those who were voting on that day knew precisely the wording that they were approving in the Chamber. But there is a distinction between that example and what we are debating today.My understanding is that Pepper v Hurt is used when there is ambiguity about an order; in other words, when there is a form of words in an order about which there are different interpretations. The Minister having put the Government's official view of what is meant by the words, the House takes its view. At any subsequent tribunal, the Minister's words as recorded in Hansard can be used by the defence or by the prosecution. However, this situation is very different. This is a mistake. That was known before the issue came before your Lordships today. There has been time to correct the order. It has not been corrected. It would be wrong for the House to approve a word completely different from that which should be on the order. The order that is approved by the House will contain the wording that currently appears on the page. The wording on the page is plainly wrong. Therefore, I think that it is incumbent on the Government, who have not taken action when they could have done so, to withdraw the order and not invite the House to approve an order which is incorrect.
My Lords, before my noble friend sits down, perhaps I may make a point and then the noble Earl, Lord Russell, can respond further. The difference in the precedent he quoted—and that precedent does not necessarily indicate that we should accept the situation put forward by the Government— is that the wording was not wrong but it was illegible because of a had Xeroxing machine. We are faced with incorrect legislation. That is a material difference.
My Lords, perhaps the House and the noble Baroness will permit me to intervene. In the absence of my noble friend Lord Lester of Herne Hill, who was the successful advocate in that case, I wonder whether it might be thought that the question, "What is the correct interpretation of the words?" might fall under the same principle as the question, "What are the correct words?". I should have thought that the answer to that question might be yes.
My Lords, I first deal with the procedural issue. Strictly speaking at this point we are debating the statutory instrument—the order. There is nothing wrong with the text of that order—or nothing has been pointed out to me as being wrong with it. So far as the Government are concerned, there are no mistakes in the text of that order. That will be put to the House first.The issue of the wrong wording relates to the code of practice to which we shall turn next. Therefore, it would be sensible if I dealt with the order first. For the convenience of the House, I shall deal with the other matter separately at the end of my remarks. A number of questions were raised by the noble Baroness, Lady Byford, and subsequently by others. I shall try to deal with them in terms of fact. The new proposals from Europe are binding on all countries in Europe. There is no gold-plating in this statutory instrument. We are simply transposing what is required by European standards. The confusion, perhaps, is that much of the directive deals with matters that we had previously gold-plated, the cost of which British industry has already incurred. There are arguments on whether we should have done that, but we have. Therefore, the impact on the costs of the industry and its method of operating is now less for us than for other countries. In response to the noble Earl, Lord Peel, there is no gold-plating in that. One could argue that, given our position, we are at an advantage compared to the rest of Europe as regards costs. The objective of the directive is to improve animal welfare. As the noble Baroness, Lady Miller, said, we should be proud of our welfare provision rather than defensive about tightening measures. It is often queried whether the directives are being transposed and enforced as effectively in other European countries as they are here. In most cases where we examine those measures, enforcement in other countries is just as tight. The Food and Veterinary Office of the European Union can carry out spot-checks. I welcome the noble Baroness, Lady Byford, back to our proceedings. She has enlivened them no end and prolonged the debate beyond what I had expected. I am glad to see her back. There is no causal relationship between the economic status of the pig industry, which, I accept, is not good, and the regulations. The pig sector in the UK has had bad economic times. We have seen an increase in imports; a decline in production; and a decline in pig numbers. But imports have come almost entirely from the rest of the European Union. One could argue that that partly reflects the differential regulatory situation on sow slaughters, but that is not the case with this directive. The European Food and Veterinary Office has the right to insist that standards should be the same for imported meat into Europe as they are within Europe. Europeans in the current WTO round are arguing strongly that they should retain that right. But, hitherto, the imports have been from within Europe, where everyone is bound by the same regulations. The impact assessment projects costs of up to £14.5 million, based on the worst case assumption that every pig farm would have to implement all the measures. In reality, probably less than 10 per cent of the pig industry would have to implement all the measures. Most are already in place in large parts of the sector. The noble Baroness, Lady Byford, asked about the status of the codes of practice. They are governed by the Agriculture (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1968. She rightly described their status as statutory codes of practice, which can, therefore, be cited in court. But they are not directly enforceable as statutory instruments are. That is a common situation. The noble Baroness also asked whether the code covers fallen stock. It does not. It is dealt with through other activities, but not in this statutory instrument. In response to the noble Earl, Lord Peel, the regulations deal with avoidable sudden noise. Farmers can take some steps, such as dampeners on gates, doors, and so on. Noises from the Armed Forces and elsewhere are not covered. The regulations refer to the farmer's responsibility only. Large amounts of written material are referred to in the code, but it is intended to give clear guidance rather than go through all the literature. The noble Baroness, Lady Miller, said she thought it was a clearer effort to describe the situation. The department is engaged in activity relating to heating and lighting to improve the energy efficiency of farming. The issue of toys, as described in much of the national press, has received the most public comment. The situation is much more straightforward than it seems. In good pig husbandry, animals must be diverted from tail-biting. Although tail-docking can be carried out effectively, the European Commission recommends that it should not be the routine reaction to tail-biting. It is far better to provide them with an alternative; namely, malleable straw or other materials, to divert them from attacking each other. The regulations do not include the word "toys". Although, there is a reference to "football" in the welfare code, it states that a football might be used but is unlikely to be a permanent feature. Therefore, if anything, the code discourages the use of footballs. Many pig farmers already observe the requirement to provide material to ensure that pigs do not engage in excessive tail-biting. The noble Lord, Lord Beaumont, mentioned castration and farrowing, the consideration of which has been deferred by Europe. Europe will return to the issue of castration in 2005, and farrowing in 2008. In the mean time, more research is being done in those areas. In response to the noble Lord, Lord Tanlaw, I am not aware of any medical evidence that answers his questions on different methods of slaughter. Although different methods are carried out by different people, it can be done on licensed premises only; therefore, equivalent conditions operate. I would be surprised if a difference existed, but I am not aware of any literature that proves the point one way or another. I have answered most of the questions on the statutory instrument and the pig code of welfare. There has been more procedural controversy about the cattle code of welfare. The only substantive question was whether Paragraph 137 applies to calves. It is contained in the section on dairy cows, so it refers only to adult dairy cows. In only two places in the code, the word "pigs" has been inserted instead of the word "cattle". It is an obvious error, which does not require several pages of annotated description as given in the precedent referred to by the noble Earl. It is therefore clear which amendment is needed. We laid the draft codes on 9th January. There is no procedure for altering the code before we debate it. In the Commons, such matters are dealt with in Standing Committees. It is not unusual for the Standing Committee minutes not to be available by the time the Lords discuss the matter. That happened in this case. A point of order was raised in the Commons Standing Committee. The Speaker and the Committee decided to proceed on the basis that the Minister —my colleague, Elliot Morley— indicated that in both Houses we would need to replace the word "pigs" with "cattle". In both cases, the Commons accepted that and proceeded accordingly. The situation is therefore clear, and I am not sure that any of the precedents to which reference has been made apply in this case. First, it is a code of practice, rather than a statutory instrument; secondly, there is no question of it being illegible or unclear in its meaning; and, thirdly. the matter has been pointed out at the earliest possible parliamentary opportunity. When I move the welfare of cattle code, I will do so subject to the two amendments. No one who has sat through this discussion will be in any doubt about what the amendments would mean.
My Lords, it is not just a convention but part of the rules of the House that one cannot amend a code of practice. On these Benches, we have tried many times to amend codes of practice. In fact, I believe that there is a debate about whether this House should be free to amend secondary legislation and codes of practice that come before us under the affirmative resolution procedure. At present, they cannot be amended. The House is being invited to approve something that, by all the rules, cannot be amended, even though the Minister says that it will be amended at some time in the future.
My Lords, the rules are strictly enforced with regard to statutory instruments. In this case, we are dealing with a fairly clear change that everybody in the House understands and which, in a sense, derives from the title of the code of practice. It would not amend any of the other aspects of the code, and the code is not directly enforceable in law.It would therefore be a commonsense approach for the House to accept the explanation offered, as the Standing Committee in another place was prepared to the other night. Were we not to do so, there would be a conflict between the two Houses. It would be desirable to avoid that.
My Lords, I take the point made by my noble friend Lady Blatch: it is impossible to amend an order or to approve an order that is about to be amended. Can I have a cast-iron guarantee that, next week, the department will lay an order making the required amendments? Under those conditions, I would be happy to support the orders this afternoon.
My Lords, before the noble Lord responds to that point, I shall give him a little more time to think about it. I was going to propose that we should move ahead with the statutory instrument, which I think is acceptable, although I cannot speak for other noble Lords. The pig code should be accepted, but the one dealing with cattle should be held and re-laid at a date when it can be considered properly.
My Lords, if the Minister does not wish to follow the procedure suggested by my noble friend Lady Byford, he must tell us by what authority in law the Government can change the code of practice between the printed edition that we have been debating and the one that will be distributed to the industry. It is not sufficient just to say that the Minister said on the Floor of the House of Lords—or of the House of Commons—that he wanted to change some words. I speak as a former business manager, and I think that the neatest way would be to pass the code now, on the understanding that an amended version will be presented to the House in the next few days, with the words corrected. That need not take us long, as we have debated the code this afternoon. As an alternative, the Minister could decide not to move approval of the code now but move the amended version, say, next week. I, too, cannot speak for my colleagues, but I would be surprised if they wanted a prolonged debate.It is important that the House approves a document that is correct in law, rather than one that has been varied by extremely vague precedents.
My Lords, the Minister says that the code is not legislation. Statutory instruments are subordinate legislation. As the Minister said, the code is quotable and, in a sense, enforceable. It is subordinate legislation to subordinate legislation, as it were.If it were not possible, for technical reasons, to amend the wording so that the incorrect document that we approved could be reprinted without being submitted to the House and sent out to the industry; or if it were possible only to have a note saying that there were mistakes in the document and what the right wording should have been, that would be unacceptable. It would set a serious precedent for sloppy legislation in many areas. Sooner or later, some government—not this Government or any government that I might support— might be tempted to use that precedent to slip things through.
My Lords, the best way to proceed, as the noble Baroness, Lady Byford, suggested, is to agree the statutory instrument and dispose of the code on pigs, about which I detect no controversy. I will then say a few words about what we should do about the other code. Can we dispose of the other two items, now that we have taken time to digest the advice offered by the noble Lord, Lord Jopling, who, these days, is more scrupulous than he was in the Whips' Office in the 1970s?I will come back to the other code. Can we dispose of the other two first?
On Question, Motion agreed to.