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Animals (Penalty Notices) Bill

Volume 820: debated on Friday 18 March 2022

Second Reading

Moved by

My Lords, I beg to move that this Bill be now read a second time. I am delighted to be sponsoring this Bill here in your Lordships’ House this afternoon. It was steered successfully through the other place by my honourable friend Andrew Rosindell MP, who, as I think many Members in this House will realise, is a real champion of animal welfare.

The Bill will be part of the landscape of change that our farmers, animal keepers and animals deserve. I do not think I am speaking out of turn when I say that our high standards of animal health and welfare are something of which we as a nation are rightly proud. The Bill introduces a valuable addition to our enforcement tools to promote early redirection and positive behaviour change for those failing to meet these standards.

Let me give some context to the intention of the Bill. I apologise to noble Lords: I am normally very keen on making speeches as brief as possible, but I think it is worth getting as much as possible on the record—words I used to hate when I was a Whip—because not everybody will be here today to hear these words and it may give them some reassurance before we go further. I want to give an overview of the cross-compliance scheme, which currently sits under the EU common agricultural policy. Cross compliance is a system linking CAP payments to regulatory compliance, because the major vehicle for enforcement of standards on farms and its application of payment deduction is widely regarded as disproportionate. In this scheme, automatic and sometimes swingeing financial penalties can be imposed for non-compliance. Agricultural strategy and policy have been shaped by the CAP for more than 40 years. Now we have left the EU, we have an opportunity to replace this regime with a more proportionate and flexible approach.

As CAP payments wind down and with cross-compliance ending in 2024, there will be a wide enforcement gap between issuing advice and pursuing criminal prosecution. This would allow many offences to slip through the net without appropriate and proportionate recourse. We have an opportunity here to close this gap, improve enforcement on farms and provide new, more consistent penalties. The reason I say “more consistent penalties” is that, with this Bill, we have extended beyond farm animals to include all kept animals, including companion animals and zoo animals, as well as animal products and by-products. Penalties have been designed as the proportionate approach to redirect behaviour when animal keepers and businesses are falling short of the standards required of them. Defra Ministers have given assurances in the other place that penalty notices will not be appropriate for more serious offences—that is important. For these offences, prosecution is still the most appropriate course.

Just as the animal health and welfare pathway will provide advice and positive incentives to produce even healthier, higher-welfare farm animals, it is important to note that enforcement action starts with advice and guidance. It is important to give individuals a chance to comply before financial penalties are issued. The framework for penalty notices in the Bill will apply across animal health, welfare and biosecurity legislation. The measures in the Bill form part of a broader approach to maintaining and enhancing high domestic animal health and welfare standards, enhancing productivity and giving confidence to consumers and, indeed, international trading partners.

The Government published an Action Plan for Animal Welfare in May 2021, which sets out a range of reforms to ensure that the welfare of all animals builds on the UK’s high standards of animal welfare. These penalties are not intended to replace or substitute any of the other enforcement options we currently have, nor does the Bill introduce any new offences. It is not a stand-alone tool and we expect penalty notices to be used after or alongside advice, guidance or, indeed, an improvement notice. A financial penalty highlights the importance of complying with the rules and rectifying the issue. The use of the penalty notice does not mean that an individual can pay to shirk their responsibility: they would still need to put the issue right.

I shall give a brief overview of the content of the Bill as it is written. Again, I apologise for going through this, but it is important. Clause 1 defines the scope of legislation covered by the Bill and the role of enforcement authorities in issuing these penalties. It also sets out who the enforcement authorities may be. The Bill states seven pieces of primary legislation that it covers. I want to be clear that the Bill does not alter or create any new offences. Only the primary legislation and any subordinate legislation under that will be covered by these penalties. It covers only kept animals—so, for example, if something is not an offence already, this Bill will not make it an offence.

Clause 2 details the role of constables in issuing penalty notices under the Dangerous Dogs Act 1991. Clause 3 is the workhorse of the Bill: it sets out the structure, including the maximum penalty, which is £5,000—I emphasise that that is a maximum penalty—with a reduction of 50% if the fine is paid within 14 days. It also specifies the burden of proof, which sets out that the enforcement authority must be satisfied beyond reasonable doubt in order to issue a penalty. Clause 4 details the measures in place to ensure that the Bill is a reasonable one. It sets out the matters that must be considered consistently by enforcement authorities to give protection both to the enforcement authorities and the individuals who receive penalty notices.

Clauses 5 and 6 state the responsibilities of enforcement authorities once a penalty notice has been issued. This includes the need to surrender any profits to the Consolidated Fund and the need to report annually on the usage of those penalties. In doing so, enforcers will be able to fund their enforcement of the law, but they will be unable to use these penalty notices as a revenue-raising tool—that is important.

Clause 7 emphasises that this is an enabling Bill and the usage of penalty notices will be determined by government, as it continues to engage with stakeholders, many of whom have acknowledged that this will be where the detailed work begins. It is also very important to emphasise that.

Clause 8 gives key definitions, including for local authorities, which by definition also includes unitary, district and metropolitan councils. Finally, Clause 9 gives information on the extent and commencement of the Bill.

I will refer back to a point I made about the type of offences that would be suitable for penalties. I have said that these financial penalties will not be suitable for the most serious offences. I know that officials in Defra have discussed this at length with key stakeholder groups. Animal cruelty offences are severe crimes that should face the full force of the law and the Bill does not intend to dilute their severity. The Animal Welfare (Sentencing) Act introduced longer prison sentences for crimes against animals and the Bill will not impede its operation.

As has been stated in the other place, these penalties are not to be used for severe offences that should be dealt with by the courts, if there is a concern that the Bill might water down the seriousness with which we respond to severe crimes. I reassure noble Lords that that is not the intention of the Bill; in fact, it is drafted to avoid this. The farming community understandably has a strong desire to understand how penalty notices will be used in practice. As I and others in the other place have said, penalty notices will not be issued for acts that should be prosecuted.

If noble Lords do not mind, I will talk through an example of where a financial penalty would be appropriate; it relates to bovine tuberculosis and the movement of animals. Post-movement tests are mandatory for cattle moved into parts of England with low TB risk from higher-risk areas. This is an important control that helps to protect the east and north of England. Within the areas in England with low TB risk, there may be less awareness of the implications of having to live with the disease because it is currently not a major concern for most who farm there. In many cases, a reminder of why it is important to comply with statutory disease controls will have the desired effect—but, for some individuals, that may not be sufficient. So although not testing is an offence, it is often not a proportionate measure to prosecute. A notice would be issued to the farmer to resolve the issue in a timely manner by carrying out the test. If it is not resolved, a penalty would be issued to highlight the importance of complying with the notice and reducing the risk of spreading the disease. I trust that this gives both noble Lords and indeed farming NGOs a greater understanding of where penalty notices will add value to our enforcement abilities.

I reiterate that the Bill extends beyond animal welfare alone: it covers legislation spanning health, welfare, biosecurity and animal by-products. The majority of offences captured by it fall under those other areas. For these offences, there is currently a gap in our enforcement options between advice and prosecution. Penalty notices are an additional tool, to be used alongside other tools to influence behaviour change.

Penalty notices are not a new introduction to the world of enforcement and, as many of your Lordships will know, they are already used in both civil and criminal enforcement regimes. England uses financial penalties for minor environmental offences, such as littering: a person who drops a cigarette butt on the floor may find themselves receiving a £50 fine. Although all environmental offences are wrong, we can see how this offence, compared to more serious environmental crimes, would be suited to a fine instead of pursuing a court case as a first step. This is the aim of the Bill: to introduce a financial penalty system that works for animal health and welfare offences too severe for just advice and guidance, yet not severe enough that pursuing a court case is an appropriate first step.

The devolved Administrations are also introducing financial penalties in the animal health and welfare space: Scotland introduced powers in 2020 to be able to introduce financial penalties in secondary legislation, and Wales has published a White Paper with proposals to use civil sanctions for relevant animal health and welfare offences. The Government are proposing criminal financial penalties in England so that we can have the option to still pursue court action in the event that an individual chooses not to pay the penalty.

The Bill itself introduces enabling powers, and much of the detail will be determined in the secondary legislation and formal guidance that is yet to come and which will be laid before Parliament. This Government have committed to ensuring that penalty notices are applied fairly by building on the matters to be considered in Clause 4; this is one of several safeguards in place.

It has been reiterated many times in the other place that officials are committed to working closely with stakeholder groups to make sure that these penalties are applied fairly and proportionately. I wish to highlight that commitment here, as I am sure my noble friend the Minister will do later. I make particular reference to my honourable friend Victoria Prentis MP, for her commitment in the other place.

It has been identified that the farming sector could benefit from a consideration period of two weeks, during which the inspector or enforcement authority takes some time between identifying the problem and issuing the penalty notice. This consideration period would allow for the issue to be put right and, if it is not, a penalty would be issued. After this consideration period and the issuing of a penalty, there is an additional safeguard in place: if an individual disagrees with a penalty they have been given, they have the option simply not to pay it. In this case, the enforcement authority would choose whether to pursue court action or not.

Let us not underestimate the significance of this safeguard. Enforcers would need to ensure sufficient evidence was collected to prove the guilt of the individual in order to take the case to court. This is no small task, and it is an extremely powerful safeguard, which I trust reassures noble Lords that these penalties will not be applied over-zealously. Although officials have identified the farming sector as one that would benefit from a consideration period, that does not mean that every offence or sector would benefit. The framework will allow for the issuing of on-the-spot fines and more delayed issuing if there is a consideration period in place.

I highlight that penalty notices will be tailored to fit the offence, and the animal sector in which it applies. Defra has committed to engaging fully with industry and other experts to decide how penalties will be used in practice. The general public, as well as noble Lords in this House, care greatly about animals in this country. This Bill is a small but important step towards improving the way in which we positively change behaviours that are harmful to the health and welfare of animals, as well as the biosecurity of our nation. The current enforcement toolkit needs additional options to tackle offences that are too severe for just advice and guidance, yet not severe enough for immediate criminal prosecution. This is a strong but simple tool that will clearly communicate the importance of following the rules we have in place.

To sum up, the Bill is broadly supported by the House, by animal health and welfare organisations and by the public. I beg to move.

My Lords, I declare my interests as a farmer, as set out in the register, and my membership of the National Farmers’ Union, which broadly welcomes and supports this Bill.

Like the noble Lord, I welcome this Bill, which fills an important gap in animal health and welfare legislation. My one concern—and this is the same issue raised by the noble Lord, Lord Randall—relates to the lack of a defined appeal procedure in the primary legislation. Happily, the Farming Minister in the other place has now provided some clarity and assurance that discussion with involved parties will be at the centre of any enforcement proceedings and will be covered in secondary legislation. This will enable farmers to give reasons for an appeal before facing the blunt instrument of a penalty notice charge, which is important in cases where there is a misunderstanding or misinterpretation on either side. Without this assurance, the farmer has a choice only of paying the penalty or facing prosecution. A simple, specified appeal process before a prosecution would save a lot of time, aggravation and money for all concerned. Could the Minister reconfirm that that assurance will be covered in secondary legislation?

I make one other observation in relation to animal cruelty and the application of penalties. Like other sheep farmers in the Chilterns, we have faced an increasing number of attacks—including the horrific gouging out of newborn lambs’ eyes, and their consequent deaths—by ravens and red kites, both of which, despite their growing numbers, are protected birds and for which farmers cannot obtain a licence to kill. Only this morning—I do not exaggerate—I witnessed such an attack on a lamb by a raven. Surely, licences to shoot these birds should now be considered.

It seems a terrible irony that a farmer can be prosecuted but not those kites and corvids. Perhaps, however, the Minister could consider penalty action against those who introduce or release previously extinct and dangerous species, whether bird or mammal, into our countryside without also introducing the means to control them. Perhaps this could be covered in the animal sentience legislation, like the suffering of crustaceans. Surely, lambs have feelings too?

My Lords, I congratulate my noble friend on bringing forward this Bill to your Lordships’ House today; I believe it to be a most worthwhile Bill. I, too, was initially approached by the Whips’ Office to promote it, but, thank heavens, my noble friend, who is always most knowledgeable and a stalwart on matters concerning animal welfare, pipped me to the post—I use that expression as it is a racing day, the Cheltenham Gold Cup. He possesses a much wider knowledge of these issues than I do.

I declare an interest as a non-farming member of the NFU, and as a member of BASC and of what was the Game Conservancy, the GWCT. I have a lifelong interest in domestic animals, agricultural animals and horses. I am a member of the APPG on horseracing and bloodstock.

I must say that I am not always supportive of the actions—or, sometimes, lack of them—of the RSPCA. In that respect, I have a couple of questions to pose to my noble friend Lord Randall or the Minister. Many years ago, my wife and I owned a child’s pony. The poor thing contracted African horse sickness, which is nearly always a fatal condition. We spent much time, effort and money on caring for him and treating him. A neighbour reported us to the RSPCA, which sent someone to look at the animal. He told us that we should have the pony dispatched, totally contrary to the advice of our expert horse vet. In such circumstances, under the terms of the Bill, would the RSPCA be able to issue a fixed penalty fine, even in the knowledge that we were sound on animal husbandry and were following the vet’s advice?

Secondly, when our daughter was at university, we loaned out her horse to someone who took the animal to DIY stables. Two years on, we were tipped off that the mare was not being cared for and was in an appalling condition, so we collected the animal and had to spend a great deal of money to bring her back to normal health. I reported the person to whom we loaned her, and the DIY yard, to the RSPCA. I have been in horses and racing all my life, and I have never seen a worse case of lack of adequate welfare. However, the RSPCA inspector who visited refused to take any action whatever, stating to me that he had seen pit ponies in worse condition. Under the terms of the Bill, would the person to whom the animal was loaned and the DIY yard where the animal was kept be liable for a fixed penalty?

I make one further point. I believe what the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, said about corvids and red kites taking out the eyes of newborn lambs to be absolutely correct. These matters should be proportionate. When you reintroduce birds and various animals into the countryside environment where they have been either extinct or close to extinction, there should be a method for controlling them. At home, we have buzzards, so many we cannot count; originally, we had very few. The Wildlife and Countryside Act did a great deal of good, but we are now over-buzzarded and they are nothing but a nuisance and cause major problems.

I believe that the RSPCA carries out a very good job in general, and I applaud and wholly support the intention of my noble friend’s Bill. It provides a most sensible change to the current situation and an enhancement, and it will serve to ensure that this country’s enviable record worldwide on animal welfare goes forward successfully.

My Lords, I congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Randall of Uxbridge, on his very detailed introduction to the Bill, which I understand has government support. I shall not repeat the rationale that the noble Lord so eloquently stated.

It is important that everything is done to protect animals, both farming and domestic. Most animals are well cared for but occasionally there are lapses either of care or of recording on farms. A system of penalty notices is an excellent bridging gap between providing advice and guidance or the prospect of a criminal prosecution.

In many debates over the last two years, the UK’s reputation as a world leader in animal welfare has been mentioned on many occasions. This is a reputation we should be justly proud of and protect into the future. The way in which both livestock and domestic pets are treated says what kind of a society we are and how we wish to be treated.

Occasionally there will be lapses due to the inaccurate completing of forms. In 2019, there were 45,000 farmers keeping cattle and 61,000 sheep farmers. Every movement must be recorded to protect public health. This is vital. I lived in rural Somerset for over 40 years but recently moved to Hampshire. Last week we received through the post a notice telling us that we were in an area where avian bird flu had been detected and advising us to keep any poultry we had inside—we do not currently have any. This was a first experience of such a notice for us. Only by keeping accurate records will such information be available to the general public. It is, therefore, quite right that action should be taken against those who either accidently or deliberately record details inaccurately.

A penalty notice is an excellent stepping stone to make farmers aware of their lapses and bring the constant offenders into line. The threat of a criminal prosecution should be a sufficient deterrent, but used for minor offences it is a sledgehammer to crack a nut. Far better to head this off for minor offences but to keep it for serious breaches of animal welfare where animals are suffering as a result of neglect or cruelty.

It is important that there are measures to ensure that those selling kittens and puppies must include their licence numbers on any online adverts and that microchipping of animals takes place before rehoming. Sadly, there are still those who seek to import puppies raised in puppy farms and not given the attention and care that we would expect when buying a puppy. A penalty proportionate to the harm caused is important to act both as a deterrent and as a measure to help safeguard vulnerable young animals.

On the detail of the Bill, which I suspect will not be debated in Committee, Clause 3 lists the various offences covered in the Bill. However, I note that it does not cover the Dangerous Dogs Act, which will continue to be within the remit of the police. However, some concern has been expressed by the public and the animal charities that the breeds of dogs covered by the Dangerous Dogs Act need reviewing and that some dogs are covered which are not believed to be dangerous. Are the Government considering reviewing the Dangerous Dogs Act?

Clause (1)5 refers to

“persons who may be specified by regulations”

and paragraph (c) indicates that

“any other person that the Secretary of State considers appropriate”

may enforce these regulations. This is very wide. Can the Minister or the noble Lord, Lord Randall of Uxbridge, give an indication of just what kind of appropriate person this might be?

According to Clause 3(3)(a) the fixed penalty notice may not exceed £5,000, and paragraph (b) states that

“the maximum fine for which a person convicted of the offence is liable on summary conviction.”

Can the Minister say why this is not £5,000 and/or paragraph (b) instead of both? Can he also say whether the fixed penalty fine is a flat £5,000 or whether there is a sliding scale of fines up to a total of £5,000?

Clause 8 gives a list of the enforcement authorities and the explanation of what a “local authority” means—the noble Lord, Lord Randall, referred to this. Local authorities are currently under severe financial constraint. I am somewhat concerned that the fines imposed are to be paid into a consolidated fund, less expenses. What is the consolidated fund to be used for? This could appear a somewhat obscure tax and is likely, therefore, to be resisted. Is the consolidated fund to be used to reimburse local authorities for the work and expense that they will incur in carrying out the function of issuing fixed penalty notices? The noble Lord, Lord Randall, has given some information on this.

This is an excellent piece of legislation that should make it easier for culprits to be brought to proportionate justice and to understand the implications of their actions in terms of animal cruelty. I congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Randall of Uxbridge, and fully support the Bill.

My Lords, I congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Randall, for taking over the baton from his colleague Andrew Rosindell, who presented the Bill in the Commons. The noble Lord, Lord Randall, has been a doughty fighter for animal rights and the environment and he has made the case for the Bill very persuasively today. Of course, we recognise that this is effectively a government-sponsored Bill; it would not have got this far if it were not, so the issues that I raise today are ones to which we hope the Minister will be able to respond as much as the noble Lord who has sponsored the Bill.

In essence, we support the Bill. Anything that adds to the arsenal of measures that can be taken against those who transgress animal welfare legislation should be welcomed. However, as my shadow Defra colleague, Daniel Zeichner, made clear in the Commons, this applies only if these are additional measures that do not lead to a watering down of existing legislation. There is a danger that fixed penalty notices could be seen to trivialise more serious animal welfare abuses.

The Minister in the other place has already made clear that the new penalty notices framework is intended to be applied to existing offences already subject to prosecution—so they were judged worthy of prosecution by those drawing up the previous animal welfare legislation. These new fixed penalty notices also allow the offender to remain anonymous rather than publicly being held to account in the way that they would be if the case went to court. I am keen to seek assurance from the Minister that the application of fixed penalty notices will be only for administrative offences, such as failing to microchip a dog or indeed the examples that we have heard this afternoon about the movement of animals, rather than any animal neglect or abuse issues. This issue has been raised by the animal welfare charities and it would be good to get assurance on it on the record.

It is also clear that one reason for the Bill is to help tackle the backlog of court cases, which the Government have allowed to reach unacceptable levels. If this is the case, we would hope that the total number of cases for breaches of animal welfare legislation, either through fixed penalty or court hearings, should increase in total. I hope that the Minister can confirm that this is the Government’s intention. This point has been reinforced by the RSCPA, which rightly points out that, as the Bill is drafted, the number of fixed penalty notices issued by local authorities will be anonymised and/or amalgamated, so we may never know exactly how many have been issued. It is also important that enforcement bodies can share data and information, particularly when it comes to the movement of animals around the country and the need to track persistent offenders.

Our concern about the unintended consequences of the Bill have been raised by Battersea Dogs & Cats Home. Its concern is that the burden of proof in issuing fixed penalty notices is “beyond all reasonable doubt”, which is a higher test than the original legislation. Is there a danger that offenders will be let off for offences where they would otherwise have been found guilty? Does this mean that the number of successful cases will drop rather than rise?

There is also a more fundamental concern about the Bill: we do not know which offences in which Bills will be covered by the fixed-penalty provisions, as that is all to be set out in subsequent secondary legislation. There was some discussion in the Commons about a grid being produced to make clear what the intent is, so I am sorry that that suggestion has not yet reached fruition. This is the sort of issue that the Secondary Legislation Scrutiny Committee and the Delegated Powers Committee have raised concerns about in the past. We really are sailing in the dark in understanding the scope of the legislation before us today, and indeed when it comes to having a chance to influence the detailed provisions in the future. So while we understand the good intentions of those putting forward this legislation, there remains a nagging concern that it could result in a less rigorous and effective regime.

The RSPCA has raised some points of detail that I would be grateful if the Minister could address. Can we be assured that the enforcement officers given the powers to award fixed-penalty notices are appropriately trained and assessed as competent? It would certainly be easier if the powers were limited to use by animal health or welfare officers who have already reached a level of training and competence.

Is it intended that prosecutions for the same offence could still occur if the fixed-penalty notice is not paid or the behaviour that resulted in the notice is not rectified? Otherwise, fixed-penalty notices might become discredited and allow repeated breaches of the animal welfare legislation to carry on unchecked.

The maximum fixed-penalty notice fine is set at £5,000, but is it intended that guidance will be issued, setting out the breaches of legislation that could incur this maximum fine? Otherwise, enforcement officers might opt for trivially small sums that did not match the seriousness of the crime.

There are many questions that still need to be resolved and I hope the Minister will be able to address some of them today. I also hope that, in taking the legislation forward, he will agree to work closely with the animal welfare charities, so that we end up with legislation that strengthens our existing legislation and drives up animal welfare provision in this country. I look forward to the Minister’s response.

My Lords, I thank my noble friend Lord Randall for his sponsorship of this important Bill and for his continuous and totally reliable championing of animal welfare, both in this place and previously in the other place. Supporting the Bill is part of the Government’s continued commitment to improving animal health and welfare. While the Sentencing Act allows for higher sentencing for the worst cases of animal cruelty, the Bill will allow for the introduction of financial penalties to address less serious offences.

We in this country are rightly proud of our high standards and strive to maintain and improve our position as world leaders in animal health and welfare. As a society, we continue to demand these high standards from all those who keep animals, whether they are companions in our homes, work by our sides or help to produce the food that we eat. The Government are therefore committed to addressing not only the most abhorrent acts of cruelty but those less serious offences that, when ignored, could escalate, posing a greater risk to our nation’s animals.

We currently lack an enforcement option that will sit between and work with warning letters or improvement notices before criminal prosecution is undertaken. The Bill introduces a new system of financial penalties for animal health and welfare offences. It is simple but vital, as it will allow enforcers to deliver an effective and proportionate penalty to those who break the rules. Though straightforward, this measure has the potential to have a significant impact on how our standards are enforced.

A useful example of that might be if a pet breeder fails to include their licence number in online adverts for puppies and kittens. Businesses that breed animals must have a valid licence. Accidentally missing the licence number from an advert or forgetting to microchip animals before rehoming them might seem trivial and unimportant, but proper registration is critical to ensure that people can buy pets with confidence from a legitimate source and with the high health and welfare standards that they rightly expect. That is where a penalty notice is useful.

We must look at the bigger picture when it comes to enforcement and, of course, we must get the balance right. We want to provide early redirection to guide people towards compliance but not arbitrarily penalise those who have made genuine mistakes. I am sure that we can all appreciate the need for a different approach for someone who has accidentally forgotten to log an animal’s movement, for example, and the cruellest acts of animal abuse. This Bill will support that early redirection, so we can reach our shared goals of protecting and improving the health and welfare of our animals.

I will briefly answer one of the questions put forward by the noble Baroness, Lady Jones, whom I thank very much for her constructive words. I will make it clear that criminal prosecution will always be the most appropriate course of action for the most serious crimes. The introduction of penalty notices absolutely will not water down our ability to prosecute those who commit them. It will, however, provide a means for enforcers to consider less serious transgressions. I will return to this point in a few moments.

As the noble Lord, Lord Randall, has so eloquently explained, this Bill covers a vast range of legislation. It will create a practical and consistent tool for enforcers across the animal health and welfare space. Other offences in comparable areas can lead to a £5,000 penalty, such as offences under the eggs and chicks regulations, and offences for fishing under the Marine Management Organisation. We consider it to be proportional, therefore, for penalty notices to have an equivalent maximum of £5,000. The Bill also provides enabling powers and allows offences to be “turned on” via secondary legislation. This ensures a targeted approach which considers the differences across sectors and species. Determining which offences will have options for on-the-spot fines, versus consideration periods, will be part of the discussion officials have with NGOs, subject matter experts and enforcement authorities, should this Bill pass and become law.

I will now respond to a comment raised by the noble Lord, Lord Carrington. In some sectors, like farming, there will be a period of consideration for the inspector and the animal keeper—as the noble Lord acknowledged in his remarks. This will sit in between an inspection and an offer of penalty notice. It will allow the farmer or animal keeper the time they need to present additional information, or a chance to rectify the issue in a reasonable timeframe. As the noble Lord also acknowledged, this commitment was made very clearly at Third Reading in the other house by the honourable Member for North Oxfordshire on 4 February. In her speech, she used bovine TB testing as an example of how this option might be used.

I turn now to the appeals process more broadly. I will avoid going into the minutiae, but I am happy to do so if noble Lords ask me to. Penalty notices have been designed with the safeguarding of farmers, animal keepers and animals themselves in mind. The Bill establishes that an enforcement authority can withdraw a penalty notice at any time before payment, allowing for any misapplication of the penalty notice to be rectified. One imagines that this makes the appeals process much smoother, less bureaucratic, less cumbersome and more doable. To encourage a consistent approach to enforcement, the Bill makes it a mandatory requirement for enforcers to follow the guidance that will be laid before Parliament.

I will briefly return to another of the questions put to me by the noble Baroness, Lady Jones, about engagement with stakeholders. I absolutely commit that we will engage fully with industry and other experts to determine the way penalties are applied to each relevant offence. I hope that in my earlier remarks I reassured the noble Baroness following her concerns that this might lead to watering down. It is absolutely not designed, in any way, to lead to watering down. However, in response to the second part of her question, penalty notices are not designed to replace any of the existing enforcement tools which we have already. That is not the purpose. Clearly, they will not be appropriate every time an offence is committed. Instead, they are designed to complement the existing enforcement for animal health and welfare offences. Enforcement authorities will be required to consider a set of factors when determining whether a penalty notice is appropriate, and the level of that penalty. The correct place to do this will be through secondary legislation and guidance. We have been clear that we will deliver a targeted and tailored approach to meet the sector’s needs. I reiterate the reassurances which have been made in the other place in the strongest possible terms.

The noble Baroness, Lady Bakewell, asked a number of questions. The first was simply in relation to the £5,000 fine. I hope that I have already responded implicitly in what I have said so far. This is not a set fine but the maximum—as my noble friend Lord Randall pointed out. It is, therefore, a sliding scale. Not every fine will be £5,000; some will be very much less than that. Clause 4 outlines the factors which the enforcement authorities will need to consider when determining the appropriate level of penalty. Enforcers will be required to follow the guidance which we will lay and publish when deciding the level of the fine.

The noble Baroness mentioned the Consolidated Fund. The enforcement authorities will be able to retain the costs incurred from issuing penalty notices, but any surplus will be surrendered to the Treasury. It is not a revenue-raising exercise. That is not its purpose. The costs will be recovered.

I thank my noble friend Lord Shrewsbury for his remarks generally and his support for this. He gave an example of his own pony suffering from African horse sickness. Clearly his actions were designed to be and were compassionate. It is impossible to imagine that they would fall foul of the rules that we are legislating for today. It would not be appropriate for me to go into details and rule de facto on specific cases, but his starting position and assumptions are entirely right. We have committed to work with a very wide range of stakeholders, including the enforcers, on precisely which offences would qualify for penalty notices. He mentioned one or two charities, such as the RSPCA, which I think, as he does, does a great job. They do not always get things right, but the legislation that we are putting in place here does not require the Government to include charities as enforcement authorities. There are currently no plans for the Government to do so, but it is possible under the Bill’s provisions. Obviously, this will need to be done with full consultation and enormous care, but I struggle to imagine that the examples which he gave would not pass the test that he himself has just set.

I hope that I have covered most of the questions put to me by noble Lords. If any remain, I am very happy to follow up in writing. I know that my noble friend Lord Randall has also made himself available to talk to noble Lords if there are any issues that have not been covered in this debate. In the meantime, I conclude by thanking noble Lords again for their involvement in today’s debate, particularly my noble friend Lord Randall. It is testament to his commitment that he is here, having just pulled through Covid. He cannot have enjoyed standing and speaking for as long as he did earlier, but I am thrilled to see him back. I also thank the NGOs, including the RSPCA and the National Farmers’ Union, which have been instrumental in supporting the Bill to this stage.

My Lords, I thank all noble Lords for the consideration and contributions that they have given today. I sincerely thank the Minister for reiterating the Government’s continued support for this Bill and for endeavouring to answer some of the questions. I am sure that between us we can reassure on some of those other questions that have remained not quite answered. I look forward to supporting the Bill through its remaining stages.

I very much thank the noble Lord, Lord Carrington. He was almost enticing me to go down the path regarding kites and ravens but it is not in this Bill and, as a council member of the RSPB, I do not want to get completely taken down there. However, on that issue, which my noble friend Lord Shrewsbury also mentioned, the populations of some of these have grown exponentially. Only a couple of days ago I heard the first raven over suburban Uxbridge. We do not have many sheep farmers there, but these things are growing; I hear kites regularly. Although it is not in this Bill, we must have a mature discussion about this, otherwise farmers and other landowners might take the law into their own hands and do illegal activities which make the whole situation worse. I echo that.

My noble friend Lord Shrewsbury is far too modest. If I had known that he could have taken this through, I would have been only too delighted to defer to him. As we have heard, his experience with horses and other things far exceeds my own—so I will see if I can find him a job somewhere.

The noble Baroness, Lady Bakewell of Hardington Mandeville, wanted to take us a little bit down the path of the Dangerous Dogs Act, which I do not think is in this Bill. I also thank the noble Baroness, Lady Jones of Whitchurch, for some pertinent questions and will give her the reassurance I can: when it comes to secondary legislation, I shall keep a close eye on this as well. Statutory instruments are not always the thing that people like to get involved with, but they are probably some of the most important things. I often think that some of the strangest measures, certainly in the other House, are passed on a wet Wednesday afternoon when nobody is watching. So we will have to keep an eye on that.

Anyway, I again thank my noble friend the Minister very much. I also extend my sincere gratitude to those outside the House who have given unrelenting commitment to working with officials to take the Bill to where it is today. As my noble friend the Minister said, I know that officials have engaged particularly with the RSPCA and the National Farmers’ Union, and I am thrilled that constructive meetings have brought us to a place of agreement and contentment—he said hopefully. Officials are fully committed to continuing this engagement when we move to the next stage, which will include, importantly, writing the official guidance and drafting the secondary legislation.

I also thank very much the officials in Defra and the Government Whips’ Office who helped with the preparation for the Bill’s Second Reading and gave me more eloquence than I would normally exude. I close by once again expressing my gratitude to all noble Lords here today. I very hope the House will give the Bill a Second Reading.

Bill read a second time and committed to a Committee of the Whole House.

House adjourned at 2.07 pm.