My Lords, as this Bill relates to advertising, I declare an interest as a director of the Advertising Standards Board of Finance and note my other interests.
I thank all those in this House and beyond who have been involved in the passage of this extremely important piece of animal welfare legislation. It is a world first, and underlines yet again the shining commitment of the UK and this Government to the protection of animals, not just within our own shores but internationally. The Bill started in another place, and I want to record my deep thanks to Angela Richardson MP for stewarding it so effectively there. I am in her debt.
I am also very grateful to my noble friend Lord Benyon, the Minister, for the work he has put into it and for his deep personal commitment. His devotion to the cause of animal welfare is unshakeable, as he has demonstrated throughout the leadership of this Bill. He has been supported by an indomitable team of officials, who have given generously of their time and wisdom to ensure that this Bill reaches safe harbour. They are: Mia Kirby, Annemarie Green, Amina Khatun, Lucy Ovington, Rhian Mewis, Thomas Pryke, Adam Richardson and David Budd. My profound thanks go to them all.
This Bill has enjoyed strong cross-party support in the best traditions of this House. I am indebted to the noble Baronesses, Lady Hayman of Ullock and Lady Bakewell of Hardington Mandeville, for the strong backing they have given it, as well as the scrutiny, which is right and proper. Above all, I pay tribute to all the charities which have campaigned so vigorously and effectively to get us to this point. Four Paws, World Animal Protection, the RSPCA and many others have played a huge part. However, I want to single out Save the Asian Elephants and its indefatigable CEO, Duncan McNair, who has campaigned long and hard for this legislation with great skill and energy. Indeed, he devised the original concept of the Bill and has worked tirelessly on it; we would not be here without him. To all those who have been involved and who have campaigned, I say: this is your day, and you deserve it.
As we noted during Second Reading, this Bill currently applies only to England and Northern Ireland. I hope that my noble friend the Minister and his colleagues will continue to do what they can to ensure that the devolved institutions in Scotland and Wales come on board so that we can make this UK-wide legislation.
This legislation is just the starting point in helping to protect those animals that suffer such cruelty in the name of animal tourism, such as Asian elephants, dolphins, whales, tigers and lions, baby monkeys and much marine and avian life. Horrific barbarism, which is inflicted on so many of these defenceless creatures, will not end overnight. But this Bill will, I am certain, be the catalyst for profound change.
Let us not forget that this Bill is also about protecting human life. Never again do we want to see another incident like that involving Andrea Taylor, who was killed by a scarred, scared and terrified elephant, brutalised into submission in the name of tourism, and whose sister, Helen Costigan, has been such a strong supporter of the Bill. We think today of Andrea and Helen and the families of others who have been killed or injured because of this cruelty.
From the moment I arrived here, 13 or so years ago, I believed my role—and I know that so many other noble Lords think likewise—was to represent and protect those who have no voice. By passing the Bill today, we do just that, and we do so in the best traditions of Parliament. We should take great pride in this achievement.
My Lords, as noble Lords will be aware, the Northern Ireland Civil Service continues to face a number of challenges in the absence of the Northern Ireland Assembly and the subsequent lack of an Executive. For this reason, it has not been possible to engage in the legislative consent process for this or any other Bill.
Given the importance of animal welfare, positive engagement at official level and advice we have received from the Northern Ireland Permanent Secretary and that previous animal welfare Ministers expressed support for this Bill, we will proceed to legislate on behalf of Northern Ireland without the formal legislative consent of the Northern Ireland Assembly. We will continue to engage with the Northern Ireland Permanent Secretary to keep them informed throughout this process.
I thank my noble friend Lord Black of Brentwood for his hard work in guiding the Bill through this House to this stage and for his commitment to, and passion for, animal welfare. I pay tribute to my honourable friend the Member for Guildford, Angela Richardson, for her success in steering the Bill through the other place with such enthusiasm and eloquence. I also extend my thanks to all the charities involved in this work, including Save the Asian Elephants, the RSPCA, World Animal Protection and Four Paws UK, for their continued support for the Bill.
I am grateful to all noble Lords who contributed to the Second Reading debate, and pleased that the Bill has been widely supported across the House. Throughout its passage we have heard about the horrific conditions that animals are subjected to in the name of tourism, and I am pleased that we have had the opportunity to debate, discuss and raise awareness of such an important issue. I will not repeat the discussion at Second Reading, but I emphasise that the Bill demonstrates the UK’s commitment to being a global leader in animal welfare standards. I am pleased to reiterate the Government’s support for the Bill, and I look forward to seeing it on the statute book.
My Lords, I shall be brief. I thank the noble Lord, Lord Black, for all his work on the Bill. It started out as part of the ill-fated animals abroad Bill, so the fact that he has brought it here from the other place as a Private Member’s Bill and that it has made such good progress is due to his effort and commitment, and we really appreciate the work he has put into it.
As he said, it has had cross-party support and a lot of support from different animal welfare charities. Like him, I particularly single out Duncan McNair and the Save the Asian Elephants charity, which has been absolutely fixated on delivering the Bill through the Chamber. It has done a terrific job of working extremely constructively with all those who care about this issue, as have the noble Lords, Lord Black and Lord Benyon, the Minister. It is always good to see a Bill passing when we have had success, with lots of constructive work and feedback. I add my thanks to all the people who have worked on the Bill.
I fully endorse the noble Lord’s words about Helen Costigan, her family and her sister. That family has been extraordinary in its efforts to work with us to understand the human impact as well as the animal welfare impact of this legislation. I thank the noble Lord, Lord Black, and I am delighted that the Government support the Bill.