HL Mencken said something along the lines of, “Every complex problem has a solution which is simple, direct, plausible and wrong”. We really have to stop reaching for the wrong solutions, which is what this Bill does. My Amendments 1 and 2 at least slow down that outreach. I beg to move Amendment 1.
Baroness Hayman of Ullock Portrait Baroness Hayman of Ullock (Lab)
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My Lords, I shall introduce my amendments in this group, Amendments 11, 27, 29 and 30. I thank the noble Baroness, Lady Parminter, and my noble friend Lord Winston for their support. I declare my interest as laid out in the register as president of the Rare Breeds Survival Trust.

During our Committee debate, the Minister stated that the Government’s intention was to take a step-by-step approach, particularly around the introduction of animals, and that the Bill had the ability to do so. Our concern is that we have heard no clarification as to how this will actually work. By what means do the Government intend to introduce provisions related to distinct species, rather than the “relevant animals” as a class, under the Bill as currently drafted? Despite the Minister’s assurances, we still have no guarantee that this step-by-step approach will actually happen.

My Amendment 11 would set this expectation on the face of the Bill. Combined with my Amendments 27, 29 and 30, the effect would be to prevent a precision-bred animal being released until it had met the date condition provided by my new clause, which would follow Clause 47. This proposes that, for farm animals, the date is no earlier than 1 January 2026, and for other animals, no earlier than 1 January 2028. Also scientific evidence must support this extension: if it does not, the date could be put back further. I just say to the noble Baroness, Lady Bennett, that this is not an automatic introduction at that date; it is just putting the step-by-step approach on the face of the Bill.

The reason I have tabled these amendments is that, whether we agree that animals should be included or not, clear concerns were expressed during our Committee debates as to when they should be included, how quickly they should be included, and whether all animals should be included at the same time. We believe there is insufficient detail in the Bill regarding concrete provisions around timeframes: many of them are vague and noncommittal. Much of the preparation that we believe is necessary for a regulatory framework for animals has not yet been properly carried out.

When this issue was debated in Committee, the noble Lord the Minister said:

“All I can do is assure noble Lords that nothing will happen before we are in the right position to do it … The priority will be to try to do this for farmed animals first, and we want to make sure that we are operating a step-by-step approach. If we put it in the Bill, it may be too prescriptive, because we are in a fast-moving area of science, and it may constrain the ability of the scientific community to progress this if we do it in the wrong way.”—[Official Report, 12/12/22; col.503.]

We listened to the Minister’s words and, in order not to tie the Government’s hands or constrain the scientific community if there is clear evidence, for example, of a scientific breakthrough in tackling bird flu, the amendment allows for flexibility. An accelerated timetable should come in only if scientific opinion supported this. So we have not set these dates in stone in either direction.

I hope the Minister can see that we are taking a constructive approach to trying to put step-by-step on the face of the Bill. However, if he is not prepared to accept our amendments, I intend to seek the opinion of the House.

Lord Krebs Portrait Lord Krebs (CB)
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I thank the noble Baroness, Lady Parminter, for her courtesy in giving way. I will make only two brief comments. The first addresses the point that the noble Baroness, Lady Bennett of Manor Castle, raised, particularly the reference to the workshop that I helped to organise last Friday, where we had a number of experts giving us their take on the science. It is very often—in fact, usually—the case that scientists do not absolutely agree on everything; that is just the way that science is. When you go as a scientist to a conference, you do not expect everybody to say, “Fantastic, your research is absolutely superb”. People criticise it and challenge you and say, “Why are you doing that in this way and not some other way?” But there is sometimes a centre of gravity of opinion. Science goes through different phases. There may be no agreed position and gradually over time it is possible that a position consolidates in a particular way.

I think it is fair to say that Dr Michael Antoniou, to whom the noble Baroness, Lady Bennett, referred, is probably not in the centre of gravity of current opinion on the safety issues and other technical aspects of gene editing. So while I absolutely applaud the noble Baroness’s point which raised the diversity of opinions in the scientific community, I do not think your Lordships should be too swayed by a particular individual’s point of view, because I do not think it is the centre of gravity of scientific opinion.

My second, very brief point concerns timescales and is related to the amendment in the name of the noble Baroness, Lady Hayman of Ullock. One can see this in two ways, as her introduction to her amendments implied. You could see it as putting the brakes on—do not rush too quickly before you are sure—as the noble Baroness, Lady Bennett, would wish us to do. On the other hand, towards the end of her speech, the noble Baroness, Lady Hayman, said, “We don’t want to hold things back”. On the one hand we do not want to rush, and on the other hand we do not want to have the brakes applied too sharply.

I am trying to anchor that in a bit of reality. As far as I am aware—I was told this at the meeting last Friday by Professor Bruce Whitelaw, director of the Roslin Institute in Edinburgh, which is the UK’s leading centre for this sort of technology in animals—in the US, the Food and Drug Administration is already reviewing a licence application for gene-edited pigs. The animal genetics company, Genus, in collaboration with the University of Missouri, has developed a pig that is totally resistant to the virus that causes porcine reproductive and respiratory syndrome—PRRS for short. So the question in assessing the amendment proposed by the noble Baroness, Lady Hayman of Ullock, is, would that amendment hold up the commercialisation of this pig, if the FDA and the relevant bodies in the UK approved it?

Given that it would improve pig welfare, because PRRS is not a pleasant disease, and save the pig industry a very large amount of money—an estimated $2.5 billion a year in Europe and the US alone—do we want accidentally to place a barrier on that kind of development through timescale limits? I do not land on one side or the other; I just think it is useful to have a real-life example of what is going on. My question to the noble Baroness, Lady Hayman of Ullock, is this: if this PRRS-resistant pig came to market before 2026, would that count as an example of where the 2026 hurdle should be removed, because it is ready to go, or would she want to keep it in place? The question on the other side is whether it will realistically go from FDA approval to commercialisation in about three years. I am not trying to land on one side or the other, just to anchor this in a specific example which may help us think through our response to the proposed amendments.

Baroness Hayman of Ullock Portrait Baroness Hayman of Ullock (Lab)
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Just to come back on that, proposed new subsection (4) in my amendment says:

“The Secretary of State may, by regulations, amend the dates listed in subsection (2)”—

the dates I read out—

“if the requirement under subsection (3)”,

which is the evidence condition the noble Lord is talking about,

“is met before the dates”.

There is flexibility in the amendment to bring those dates forward if that scientific evidence is there.

Baroness McIntosh of Pickering Portrait Baroness McIntosh of Pickering (Con)
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My Lords, I will intervene briefly on a point of information. I do not think the noble Lord, Lord Krebs, has helped his cause, although he is very knowledgeable in this area and I pay tribute to him in that regard, in mentioning that a particular academic is not deemed to be at the centre of gravity on these issues. Who are we to judge? This is a fast-moving and complicated field. We are leaving what has been a highly regulated area, where our farm products have moved very freely between here and the European Union; if we go down this path of very light regulation in the Bill, how do we know that the EU will accept our food products? I shall listen very carefully to my noble friend’s response, in particular to the amendments from the Opposition Front Bench.

I feel that there is an uneasiness and lack of understanding among the public about this, which I share. I am in awe of the Roslin Institute in Edinburgh; it is my alma mater, although I studied law rather than science or veterinary science. I realise that cloning is different, but the very fact that we do not seem to be going down that path, which was first brought up with Dolly the sheep, raises issues. I am very uneasy about moving to light-touch regulation when the science is not at one on this issue.

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Moved by
11: Clause 3, page 3, line 24, after “unless” insert “, in relation to a precision bred animal, the date condition in section (Entry into force of provisions relating to animals) has been met, and unless”
Member’s explanatory statement
This amendment would prevent a precision bred animal from being released unless the date condition in a later Clause in the name of Baroness Hayman of Ullock has been met. Taken collectively, these amendments would ensure a phasing in of the animal provisions in the Bill.
Baroness Hayman of Ullock Portrait Baroness Hayman of Ullock (Lab)
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I thank the Minister for his response to my amendment and I am pleased that he reaffirmed the Government’s ambition to phase in different species. The problem is that it is not actually in the Bill, so there is no guarantee that it will happen. I would also like to come back to him on this: the amendment is not designed to restrict. If scientific evidence supports this application, it will not restrict it. I thought I had made that clear. Also, if the Minister believes that the introduction of animals is likely to be later than the date in my amendment, I really do not understand the reluctance to accept this and have it in the Bill. On that note, I would like to test the opinion of the House on my Amendment 11.

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Baroness Bakewell of Hardington Mandeville Portrait Baroness Bakewell of Hardington Mandeville (LD)
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My Lords, this group of amendments deals with technical scientific issues and moving whole or parts of clauses from the negative procedure to the affirmative. Your Lordships will know that I am not a scientist so I shall, I hope, avoid digging a hole for myself or getting caught in the crossfire.

Amendment 12, in the name of the noble Baroness, Lady Bennett of Manor Castle, would require the details of genome sequencing to be recorded in a publicly available register. If the processes outlined in this Bill are to be carried forward successfully, it will be necessary for farmers, producers and the public especially to have confidence in the process. Ensuring that there is transparency and visibility through a publicly available register can only help this process. The DPRRC was strongly in favour of such a register in its report of 2 December.

Amendment 13, also from the noble Baroness, Lady Bennett, seeks to make the whole regulation in Clause 3 affirmative. Currently, the Bill is silent on whether Clause 3 is affirmative or negative. I suspect that, as it currently stands, Clause 4(6) applies to the whole of the section headed “Release”.

I am grateful to the Minister for his amendments in this group. At Second Reading and in Committee, concerns were raised at the number of negative procedures in the Bill. The Minister has tabled government Amendments 14 and 15 to Clause 4, which would qualify the section on marketing and keep subsection (1)(b) as negative while the rest of this clause will be moved to the affirmative procedure. This is welcome and gives the opportunity for debate on the notification requirements if necessary. Perhaps the Minister can clarify in his response whether Clauses 3 and 4 are covered by his Amendments 14 and 15. If not, can he say what process is applied for Clause 3? I am sorry; I may have misunderstood what this is all about.

Amendment 16, to Clause 6(4), moves regulations on the precision bred confirmation from negative to affirmative. We welcome the Minister’s movement on this point. This is a sensible way forward and, again, gives the opportunity for further debate.

Government Amendments 24 and 25 are somewhat confusing. Amendment 24 indicates that the regulations under Clause 18(1) are to be affirmative, and Amendment 25 deletes “this section” and inserts “subsection (6)”. I think this means that Clause 18(1) is affirmative while the rest of the clause is negative, as Clause 18(7) has not been amended. I would be grateful for the Minister’s clarification. It is important for when we come to debate these things later to know whether it is affirmative or negative. Although these are technical amendments, they are very important and provide transparency in the Bill, which is to be welcomed.

Baroness Hayman of Ullock Portrait Baroness Hayman of Ullock (Lab)
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My Lords, the noble Baroness, Lady Bennett, has tabled two amendments. Amendment 12 concerns the publicly available register. Clearly, transparency and information for the public will be important if we are to carry people with us, so we need to look at how we develop registers and information to reassure people and to give them the information that they need to have confidence in the legislation.

In Committee, my noble friend Lord Winston and the noble Baroness, Lady Parminter, drew attention to the parallel piece of legislation, the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act, in which there is a requirement for the surrender of ongoing records containing the information about the impacts, both the positive and the adverse outcomes, on individuals used under the terms of that Act. The noble Lord, Lord Krebs, read out an opinion which emphasised the importance of an audit trail, so there is a general feeling in this House that information and a public register are important.

Amendment 13 is also in the name of the noble Baroness, Lady Bennett. I thank the Delegated Powers and Regulatory Reform Committee for its report on the Bill, which was very helpful. I reassure the Minister, who knows that we support the Bill, that what concerns us is that so much is left to an unknown number of SIs over an unspecified timescale. If the regulations in Clause 3 are under the affirmative procedure, Parliament will rightly have a formal role in improving the finer details of the release and marketing notices, crucially ensuring that we have proper political consensus on this. As the noble Baroness, Lady Bakewell, said, the Government have moved a number of clauses from the negative to the affirmative procedure. I will not go into all the detail, as she covered everything that I was going to ask about on this, since some of it is not crystal clear. We know that the Government can see that there is merit in moving from the negative to affirmative. Can the Minister clarify why not this clause as well if that is not the case, as this is important?

Lord Benyon Portrait Lord Benyon (Con)
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My Lords, I thank the noble Baroness, Lady Bennett, for her Amendment 12, which would require details of the specific gene editing event and the whole-genome sequence of a qualifying precision-bred organism to be made publicly available for its release into the environment. The noble Baroness’s Amendment 13 to Clause 3 would require that regulations made under this clause to establish a public register containing this information are subject to the affirmative procedure.

It is not our intention to require breeders to include sequence data as part of their release or marketing notices. I have discussed this previously following an amendment tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Winston, in Committee. We have since had a very useful meeting with the noble Lord and our scientific advisors, ACRE, to explore why whole- genome sequencing information has limited value in most cases, and the noble Lord has not retabled his amendment on Report.

This type of information has limited value because there is a significant degree of genetic variation between individual plants and animals within a species, which is more or less the point that the noble Lord, Lord Krebs, was making. This amount of background noise means that the value in requiring whole-genome sequences is limited in terms of addressing regulatory questions; for example, questions about the precision-bred status of a plant or animal. Additionally, the release notice that researchers are required to submit to Defra will be in line with the requirements of the Genetically Modified Organisms (Deliberate Release) (Amendment) (England) Regulations 2022, which were agreed by the affirmative procedure.

Our intention is that information provided in release notices will be published on the precision breeding register and will include the relevant and necessary information about the precision-bred organism in it. We also intend to require developers to confirm that the organisms that they intend to release in research trials meet the criteria in the Bill. The technical details of this notice will be prescribed by regulations, prepared with input from the advisory committee appointed to advise the Secretary of State on the regulatory status of these organisms and, in accordance with the amendments to Clause 4 that I have tabled, our intention is that such regulations will be scrutinised using the affirmative procedure before they are made.

I hope that this reassures noble Lords and that the noble Baroness, Lady Bennett, is persuaded to withdraw this amendment and not move her additional amendment to Clause 3, which would specify the parliamentary procedure for the delegated power that her substantive amendment would insert.

I always pay particular attention to points raised on secondary legislation by the noble Baroness, Lady Bakewell. As a member of the Secondary Legislation Scrutiny Committee, she is very good at holding me to account on these. I did not quite understand her point about Clause 3 because there are no regulations in Clause 3 and therefore no requirement for it to be affirmative or negative.

We remain of the belief that the matters to be set out in the regulations under the powers in Clauses 4(3) and 6(2) are administrative in nature. However, the Government acknowledge that these provisions are of significant public interest. We have heard this previously in the House and the Delegated Powers and Regulatory Reform Committee has raised this as well. We have considered these matters closely and have decided to change the procedure from negative to affirmative for both powers. These changes will increase the scrutiny when these powers are used to prescribe the information which must be provided to the Secretary of State by a person who wishes to release or market a precision-bred organism. I hope that noble Lords feel that I was serious in Committee when I said that I had listened to them. I hope that they feel that this improves the Bill. Regulations under Clause 4(1)(b) would be administrative in nature, not of significant public interest, and will remain subject to the negative procedure. I hope that this reassures noble Lords.

Amendments 24 and 25 will increase the level of scrutiny when powers are used to prescribe information that must be included in the precision breeding register. The Government acknowledge that these provisions are of significant public interest. We accept noble Lords’ concerns about the level of scrutiny for such provisions. Therefore, we will change the parliamentary procedure from negative to affirmative for the power in Clause 18(1). Regulations under Clause 18(6) regarding the keeping of the register, which is an administrative matter and, again, not of significant public interest, will remain under the negative procedure.

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Baroness Rock Portrait Baroness Rock (Con)
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My Lords, I declare my interests as a tenant farmer and as chairman of the Rock review into England’s agricultural tenancies.

The Government’s procedural amendments will increase parliamentary oversight of the design and future development of the animal welfare provisions. The Government recognise that there is a need to safeguard animal welfare, and that is why we need a step-by-step approach by bringing legislation into effect for precision-bred plants first and then for animals. Research in farmed animals is already leading to the development of animals that have increased resistance to some devastating diseases that, as farmers, we all see, and it thereby enhances the health and welfare of animals.

Baroness Hayman of Ullock Portrait Baroness Hayman of Ullock (Lab)
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My Lords, I welcome the government amendments that move the regulations to the affirmative procedure; they are extremely welcome.

I thank my noble friend Lady Jones of Whitchurch for her thorough introduction to her Amendments 19 to 21. I am sure noble Lords will remember that in Committee I tabled a number of amendments relating to the welfare advisory body, so we are very pleased to see my noble friend Lady Jones tabling similar amendments today. I spoke at length on this issue in Committee, my noble friend has introduced her concerns and we have heard from across the House, so I shall be brief.

Amendment 19 makes it clear that, in addition to considering information submitted by the notifier, the welfare advisory body should satisfy itself that the notifier has a record of acting in a manner that is consistent with research and animal welfare requirements across other Acts of Parliament. That really should be part of the body’s role. We do not want any confusion or different decision-making across different bodies.

I may have this recollection wrong, but I thought that in an earlier meeting a flow chart was mentioned showing how different animal welfare bodies, in Defra and the Home Office, would interact. I had been hoping to receive a copy of that to get some clarification about precedence and how this was all going to work together. It may have gone into my spam folder and I may have missed it, but if the Minister could check on that, that would be very helpful.

Currently, the Bill states that the welfare advisory body has to determine whether in the animal welfare declaration the notifier has paid regard to the risks to an animal. One of my concerns has always been that it is the notifier who is driving the process and is in the driving seat, rather than the welfare advisory body, which is why we were all very concerned about more checks and balances. We know the Bill says that the notifier has to take reasonable steps to assess those risks, but we do not believe that is a strong enough protection for animals in the Bill.

My noble friend’s amendment would mean that the welfare advisory body had to assess the impact on animals where a precision-bred trait was developed, with the aim, as she said, of achieving fast growth, high yields or other increases in productivity. As we have heard, we have seen that too often in traditional breeding methods, so we need to bring in these protections. We have heard many examples of traditional selective breeding producing animals that were highly efficient but this was often at the expense of animal welfare, and we need to ensure that that is not an unfortunate consequence of the Bill. The RSPCA and Compassion in World Farming have raised serious concerns about the lack of safeguards in the Bill to prevent that happening. In addition, the Nuffield Council on Bioethics has drawn our attention to the fact that many of the effects of selective breeding have been unintended.

We agree with our noble friend that it is reasonable that welfare impacts should be assessed here. Without the amendment, it is not clear exactly how that would be part of that process with the advisory body, particularly in relation to other bodies that already exist. So we strongly support my noble friend and believe that her amendments should be in the Bill.

Lord Benyon Portrait Lord Benyon (Con)
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My Lords, I am grateful for another useful debate. I assure the noble Baroness that we sent her a copy of my flow chart, so it must have ended up in her spam folder. I hope none of my other correspondence to her will be rejected into the ether. It sets out in five clear steps the process of taking something through to authorisation.

I say to the noble Lord, Lord Cameron, that I am not one of those people who repel all boarders when it comes to amendments; we have actually moved considerably on the scrutiny of the Bill, and we want to ensure that there is as much agreement as possible. I concede that we might have a problem on Amendment 19, but I will come on to that.

I repeat that the welfare declaration and the welfare advisory body’s assessment will be based on the principle that precision-bred relevant animals will need to be kept in conditions that satisfy existing requirements in the Animal Welfare Act 2006 and, where relevant, the Welfare of Farmed Animals (England) Regulations 2007. So existing animal welfare legislation is in place, and the Bill is intended to work alongside it to enable responsible innovation.

An accusation was made, although I cannot remember who by, that this was an enabling Bill and was somehow a forest of Henry VIII clauses. I reject that. It is not a skeleton Bill. We have set out our substantive policy proposals in the Bill and have included appropriate delegated powers to supplement those provisions. Delegated powers serve a valuable purpose and it is always important to assess them in context. Simply counting up the number of powers in a given Bill is not necessarily always meaningful, but I hope we have shifted the balance in terms of those that are affirmative and those that are negative.

There has been talk of belt and braces. I think you can overdo caution in these circumstances, and you can clog up the system. I really feel it would be difficult to accept Amendment 19 as it would pre-empt the Scottish royal college research project. The Bill already outlines a regulatory framework to safeguard animal welfare that goes beyond existing requirements in traditional breeding.

I hope that my words, and the government amendments to increase the degree of parliamentary scrutiny on the animal welfare provisions in the Bill, provide noble Lords with sufficient reassurance not to press their amendments.

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Lord Trees Portrait Lord Trees (CB)
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I am grateful for the excellent introduction of the noble Baroness, Lady Parminter, which carries my name and those of two other noble Baronesses. I am also very grateful to the Minister for our meetings. As he and others in the House will be aware, I strongly support the Bill, and I commend the Government on including animals in it. Alongside existing animal welfare legislation, the new breeding technologies promise great benefits to animal health and welfare by reducing the burden of disease, thereby maintaining food production with potentially fewer animals, and reducing land use, the use of drugs and chemicals, the carbon dioxide footprint and greenhouse gas emissions.

I will expand on the productivity issue. Productivity goes both ways: you improve productivity by producing the same amount from fewer animals. Reducing the disease burden will enable us to produce the same amount with fewer animals, with concomitant advantages.

I thank the Minister for the amendments he introduced earlier. Although I have great enthusiasm for the modern technologies and for this Bill, which will facilitate the uptake of those technologies, this enthusiasm—and I note that in Committee the noble Baroness, Lady Hayman, referred to mine as “gung-ho”, which I take as a compliment—is not shared by everyone. If we want these technologies to be applied and the benefits to be realised, it is going to be essential to take the public with us and ensure public confidence so that they take them up and accept them. This amendment, as the noble Baroness, Lady Parminter, has elegantly said, basically makes it mandatory in the Bill that there shall be a reporting process for potential adverse effects post marketing. So it differs in that respect from Clause 14, but much of the rest of our amendment is copied from Clause 14.

What we are suggesting is also a two-tier reporting system. The first tier is a voluntary system, proposed for individuals such as farmers, keepers of animals, veterinary surgeons and animal health professionals. But for the commercial bodies that hold a marketing authorisation, there should be a mandatory requirement to collect data about the possible adverse effects on PB animals’ health and welfare and to submit that data at periodic intervals.

I will make a number of key points on the amendments. First, they mirror precisely current regulations with regard to possible adverse effects of drugs marketed for veterinary use, and indeed for human use, both of which have voluntary as well as mandatory reporting systems in place.

Secondly, we submit—and I reinforce the points the noble Baroness, Lady Parminter, made—that we do not feel that what we are asking is disproportionate, in that only the commercial sellers of these animals, the people making money, have the legal obligation to collect adverse effects reports and notify of them. But there is a provision for others to do so voluntarily, which could be a sort of check that the notifiers are not ignoring potential problems.

Thirdly, surely it is in the interests of the developers of a new product to safeguard the reputation of that product by seeking and surveying and monitoring the possible outcomes of the development when used in the real world.

Fourthly, the definition of an adverse effect can be made in regulations, and indeed that is already provided for in Clause 25. But I suggest it should refer to issues over and above the expected health issues that might affect any conventionally bred animals but might reasonably be associated with a particular breeding technology. But this requirement can be time-limited under regulation for any given precision-breeding method.

Fifthly, this can be quite a light-touch system. For example, the reporting of adverse effects of veterinary medicines requires an online pro forma which can be sent in digitally to the Veterinary Medicines Directorate, which assesses it. That directorate, of course, already exists. The marketing authorisation holders could also submit their reports in the first place to something like the VMD, which could triage them and then pass them to the Secretary of State for consideration by the animal welfare advisory body, which is already set up —we are not asking for new bodies to be set up.

Sixthly, and perhaps most importantly, the public acceptance of precision-bred animals is hugely important if the Bill is ultimately to be of value, and I submit that it will be a considerable reassurance for the public to know that the sale and commercial breeding of precision-bred animals will be monitored for unforeseen negative effects post-marketing to complement the pre-marketing reporting requirements under Clause 12.

Seventhly, such post-marketing monitoring will also provide both the animal welfare advisory body and the marketeers with essential feedback on the robustness, validity and safety of their pre-marketing assessments. That would be important to inform them and help them develop, if necessary, better systems.

Eighthly and finally, the Minister has assured us that the use in animals will be phased in. Surely, if one is phasing in, one would want to monitor what was happening to the first group in the real world when it is being sold and used by farmers. Only then, by collecting that information, could you be assured, at the end of whatever length of time that phase is, that it is safe and appropriate to proceed to subsequent phases. I would argue that phasing in automatically suggests that one needs to be monitoring what is happening in that first phase, which will involve thousands of animals but will be a real-world experiment to prove or disprove the safety of the system. I do not expect there to be major problems, but it will give assurance to the public. On these collective grounds, I support Amendments 22 and 23.

Baroness Hayman of Ullock Portrait Baroness Hayman of Ullock (Lab)
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My Lords, I thank the noble Baroness, Lady Parminter, for her thorough introduction to her two amendments, to which I am very pleased to have added my name. We strongly support what she is trying to achieve. We believe that there does need to be a reporting process for the adverse effects on the health and welfare of animals and, of course, their progeny. The noble Baroness, Lady Parminter, talked about the importance of evidence being retained to inform future research, as did the noble Lord, Lord Trees. This is also about public benefit; we discussed public benefit a lot in Committee, and it does need to be central to the Bill.

As the noble Baroness also said, we need to understand any lessons that can be learned. The noble Lord, Lord Trees, put it very clearly and succinctly when he talked about “robust” feedback. When we look at the first tranche of animals, we need to have the confidence that the industry is acting appropriately, that the outcomes are what we would hope to see and that we can catch anything that perhaps is not what we hoped for.

The noble Lord, Lord Trees, talked, importantly, about public confidence, as did the noble Baroness, Lady Parminter. If we are to carry the public with us, the future monitoring of animal health and welfare, consequences and outcomes is really important. Understanding adverse events is therefore terribly important. The noble Lord talked about drug introductions in the veterinary field, and we should have the same principles here, I believe, if we are to carry the public with us.

It does not seem to me that this amendment is disproportionate in any way. Instead, it would bring in some really important checks and balances and underpin what the Government are trying to achieve. I urge the Minister to consider very carefully what noble Lords have said. If the noble Baroness wishes to test the opinion of the House, she will have our support.

Lord Cameron of Dillington Portrait Lord Cameron of Dillington (CB)
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My Lords, I repeat, again, that I am a very strong supporter of this Bill and everything it stands for. However, again, as I have said at every stage and indeed a moment ago on the previous grouping, the one weakness of the Bill is around animal welfare. Anyone reading the Hansard of the passage of this Bill through the Commons will note that it was the greatest concern of MPs too, but they failed to make even a dent in the Government’s protective carapace on this issue.

In Committee, many noble Lords from all sides of the House—myself included—put down amendments to try to minimise the possibility of any genetic change being proposed or implemented that could result in the future suffering or discomfort of, or distress to, animals or their progeny involved in the process. However, none of these amendments was put to the vote. We now have a well-thought-out amendment—or two—which precisely covers the worries that we all had and attempts to avoid them. The Government should think seriously before they reject them.

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Baroness Bakewell of Hardington Mandeville Portrait Baroness Bakewell of Hardington Mandeville (LD)
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My Lords, I rise to speak briefly to Amendment 28 in the name of the noble Baroness, Lady Bennett of Manor Castle, who has spoken at length on why she feels it is necessary to delay the implementation of the Bill. The Bill sets in train a considerable step towards precision engineering and a move away from traditional practices. Great care is needed to ensure that all unintended consequences are avoided. The extra protections that the noble Baroness proposes are therefore necessary and I look forward to the Minister’s response and reassurance on this matter.

Baroness Hayman of Ullock Portrait Baroness Hayman of Ullock (Lab)
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My Lords, I thank the noble Baroness, Lady Bennett of Manor Castle, for her thorough introduction to her amendment. I completely understand why she is bringing it forward. There are areas of the Bill around implementation, oversight and the step-by-step process that we have discussed time and time again that people are still concerned about. The requirement of the amendment for a report to be published that identifies any gaps in scientific evidence is an interesting one. It will be good to hear the Minister’s thoughts on this.

Lord Benyon Portrait Lord Benyon (Con)
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My Lords, I thank the noble Baroness, Lady Bennett, for this amendment. I am keen to have a much wider conversation with people. My learning curve has been incredibly steep as I have gone through this—the noble Baroness, Lady Hayman, is nodding as well. It is an area of science which is not understood by an awful lot of people. While I have sought to bring in as many safeguards as possible, there is a continuing job to do for all sorts of parties, not just the Government, to explain the benefits of this technology and the safeguards that the Government are introducing. However, I do not think that a priority setting partnership should be established in or under this Bill.

The Bill places science at its core. ACRE advised that precision-bred organisms pose no greater risk than traditionally-bred counterparts. As I said earlier, its advice is supported by the Royal Society, the Royal Society of Biology, the Roslin Institute and a wealth of peer-reviewed literature. The Royal Society stated that

“these are no more likely to pose a risk to human health or the environment than non-editing derived mutations, which occur spontaneously in each new generation”.

In earlier debates, I have sought to make it clear that if we inserted regulatory measures or language into the Bill that somehow elevated this technology beyond where it is, we risk misleading the public and we have to be really careful about that.

ACRE’s expertise in precision-breeding technologies is considerable, having first advised on them in 2013. We used this as a basis for our intervention in a pivotal European Court of Justice case in 2018 and for our consultation on genetic technologies in 2021.

The Secretary of State will be required to make decisions based on the advice of expert committees. As part of its current role as adviser on genetically modified organisms, ACRE will also advise the Secretary of State on whether an organism is precision bred. A comprehensive understanding of the underlying science is essential for this process and ACRE members have a wealth of experience in the regulation of genetic technologies. Moreover, this Bill will sit alongside existing legislation that deals with human, animal, and environmental health.

I understand the noble Baroness’s reservations. However, where we have identified evidence is incomplete, we have taken steps to address this. The regulations under the Bill will not come forward until the relevant measures are in place, and Parliament will have the opportunity to further scrutinise them.