Roger Gale Portrait Mr Deputy Speaker
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Order. I remind the hon. Lady that interventions are interventions, not speeches. If she wishes to speak on Third Reading, she will have the opportunity to do so.

Thérèse Coffey Portrait Dr Coffey
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I hear what you say, Mr Deputy Speaker. I think my hon. Friend was getting so passionate about this issue that her intervention may have gone on a little too long, but she is right to point out the financial cost and to say that it is about not simply the attack but potential injury and stress, which can have consequences. She is right to highlight that.

I recently held a roundtable about this issue in my constituency, and I spoke to farm managers and shepherdesses about the situation. Members may know that, without any consequences, a farmer or landowner may shoot a dog that is causing worrying, although often farmers do not want to go around shooting other people’s dogs. Indeed, beyond the impact that it would have on them, not all farmers are licensed to do that, which is the situation in which some of the people at my meeting find themselves. They simply want people to have better control of their dogs, which does not necessarily mean that dogs should be on leads. As I have already mentioned in responding to the amendments, dogs can be on leads that are not even attached to the owner. It is control and recall that really matter, but leads are important for people who are unfamiliar with walking in the countryside or who cannot control their dog, for whatever reason. Leads are vital in that regard, and they are a way for us to make sure that people have responsible access to the countryside.

This is the fourth Bill before us today, and I am conscious that those on both Front Benches would like to see further progress on other legislation before the House. I want to thank Tim Pratt, Tilly Abbott, Will Pratt, Ed Hawkins and Heidi Crick, as well as Ella Thackray and Jen Cox from the NFU, who came to speak to me about this issue. I have had multiple representations from right around the country. This Bill extends to both England and Wales, in line with the original 1953 Act, but other legislation is already in place in Northern Ireland and Scotland, where different legal systems have evolved over the years. I believe that this Bill is a straightforward way to make sure that we help our farmers, whose primary role is to grow food to put on our plates and should not be about worrying—literally—about other people’s animals worrying their livestock.

The measures in this Bill were originally included in the Animal Welfare (Kept Animals) Bill. I am pleased to say that we are starting to see other elements of that proposed legislation going through. Just this week, the ban on live exports received Royal Assent, and there have been regulations on other aspects of that issue. It was explained at the time why the Bill was split up, but I am pleased to have played a part and to have fulfilled my commitment to get this legislation through the House.

I am very grateful to our Clerk, Anne-Marie Griffiths, who has given excellent guidance along the way. I really want to thank the officials from the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, as well as the Ministers and the shadow Ministers. I also thank my team, as well as my hon. Friend the Member for Castle Point (Rebecca Harris) and the hon. Member for Halifax (Holly Lynch), who have helped through the usual channels to progress this piece of legislation, which I think will be welcomed across the House. Once it gets through the Lords, it is intended that the Act will commence automatically—three months after Royal Assent, I think —so that it is well in place in 2025. I thank Mr Deputy Speaker and colleagues who have spoken in today’s debate, as well.

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Caroline Johnson Portrait Dr Caroline Johnson (Sleaford and North Hykeham) (Con)
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I rise to support the Bill, and to congratulate my right hon. Friend the Member for Suffolk Coastal (Dr Coffey) on having brought it forward. I am very lucky to live in and represent a lovely, beautiful area of Lincolnshire that has gorgeous countryside. Like many people, I like taking my dog, Bonnie, for a walk through the countryside, but as a farmer’s wife, I also recognise that it is a working landscape—that crops are being grown for food, and that livestock is being looked after, too.

Dog ownership has increased since lockdown. Although most dog owners are responsible and most dogs good-natured, research suggests that dogs are now more likely than before to be left off leads or out of sight. The natural behaviour of all dogs is to chase. Many people are unaware that if their dog chases a sheep, it may cause that sheep distress. They may not be aware that even if the dog does not catch the sheep, the simple fact of being chased can cause a pregnant ewe to miscarry her lamb or to die. Not only does that have an emotional effect on sheep by causing them to suffer, but it causes an emotional and financial stress for the farmer, as we have heard, so I welcome these steps to strengthen the law.

As others have mentioned, education on the countryside code is important, and it should extend beyond the Bill to include littering and the closing of gates to keep livestock safe. I welcome the steps to detect where crimes has occurred, as well as the unlimited nature of the fine, which will help to deter people from committing the crime in the first place and encourage them to look after their dogs. I hope that the publicity that my right hon. Friend has generated for the Bill will serve to provide educational opportunities.

Roger Gale Portrait Mr Deputy Speaker (Sir Roger Gale)
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I call the Opposition Front Bencher.

Steve Reed Portrait Steve Reed
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I do not think that I need to add to the comments that I made on Report. We think this is an important piece of legislation and we wish it well as it continues its progress through the other House with wholehearted support from both sides.

Roger Gale Portrait Mr Deputy Speaker
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I call the Minister.

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Rebecca Pow Portrait Rebecca Pow
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Loud cheers from behind me. We are making great progress on delivering so many of those measures that were originally intended in the Animal Welfare (Kept Animals) Bill. I think the record shows, as does today’s Bill, that the Government are dedicated and committed to improving animal welfare. Indeed, we have the highest welfare score of the G7, according to the World Animal Protection index. That is something of which the Government should be proud. I know that Mr Deputy Speaker is a great animal lover as well, so this is very pertinent to him.

We have given the Bill a thorough review today. It will give much added protection to our valuable livestock, and will send important signals to the public regarding access to the countryside with a dog.

Nothing more remains than to thank everybody involved—all of the officials who have worked so hard on the Bill and helped to guide it through both House, and the Opposition for their support. More thanks also go to my right hon. Friend the Member for Suffolk Coastal. I am delighted to support the Bill, and I look forward to seeing it on the statute book.

Question put and agreed to. 

Bill accordingly read the Third time and passed.

Roger Gale Portrait Mr Deputy Speaker
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I congratulate the right hon. Member for Suffolk Coastal on taking her Bill through the House.

Animal Welfare (Import of Dogs, Cats and Ferrets) Bill

Roger Gale Excerpts
Maria Eagle Portrait Maria Eagle
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Will my hon. Friend give way?

Roger Gale Portrait Mr Deputy Speaker (Sir Roger Gale)
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Order. Before the right hon. Lady intervenes and the hon. Lady goes further down this route, let me say that I have a personal, passionate interest this subject. I am paying great attention to what the hon. Lady is saying, and she has rather moved away from the context of the Bill.

Maria Eagle Portrait Maria Eagle
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Does my hon. Friend agree that many XL Bully dogs are imported illegally? That is one of the reasons why what she is saying is in order. I hope you agree, Mr Deputy Speaker.

Seema Malhotra Portrait Seema Malhotra
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My right hon. Friend is correct, and it is important that these issues are considered more widely.

Illegal breeding means that we cannot be sure about the safety of pets that people may purchase in good faith, and there will be challenges with how they have been bred and looked after. You may be aware, Mr Deputy Speaker, that we have much by way of illegal, backstreet breeders, and that is not just in the UK. There ought to be more regulation of breeding. Backstreet breeders in this country can breed three litters a year without a licence, so could end up with 30 pups a year being sold at £5,000 each, with those dogs reared to be aggressive. In fact, in the light of the recent ban, how it is being reviewed and how it is being enforced, other, more aggressive dog breeds are being bred through backstreet breeders.

My constituents have raised some concerns on what we know about pets and where they may have come from. They have also raised the devastating impact of having a pet—a member of the family—at risk of being put down. I have had constituents in tears who say they have come under the scope of the legislation and can no longer transport their dog in their car if they are driving alone, and they live alone with their dog.

Roger Gale Portrait Mr Deputy Speaker
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Order. I am sorry to have to interrupt the hon. Lady. There is a great deal of meat in this Bill, which she and I both understand very well indeed, but she really is going very wide of the subject. Could I please bring her back to the subject of the Bill under discussion this morning?

Seema Malhotra Portrait Seema Malhotra
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Thank you, Mr Deputy Speaker. I was going to conclude my remarks there. I wholeheartedly welcome the Bill and the opportunity to look at the wider issues. When the Bill passes, as I hope it will, we must ensure that it will be successful in achieving its goals as well as being a catalyst for addressing the wider issues in this context.

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James Murray Portrait James Murray (Ealing North) (Lab/Co-op)
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I am pleased to speak in support of the Animal Welfare (Import of Dogs, Cats and Ferrets) Bill.

This Bill, and the issues that it seeks to tackle, is very important to many of my constituents in Ealing North. Since I was elected, I have been contacted nearly 900 times about specific campaigns to strengthen our country’s animal welfare legislation, including on the Bill before us today and other important pieces of animal welfare legislation, from the Animal Welfare (Kept Animals) Bill to the Hunting Trophies (Import Prohibition) Bill.

Passing this legislation is an important priority for many of my constituents. I am therefore glad to be here today to speak in support of the Bill, which includes measures to raise the minimum age of imported dogs and cats to six months, as well as banning the importation of dogs and cats that are more than 42 days pregnant or that are mutilated. In this context, mutilation means, for example, dogs that have had their ears cropped or tail docked, and cats that have been declawed.

I have long supported a ban on the importation of cats and dogs under the age of six months or over 42 days pregnant. Like many other hon. Members, I had hoped that the Animal Welfare (Kept Animals) Bill, introduced in 2021, would address these issues. That Bill included provisions to limit the number of dogs, cats or ferrets that can be moved on a non-commercial basis, and to set restrictions on the condition of animals that can be brought into the country. As we know, the Bill was carried over into the subsequent parliamentary Session, but the Government announced in May 2023 that the Bill would not proceed further in its current form. Like many of my constituents, I was very disappointed when the Government dropped that Bill. I supported an Opposition motion to bring it back to Parliament, as drafted, but the Government voted it down. That decision was not what I wanted, nor what my constituents and our dedicated animal welfare charities wanted, and it delayed the introduction of legislation. However, it is welcome that this Bill is being debated here today, with support from Members on both sides of the House, and I am pleased to be here to support it.

I know that my constituents are far from alone in wanting to see legislation such as this in place. Many Members have expressed that view today, and data from a 2023 survey conducted by YouGov on behalf of Dogs Trust showed that 83% of voters believe that the UK Government should

“crack down on the illegal smuggling of dogs into the UK”.

We know that the importation of cats and dogs is a problem on a significant scale: in 2020, the Government reported that some 6,768 cats and 66,952 dogs had been commercially imported into the UK. The Bill seeks to address the problem by enabling the national authorities in each of the UK’s four nations to make regulations that would help to protect the welfare of dogs, cats and ferrets by imposing conditions on their importation into the UK.

As we have heard from the hon. Member for North Devon (Selaine Saxby), whom I congratulate, the regulations introduced under the Bill would prohibit the importation of puppies or kittens under six months old, and that of dogs or cats that are more than 42 days pregnant or have been mutilated. Furthermore, the Bill would address the problem of commercial imports being disguised as non-commercial ones by limiting the number of dogs, cats and ferrets that can be imported to five per vehicle or three per foot passenger.

I understand that a key difference between this Bill and the kept animals Bill that the Government dropped last year is that this Bill specifies what the regulations must include—namely the prohibition of the importation of animals that are less than six months old, more than 42 days pregnant, or mutilated. The kept animals Bill enabled those limits to be determined when the regulations were made, and I am pleased that this Bill makes the provisions more explicit at this stage.

I am pleased to be here to support the Bill, because strengthening our animal welfare laws is a priority for me and many other Members. However, beyond the important legislation that we are debating now, I believe that there are many other aspects of animal welfare that need to be addressed through the introduction of stronger laws. Let me give an example of the context in which the Bill sits. I believe that there should be measures to prevent the theft of cats and dogs, and I therefore welcome the Pet Abduction Bill, which was introduced in 2023. It would create offences of dog abduction and cat abduction, and it includes powers to make similar provision for other pets.

Although dogs and cats are now sentient beings under the law, there is no specific offence of pet theft; because animals fall under the definition of property, the offence is treated in much the same way as the theft of an inanimate object. I find it worrying that, while sentencing can take into account the emotional impact on the human victim, the financial worth of the dog or cat is the biggest factor. In my view, the punishment does not come close to fitting the crime or to acting as a deterrent. Pet theft is not a simple matter of theft of an item, nor should it be treated as such by the law. I know that losing a pet can cause great emotional pain. I declare an interest: I think of how I would feel if our cat at home, Orna, were to be stolen. I firmly support the Pet Abduction Bill, as well as measures to improve it—

Roger Gale Portrait Mr Deputy Speaker (Sir Roger Gale)
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Order. I have to impress on hon. Members that the Bill under discussion is concerned with the legal importing of puppies, kittens and ferrets. Will the hon. Gentleman please stick to the subject under debate?

James Murray Portrait James Murray
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Thank you, Mr Deputy Speaker. Having given that contextual example, I will return to the main subject of the debate.

I know from my constituents how important it is for all aspects of animal welfare to be addressed. In my home borough, we are lucky enough to have the annual Ealing animals fair, which took place for the 45th time earlier this month. I was very glad to be able to attend, and I want to thank all those involved, particularly Dr Marion Garnett, for putting on such an important event year after year. I know that those at the fair would be among the first to say that the Bill is much needed, and also that many other aspects of animal welfare legislation need attention.

I am pleased to be playing my part today in supporting the Bill, and I look forward to its making progress as swiftly as possible and becoming law.

Pet Abduction Bill

Roger Gale Excerpts
2nd reading
Friday 19th January 2024

(5 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Stella Creasy Portrait Stella Creasy (Walthamstow) (Lab/Co-op)
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It is a genuine pleasure to contribute to the debate and to follow the comprehensive report by the hon. Member for Southend West (Anna Firth), the passion of my hon. Friend the Member for West Ham (Ms Brown), the expertise of the right hon. and learned Member for South Swindon (Sir Robert Buckland) and, of course, Granny Meow.

should declare that I have often voted in the Westminster dog of the year competition—I have obviously voted for everybody’s beautiful dog, if anybody asks—but I have never participated. I still own a rather elderly cat, who would probably not win any awards, except from me. She is not of any particular breed, apart from loved. But we recognise that pet ownership is an intrinsic part of many people’s lives, and for good reasons. There is a lot of evidence that owning a pet can help with stress. Perhaps that is why they should be mandatory in Parliament. I always thought we should be able to have them in our offices. Maybe that would help some of our conversations. They lower blood pressure and they are good for loneliness. As a nation, half of us own a pet. In fact, the quarter of people who own a cat own more than one. We might have more people owning dogs, but we have more people being owned by multiple cats—those Six Dinner Sids.

The message the Bill sends is that this is not an insignificant matter. That answers the question from the hon. Member for Bury North (James Daly) about the need for additional legislation. One reason to legislate in this place is when we see widespread patterns of harm. There was an explosion in the number of cases of pets being stolen during the pandemic, and the response people received from the police tells us that there is something wrong with the way things are being dealt with. By legislating, we are sending a very clear message that we want that to be different.

This is a long-overdue change and I pay tribute to the pet theft taskforce—one can only imagine what its meetings were like and whether they took place in dog or cat cafés around the country. The way in which things have been slightly re-jigged for cats and dogs is also right. As Granny Meow, Six Dinner Sid and most of us know, cats are different creatures, whether they act like their owners or their owners become like them. More seriously, it is a worry to me that the experience of my constituents who have sadly experienced this challenge—one reason why I wanted to speak and support the Bill—has been so difficult with the police. The emotional impact or, frankly, the financial consequences are not being taken into account. In my short contribution, I want us to be clear that, yes absolutely, we recognise the emotional distress when somebody’s cat or dog is taken, but the trade behind that is also why legislating for this specific offence and addressing it is very worth doing.

I want to share some of the experiences of my constituents. One constituent had a Bengal cat stolen. Bengal cats can go for up to £5,000 if it is a particular type of breed. There are no other items under theft legislation of such value that we would then expect the police to say, “Well, it’s a civil matter. Sorry about the loss of your cat, but we are not going to investigate.” It is actually a very valuable item, in addition to the emotional distress. Another constituent’s son’s ex-girlfriend stole their dog. The dog was microchipped, so it was very clearly owned by the family, but the police told her that it was a civil matter and therefore they would not assist.

Again, I would just point out that there are other examples of those kinds of disputes where items have been taken and the police have clearly recognised it as theft. After all, often breaking and entering is facilitating the seizure and abduction of a pet. That is partly because some of the breeds we are talking about are incredibly valuable. A siamese cat can cost between £300 and £400 to buy. An English bulldog is £2,000 for a puppy. A dachshund is £1,500, and even a cocker spaniel is £300 to £600. It is not, therefore, a surprise that there is a trade in stealing animals and pets to re-sell. When the police response is simply to dismiss that and not even investigate, we are giving a green light for that to continue.

I fully support the Bill and the message we are sending by the clarity of having specific pet abduction legislation. It is important to have data from police forces about the scale of the crime. As we know with other crimes, data is the start of the investigation. If we do not know where these crimes are taking place, we cannot then look for the patterns that help us identify the people behind them. I also recognise the distress that this crime causes. The constituents who come to me are devastated when their pets have been stolen and they feel that nobody else cares. The message we are sending from Parliament today is that we do think somebody should care and we do think it is a serious matter.

Finally, I join others in congratulating all the brilliant voluntary organisations that help us as a nation of pet lovers. The hon. Member for Southend West talked about Tilly’s Angels. We have Waltham Forest for Cats and Waltham Forest 4 Dogs. They are two separate groups, obviously—like Sharks and Jets, never the twain shall meet. Those organisations rightly reflect that love and affection.

There is a lot going on in the world and, obviously, some very serious matters are facing us, but there is such a level of agreement across the Chamber that it is right to clarify things and have this legislation. We have had the frustration and disappointment of having done all the work, looked at the law and found a way through the challenges that people have identified, only to see the legislation dropped, I hope that Minister will recognise that there is full support in the House for the Bill. We just need to get this done, put the protection in place and help ensure that the 54% of us who have one can take our pet out to the park—we will try to shut our doors to prevent our cats from leaving the house and becoming the Six Dinner Sids. In that way, we will generally be confident that our pet welfare is one of the best things that we can look forward to.

Roger Gale Portrait Mr Deputy Speaker (Sir Roger Gale)
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I call Jane Stevenson.

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Thérèse Coffey Portrait Dr Coffey
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My right hon. and learned Friend, having been a recorder and Solicitor General, is well established in the operation of the law, and I agree. Why not make it two months after Royal Assent?

I strongly support the Bill. I appreciate that there have been many private Members’ Bills that latch on to an issue without really changing the law, on which there might have been questions today. There is no doubt that the change from “permanent deprivation” to “abduction” makes this a powerful Bill, and I look forward to it becoming law before the summer.

Roger Gale Portrait Mr Deputy Speaker (Sir Roger Gale)
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I call George Freeman.

George Freeman Portrait George Freeman (Mid Norfolk) (Con)
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It is a great pleasure to speak in this debate, Mr Deputy Speaker. I pay tribute to you for your long-standing work on animal welfare issues in this House over the years. I will be brief, as I know there are a number of very good private Members’ Bills waiting to be heard today.

I want to speak on behalf of the people of Mid Norfolk, and on behalf of Tosca, our 14-year-old cat, and Jassy, our two-year-old fox red Labrador. It is a joy to have their names in the Official Report. The pets of this country need us to act on their behalf, just like the many people who, in a civilised society, need parliamentarians to speak for them, including the children who cannot vote and all those who need us to take their interests seriously.

More importantly, for all those who have suffered the appalling trauma of pet abduction, it is not a victimless crime. For many people in this country, the abduction or theft of their pet is every bit as serious, if not more serious and traumatic, than the loss of a wallet or the other things that the police generally think of as more serious crimes. I pay tribute to my great friend, the hon. Member for Southend West (Anna Firth), for introducing this Bill and securing Government support. I also thank the Minister for her support. This enlightened Government are working with Back Benchers on both sides of the House to put in place good legislation that the people of this country want.

Our late, great friend, the former hon. Member for Southend West, David Amess—whose shield stands proudly behind his successor—would have been to the fore on this Bill. He was a great champion, as the current hon. Member for Southend West is, of pets and animal welfare.

My dear friend Marika had a beautiful miniature pinscher, which is just about the smallest dog possible. The dog became lost in the undergrowth on Hampstead Heath and somebody found him. Strangely, rather than take this tiny dog—a puppy—to someone or look for the person who had obviously lost him, this person decided, in their haste, to tie the puppy to a railing with a piece of string and abandon him. After an hour of searching, when Marika was told that the dog had been seen, she rushed to the railing to find him stolen, and the puppy’s body was found just off the North Circular 24 hours later.

Five years later, the trauma is ongoing. Marika will be distressed to be reminded of it, but I know she wants me to raise the case, which she has also raised with her local MP. She is delighted that the Bill is being debated on the Floor of the House and that the Government are supporting it.

I am conscious of time, so I will not rehearse the excellent arguments about the legalities. I simply want to take this opportunity to invite the Minister to remind those listening that the Environmental Protection Act 1990—I defer to my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for South Swindon (Sir Robert Buckland), the former Lord Chancellor and Solicitor General—made it clear that anyone who finds a stray dog has a duty in law to make sure it is returned to a person in office or to the police. The person who decided they were too busy to take Marika’s dog to the park wardens at Hampstead Heath, or to anybody, and tied it up and abandoned it actually committed an offence. It is really important that people understand that as citizens, we all have a duty to dogs. Today’s Bill strengthens that obligation, as well as the criminal sanctions against those who do not exercise their responsibilities and who commit this appalling crime—against pets, but every bit as appallingly, against the people who love their pets and suffer the trauma.

I want to briefly highlight some excellent work going on in Mid Norfolk, and some of the terrible stories that I have seen in my work. Cats Protection in Longham—the Opposition Front Bencher, the hon. Member for Cambridge (Daniel Zeichner), will know it well as a former candidate in Mid Norfolk—does brilliant work on rehoming and microchipping. I am really delighted to see the microchipping framework extended in this Bill. I also want to highlight DogLost in Norfolk and Suffolk, which does great work. My right hon. Friend the Member for Suffolk Coastal (Dr Coffey) supports that organisation; it has 25,000 members, which speaks to the importance of this issue across our part of the world and across the country.

Personally, I want to highlight Alex Dann of Dann’s Ice Cream in North Tuddenham, who had his dog Patch stolen from beside his ice cream van. He had not lost him, neglected him or left him: while he was serving customers ice cream, somebody stole his dog, and it was reported in the excellent Eastern Daily Press. Rita and Philip Potter also had their Labrador Daisy stolen—I could go on. This is not a victimless crime: it is a crime that causes huge trauma. Pets are doing a huge social service for us all; many people rely on their pets, not just for the glories that they bring to daily life but to help them with mental health conditions, loneliness and a whole raft of conditions that cause huge pain. I am not suggesting that pets should be brought under the provisions of the Department of Health and Social Care, or funded for those purposes, but we should at least acknowledge that they are doing hugely important and good work, which makes the crime of pet theft all the more appalling.

Mr Deputy Speaker, I will not test your or the House’s patience any further. I just want to put on record my support for this Bill and for my hon. Friend the Member for Southend West, and my joy at seeing all parties in this House come together in support of something that the public will be delighted to see Parliament putting in place.

Roger Gale Portrait Mr Deputy Speaker (Sir Roger Gale)
- Hansard - -

I call the Opposition Front Bencher.

Border Target Operating Model: Health Certificates and SMEs

Roger Gale Excerpts
Friday 19th January 2024

(5 months ago)

Commons Chamber
Read Full debate Read Hansard Text Read Debate Ministerial Extracts
Rebecca Pow Portrait Rebecca Pow
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Can I just intervene—

Roger Gale Portrait Mr Deputy Speaker (Sir Roger Gale)
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Order. One at a time, please.

Stella Creasy Portrait Stella Creasy
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

If the Minister can tell us what the charge will be—please, do let us know.

Stella Creasy Portrait Stella Creasy
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

So there we have it: in 12 days’ time, businesses will have to pay for these certificates, but they will not be asked to provide them, and in 100 days’ time they might have an extra cost but they do not know what it is—

Roger Gale Portrait Mr Deputy Speaker (Sir Roger Gale)
- Hansard - -

Order. The Minister has sat down; I took it that she was giving way so I allowed the hon. Member for Walthamstow (Stella Creasy) to come in, but the Minister has now clearly sat down, so that is the end of the debate.

Question put and agreed to.

Storm Henk

Roger Gale Excerpts
Monday 8th January 2024

(5 months, 2 weeks ago)

Commons Chamber
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Robbie Moore Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Robbie Moore)
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

The heavy rainfall following Storm Henk has affected communities across the UK, with the worst impacts being seen in widespread areas across the midlands, including in Leicestershire, Lincolnshire, Nottinghamshire and Northamptonshire; in parts of the west country, including Gloucestershire, Worcestershire and Warwickshire; and in other areas. Parts of the country had a month’s worth of rain in the first four days of January, and that rain fell on already saturated ground. Several of our biggest river systems—the Trent, Thames, Severn and Avon—saw record levels, or close to record levels, as they drained huge volumes of rain from across their catchments.

In the past few days, I have seen at first hand the devastating impacts that flooding can have on local communities. This morning, I returned from Alney island in Gloucester, which saw the third highest water levels in the last 100 years. Last week, I visited Nottinghamshire, where I met residents in Colwick with my hon. Friend the Member for Gedling (Tom Randall) and spoke to residents in Radcliffe-on-Trent with my hon. Friend the Member for Rushcliffe (Ruth Edwards), where unfortunately residents had to be evacuated to keep them safe. My thoughts are with all those who have been impacted.

Over the weekend, the Secretary of State visited flooded communities in Newark-on-Trent and Leicestershire. Together, we met farmers in Lincolnshire to see at first hand the impacts of flooding in their area. We discussed what more could be done to support agricultural businesses to prevent flooding and minimise the impacts of flooding in the future. I met Henry Ward at Short Ferry, whose farm has been completely submerged under water, and we discussed just how devastating the financial impact can be.

I also visited a primary school in Heighington, just south of Lincoln, that had been completely flooded. The headteacher, the Environment Agency, Councillor Carrington, my hon. Friend the Member for Sleaford and North Hykeham (Dr Johnson) and I discussed next steps to get the school reopened and the children back into their classrooms.

The Prime Minister was in Oxford yesterday, talking to those affected and thanking the first responders for the fantastic job they have done over the past week to keep communities safe. I echo those thanks to the Environment Agency, emergency responders, local authorities, internal drainage boards and all volunteers for their tireless efforts to keep our communities safe right across the country.

This was a severe weather incident. Storm Henk caused high winds and large amounts of rain across England last Wednesday—Met Office amber and yellow warnings were in place across the country—and this was followed by heavy rainfall on already saturated ground, after a wetter than average autumn. There is now an improving picture across the country but, as we enter a dry spell, flood warnings remain in place. We will continue to monitor the situation very closely.

Since 2010, the Government have invested over £6 billion to better protect over 600,000 properties from flooding and coastal erosion. Over recent days, more than 75,000 properties have been protected as a result of the Government’s investment in flood defences. To date, unfortunately, 2,000 properties across the country are recorded as having been flooded.

In the east midlands, a major incident was declared in Colwick when the Trent peaked at over 5 metres. In Leicestershire, 350 properties were flooded, including in Loughborough. In Lincolnshire, river levels exceeded 2000’s record on the Trent at Torksey lock. In Staffordshire, we saw the highest recorded water levels in Burton-on-Trent, where the flood defences completed in June 2022 protected hundreds of properties.

The Government began planning for the elevated flood risk as soon as the Met Office forecast indicated an unsettled period of weather over Christmas and the new year. The Environment Agency started planning and preparing in the week before Christmas. River channels and trash screens were cleared to prepare watercourses for flooding, and there was continued work to repair assets following the damage caused by Storm Babet. The Environment Agency’s incident teams were double rostered, with the national duty manager leading regular planning and preparedness calls with all areas. The Environment Agency wrote to all Members of Parliament in England to provide local contacts and information for use in the event of a flood.

Over the last week, the Environment Agency issued 300 flood warnings to communities. It deployed more than 1,000 staff to affected communities, set up 125 pumps and put in place over 12 km of temporary and semi-permanent defences to protect communities. It worked closely with local resilience forums to manage the impacts on the ground. My Department has been holding daily cross-Government meetings to ensure that we are doing everything we can to minimise the impacts on our communities.

Over the weekend, the Government took swift action by activating the flood recovery framework earlier than usual to reassure people that we will step in. This support will provide immediate relief to householders, businesses and farmers affected by flooding.

Officials in the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities wrote to the chief executives of the eight county councils that will be eligible, based on the data on the impacts so far: Leicestershire, Gloucestershire, West Northamptonshire, Warwickshire, Wiltshire, Nottinghamshire, Lincolnshire and Worcestershire. Others may well qualify, and we are monitoring the situation closely. Flooded households in eligible affected areas can apply for up to £500, giving them quick access to help with immediate costs. Affected households and businesses will also be eligible for 100% council tax and business rate relief for at least three months. Through the property flood resilience repair grant scheme, eligible flood-hit property owners can apply for up to £5,000 to help make their homes and businesses more resilient to future flooding.

My Department has switched on the farming recovery fund so that farmers who have suffered uninsurable damage to their land can apply for grants of up to £25,000, recognising the exceptional rainfall that has taken place. Small and medium-sized businesses, including farmers, can also apply for up to £2,500 of support from the business recovery grant to help them return to business as usual.

The Government’s UK-wide Flood Re scheme will continue to provide reinsurance for those UK households at high flood risk. Last year, that cover supported 265,000 household policies, and more than 500,000 properties have benefited since the scheme’s launch.

Outside the immediate response, the Government continue to take action to protect communities from flooding. Since 2010, we have invested more than £6 billion to better protect 600,000 properties from flooding and coastal erosion. We are on track to spend a record £5.2 billion on new flood defence schemes in the current six-year period. That is double the spend in the previous six years. It includes £100 million to support communities that have experienced repeated flooding, and last April the first 53 projects set to benefit were announced. We have made £25 million available for innovative projects that use the power of nature to improve flood protection, including actions by farmers and land managers. I will announce the successful projects shortly.

We are investing more in maintaining existing flood defences to help ensure that they are kept in good working order. The Government increased funding by £22 million a year at the last spending review, meaning that funding reached £201 million last year and £221 million this year.

The Government strengthened planning guidance on flood risk and coastal change in 2022. This asks local authorities to apply stricter criteria to new developments at risk of flooding before they are approved. In the year following that change, 99% of proposed developments complied with Environment Agency advice on flood risk.

In conclusion, working with local partners, we have acted swiftly to respond to the recent flooding and to provide funding support for the most affected. We will continue to lead the emergency response to flood incidents as they occur. At the same time, we will invest for the long term to create a nation better protected against our changing climate. I commend this statement to the House.

Roger Gale Portrait Mr Deputy Speaker (Sir Roger Gale)
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I call the Opposition Front Bencher.

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Robbie Moore Portrait Robbie Moore
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My right hon. Friend is absolutely right. Before Christmas, I visited Shrewsbury to see for myself the positive impacts that flood defences are having and to speak to Environment Agency representatives. I am well aware of and look forward meeting the caucus of 38 MPs who represent constituencies right across the River Severn channel. I reassure my right hon. Friend that I, my officials and the whole Department are in close contact with the Environment Agency. We are monitoring the situation closely. If we get to a situation where we need to expand the flood recovery fund even further, we will not hesitate to do so.

Roger Gale Portrait Mr Deputy Speaker (Sir Roger Gale)
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I call the SNP spokesperson.

Animal Welfare (Livestock Exports) Bill

Roger Gale Excerpts
Thérèse Coffey Portrait Dr Coffey
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Of course I agree with my right hon. Friend. Indeed, I am standing in front of the shield of my former hon. Friend, a conscious reminder of the sacrifice that he paid for being a Member of this House. He will be known forever for his passion for animal welfare, and I am delighted that, as well as his closest friends, his successor, my hon. Friend the Member for Southend West (Anna Firth), has continued that journey.

The Bill is straightforward; it does what it says on the tin. That is the right approach. I wish that other parts of the European Union would agree to this. I am delighted that this legislation is one of the Brexit bonuses. It will be the second piece of primary legislation that DEFRA has introduced—the first being the Genetic Technology (Precision Breeding) Act 2023. I know that there is more to do, and I know that there are plenty of speakers who wish to speak today, but let us think carefully about how we can accelerate this Bill so that it gets through the next stage in one day—I believe that business has been tabled for the first week back—so that we can make sure that this legislation comes into effect as quickly as possible. That is good for the welfare of animals and good for our reputation around the world. It will show the leadership that we can bring and make sure that we continue to be strong in what we are doing while still recognising the ongoing animal welfare reforms that this Conservative Government have already put in place, and I know that there will be many more to come.

Roger Gale Portrait Mr Deputy Speaker (Sir Roger Gale)
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I call the SNP spokesperson.

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Mike Penning Portrait Sir Mike Penning (Hemel Hempstead) (Con)
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I think we should acknowledge at the outset, Mr Deputy Speaker, the work that you did before you were in the Chair, on this issue and other animal protection schemes over many, many years. It is quite right that we have mentioned David Amess, but his neighbour for many years was Sir Teddy Taylor. I worked for Sir Teddy in the ’90s, when we were desperately trying to get the ban on transporting livestock and we could not—off the hoof and on the hook.

I was also a journalist for a part of that time, and the Express group, as it is now, paid for me and some of the Express photographers, because our lorries were being stopped going to Italy by French farmers. The French were worried about what was happening to their livestock and their incomes. Very often, when they opened those lorries, particularly as they got closer to the Italy-France border, a lot of the animals were dead. I completely agree that farmers want to protect their livestock and look after their husbandry brilliantly, but we could not say that about a lot of the hauliers—I say that as a former haulage Minister. I was really appalled at the money-grubbing way in which some hauliers, particularly those that came across empty from Italy to take livestock back, worried about how much diesel they were using and whether their tachograph was running properly.

The Bill is brilliant. Teddy passed away a few years ago, but he will be watching down on us now absolutely thrilled about the Bill. I agree with the hon. Member for Westmorland and Lonsdale (Tim Farron) that there is more that we would like—absolutely. I cannot understand, for instance—this has not yet been mentioned—why we ban the production of foie gras in this country but allow its import. I am sorry, because there are probably people in this Chamber who completely disagree, but it is barbaric. How on earth can someone force-feed an animal? That was rightly banned in this country when we were in the European Union, yet we allow it to be imported.

There are things that we can do, including on puppy-smuggling. My youngest daughter has just spent an awful lot of money on a new puppy. I really hope that it does not destroy her new home in the way that many of the puppies that I have had have done. There are things that we can do. To be generous, I would turn around and say, “This categorically could not have been done while we remained in the European Union.” There have been complaints that it is taking too long, but the time that has passed since we settled Brexit is relatively short. In agriculture and farming, we have had to create a whole new financial field.

Thank goodness for campaigners who are now, sadly, long gone from us. David went too early. You are still here with us, Mr Deputy Speaker. But for those of us who were fighting for this in the ’90s, I am absolutely chuffed to be here this afternoon.

Water Companies: Executive Bonuses

Roger Gale Excerpts
Tuesday 5th December 2023

(6 months, 2 weeks ago)

Commons Chamber
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None Portrait Several hon. Members rose—
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Roger Gale Portrait Mr Deputy Speaker (Sir Roger Gale)
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order. A significant number of Members still wish to participate. I will not put a time limit on at present, but it would be helpful if Members could keep their contributions to about seven minutes.

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None Portrait Several hon. Members rose—
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Roger Gale Portrait Mr Deputy Speaker (Sir Roger Gale)
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Order. I have looked at the clock again. After the next speaker, I will have to put a six-minute time limit on speeches.

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Mick Whitley Portrait Mick Whitley (Birkenhead) (Lab)
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Thank you very much for calling me, Mr Deputy Speaker. I congratulate my party on securing this important debate.

Last year, in my constituency of Birkenhead alone, there were the ominous number of 666 sewage discharges, running for a total duration of over 8,000 hours. The effect for businesses and families in coastal communities like ours is devastating: it denies young people, many of whom are from deprived areas with little access to nature outside of our borough, of the natural spaces that by rights belong to them, while jeopardising the many businesses that rely on tourism.

Elsewhere across the country the situation is even graver, particularly for our precious chalk streams—which can be found almost exclusively in Britain—many of which now face an existential threat. Meanwhile, water company bosses continue to pay themselves millions of pounds in inflated salaries and bonuses, while the Government seem content to look away, even as evidence emerges of water companies covering up sewage discharges and making evidence of sewage disappear from official records.

The motion my party laid before the House today seeks to tackle the perverse injustice at the heart of our broken water system—a system that guarantees private profits for the water bosses and public squalor for the rest of us. The motion signals a clear and welcome change from the attitudes of successive Secretaries of State for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, who all too often, when speaking from the Government Dispatch Box, have acted as if their job is to defend the interests of the water companies and their shareholders, rather than the constituents who elected them to this place.

From the hundreds of messages I have received from my constituents on this issue, it is clear that the people of Birkenhead expect us to go much further. They are sick to death with the decades-long rip-off that began with the privatisation of the water industry in 1989. They have had enough of pernicious standing charges and their bills rising year on year—they are set to rise, on average, by another 35% by the end of this decade—while water bosses who preside over crumbling infrastructure pocket millions in bonuses.

My constituents want to see water returned to public ownership. According to research conducted by Savanta, on behalf of the publication Left Foot Forward, 70% of the British public share that view. We need to deal with the practical and deep-rooted issues facing the water industry here and now, and confront the simple truth that seems self-evident to the vast majority of the British public: the three decades in which we have treated water as a private commodity have been a manifest failure.

There has been much discussion in recent days about the entrepreneurial spirit that the Thatcher Government are said to have let loose with their policy of privatisation and deregulation. Today, that spirit can be seen most clearly in the tide of sewage swelling our rivers and lakes and drowning our beaches. We must prepare to face the challenges to come, because as we confront a future that will be increasingly defined by climate breakdown, drought, water scarcity and extreme weather events, the question of how we most effectively marshal our shared natural resources will be crucial.

I remind the House, as I have before, that the chief executive of the Environment Agency warned that large parts of the country are now staring into the “jaws of death”—the point at which we will not have enough water supply to meet our needs. To allow the profit motive to continue to dictate the management of a resource as vital as water, and to perpetuate a system in which shareholder profits take precedence over much-needed investments in infrastructure improvements, would be not just short-sighted, but an absolute dereliction of duty.

Roger Gale Portrait Mr Deputy Speaker (Sir Roger Gale)
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I call the shadow Minister.

Environmental Protection

Roger Gale Excerpts
Tuesday 18th July 2023

(11 months, 1 week ago)

Commons Chamber
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Thérèse Coffey Portrait The Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Dr Thérèse Coffey)
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I beg to move,

That the draft Environmental Civil Sanctions (England) (Amendment) Order 2023, which was laid before this House on 12 July, be approved.

Roger Gale Portrait Mr Deputy Speaker (Sir Roger Gale)
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With this it will be convenient to consider the following motion:

That the draft Environmental Permitting (England and Wales) (Amendment) (England) (No. 2) Regulations 2023, which were laid before this House on 12 July, be approved.

Thérèse Coffey Portrait Dr Coffey
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The purpose of these instruments is to strengthen environmental civil sanctions, so that our environmental regulators can apply an unlimited penalty to companies that break the terms of their permits and do damage to the environment. We are also making it easier for such penalties to be applied rather than having to resort exclusively to taking polluters to court for fines to be applied.

Rightly, the Government care about the environment, as do the public. In January, we published our environmental improvement plan, which set out an ambitious five-year blueprint for action to make our country cleaner and greener, to restore nature and to improve the state of our environment. In April, we set out our comprehensive integrated plan for clean and plentiful water. Both plans demonstrated our ambition and the action that we would undertake to have a laser-like focus on cleaning up the environment, including enabling our regulators to enforce the law effectively and efficiently.

Let me turn to the enablers that we are debating today. First, the current provision for variable monetary penalties under the Environmental Civil Sanctions (England) Order 2010 is capped at £250,000. Possible penalties are supposed to be an effective deterrent to poor performance. Unfortunately, it seems that some operators may have priced in the fact that it can be cheaper to pay the current penalty than to fix the problem and tackle the pollution. Of course, people who breach their permits and pollute can be taken to court facing a criminal conviction and be faced with an unlimited fine and the prospect of going to prison. However, we know that such investigations and court cases can take years to accomplish such an outcome. Therefore, I am clear that we must provide a strong deterrent, particularly for large operators with significant turnover.

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Roger Gale Portrait Mr Deputy Speaker (Sir Roger Gale)
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Order. I have two points to make. First, interventions should be interventions, not speeches. Secondly, there is a lot of chirruping going on. Even if I am the only person in the House who wants to hear what the Secretary of State and shadow Secretary of State have to say, then I want to be able to hear.

Thérèse Coffey Portrait Dr Coffey
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My hon. Friend is absolutely right about these measures. By voting for them today—of course, they also need to go through the Lords—we will give our regulators all the tools that they need and that they have asked for to tackle this situation. He is right that it is a bit of a surprise that the Liberal Democrats are absent, but there we go. We will be able to remind people that, when Parliament was voting for this legislation, the Liberal Democrats were nowhere to be seen.

Secondly, there is currently no provision under the Environmental Permitting (England and Wales) Regulations 2016 for variable monetary penalties. The majority of Environment Agency investigations are conducted under those regulations, and at the moment the Environment Agency is limited in its enforcement options to giving warnings, advice, guidance or enforcement undertakings, or indeed having to go the whole hog and undertake formal criminal prosecutions.

The secondary legislation that we are debating will introduce variable monetary penalties to the 2016 regulations, ensuring a comprehensive, clear, effective and proportionate deterrent within the environmental civil sanctions regime. Penalties will be based on the degree of environmental harm and culpability, as well as the size of the operator. They are calibrated to act as a proportionate deterrent and punishment, and both instruments will require the environmental regulators to update and publish guidance that sets out their methodology for determining the penalty levels.

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Mark Francois Portrait Mr Francois
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Perhaps he could tell us, as it is his plan, what the figure is?

Jim McMahon Portrait Jim McMahon
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If the right hon. Gentleman is excited at this point, he is going to get even more animated shortly, so he should bear with me.

What we see today is not just the result of Government inaction or an industry too focused on short-term dividend payouts, above the long-term interests of the country. More than that, it is about a system of regulation that is not just ineffective but a clear part of the problem. All the failings we see in the sector have built up in plain sight of Ofwat, as the financial regulator, and the Environment Agency—debt piling up, dividends pouring out, sewage being dumped, water leaks leading to supply shortages, and at least one water company now on the financial cliff edge. These water companies have not acted under the radar; they have done it all in plain sight, all allowed to get completely out of hand and all signed off.

We know that Ofwat already has the power today to issue unlimited fines, to curb dividends and to stop the debt mountain getting even higher. The chair of the Environment Agency spoke out against the previous £250 million cap proposed by the Government, saying at an Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee hearing just a few months ago:

“The previous Secretary of State suggested that the limit on penalties should increase from £250,000 to £250 million. That is a number that I believe to be higher than should be given to us for a penalty that we can impose.”

He went on to say:

“My personal view is in the £10 million to £25 million range.”

That is the chair of the agency that these powers are being handed over to for unlimited fines. In there lies the truth—watering down the threat of action and watering down the consequences, too.

Rather than going further than what was previously announced, what we see in practice is the Government going backwards, now suggesting penalties just of between 5% and 10% of the cap previously mooted. The Government know that this is not an answer to the Tory sewage scandal and, more than that, the water companies know full well that it is not either. They know it is not even business as usual. I am concerned about the very likely consequence that we will see even less money being taken in penalties and fines, as the regulator moves away from using its criminal powers to civil powers, with grubby backroom deals being struck in favour of the water companies. There is also the risk, as we have seen in the case of Thames Water, that even where water companies are found to have deliberately frustrated and misled an investigation, criminal powers to hold individuals to account are not used.

Regulators under pressure to demonstrate that this cut-price policy is delivering the goods, matched with a lack of capacity and political will to undertake criminal investigations, could well mean that offenders are let off the hook. Water bosses are already given a “get out of jail free” card, and now they will not even see the inside of a courtroom—that is what this will do. What safeguards will be in place to ensure that there is full transparency on financial penalties, to rule out cut-price discounts or dodgy deals in backrooms? Given what has come to pass, will the Secretary of State use this opportunity to give notice to the regulators that the watchdogs themselves are now being watched?

The Labour party presented a Bill to the House on 25 April that would have ended the Tory sewage scandal by 2030. That Bill proposed four crucial measures to reduce sewage discharges while ensuring that no further burden was added to household bills. First, it would have set a legal requirement for the monitoring of all sewage outlets and penalties if companies failed to monitor. Secondly, it would have introduced automatic fines for sewage dumping. Thirdly, Labour’s plan would have implemented a legally binding target to reduce dumping by 90% by 2030. Finally, it would have required the Secretary of State to publish a strategy for the reduction of sewage discharges and, importantly, regular economic impact assessments. That is a plan—that was Labour’s plan—but the Tories blocked it. They marched through the Lobby to make sure it would not get time to be debated in this House.

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Mark Francois Portrait Mr Francois
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I thank my hon. Friend for that helpful observation. The passion on the Labour Back Benches has almost doubled in the last 15 minutes. The Whips have obviously been around the Tea Room and said, “It’s looking a bit thin at the back there, boys and girls. You’d better get in there quickly.” So now—I want to be accurate—I count seven Labour MPs in the Chamber. Am I short-changing anybody? No. As for the abstention —[Hon. Members: “They’re coming in now.”] Oh, crikey. Keep going; we could be in double figures in a minute.

As for the abstention on 25 April, it is admittedly unusual to table an Opposition day motion and then abstain on it; that is not an everyday thing. Because the shadow Secretary of State said that Labour was so passionate about it, I can only assume that it was a passionate abstention. Labour felt so strongly that it deliberately chose one of its Opposition day debates to raise the issue, and then passionately abstained in person, as someone once famously said. If there is a really good explanation for that, I look forward to hearing it from the Opposition. In fact, I will allow—

Roger Gale Portrait Mr Deputy Speaker (Sir Roger Gale)
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Order. Could I gently try to connect the hon. Gentleman’s speech with the motion before the House?

Mark Francois Portrait Mr Francois
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

In the interests of equity, I was allowing the shadow Secretary of State to intervene on me. Perhaps he could connect it? He does not want to intervene to explain why Labour abstained on its own motion. Going, going, gone. In that case, perhaps the Secretary of State could help to elucidate, because the Labour party, clearly, is incapable of explaining its own policy. On that point, so as not to detain us further, I conclude my remarks.

Animal Welfare (Kept Animals)

Roger Gale Excerpts
Wednesday 21st June 2023

(1 year ago)

Commons Chamber
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Roger Gale Portrait Mr Deputy Speaker (Sir Roger Gale)
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I inform the House that I have selected amendment (a), which is in the name of the Prime Minister.

Neil Hudson Portrait Dr Neil Hudson (Penrith and The Border) (Con)
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On a point of order, Mr Deputy Speaker. As the only veterinary surgeon in the Commons, I am passionate about all aspects of animal health and welfare, and I seek your advice. The Opposition motion that we are about to debate seeks to take control of the Order Paper and timetable a Bill, the Animal Welfare (Kept Animals) (No. 2) Bill, about which we have no details whatsoever. How is it possible to debate the motion, which could have unintended and adverse consequences for many aspects of animal health and welfare, with no Bill, and no details? Or are the Opposition aiming to reintroduce the Government’s original Animal Welfare (Kept Animals) Bill? It would be helpful to have clarification on what we are debating and voting on today, and what it may mean for the health and welfare of the precious, much-loved animals in our country.

Roger Gale Portrait Mr Deputy Speaker
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I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for giving notice of his point of order. The motion seeks to take control of the Order Paper on 12 July, so that the House can consider a Bill on animal welfare on that date. If the motion succeeds, the content of that Bill could then be scrutinised on that date, according to the timetable set out in the motion. The fact that the text of the Bill is not yet available is not a procedural bar to considering today the motion before the House.

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Marsha De Cordova Portrait Marsha De Cordova (Battersea) (Lab)
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My hon. Friend has highlighted an important point. Despite multiple reassurances by the Government, they have now made yet another U-turn by shelving the Animal Welfare (Kept Animals) Bill, making a mockery of all the fantastic work of many organisations—such as Battersea Dogs and Cats Home in my constituency—that have been working tirelessly to significantly improve animal welfare. Does he agree that the Government now need to set out what provisions they intend to introduce that would prevent things like puppy smuggling, but also make abductions of dogs an offence?

Roger Gale Portrait Mr Deputy Speaker (Sir Roger Gale)
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Order. Interventions are supposed to be interventions, not speeches. The Chair will take account of Members intervening at length in terms of the speaking order when we come to that part of the proceedings.

Jim McMahon Portrait Jim McMahon
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I thank my hon. Friend for her intervention—it is an absolutely accurate interpretation. I was at Battersea Dogs and Cats Home in her constituency when news came that the Animal Welfare (Kept Animals) Bill was being ditched. The irony was not lost on a charity that campaigns and works so hard for our animals.

Labour has always placed animal welfare high on our list of policy priorities, which is why the Government have been dragged here kicking and screaming today. The Tories have promised, promised and promised again on animal welfare, but they fail to deliver.

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Philip Dunne Portrait Philip Dunne
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First, the hon. Gentleman has told us that we have been brought kicking and screaming to this place. This is an Opposition day debate. It is his choice as to what he puts up as the subject for this debate. Secondly, he has not responded to the point of order, which he could have done to settle the issue, made by my hon. Friend the Member for Penrith and The Border (Dr Hudson). [Interruption.] I know it is not his place to do so, but he could have made it clear in his opening remarks that he has not published a Bill, which is normally the case when someone puts forward a motion such as this. Without any explanatory notes, we do not know what he is talking about.

Roger Gale Portrait Mr Deputy Speaker (Sir Roger Gale)
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Order. I dealt with that issue very clearly indeed and the Speaker has ruled that the debate taking place today is orderly.

Jim McMahon Portrait Jim McMahon
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Thank you, Mr Deputy Speaker. You made that point in response to the point of order, and the right hon. Member for Ludlow (Philip Dunne) will know that I do not have the facility to come in on a point of order, but I can and I will cover that in my speech. To be clear, and I have been clear: this is a Government Bill. There is no other Bill to publish—it does not exist. The only Bill that exists is the Bill that passed on Second Reading in this House and that Members voted for. Let us move on from the smokescreen here. Members know exactly what Bill we are debating, because they have been lobbied by their constituents and by charities, which desperately want to see these protections brought forward.

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Angela Richardson Portrait Angela Richardson (Guildford) (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

To echo the point that has just been made, currently in the other place is my Animals (Low-Welfare Activities Abroad) Bill, which will hopefully receive Royal Assent in this Session. It managed to get to the other place without being amended, because it came as a single-issue Bill. It could not be Christmas-treed like other Bills, which means it has been able to progress quickly through the Commons and then into the other place. Does the Minister agree that by taking elements of the Animal Welfare (Kept Animals) Bill and putting them into single-issue Bills, either through private Member’s Bills, presentation Bills or Bills introduced by the Government themselves, we will be able to get legislation on the statute book much more quickly—

Roger Gale Portrait Mr Deputy Speaker (Sir Roger Gale)
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Order. These interventions are becoming outrageous. There are 22 Members who wish to take part in the debate. I am making a note, and I will not call people who intervene excessively.

Trudy Harrison Portrait Trudy Harrison
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Thank you, Mr Deputy Speaker, but I think that my hon. Friend the Member for Guildford (Angela Richardson) made an accurate comment about the speed with which we have been able to support a large number of private Members’ Bills.

Many of our key reforms have also been made possible by Britain’s being outside the European Union. In respect of animal sentience, we have gone beyond the EU’s symbolic and narrow approach, which was riddled with exemptions. Departure from the EU has made it possible to ban cruel live exports from ever happening again, and to tackle puppy smuggling with tighter import controls.

As well as legislating, we have launched a pioneering animal health and welfare pathway, setting out the way forward for improving farm animal welfare for years to come and building on the work that we have already done to improve conditions for sheep, cattle and chickens. We are working in partnership with industry to transform farm animal welfare on the ground through animal health and welfare reviews with a vet of choice, supported by financial grants. In addition to all that, we have given our support to a number of private Members’ Bills which are making their way through Parliament.

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Alex Davies-Jones Portrait Alex Davies-Jones
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On that point, will the Minister give way?

Roger Gale Portrait Mr Deputy Speaker (Sir Roger Gale)
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Order. The Minister has made it absolutely plain that she is not giving way.

James Wild Portrait James Wild
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Will my hon. Friend give way? [Laughter.]

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None Portrait Several hon. Members rose—
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Roger Gale Portrait Mr Deputy Speaker (Sir Roger Gale)
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Order. The hon. Lady has made it abundantly plain that she is not giving way. It would be good if we could inject just a few of the normal courtesies into the debate.

Patricia Gibson Portrait Patricia Gibson
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I am merely extending the same courtesy that was shown to me by the Minister.

The former Secretary of State for DEFRA, the right hon. Member for Camborne and Redruth (George Eustice), was right; everybody in the Chamber knows that he was right. The way we treat animals, in particular farmed animals, is a hallmark of a civilized society. Everyone who is watching can see what dropping this Bill tells us about this Government, and what we can conclude about how civilised they are when we compare and contrast their record on animal welfare with that of the Scottish Government.

The Bill was a significant moment in our progress towards improving animal welfare across the UK, but dropping it is out of step with what we know our constituents want and what we know is right. That is why I would support any motion to have the provisions of the original Bill passed through the House. Dropping the Bill shows that the Government are in retreat. They are out of ideas and have lost any semblance of moral authority. They have a Prime Minister who is afraid to proceed with his own legislation, despite it being in his manifesto, for fear of upsetting some of his notable Back Benchers.

The UK Government are a shrinking, lily-livered, weak-kneed, base, husk of a shell of a Government; they have lost their way and their purpose. Dropping the Bill is symptomatic of that. Animal welfare will pay the price. To tell this House that the Bill has been ditched and that the Government will bring forward individual provisions, covering what was in the Bill, simply does not ring true. Quite frankly, it is a lot of nonsense.

We need to ensure that the important provisions in the original Bill, which the UK Government are too preoccupied and too cowardly to proceed with themselves, are allowed to progress through the House. That is why we in the SNP support the motion.

Roger Gale Portrait Mr Deputy Speaker (Sir Roger Gale)
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Order. I appreciate that this is a sensitive and contentious issue, but we do ourselves no favours and no service by ignoring the conventions and courtesies of the House. I would like to see if we can inject a little more good temper into the tone of the debate.

That said, we have 22 Members still seeking to take part. I will put an immediate five-minute time limit on speeches. If there are a lot of interventions, as there have been in the past, then that will swiftly drop to four or even three minutes. Given the number of Members who wish to take part, I am afraid that is where we find ourselves.

--- Later in debate ---
None Portrait Several hon. Members rose—
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Roger Gale Portrait Mr Deputy Speaker (Sir Roger Gale)
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Order. Looking at the time, and given that we really do need to start the winding-up speeches at 6 o’clock, I am reducing the time limit to three minutes. I call Peter Gibson.

Animals (Low Welfare Activities Abroad) Bill

Roger Gale Excerpts
Simon Baynes Portrait Simon Baynes (Clwyd South) (Con)
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I will be extremely brief. It is an honour to support this Bill, particularly after being able to support the Hunting Trophies (Import Prohibition) Bill, promoted by my hon. Friend the Member for Crawley (Henry Smith), earlier this morning. It was a great pleasure to serve on the Bill Committee, with this whole process having been expertly steered through the House by my hon. Friend the Member for Guildford (Angela Richardson).

I wish to make three quick points. First, the RSPCA has strongly supported the Bill, saying:

“We believe it will advance the cause of animal welfare and could lead to preventing the suffering of millions of animals worldwide.”

Secondly, World Animal Protection supports a ban on the UK advertising, saying that up to 550,000 wild animals a year are suffering for tourists’ entertainment in wildlife attractions worldwide, so this is very important. My third and final point is that as a Welsh MP I hope the Welsh Senedd will follow suit. It is an honour to support this Bill, which will be of great benefit to animal welfare around the world. It has my wholehearted support.

Roger Gale Portrait Mr Deputy Speaker (Sir Roger Gale)
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I call the Opposition Front Bencher.

Alex Sobel Portrait Alex Sobel (Leeds North West) (Lab/Co-op)
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Let me start by commending the hon. Member for Guildford (Angela Richardson) for bringing the Bill to this stage, and I hope we can get it a quick and successful conclusion and send it on its way. I am grateful to have this second opportunity to progress measures for international animal conservation today, after the earlier Bill from the hon. Member for Crawley (Henry Smith)—I hope this one will have the same success. It is a shame, though, that this legislation has to come via a private Member’s Bill. This measure, as well as the one on trophy hunting and many others, was due to be in the animals abroad legislation that was promised to us by the Government, which would have tackled so many different animal conservation issues. It is a shame that we are having to do things this way, through private Members’ Bills, rather than through a rounded approach with a single Government-backed Bill. However, we are where we are and we should persevere with the other issues when we have the opportunity.

Riding elephants, running with wild animals and swimming with dolphins all are part of the human spirit that seeks new thrills, but the wildlife tourism industry is responsible for the exploitation of hundreds of thousands of animals each year: dolphins are forced to live in cramped conditions; big cats are drugged and have their claws pulled off; and elephants are violently mistreated, as we have heard. This problem is an international one, but our citizens and companies are centrally involved with advertising, promoting and selling experiences, usually to unknowing consumers; UK travel companies are complicit in this cruelty, and there are so many examples of cruelty arising from this practice.

The hon. Lady spoke about the 12 themes, so I will not repeat them. However, reducing the effect and occurrence of those themes is surely reason enough to pass this Bill. I have not tabled any amendments, but there are some technical improvements that the Minister should consider so that we do not have loopholes in the Bill. It could include a provision to restrict the defence to those who sell these experiences in the ordinary course of a business or occupation of selling publications; it could extend the definition of “advertisement” to include any material, in any form, that promotes or encourages in any way the observation of, or participation in, a banned activity, and any material referred to in the advertisement or linked to it in any manner; it could give enforcement officers and the courts power to order the publication of correction notices and give power to the Secretary of State to make regulations specifying matters relating to correction notices; and, finally, it could provide a measure on consulting the RSPCA and such other animal welfare organisations as the appropriate national authority thinks fit before activity regulations are made. Although we are not considering those measures now, I hope that the Minister might consider them as we progress and implement this legislation.

The fact that more than 1 million people signed a petition to urge the Government to protect the Asian elephant from the unimaginable cruelty it faces at the hands of the tourist trade shows that there is most definitely an appetite for this Bill. I know that other Members will, like me, have been inundated by correspondence from constituents on this and other similar animal conservation issues, so we know the public are with us. I really want to thank Save The Asian Elephants and Duncan McNair, whom I see in the Gallery. He has provided so much support to me and to others, including the hon. Member for Guildford, as we have progressed this Bill.

Finally, let me say that animal tourism is a diverse industry, and it is important to note that there are many good operators and activities that benefit conservation on offer. I sincerely hope that today ushers in a new era for the industry, with this Bill and the one we have already passed today.

Roger Gale Portrait Mr Deputy Speaker
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I call the Minister.