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Mr. Forth: Before my right hon. Friend tackles the highly relevant European angle, does he agree that it is bizarre that clause 3(4) states:

If that person was the fur farmer himself, there is an in-built illogicality because he would have little or no interest in complying with any reasonable provisions on animal welfare.

Mr. Maclean: Clause 3(4)(b) is not the same as my provision for compliance with all current animal welfare regulations and licensing conditions. If that is the Bill's intention, I would be happier if it was spelled out whether existing regulations or Council of Europe regulations were involved.

New clause 2(3) states:

It is a simple point, and I would expect veterinary officers to do that in any case.

Another point is that, if someone who has been farming illegally is being put out of business and that has been argued over in court, it is vital that the Government or the vets who are looking after the animals have records so that they can defend themselves from claims that the animals they took over were healthy at the time and did not die off before their final disposal.

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It may be that other records should be kept; for example, records of health status, including medicines given, and evidence of tail biting and the general health of the animals when they are forfeited. There should be monitoring of the animals throughout their time in the place where they are kept after forfeiture--wherever that may be. There should also be a record of animals that die; without going to the expense of a post-mortem, it might be obvious to any vet why an animal died. If the cause is not obvious, I do not suggest that there should be a post-mortem analysis. However, under the provision, there would be records of any animals that have died so that, at the end of the period, qualified veterinary officers are able to present a record to the court or to anyone who may make a challenge. The officers should be able to show which animals they took over, the state of the animals at the time, how they were looked after, the ones that died for various reasons, and those that remained at the end of the period, pending ultimate disposal. Those points speak for themselves, but I think that they are sensible.

A further point is that of cost. The new clause states:

That provision is better and tougher than the requirement under clause 3(4)(c), which would

    "order the offender to pay such sum as the court may determine in respect of the reasonable expenses of carrying out the order"--

and of keeping the animals

    "pending their destruction".

It should be the full cost. If the Government have appointed veterinary officers, those officers should be able to recover their full costs.

Furthermore, if the Government have not taken action through their veterinary officers or the SVS, who would be the other person? If it were the owner himself, surely he would have a vested interest in minimising his costs in looking after the animals. If it were a third party, who might be known to the owner, that third party might also be in the mink farming business. I am not sure whether the Government could find any other third parties--who were not vets--who would know much about looking after mink. That third party might be a friend of the farmer, or might know him, and could come to an agreement with him to minimise the costs of looking after the animals. They might cut corners on welfare and try to do it on the cheap. That solution would not be satisfactory to the hon. Member for Garston or to the House.

If the matter is undertaken by the Government, we all know that it will not be done on the cheap. We may be talking about looking after animals, but I know that it will be done well. I have no criticism of the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food on that score; I think that its veterinary officers are superb and that any other vets whom it appoints will be equally good. We can be certain that welfare and security standards will be maintained and that there will be an entitlement to the recovery of the full costs of maintaining those standards, plus any other vets' bills, health bills and the cost of final disposal--whatever that may be.

My right hon. Friend the Member for Fylde (Mr. Jack) may be right. When trying to recover those costs from the person who has been put of business, it may be found that

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he has no money; admittedly, he may have some land or some assets, but the bank may already own those--as banks own most of our property. If the person has no money, that is a risk that we must take in trying to recover the costs. However, the hon. Member for Garston also takes that risk; her provisions suggest that the costs will be recovered from the person concerned. I am slightly more vicious in wanting to recover more costs than the Bill currently envisages, and in wanting to recover the full costs because the animals will be maintained by qualified veterinary officers.

The final provision under the new clause states:

I have already covered in detail the latter point relating to costs incurred, so I will not go over that again. However, it makes sense to make a little report to the court on that matter. Such a report should not be bureaucratic or extensive, but it should be published somewhere. I did not want to propose that there should be a report to the Secretary of State, because his officers might have to prepare it. If a report is submitted to the court, there is a chance to see whether the costs are legitimate or gold-plated. We need to be able to see what was done in a simple, little report on the financial situation and on how it is intended finally to dispose of the animals. We might discuss that point under another amendment.

When we refer to the disposal of the animals, we are of course being slightly euphemistic; we need to know whether the animals will be humanely killed--as normally happens--usually by inhalation, rather than by lethal injection, captive bolt or other means. However, the animals might not be destroyed for the value of their fur; they might be exported. The meaning of "disposal" is not quite certain; we need to know what is meant by that--for example, half a dozen mink might be sent to a farm zoo and others might be sent somewhere else. I assume that disposal of the animals is equivalent to destruction. In the case of mink, it would be useful to kill them humanely and to use the pelts if they are any good. That is what I think "disposal" should mean, but the court should get that little report in case something else happens to the mink.

Mr. Paterson: As a matter of information, there are only three legal ways of killing mink: by carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide or lethal injection. Nothing else is legal.

However, a more important point is that the most likely scenario, if these farms are to be closed down, is that the mink will be transported to existing farms in the vast European industry in Denmark and Holland. Under the new clause, I am not sure how the costs of such transport would be met. It is extremely likely that farmers will move the animals. Indeed, one of the farmers in the south-west already has a much bigger farm in Denmark. There was a case in Austria in which the chap moved over the border to the Czech Republic.

Mr. Deputy Speaker: Order. I shall not tell the hon. Gentleman again. Interventions must be brief. He should not make a speech during an intervention.

Mr. Maclean: My hon. Friend the Member for North Shropshire made a correct point during the first part of

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his intervention. There are only three methods of destruction for mink, as described in the regulations: lethal injection, carbon monoxide or carbon dioxide. However, that is not necessarily disposal. I think that the hon. Member for Garston shook her head when it was suggested that the animals might be exported--I am not sure whether she shook her head, but she will speak for herself. Perhaps export is not envisaged. Although some farmers may close down and take compensation for loss of income, I suspect that, if some of the animals are immature or have not reached the age or stage at which they should be destroyed for the value of their fur, they may be disposed of by being exported. Denmark has 60 per cent. of European production and Holland has extremely good, new welfare regulations on mink.

It is possible that final disposal is not death--well, it is for all of us eventually. In the context of the Bill, however, final disposal might not be lethal injection by the Government, MAFF veterinary officers or the person concerned. I simply say that the court should know what happens to the mink that have been forfeited. The court might not worry about other mink, but, if the court has appointed a person to look after forfeited mink, the court needs to know what on earth happened to those mink. Were they killed for their fur, exported, stuck in a zoo or did something else happen to them?

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