Previous Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page

Baroness Maddock: My Lords, I thank the Minister for his full reply. I now understand why, when my noble

7 Jul 1998 : Column 1167

friend Lord Tope and I were deciding who was to speak to each amendment, I landed up with this group of amendments! However, I remember that in moving our first amendment my noble friend said that we knew that some of our amendments were defective. I do not think that we would describe them as "hopelessly defective"; they are slightly wrong.

However, I thank the noble Lord for his answers. Time will tell on some of these points. It is a fact that an extraordinary amount of guidance and consultation is taking place as the Bill is passing through Parliament. Time will tell whether things turn out as the Government hope. That was the intention behind the amendment. Many people outside this House are a little concerned about how they will manage. Some of them, including myself, are not very happy to discover that a number of these matters will not be decided until quite late in the year. That is not terribly helpful to schools.

I am grateful to the Minister for his response, which I believe has teased out the intentions of the Bill and perhaps those areas on which we differ. In view of the comments of the Minister about the hopelessly defective nature of this amendment, I beg leave to withdraw it.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, I beg to move that further consideration on Report be now adjourned. In doing so, I suggest that the Report stage be resumed not before 8.40 p.m.

Moved accordingly, and, on Question, Motion agreed to.

Welfare of Livestock (Amendment) Regulations 1998

7.41 p.m.

Lord Hoyle rose to move, That the draft regulations laid before the House on 21st May be approved [35th Report from the Joint Committee].

The noble Lord said: My Lords, the House is aware that this country led the way in Europe when in 1990 it banned the close confinement veal calf crate and its associated unsatisfactory dietary regime. We were disappointed that the European Community did not follow our lead when it made its own rules on calf welfare in 1991. The decision to advance the review of these rules at the request of the previous UK administration was therefore welcome. No less so was the outcome. Many of us might have wanted an earlier implementation date for the Europe-wide ban of the veal crate than 31st December 2006, but we can applaud the endorsement of our view that it is a totally unsatisfactory system in which to rear calves.

In many respects the new European legislation resulting from this review confirms the high standards already laid down in the Welfare of Livestock Regulations 1994 or voluntarily adopted by our industry. Our philosophy in drawing up these

7 Jul 1998 : Column 1168

implementing regulations has been to follow the directive but also to retain where appropriate those standards that go beyond the new EU requirements.

I turn now to the draft regulations. They apply to all calves and not just those intended for veal production. Accommodation requirements are clearly set out for both single penned and group housed calves. In addition to retaining the minimum space allowances which in this country have prevented the use of the veal crate we have improved on the new EU minimum space allowances for group housed calves, reflecting what actually happens on the British farm.

Next, I move to paragraph 15 of the draft regulations. As I indicated, the dietary arrangements associated with the use of the veal crate and permitted by the original EU directive were unsatisfactory. We believe it is important to the welfare of calves that they have a diet with sufficient iron to maintain satisfactory haemoglobin and fibre to stimulate development of the rumen. The standards included in the draft regulations not only implement the provisions which we are pleased to see in the EU directive but also reflect the higher standards which British producers, to their great credit, have already chosen to adopt. The revised directive and therefore these regulations deal with a number of other aspects of calf husbandry such as the provision of bovine colostrum in the first six hours of life, inspection, feeding and the provision of bedding and drinking water. As to the last two, we have again chosen to reflect current industry practice and have included standards higher than the EU minima.

I have left until last the ban on the tethering of calves because I know that it has been of concern to the industry. It is a requirement of the directive that only group housed calves may be tethered and then for no more than one hour when being fed milk or milk substitute. Industry representations have focused on the implications of this requirement for the use of long tethers with outdoor hutches. We have therefore examined it very carefully and checked our interpretation with the EU Commission. This has confirmed beyond doubt that the ban applies to all tethers. Whatever the merits therefore of long tethers, the arguments in their favour are not universally accepted. There are other means of containment. For example, fencing will continue to be permitted. It does not mean that when tethers go, outdoor hutches must go. We recognise that this provision will not be without cost to the industry and a regulatory appraisal has been prepared and placed in the Library of the House.

We have carried out consultation exercises in developing these proposals and have adjusted our proposals where required in the light of these.

Noble Lords have no doubt noted that some parts of the regulations do not come fully into effect before 2004. However, we believe that they are a great step forward.

Moved, That the draft regulations laid before the House on 21st May be approved [35th Report from the Joint Committee].--(Lord Hoyle).

7 Jul 1998 : Column 1169

7.45 p.m.

Lord Hardy of Wath: My Lords, perhaps I may detain the House for a moment to welcome these regulations. They will not please everyone. Many people may prefer to see a more speedy implementation, but they represent a significant step forward. I hope that other member states will emulate the standards that will be applicable in the United Kingdom. The regulations represent a step forward because they confirm that the tethering of calves will end. Many people suspected that that practice would not come to an end in the whole of Europe. Certainly, the regulations make for greater humanity in the containment of calves. Far too many calves are kept in very small spaces. There will be those who say that the regulations do not go far enough. I have some sympathy with that view, but while milk is consumed calves will be produced.

I very much welcome the recognition that the cow is a gregarious creature and calves should not have to spend their lives in solitary confinement. That is an important step forward. My noble friend refers to diet. These regulations represent a very significant step forward in that regard. There are those who want to see the palest meat on their plates, but I do not believe that the deliberate malnutrition of livestock can be justified.

I believe that a word of appreciation should go to those who have been making efforts in Brussels to ensure that this step forward is taken in the EU. I believe that the responsible Ministers deserve a word of appreciation. I trust that the House, in approving these regulations, will bear in mind that commendation.

Lord Beaumont of Whitley: My Lords, from these Benches we very much welcome the regulations. They represent a massive step forward. It is a great pity that the EU-wide ban on the veal crate will come into operation only in the year 2007, which is quite a long way in the future, although this practice has been illegal in the United Kingdom since 1990. Once UK exports of beef animals are permitted, we will be sending to EU countries calves that will be able to be placed in veal crates up to 2007. That is a great shame, but this ban is a step forward.

With regard to the other matters dealt with in the regulations, there are grounds for considerable congratulations as well as regrets. The congratulations arise because as usual we in this country have gone further in the welfare of animals than the directive demands. I congratulate Ministers on that. We have done reasonably well in achieving that.

The matter for regret is that the dietary recommendations are weaker in several respects than those of the European Commission's own scientific veterinary committee in its 1995 report. It recommended considerably more roughage than the regulations require. It recommended more dietary iron than our regulations require. It produced evidence to show that the level of dietary iron required by our regulations can cause problems during exercise. It is a pity that we have not gone that much further. I hope that we will not have to wait until 2004 or 2007 before we improve on the

7 Jul 1998 : Column 1170

regulations. But in so far as the Government have progressed, and have done better than they are forced to do by the EU, we congratulate them.

The Earl of Kinnoull: My Lords, I support the measure. Anyone who has seen the methods used in veal rearing will believe that it is long overdue. I believe that it is. I congratulate the Minister on the lucid way in which he introduced the order. It gives us the opportunity to raise one other issue on animal welfare. It concerns the welfare of the horse. I have given notice to the Minister, who I hope will graciously reply briefly to certain points I wish to make.

In the UK, the horse is not treated as livestock in law or by people. It is not used for human consumption. It holds a special place in people's hearts. It is a friend. It is an animal of great beauty. It has given countless pleasure and exciting leisure from the racing world, through the horse shows and trekking to even the little Shetland pony. I suspect that we lavish more money on our horses than on our people.

On the Continent the horse's lot is not so happy. In certain countries, especially the Netherlands and France, it is fashionable and popular to eat horse meat. Importing horse meat from America and the Argentine constitutes a large trade. For the sake of horse meat for human consumption, Brussels is shortly to apply regulations which will ban the use of certain painkilling drugs, commonly used by our vets to treat ailments such as colic and lameness. Such a move will be anathema to the UK, horse lovers and animal welfare in general, especially as we do not eat horse meat and there is no medical evidence to show that such meat has done any harm to humans.

I know that one aspect of this problem will be raised tomorrow, so I shall confine myself to the following short questions. Do the Government have reserve powers to reject a ban on non-MRL drugs in the UK should the EC regulation come into effect? Secondly, can manufacturers of those painkilling drugs rely on a future reduction being legal or will supplies just be cut off? Thirdly, is the EU including in its regulations a ban on foreign imports of horse meat for human consumption from countries which have no control on drugs?

Next Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page