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Lord Whitty: My Lords, a number of points have been raised. Perhaps I may turn immediately to the last point made by the noble Baroness--which was the first point made by the noble Lord, Lord Dixon-Smith--as regards the nature of the regulations and the nature of the legislation which was passed last year. We had lengthy and interesting debates on this issue which, at the end of the day, led to a degree of understanding about the approach we were adopting under the new legislation. Since 1996 the Houses of Parliament have debated the essence of the directive some five times; and, so far as concerns outside consultation, these regulations have been the subject of no less than three rounds of consultation. Admittedly they are larger and more complex than many regulations, but, even so, that is a substantial degree of consultation with all sectors of industry, including agriculture. The regulations reflect much of the feed-back from those consultations.

Turning to answer a number of specific points, the noble Lord, Lord Dixon-Smith, asked about the reference to "commercial purposes" rather than to "industrial scale". In our view the wording of the directive was not sufficiently precise for our legal structures to ensure that operators and regulators were clear as to what was and was not regulated. Based on the size of world markets, "industrial scale" could range from 1 million tonnes a year to something very much smaller. We have therefore referred instead at the start of Chapter 4 to,


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We believe that that indicates what we are talking about here.

The noble Lord referred to the cross-over with the climate change agreements and to those agreements that can be separately negotiated by sector. It is true that the IPPC dividing line also divides and defines those sectors which can engage in such agreements and which can count for purposes of energy efficiency requirements under these regulations. I am glad to confirm that it would be the same for those sectors.

He also asked why "site" is not defined under the regulations--or, rather, why "installations" and "sites" are not defined. It is true they are not defined, but there is guidance in the practical guide that, for the purposes of the site report, the site should include the land on which the activity takes place and any land that is integral to the installation and needed for satisfactory operation. That could include, for example, land used to store raw materials. So there exists more substantial guidance than is on the face of the regulations.

The noble Lord then went on to refer to the issue of confidentiality in two senses: one in relation to procedure and the other in relation to the designation of the names and addresses of poultry and intensive pig farms. I am not sure that I followed the noble Lord's procedural points; it may be better if I write to him to explain how the procedure operates. I appreciate his concerns in relation to a possible vulnerability to attacks from animal rights activists. However, I understand that the agency's plan to put information from its public registers onto the Internet is in its early stages. Any plans to take that forward will obviously be subject to detailed consultations with the various sectors concerned. I understand that my right honourable friend the Minister for the Environment has indicated that to the NFU and that further discussions will follow.

The noble Lord also referred to the question of what was meant by an installation and whether pigs which were outside would count in the same way as pigs which were inside, if I can put it that way. I am not sure whether the terms we are using are more intensive than extensive, but only the intensive rearing of pigs and poultry in installations will be covered, and only then when they exceed the sizes stipulated.

Therefore, rearing pigs outdoors would be excluded from the regulations, whatever the number of pigs involved. The position is slightly different with poultry because free-range poultry can be covered and therefore could in theory come under the regulations. But I doubt whether there are many free-range installations with 40,000 birds. The implications for that kind of farming are perhaps fewer than was thought.

There are concerns in the pig and poultry industry. I appreciate the views of the noble Baroness, Lady Byford, and the noble Lord, Lord Dixon-Smith, about the current economics in those industries. The Government have responded sympathetically in terms of the timescales, as the noble Baroness graciously

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pointed out. We understand those difficulties and we are trying to respond in terms of both the timing and the costs of the regime.

The noble Lord, Lord Dixon-Smith, questioned whether the nature of the charging is leading to efficiency gains. Later this year we will be conducting an overall assessment of the Environment Agency's efficiency and effectiveness. We will be looking at the charging regime in that context, as in others, which, it is to be hoped, could result in efficiency savings that could be passed on to the operators through reduced charges in the longer term. So that is being addressed in a slightly different context.

The noble Baronesses, Lady Miller of Chilthorne Domer and Lady Byford, asked whether any changes in the existing poultry installations, particularly in relation to changing welfare provisions elsewhere, would mean that they were defined as new installations. The substantial change criterion indicated in the regulations is one which may have a significant negative effect on the environment. We do not therefore expect that extending a poultry installation so as to rehouse birds to a new minimum standard to comply with those new welfare regulations would of itself create a substantial change in these terms. All other things being equal, we do not think that such a change would make that into a new installation for the purposes of the regulations.

The noble Baroness, Lady Miller, referred to the linked planning arrangements. We are currently revising Planning Policy Guidance No. 23 on pollution control. There will be further consultation on that later in the year.

The noble Baroness, Lady Byford, referred to the situation in other countries both in terms of the transposition and in terms of the charging regime. I indicated that we were behind the transposition date. Permitting is already in place in at least Ireland, The Netherlands, Sweden, France and Finland, but with slightly different mechanisms. There has also been some progress in Belgium and Portugal. But it is not yet transposed in any sense in Germany or Greece and it is only partially transposed in Italy. We are roughly half way down that table in that respect.

I have some fairly detailed information on the different charging regimes. By and large, there is a different approach in this country. The Environment Agency has to cover its costs. It is not the case, as farmers occasionally suggest to us, that there is no charging in other countries although in some countries, such as The Netherlands, there is a subsidy. But in most European countries there is some degree of charging, although, by and large, less than in this country. If the letter to which the noble Baroness referred in the exchange in the other place has not yet gone, I shall ensure with my colleagues that the noble Baroness receives a letter spelling that out in more detail.

As far as concerns the actual price, partly in the context of the summit a month or two ago to which the noble Baroness alluded, the original proposition of the pricing in this context has been substantially reduced.

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On permit application, the original agency proposals pitched it at around £12,000. That has now been reduced. Where there is a general binding rule, applications are under £3,000 and for site-specific applications, the figure is £5,900. I accept that those are still significant costs, but nevertheless they are an improvement on what the Prime Minister referred to in a statement after the meeting as a 50 per cent cut. We have therefore fulfilled that commitment.

I hope that I have been able to answer most of the questions put to me. If I have not done so, I shall write to noble Lords. As I said earlier, I also undertake to forward to the noble Baroness the letter to which I have referred. I commend the regulations to the House.

On Question, Motion agreed to.

Welfare of Farmed Animals Regulations 2000

5.5 p.m.

The Minister of State, Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (Baroness Hayman) rose to move, That the draft regulations laid before the House on 19th June be approved [23rd Report from the Joint Committee].

The noble Baroness said: My Lords, I beg to move that the draft regulations laid before the House on 19th June be approved. I shall speak at the same time to the draft code of recommendations for the welfare of sheep.

Our presidency of the Council in 1998 enabled us to get a key measure adopted on animal welfare in the shape of Council Directive 98/58/EC concerning the protection of animals kept for farming purposes (the so-called "general" farm animal welfare directive).

We recognised early on in drawing up implementing regulations for the directive that it would be very difficult to amend the current Welfare of Livestock Regulations 1994 without making them extremely difficult to follow. We decided that the 1994 regulations should be revoked and replaced by new ones which would combine the new EU requirements with our existing rules in a logical way. In drafting these implementing regulations we followed five basic principles.

The first is user friendliness. We are conscious that a wide variety of people will need to use these regulations. It was clear that they needed to be structured carefully. We decided to set out in Schedule 1 the requirements that apply to all animals. The schedules containing further, species-specific requirements then follow.

On our second principle, we have tried to ensure that we depart from the wording found in the present EU legislation only when it is sensible to do so. In one particular case, relating to tail docking of piglets, this has meant abandoning the wording used in the predecessor Welfare of Livestock Regulations 1994 and adopting the wording of the parent directive on the welfare of pigs.

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Our third principle was to retain our national standards where they go beyond EU requirements. The noble Baroness spoke earlier of the way in which we lead the world in animal welfare. This applies, of course, to stalls and tethers bans for pigs, as well as to other areas.

Our fourth principle, which again relates to the debate we had earlier, was to keep the burden on industry to a minimum. It would appear, on the face of it, that a new raft of measures applying to all farmed animals would involve a cost to our industry, but I should make it clear that this is not the case. In fact, the measure represents good news for our own farmers because it will have the welcome effect of requiring their counterparts in some parts of the EU, who have hitherto not been subject to such welfare rules, to come up to the mark and thus to help to create a level playing field. The noble Baroness sitting opposite knows that that is of deep concern to farmers.

I move to the last of our five principles; that of ensuring that the new requirements are in line with the Action Plan for Farming announced by the Prime Minister last March. When we originally went out to consultation last June, we proposed building in three additional provisions. However, since then, Regulation 11 relating to the first principle allows for a formal notice with a specific time limit to be issued, requiring a person in charge of animals to take necessary action to resolve welfare problems. In consultation, this was welcomed on all sides as a positive measure. We are proceeding with it because it will ensure effective, but not more burdensome, enforcement.

As regards the second issue in relation to well drained lying areas, it is anomalous that the existing law requires these for animals kept indoors, but not for animals kept outdoors. We thought that we should rectify this and give legal effect to a provision which was already in our welfare codes.

We decided, on reflection, to leave out of this set of regulations the third of the extra provisions that we proposed at the outset; namely, the provision prohibiting the beak trimming of hens kept in cages. Beak trimming is not a practice which the Government in any way support. However, we shall return to the question of how to deal with it in cage systems shortly, in the forthcoming consultation and implementing exercise on Directive 99/74 on the welfare of laying hens.

I now turn briefly to the code of recommendations for the welfare of sheep. Our present sheep welfare code was drawn up in 1990. Since then, there have been many changes in the industry, and the Farm Animal Welfare Council has produced a report on the welfare of sheep. It is therefore time for the code to be updated.

The new sheep code that is before the House gives farmers useful advice as to how they can go about ensuring that their animals' ethological needs are met, in accordance with the guidance principle that underlies the directive. Unlike the existing sheep code, the revised code will apply in England only. Similar codes are being produced in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

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The code contains detailed advice on important matters such as the prevention of disease, construction of buildings, and the provision of food, water and bedding. We hope that it will not be a burden, but a positive help to the industry in relation to some of its current concerns. For example, if the advice in the code is followed, it will help reduce the incidence of sheep scab.

On that basis, as the code is the first of a series to be updated in this way and will be of benefit to sheep farmers, I commend it to the House.

Moved, That the draft regulations laid before the House on 19th June be approved [23rd Report from the Joint Committee].--(Baroness Hayman.)


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