The Right Honourable Stanley Orme, having been created Baron Orme, of Salford in the County of Greater Manchester, for life--Was, in his robes, introduced between the Lord Murray of Epping Forest and the Lord Merlyn-Rees, and made the solemn Affirmation.
Dame Joan Christabel Jill Knight DBE, having been created Baroness Knight of Collingtree, of Collingtree in the County of Northamptonshire, for life--Was, in her robes, introduced between the Baroness Young and the Lord Knights.
Mrs. Jill Elizabeth Pitkeathley, OBE, having been created Baroness Pitkeathley, of Caversham in the Royal County of Berkshire, for life--Was, in her robes, introduced between the Lord Carter and the Baroness Flather.
Lord Donoughue: My Lords, naturally, I was sorry about the death of Basil. However, the reports from our veterinary inspectors of the kennels do not entirely coincide with what the noble Lord implies. The veterinary inspectors inspected the dog on three occasions and found no signs of disease. The kennels in question are considered to be among the better ones. There have not been any complaints. The kennels were inspected last week and have been recommended for relicensing.
Lord Donoughue: My Lords, the kennels operate under statutory standards in relation to the physical security of the animals and disease in order to ensure that any diseased animal does not mix with other animals. In terms of welfare, the statute does not apply, but the department has introduced a voluntary code of welfare applying welfare standards. Of the 79 kennels, 74 have accepted the welfare code. Two are still to reply.
Lord Donoughue: My Lords, I have not yet had any connection with Sweden. However, the department is in close contact with Sweden and is studying the Swedish reforms introduced in 1994. We shall assess the effectiveness of those reforms. The new independent scientific assessment committee will take into account all that has happened there.
Baroness Nicol: My Lords, will my noble friend accept that the noble Lord, Lord Waddington, should not criticise him because attempts to get quarantine restrictions lifted during the period of the previous Government were totally unsuccessful, although I understand many attempts were made? Can my noble friend say whether, if the restrictions are lifted, consideration will be given to the introduction of a dog registration scheme? It will be necessary to register dogs
Lord Donoughue: My Lords, I thank my noble friend for her question and for what she has said. It is the case that in the previous 18 years nothing was done and that in five months we have introduced these proposals. My noble friend makes a helpful suggestion on the registration of dogs. I shall see that it is taken into account.
Lord Hooson: My Lords, is it not the case that veterinary and scientific opinion no longer overwhelmingly believes that quarantine is necessary? The alternatives, which may involve a considerable expansion of the state veterinary system, would mean a great deal of public expenditure. Is that not the real problem?
Lord Donoughue: My Lords, scientific standards have improved a little since this system was introduced in 1902. It is quite appropriate that we should look at the matter again from that point of view. The costs of any revised scheme will be borne by pet owners as they are under the existing scheme. I am sure that the vets will continue to do quite well out of it.
Baroness Anelay of St. Johns: My Lords, can the Minister confirm that the Secretary of State is holding discussions with the European Commission and members of the EU with regard to the way forward in changing quarantine laws? Does he agree that in the future it will be a change in European law that will bring about a resolution of the problems over quarantine rather than a change to British law?
Lord Donoughue: My Lords, I welcome the noble Baroness to the Dispatch Box. Her intelligence and charm, which have already been demonstrated, will make a great contribution. She is spot on here. She has put her finger on the important question of the European attitude to this issue. The European Commission has already expressed considerable interest and appears to intend to have a European approach to pet imports. We are proceeding on our own basis and with our own scientific assessments. We shall have a public consultation after that; and, if need be, and if the results of the committee point that way, we shall introduce our own changes. It appears that this is likely to be wrapped up in the European changes, but we wait to see how that works out.
Lord St. John of Bletso: My Lords, I welcome the independent scientific assessment announced by the Minister. But does he not agree that the Agriculture Select Committee in another place some three years ago recommended overwhelmingly that the quarantine laws should be reviewed? Does he not further agree that unless action is taken soon the chances of pets being smuggled over borders will become very much greater?
Lord Donoughue: My Lords, to some extent that is out of our hands in that the assessment will be carried out by an independent body. We hope that it will proceed rapidly; we assume that the matter will take a few months. We shall publish the independent body's report and there will then be public consultation. So it is unlikely there will be a result earlier than the second half of 1998. Whether that encompasses the holiday season for going abroad with pets remains to be seen.
Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, the key volume of the 1998 Preliminary Draft Budget, Volume 4 on the Commission was deposited in Parliament on 18th June. This covers 98 per cent. of Community expenditure. Volume 1, which relates to revenue, and Volume 7, which covers the expenditure of the Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions, were deposited in Parliament on 11th July. Copies were placed in the Library on the same day. It is necessary to deposit the different volumes as they are received. To do otherwise would unnecessarily hold up the proper scrutiny of the European Community budget. However, the Government recognise my noble friend's concern that Parliament should have enough time to scrutinise the budget and they are looking for ways to improve matters.
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