|Previous Section||Back to Table of Contents||Lords Hansard Home Page|
Lord Marlesford: My Lords, I rise on a similar point to that raised by my noble friend Lord Jopling. I am not concerned with the substance or merit of the regulations. Nor indeed am I concerned with or surprised by the incompetence of DEFRA in supplying faulty documents. However, unless there are clear precedents which make it appropriate in parliamentary procedural termshaving had a cursory look in Erskine May, I have not found anyto state that Parliament may approve legislation in any form knowing that it is incorrectly drafted, in my view the Government should take away their regulations and bring them back when they are correctly drafted.
Lord Beaumont of Whitley: My Lords, without commenting on the points which have just been raised, except to deplore the fact that we have been given this faulty legislation, I should like to comment on the substance of the regulations on behalf of the Green Party and Compassion in World Farming.
We welcome the implementation into English law of the 2001 EU directive on pig welfare, and it is about pigs which I shall speak. The directive and the English regulations will bring about many improvements to existing legislation. Sow stalls and tethers will be banned, as they have been in the UK since 1999, which I applaud. They will now be banned across the EU by 2013. That is most welcome. Sow stalls are so narrow that the sow cannot even turn around and is kept like that throughout her 16-week pregnancy. The tethering of sows was banned in the 1991 pigs directive. That ban comes into force in Europe from 2006.
We also welcome the ban on routine tail docking and the requirement that pigs be given straw or some similar material. Tail docking, if properly done, is something to which I have no personal objection. It is usually done without pain or trouble. However, the EU's own scientific veterinary committee has concluded that it sometimes leads to prolonged pain. Therefore, I believe it is a step forward to ban it with a ban which is rather more enforceable than the one we have.
That brings me to the splendid idea that we should give pigs toys to play with. I grudge pigs nothing. I am afraid that I like eating their flesh, when I can. I am a great pig lover from that point of view. I like to think that they will be well looked after when they are being farmed. But I doubt if even Lord Emsworth would have thought of giving them footballs to play with. Although I have no objection to that, it should not be an alternative to what they really need; that is, straw, hay, wood, sawdust, mushroom compost, peat or a mixture of such, which enables them to indulge in what are called "investigation and manipulation activities". Certainly, they should not be an alternative, as appears from the wording of the regulations. I should like an assurance on that from the Minister.
The directive is due to be reviewed partly in 2004 and partly in 2008. During that period the overcrowding of fattening pigs should be carefully considered. The majority of the EU fattening pigs are kept indoors throughout their lives in severely overcrowded, barren and often filthy sheds. It is right that we should consider the question of castration, which causes severe pain and distress. It is true that castration is not really needed in a country such as ours which kills its pigs at an early age so that the meat does not have boar taint. However, the whole question of the age at which pigs are killed is one which is constantly open to review. Therefore, I believe it is right that we should ban castration.
Serious consideration must be given to banning farrowing crates. While sow stalls are to be banned under the directive, farrowing crates will remain in use during the few days before birth and for three to four weeks afterwards. We believe that they should be replaced by systems which allow the sow to move around and perform nesting behaviour, while at the same time giving proper protection to the piglets. I know that the pig industry believes that farrowing crates reduce the number of piglets crushed by the sow as she lies down. However, there is now research which demonstrates that well-designed and managed farrowing pens which allow the sow proper movement can lead to piglet mortality rates which are no higher than those found in crates, to put it at its mildest.
We urge the UK Government to take a lead within the EU, as we already havemore credit to the Ministers and governments concernedto push for all of these changes when the pigs directive is reviewed. It introduces some welcome reforms. However, much needs to be done to ensure proper enforcement of the directive. Some of the key steps required to achieve pig husbandry in Europe which is truly humane remain outside of the directive and must be incorporated into the directive during the 2004 and 2008 reviews. With that, I offer a general welcome to the regulations before the House.
Earl Russell: My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Marlesford, has properly demanded a precedent for what the House should do about the printing of these regulations. There is a precedent. This is not my business. It is not for me to say which way that precedent should be taken to point. However, noble Lords might like to have it before them.
The Education (Student Loans) Regulations 1990 came before the House, I believe in October, with a large number of last-minute corrections made in ink, tightly bound, consisting of several pages. They had been extremely imperfectly photocopied so that a number of the words were partially or totally illegible. The Minister did his best to explain what the meaning of those words was or should be.
The House fairly rapidly arrived at two principles for consideration. First, though correctitude is of great importance, one should not unnecessarily disrupt the business of the House if the meaning of the regulation is clear. That was the advice which I, from the Front Bench, gave to my Chief Whip. But it also took up another principle, which is that one should tolerate this kind of error only ifI repeat "if"the department concerned has made every proper effort to put it right.
We were just about to bite on the bullet and pass the regulations, when Lady Young rose from her seat with clearly printed copies of the regulations which she had just obtained from the Minister's office. At that moment, the House decided that its patience was exhausted and it adjourned on the joint Motion of Lord Boyd-Carpenter and the noble Lord, Lord Callaghan of Cardiff, until correct regulations were provided. They were a formidable pair.
I understand from my noble friend that the Minister has provided a correct version of what the regulations should have stated. Was that done with the case of Pepper v Hart in mind? If so, one might argue that it is in law binding and clear and could be correctly interpreted by the courts. That is the key question.
The other question is: does there exist anywhere, as there did in 1990, a fully corrected text which has not been put before us? If so, it should be put before us. If not, and if the meaning is clear, I think the House should exercise a forbearance, however reluctantly, which is in its discretion.
Earl Peel: My Lords, I do not wish to undermine in any way the points made by the noble Earl, Lord Russell, but I want to return to the main purpose of the regulations. My noble friend Lady Byford from the Front Bench has admirably covered the implications of these regulations. I feel very strongly that this country is rapidly descending into a situation in which some of these European regulations are becoming a farce.
Farmers are constantly being told that every regulation that emanates from Europe will be gold-plated. Yet time and again, when other countries do not do the same, the net result is that our farmers are undermined financially.
The noble Baroness, Lady Miller, said that we have moralI think she used that wordobligations to ensure that animal welfare standards are high. I do not disagree with that. But we also have a moral obligation to ensure that our farmers are not put at a disadvantage.
Many noble Lords have made reference to the briefing produced by the National Pig Association. I draw your Lordships' attention to a previously clear example of such legislation; that is, the UK legislation which banned stalls in early 1999. That was an admirable objective. However, the EU stalls ban will not be fully implemented by other EU countries for another 10 years and during that process our farmers will continue to be undermined by it.
What assurances can the Minister give that these new regulations will be implemented by other European countries, so that our farmers will not be disadvantaged? Can the Government prevent meat being imported into this country by producers from European countries which have not implemented them? I do not know the answer to those questions. I say onlyand I reiterate the pointthat farmers in this country are heartily sick of being undermined by European regulations with which we must comply while other countries do not.
I ask a final brief question. How can farmers avoid what is described as "sudden noise" when, as in my part of the world, they are constantly being overflown by RAF jets? I simply ask the Minister whether the MoD has been consulted on the matter.
My understanding is that Pepper v Hart is used when there is ambiguity about an order; in other words, when there is a form of words in an order about which there are different interpretations. The Minister having put the Government's official view of what is meant by the words, the House takes its view. At any subsequent tribunal, the Minister's words as recorded in Hansard can be used by the defence or by the prosecution.
However, this situation is very different. This is a mistake. That was known before the issue came before your Lordships today. There has been time to correct the order. It has not been corrected. It would be wrong for the House to approve a word completely different from that which should be on the order.
The order that is approved by the House will contain the wording that currently appears on the page. The wording on the page is plainly wrong. Therefore, I think that it is incumbent on the Government, who have not taken action when they could have done so, to withdraw the order and not invite the House to approve an order which is incorrect.
Back to Table of Contents
Lords Hansard Home Page