On 10 January, my right hon. Friend the Minister announced the Government's intention to ban the installation of new close confinement stalls and tethers for pigs and to phase out existing systems of this type.
As the Minister said, only a moment ago, that he was concerned about animal welfare, he must agree that there is widespread concern about some aspects of intensive farming, particularly pig farming. Therefore, will he give a guarantee that the Government, and he in particular, will support the private Members Bill dealing with pig husbandry going through the House?
There is no difference between the main principles of the Bill and the regulations that my right hon. Friend the Minister intends to make. The trouble is that the Bill does not go as far as our regulations would go, nor does it encompass all the categories of animals—boars, fattening animals and animals in the field. Our regulations are a bit better.
Will my hon. Friend ensure that the coming into effect of the regulations of which he speaks is the same throughout the EC and throughout the whole of the United Kingdom so that our producers are not put at a disadvantage compared with imports either from other EEC countries or other parts of the United Kingdom?
I take my hon. Friend's point. That is why we must ensure that we phase out our systems within a sensible time scale, so that the rest of Europe will be able to come in to our time scale. If we move precipitately on that, we may not be able to get complete agreement in the EEC, but we are pressing most strongly that other countries should follow our lead on this.
I have listened with interest to what the Minister had to say about the Bill to be introduced tomorrow. At this late stage, will the Government assure the House that they will support the Bill?
I have made it clear that I believe that our regulations go further and are superior to the proposals In the Bill. If the House waits, it will hear, when I speak in the debate on the Bill tomorrow, my response to it and what I have to say about the regulations, on which we started I o consult yesterday.