Agreement has not yet been reached in the EC on the transport of animals, but we are pressing to ensure that animals are properly cared for on all journeys in the Community.
In a report published today, the Select Committee on Agriculture says that the Minister should stand firm against any degradation by the EC of United Kingdom safeguards for animals in transit. It also says that the United Kingdom's minimum values system, which prevents horses and ponies from being exported for slaughter, must be retained. Public opinion is overwhelmingly in favour of those recommendations. Will the Minister accept them and show some gumption by saying no to the transport of live animals for slaughter after 1992?
Ever since I became an Agriculture Minister, we have been saying exactly the same thing every month at the Dispatch Box. We will fight for the retention of minimum values and we will continue to fight for a welfare regime for animals in Europe that uses the best examples of the British system. We have our own excellent rules. We have been standing firm; we are standing firm; and we will continue to stand firm.
Our EC partners seem to regard directives as lofty aspirations rather than detailed rules to be followed to the letter. What guarantee have we that, even if a good deal is struck, the regulations will be enforced?
My hon. Friend has put her finger on a good point. That is why we are determined that an enforcement system should operate in Europe which applies to all member states. This country has excellent enforcement procedures, not only through the Government but through animal welfare organisations, which are terribly anxious to ensure that animals are treated properly in transit. Many other EC countries do not have the same cultural attitude towards the protection of animals; that is why an EC-wide inspectorate is essential if our high standards are to be applied in every corner of the Community.
I say this with the best will in the world. Does not the Minister agree that many more live animals will be transported to the Continent next year and the year after because of our lack of slaughtering facilities? Many slaughterhouses will close in the next six months. What plans does the Minister have to solve the problem?
The hon. Gentleman is one of the nicest Opposition Members, but as he is a spokesman for the Liberal Democratic party—which only yesterday published a federal document—I will not take his advice, or that of his hon. Friends, on how we can negotiate strongly and robustly in Europe. Liberal Democratic party policy is to say to Mr. MacSharry, "Please take this shirt off my back—and here is a spare one for Mr. Delors."