Animals (Penalty Notices) Bill

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 9:49 am on 4th February 2022.

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Photo of Andrew Rosindell Andrew Rosindell Conservative, Romford 9:49 am, 4th February 2022

There absolutely has to be, and my hon. Friend is right to raise that point. The purpose of the Bill is to deal with fairly minor offences and act almost as guidance. It is not there to deal with serious offences, which would still be handled through the usual process. I take on board his point that when false accusations are made there must be a robust appeals process, and I know that the Minister will take that on board in dealing with any secondary legislation. I thank my hon. Friend for his intervention.

Our dearly missed friend and departed colleague, Sir David Amess, shared my view on the Bill. He shared all my views on animal welfare and was the greatest champion of the issue among Members of Parliament. He dedicated his life to that. We think of David today, on the first day of a new Member, my hon. Friend Anna Firth. We wish her all success as David’s successor, but no one could replace David. He was unique, and we think of him all the time. His stance on animal welfare never changed throughout his 38 years in Parliament. In fact, he introduced a private Member’s Bill in 1998 that strengthened protections for horses tethered by the roadside, and through his tireless campaigning inspired so many others to continue the fight for strengthened protection for animals. We remember him as we carry on the fight to defend and protect animals throughout the United Kingdom.

It has been an honour to have the opportunity to introduce a Bill that I believe will make a real difference to the lives of animals and help promote greater understanding of welfare. This Bill will directly benefit the health and welfare of this country’s farmed and kept animals and will increase accountability when our country’s biosecurity is put at risk. The Bill introduces enabling powers so that we can apply penalty notices to the appropriate offences and establishes the framework crucial to introducing these penalties through statutory instrument. Penalty notices will bolster our existing enforcement measures and give enforcement authorities more options to influence positive behaviour when it comes to caring for our farmed and kept animals, including companion animals and zoo animals.

As chair of the zoos and aquariums all-party parliamentary group, I recognise that this is a welcome development for that sector. Having worked very closely for so many years with the excellent British and Irish Association of Zoos and Aquariums, which does so much for zoos and the care of animals in zoos and aquariums across the country, I know that it agrees that penalty notices are the right way forward. The debate in Committee highlighted the wide support for the Bill and what I believe it will achieve. I have held ongoing discussions with various non-governmental organisations, and I am delighted that there is a strong consensus that penalty notices will benefit this country and should be introduced. I share the same enthusiasm and excitement for this legislation, which I truly believe will be a gain for animal welfare across this country.

I am also grateful to the organisations that have already invested their time in engaging with myself and the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs to consider the Bill and how it will work for them in practice, and sharing their views so that we can make the Bill as effective as possible. The support of the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, Battersea Dogs and Cats Home, the National Farmers Union, Blue Cross, Cats Protection, the National Sheep Association and the National Pig Association, as well as many other animal welfare groups across the country, has been invaluable.

I once again thank hon. Members here today for supporting this landmark Bill, and for the many contributions made at its previous stages. I hope we can agree that this important Bill should progress today, so that it may continue its journey in the House of Lords under the stewardship of the right hon. Lord Randall of Uxbridge, who has agreed to champion my Bill in the other place. The wellbeing and safety of animals is something that I know matters to us all, so as a nation of animal lovers, let us continue to lead the world in enhancing the cause of animal welfare.

I would like to place on record my sincere thanks to the Minister who is not here today, the Under-Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, my hon. Friend Jo Churchill. She has done so much to support my Bill, and has been very dedicated in helping to ensure that the Bill has reached this stage. It has been my pleasure to work with her to ensure that this new legislation has arrived in this place today, and I thank the Minister in her place—the Minister for Farming, Fisheries and Food, my hon. Friend Victoria Prentis—for standing in and leading in today’s debate.

I would also like to thank those organisations and Members who have provided such valuable care to animals for vocalising their support for this Bill and giving me full confidence that penalty notices will be a welcome addition to the enforcement of animal welfare when they become available.