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My Lords, Defra has not had any recent discussions with Eurostar on this issue. Government do not impose any obligation on transport companies to carry pet animals; it is a commercial decision on the part of those companies as to whether they offer this service to their customers. Eurostar does offer carriage to recognised assistance dogs, and works closely with the Animal and Plant Health Agency to make sure that all the relevant import requirements are met.
My Lords, passports for pets has been 100% successful, has it not? I was involved in that from the beginning, with my noble friend Lord Soulsby. Why, oh why, will Eurostar not take pets? You can take your dog on the sleeper to Scotland, and all the ferries take dogs, so why not the Eurostar?
My Lords, as I say, this is a matter on which commercial companies make their own decisions. I looked at Eurostar’s website, and it is conscious of and concerned about safety in particular, although it is very keen to help with assistance dogs. I acknowledge the part my noble friend played in passports for pets. We now have an EU pet travel scheme, which last year carried over 170,000 dogs, cats and ferrets.
My Lords, if it is possible to take a pet dog through the Channel Tunnel using the euroshuttle trains, why is it not possible to take them on Eurostar? Is the Minister aware that Eurostar is the only train operating company that forbids the carriage of pets? Finally, it will not do to say, “It’s a commercial decision”. Surely, in an area such as this the Government ought to be making representations to the company concerned.
My Lords, I would be very surprised if Eurostar is not listening now and understanding the exchange we are having. In point of fact, today, carriers have to be approved by the Animal and Plant Health Agency, which requires the necessary facilities to be in place to check every pet travelling with its owner for compliance with the pet travel rules. However, I of course hope that Eurostar is listening.
My Lords, are Her Majesty’s Government happy that van-loads of puppies should be imported from eastern European countries with apparently fake vaccination and worming documents? If they are not, what are they doing about it?
My Lords, we will not tolerate any illegal passage, whether under the pet scheme or whereby animals are brought into this country under the Balai directive for sale or rehoming. I think that the noble Countess may have in mind the recent report from the Dogs Trust which resulted in the Chief Veterinary Officer writing to authorities in Lithuania and Hungary, among other countries, reminding them of their duty to ensure that pet passports are completed correctly and that the welfare of dogs intended for sale is safeguarded.
My Lords, now that the Government have either sold off, or will shortly sell off, their shares in Eurostar—the family silver—why should Eurostar pay any attention to what the Government have to say?
My Lords, Eurostar is a commercial operator. As far as I know, it is trading successfully, and I am very happy if it continues to trade in the private sector.
My Lords, given the increase in pet travel, can the Minister say how many spot checks the Association of Port Health Authorities has undertaken in the last year to ensure that the pets coming in are only those that comply with the regulations?
My Lords, all carriers are audited by the Animal and Plant Health Agency and the results show that they are doing a good job. Last year, only 0.9% of those checked through the audit process were found to be non-compliant with the entry rules. If there are any further details, I will be in touch with the noble Baroness.
My Lords, will the Minister accept my assurance that he should be careful when dealing with the issue of ferrets? We had a ferret called Rikki-Tikki-Tavi, which belonged to my son, and she enjoyed trouser legs. It is very important that people take care. A former colleague of mine called Derek Hatton started a ferret appreciation society in Wigan. I had to warn him that I would turn up with said ferret, and that he had to beware of her interest in going up trouser legs.
The noble Baroness has given us a splendid reason why one should be extremely cautious of ferrets. Last year 68 ferrets came in under the pet scheme, and I very much hope that everyone has taken note of what the noble Baroness said about trousers.
My Lords, at the risk of bringing this down to the boringly serious, perhaps I may ask about Eurostar. There are supposed to be direct trains from Marseille and Lyons but everybody has to get off at Lille with all their baggage—and presumably their pets, if they have them—to go through passport and baggage checks, which takes about two hours. As we are trying to resist further runways at airports, should we not be doing everything we can to foster direct rail travel from the continent to the UK? When is that problem going to be solved?
My Lords, we are trying to ensure that all the requirements of the pet scheme are adhered to, because we do not wish to see the arrival of any diseases. That is why our requirements are as exacting as they are, and, as a result, we have remained rabies-free for all these years. Of course, direct travel is part of the modern way of life, and certainly of contacts within Europe. However, as far as the Question is concerned, Eurostar has made its commercial decision, and that is up to it.
My Lords, in June 2014 the BBC made a programme called “The Dog Factory”, highlighting the problems experienced by people buying puppies from unscrupulous breeders in the Republic of Ireland. Can the Minister update the House on enforcement measures between the United Kingdom and the Republic of Ireland, and can he confirm that the situation was rectified in the changes made to the pet travel scheme on
My Lords, we take very seriously the illegal movement of puppies from farms, wherever they may be. Ireland has recently passed its own legislation relating to the welfare of dogs, and I am very happy to write to the noble Lord, and place a copy in the Library, so that the update that I think he would like to have is available to him.