Amendment 7

Animal Welfare (Sentience) Bill [HL] - Report (Continued) – in the House of Lords at 8:50 pm on 6th December 2021.

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Baroness Mallalieu:

Moved by Baroness Mallalieu

7: Clause 1, page 1, line 7, at end insert—“(4) No person may be appointed a member of the Committee unless they have confirmed that they—(a) are not affiliated to an organisation promoting animal rights;(b) are not a member of an organisation promoting animal rights;(c) are not currently employed and have never been employed by or been a consultant of an organisation promoting animal rights;(d) are not in receipt of, nor have ever been in receipt of, payments or funding, whether directly or indirectly, from an organisation promoting animal rights.”

Photo of Baroness Mallalieu Baroness Mallalieu Labour

I am the lucky recipient of yet another of the amendments tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Mancroft. He did not indicate to me why he had decoupled it from the previous group. I think the Minister has, in effect, already replied by saying that he is not prepared to put in the Bill who should be on the committee. The amendment tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Mancroft, effectively sets out who should not be, and I assume that the same answer will come to me.

However, I would like to say, literally in a sentence, that one of the reasons for widespread disquiet about the Bill is concern about who may or may not find places on the committee. I come from an area where the animal rights movement has been particularly virulent, especially during the badger cull, with people with balaclavas damaging farm property, threatening people, letting livestock out and so on, and, more recently, damaging all the tents at the local country fair by painting Animal Liberation Front logos on everything. As a result of that, a lot of us are concerned that some well-known public figures who purport to be friends of animals and campaign on their behalf do not condemn this terrorism. We are concerned that, whoever comes on to this committee, they should be, as the Government have indicated is their intention, people with proper scientific experience and knowledge who can contribute—not from a neutral point of view, because that is impossible, but whose judgement can be relied on—rather than people who are merely from pressure groups. I beg to move.

Photo of Baroness Hayman of Ullock Baroness Hayman of Ullock Opposition Whip (Lords), Shadow Spokesperson (Environment, Food and Rural Affairs), Shadow Spokesperson (Levelling Up, Housing, Communities and Local Government)

Very briefly, I think the concerns on this amendment were answered in the response to the previous group. As it is not necessary to have in the Bill who should be on the committee, it is not necessary to have in it who should not be on the committee.

Photo of Baroness Bloomfield of Hinton Waldrist Baroness Bloomfield of Hinton Waldrist Baroness in Waiting (HM Household) (Whip)

I thank the noble Baroness, Lady Mallalieu, for moving the amendment on behalf of my noble friend Lord Mancroft. We have already debated this, but I understand my noble friend’s concerns regarding conflicts of interest and what they may mean for the committee.

We want the committee to succeed, and I am confident that the Bill and the draft terms of reference will ensure that that is the case. As has been said today, the Secretary of State for Defra will be responsible for appointments to the committee and appointments will be decided in accordance with the Governance Code on Public Appointments. Applicants would, in line with best practice, be required to declare any potential conflicts of interest to the recruitment panel. The draft terms of reference set out that the Secretary of State may decline to consider an application from an individual whose conduct suggests that their membership could damage the reputation or credibility of the committee—for example, their membership of an extremist organisation. My noble friend’s amendment is simply not necessary. Defra has shown that this tried-and-tested approach works. There are a number of existing Defra-owned expert bodies which give balanced, reasonable advice on animal welfare issues. Few would ever accuse the Animal Welfare Committee, for example, of being made up of zealous activists.

I say again that noble Lords can be reassured that the process of recruitment of members of the committee will be rigorous and that members will be chosen on the merits of their expertise. This is what is needed in order for the committee to perform its role. I hope that this reassures noble Lords and that, together with the reassurance given by my noble friend the Minister on the previous group, it will enable the noble Baroness to withdraw the amendment.

Photo of Lord Robathan Lord Robathan Conservative

Before my noble friend sits down, could she reassure the House that, for instance, Chris Packham and Mark Avery of Wild Justice would not be eligible to be on the committee?

Photo of Baroness Bloomfield of Hinton Waldrist Baroness Bloomfield of Hinton Waldrist Baroness in Waiting (HM Household) (Whip)

I am afraid I am not able to give that reassurance. All I can say is that they might not be considered to be experts.

Photo of Baroness Mallalieu Baroness Mallalieu Labour

I thank the Minister for her reply. I just hope that the reassurance she has given us will be followed by future Secretaries of State. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment 7 withdrawn.

Amendment 8 not moved.