Amendment 7

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

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Photo of Baroness Bloomfield of Hinton Waldrist Baroness Bloomfield of Hinton Waldrist Baroness in Waiting (HM Household) (Whip) 8:50 pm, 6th December 2021

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.