My Lords, for the purposes of Report, I declare my interests: I am still involved in a family farming enterprise growing crops and rearing livestock, I chair the board of the UK Centre of Ecology & Hydrology, and I am president of the Royal Association of British Dairy Farmers.
As the House knows, I am a very strong supporter of the Bill and everything it stands for. It is only to strengthen the Bill that I have added my name to Amendment 19 tabled by the noble Baronesses, Lady Jones and Lady Bakewell, because here again we touch on the same weakness in the Bill that I referred to at earlier stages—notably, the oversight of the ongoing welfare of animals and their ensuing progeny affected by these processes. As I said at Second Reading:
“To my mind, however, there is too much responsibility, certainly in the latter stages of the proposed development process, for the notifiers themselves to keep the welfare advisory body informed. It appears that the notifiers are in the driving seat.”—[Official Report, 21/11/22; col. 1218.]
These notifiers will be the ones who have probably invested millions of pounds, and almost certainly years of man-hours and academic endeavour in the process, and will therefore be very strongly motivated to ensure that the results give them some sort of positive return. I am not saying that they will necessarily falsify the evidence, although that may not be beyond the realm of possibility, but they will surely be sorely tempted to slant the results—if only for the sake of their commitment to what they see as the greater good. For instance, one person’s definition of bovine, ovine or avian distress might be another person’s idea of, say, satisfactory close family living. Therefore, it is essential that the welfare advisory body has the duty to audit and check up on these notifiers.
I know that the Government—any Government—have a priority to repel all boarders when it comes to amendments to their legislation, but I cannot see how or why they would want to tell the public that their new welfare advisory body would not have an obligation to check up on and satisfy itself that the notifier is conforming to the codes of practice set out in existing legislation. I am sure that the Government will tell us that this is not necessary—in fact, they have already done so—that there are other bodies involved, and that the notifiers already have an obligation. However, unless the welfare advisory body has a specific duty to check on and audit the notifier, it is quite possible that such persons or bodies could slip through the Met. Oh! That is not necessarily a Freudian slip—I mean “the net”, of course, but after last week’s revelations about rogue policemen I expect you can see how my mind is working. The welfare advisory body needs a specific duty spelled out in the legislation to ensure that there are no rogue notifiers.
I hope that the Government will see fit to accept this amendment, or undertake to discuss a positively worded government replacement amendment to be introduced at Third Reading, either for Amendment 19, to which I put my name, or Amendment 21, or indeed Amendment 22 in the next grouping. There has to be some give here on their part to persuade me, and I would like to think to persuade the House, that a vote on this matter of animal welfare is not necessary.