Amendment 17

Part of Genetic Technology (Precision Breeding) Bill - Report – in the House of Lords at 6:30 pm on 25 January 2023.

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Photo of Lord Benyon Lord Benyon The Minister of State, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs 6:30, 25 January 2023

My Lords, I am grateful for another useful debate. I assure the noble Baroness that we sent her a copy of my flow chart, so it must have ended up in her spam folder. I hope none of my other correspondence to her will be rejected into the ether. It sets out in five clear steps the process of taking something through to authorisation.

I say to the noble Lord, Lord Cameron, that I am not one of those people who repel all boarders when it comes to amendments; we have actually moved considerably on the scrutiny of the Bill, and we want to ensure that there is as much agreement as possible. I concede that we might have a problem on Amendment 19, but I will come on to that.

I repeat that the welfare declaration and the welfare advisory body’s assessment will be based on the principle that precision-bred relevant animals will need to be kept in conditions that satisfy existing requirements in the Animal Welfare Act 2006 and, where relevant, the Welfare of Farmed Animals (England) Regulations 2007. So existing animal welfare legislation is in place, and the Bill is intended to work alongside it to enable responsible innovation.

An accusation was made, although I cannot remember who by, that this was an enabling Bill and was somehow a forest of Henry VIII clauses. I reject that. It is not a skeleton Bill. We have set out our substantive policy proposals in the Bill and have included appropriate delegated powers to supplement those provisions. Delegated powers serve a valuable purpose and it is always important to assess them in context. Simply counting up the number of powers in a given Bill is not necessarily always meaningful, but I hope we have shifted the balance in terms of those that are affirmative and those that are negative.

There has been talk of belt and braces. I think you can overdo caution in these circumstances, and you can clog up the system. I really feel it would be difficult to accept Amendment 19 as it would pre-empt the Scottish royal college research project. The Bill already outlines a regulatory framework to safeguard animal welfare that goes beyond existing requirements in traditional breeding.

I hope that my words, and the government amendments to increase the degree of parliamentary scrutiny on the animal welfare provisions in the Bill, provide noble Lords with sufficient reassurance not to press their amendments.

Amendment 17 agreed.