With this it will be convenient to discuss the following amendments: No. 1, in clause 1, page 1, line 3, after 'means', insert 'a cephalopod or'.
No. 2, in clause 1, page 1, line 3, after 'means', insert
'a cephalopod or a decapod crustacean.'.
No. 190, in clause 1, page 1, line 4, at end insert
'and an invertebrate of the class Cephalapoda.'.
No. 103, in clause 1, page 1, line 7, leave out subsections (3) to (5).
No. 3, in clause 1, page 1, line 21, after 'Chordata', insert
', ''cephalopod'' means any member of the class Cephalopoda'.
No. 4, in clause 1, page 1, line 22, after 'Chordata', insert
', ''decapod crustacean'' means any member of the order Decapoda'.
I shall speak only to amendments Nos. 102 and 103. My initial feeling about the Bill was that it should include vertebrates and invertebrates, and so I tabled amendments to remove subsections (4) and (5). After Second Reading, when the Minister talked about slugs and snails, I modified my approach so that the Bill would include cephalopods and crustaceans.
Amendment No. 102 would ensure that where there was strong evidence to include more animals in the Bill, subject to clause 2 and provided that those animals were under the control of man, they would also be protected by it. The Bill would in its present form protect only vertebrates, other than man, and the inclusion of other animals is a later prospect. I accept that there are provisions to extend the definition of ''animal'' to include invertebrates, but it is unbelievable that we may have to wait years for a decision on whether animals such as octopuses and crabs can feel pain and be protected under the Bill.
The Government have not presented sufficient evidence to prove that such animals do not feel pain, and the EFRA Committee, the Born Free Foundation and the RSPCA have taken issue with that approach, and have made a strong case for their inclusion. Animal welfare legislation in Australia and New Zealand includes some crustaceans and cephalopods, and as the EFRA Committee has stated that a strong case has been made for the inclusion of octopuses, squids, cuttlefish, crabs, lobsters and crayfish, it would not be unreasonable to include them in the Bill.
Those animals, moreover, can be kept in a man-made environment. Crabs, octopuses and squid can be kept in aquariums, and crabs and lobsters can be kept in homes and in display units. It is only right and logical that those creatures, which are often treated like fish, cats or dogs, should have the same legal protection. The common octopus, octopus vulgaris, already receives legal protection under the Animals (Scientific Procedures) Act 1986. It would be legally inconsistent not to include them in the Bill. The amendment would bring under the Bill's protection animals that we know should now be protected.
It may amuse the Committee to know that I was once a zoo keeper at the aquarium at London zoo and our biggest problem was that the octopus kept escaping. They are extremely intelligent and capable creatures. When they escape, of course, they cannot find a suitable environment in which to live, and they die, so great security measures were taken to keep the octopus in its tank. On the basis of their ability to escape alone, they deserve protection.
Amendment No. 103 is a probing amendment intended to uncover the Government's intentions for the future inclusion of more animals in the scope of the Bill. The Minister has time and again stated his desire to exclude certain animals, such as cephalopods, from the Bill, on the basis of scientific evidence. I appreciate that subsections (3), (4) and (5) make provision to extend the definition of ''animal'', but it is uncertain when that will happen. As that is not stated in the Bill, will the Minister tell us whether it will be done on an ad hoc basis or through an ongoing review? It may be that, under the Bill, the appropriate national authority will decide on a whim to extend the definition of the animals that will be protected, and, in view of that, I should be concerned about enacting subsections (3), (4) and (5) without reassurances from the Minister. What sort of research does he intend to use to support including relevant animals?
Finally, if we are to base our definitions on scientific evidence—and we should—we should be consistent throughout the Bill. From time to time we get a bit emotional about certain types of animal, and take a scientific view of others. We should try to be consistent.
I am sorry to interrupt the hon. Gentleman, but in case hon. Members are wondering what is going on, it is always my custom to call hon. Members who have the lead name on amendments before calling members on both sides of the Committee, as one would normally expect.
The hon. Gentleman said that he was speaking to amendments Nos. 102 and 103. Those amendments and amendment No. 104 go in the same direction for the reasons that he set out. There is a scientific case for giving these categories of animal the protection of the Bill. As the Minister knows, last month the scientific panel of animal health and welfare of the European Food Safety Authority concluded that the largest decapod crustaceans are complex in behaviour, have a pain system and considerable learning ability. According to the panel, cephalopods have a nervous system and a relatively complex brain similar to many vertebrates, sufficient in structure and function for them to experience pain. Therefore, there is clearly some evidence at least that they should be included in the Bill. For example, cephalopods can learn to avoid, and can experience, the pain and the distress of electric shocks. The hon. Gentleman referred to octopuses—I was told off by my hon. Friend the Member for Somerton and Frome (Mr. Heath) for not knowing my Greek from my Latin and saying ''octopi'' as the plural of octopus.
I suppose that the appropriate national authority will at a later stage consider the position of octopuses and others, which, if they are that intelligent, could escape across the border, as it were, so that they can be included within the terms of the proposal under the appropriate national authority.
The cautionary principle should be applied in this case. If there is any doubt that these animals can suffer pain, they should be protected for humane reasons and included in the Bill, as that, after all, is what it is about. There is a body of scientific opinion—as far as I know, it has not been challenged—that suggests that these animals can suffer pain, and that means that we can tick the boxes that would mean their inclusion in the Bill.
I fail to understand why the Government do not simply include these animals now rather than waiting for some other scientific evidence—I do not know what they require—that might be forthcoming at an unspecified later date. That is what I am not sure about. First, what is to be lost by including them now? Secondly, what further scientific evidence do the Government require for them to be included?
I am worried that the unspecified later date may never occur. Legislation down the ages is littered with provisions that allow something to happen later on, which never actually occurs because the Government take their eye off the ball—they have other things to deal with, naturally—and there is no space in the legislative timetable. We have waited almost 100 years for an animal welfare Bill of this nature, and we should not be projecting future dates for convincing evidence to be forthcoming.
I welcome you to the Chair, Mr. Gale. I am sure you will take a great interest in the debate. As you mentioned your interests, I put it on the record that I am a patron of the Blue Cross animal hospital fundraising committee in Cleethorpes, which raised money to build a new animal hospital that is now up and running.
In respect of definitions, although I appreciate the intentions of the hon. Member for Leominster, I was a tad confused that he included all crustaceans in amendment No. 102. By my reckoning, there are about 50,000 species of crustaceans, which include woodlice and barnacles, for example. I have not had much correspondence from people asking for protection for woodlice, although we are all probably happy for them to scurry around under our plant pots. The amendment is possibly a little too wide. The hon. Gentleman's subsequent amendment would delete the phrase ''other than man''.
I thought I opened my remarks by saying that I had amended the amendment because I wanted to include all invertebrates, and that is why subsection (5) remained. However, the hon. Lady is right in what she says.
Yes, the original amendment inadvertently gave protection to humans.
I feel, however, that the Minister must consider what has been said about cephalopods. The hon. Member for Lewes was right to say that the Animals (Scientific Procedures) Act 1986 originally excluded cephalopods; they were added to the Act in the early 1990s, when it was realised that they needed protection. In fact, the Animal Procedures Committee recommends that such protection is extended to all octopus, squid and cuttlefish. The Home Office was advised that they should be offered protection, but the Bill is a little ambivalent about the matter. I seek the Minister's assurance that he will seriously consider the matter, so that the Bill is at least in line with the 1986 Act.
I readily accept your apology, Mr. Gale, and I welcome you to the Chair. I know that you might have wanted to participate in the debate but, given the independence of your position, you will have to listen while the rest of us pontificate.
I shall speak to amendment No. 190, but I do not want to delay the Committee. I hope that that will be the nature of all our debates in the next eight sittings. In line with my hon. Friend the Member for Cleethorpes (Shona McIsaac), I wish to tease out some information from the Minister—a theme that will be consistent in our debates as, by its very nature, it is an enabling Bill—about some of the other changes that might be made through secondary legislation. It will be a question of ''if and when'', and perhaps ''why not?''.
Some of us believe that there is evidence that cephalopods are capable of suffering pain, and therefore that there is no reason why we should not afford them the same protection as vertebrates. There are some other issues, which I hope the Government will consider once the scientific evidence is available, that can be included via the secondary legislative route to give cephalopods and perhaps crustaceans similar protection.
The Animals (Scientific Procedures) Act 1986 already includes cephalopods as a protected species, so I want to know why we cannot have some consistency in our legislation. That clearly would be a logical step. It would be good also to have some consistency with legislation in Scotland; I gather that a similar Bill in Scotland is likely to include non-vertebrates as being worthy of protection. Changes are taking place on the continent, too, and it would seem sensible that we have consistency of legislation. Even from my position—as my hon. Friend the Minister knows, I am not the most avowed pro-European—we still need consistency across national borders; otherwise, legislation could end up being undermined, because people would move animals for the most bizarre of reasons, but we would not have the enforcement of the law to protect them, given the various things they do that we would not want them to do.
With that, I shall sit down, but I hope that the Minister will rehearse some of the arguments that he will no doubt have to rehearse again. If we hear them now, perhaps we shall not need to keep prompting in the same way.
I am grateful to the hon. Members who have tabled the amendments; it is useful to have a discussion on where we draw the line on the definition of ''animal'' for the purposes of the Bill.
Under the power in clause 1 (3), an invertebrate must be capable of experiencing pain or suffering before being included in the Bill. That criterion has been adopted to ensure consistency with the requirements for the commission of offences under the Bill, which entail the consideration of concepts of pain and suffering. At present, the Government do not consider that there is sufficient evidence of invertebrates' ability to experience pain or suffering to justify extending the Bill to cover them.
I shall explain why. Current evidence on cephalopods is weak on two important points—first, on whether they possess a brain structure comparable to the human cerebral cortex. That is important because the cerebral cortex has an important role in conscious awareness in humans, other mammals and vertebrates, and conscious awareness is a pre-requisite for the experience of pain and suffering. Secondly, the evidence is weak on whether cephalopods' responses can be modified by analgesics, the substances that relieve pain. Those criteria are two of seven developed by the institute of medical ethics and, taken together, they can be used to determine whether an animal can experience pain.
The hon. Member for Leominster raised a couple of examples of Governments including cephalopods in legislation. He is right to say that they have done so in New Zealand and in some states of Australia, although crustaceans have not been included. I think I am right in saying that Norway has legislation, or is proposing it, to include crustaceans, but not cephalopods—a position that we find rather odd, as we think that the case for including cephalopods is slightly stronger than that for including crustaceans. We believe that the evidence on crustaceans is even weaker; they have what are called distributed nervous systems and no higher brain structure, so they are unlikely to be capable of conscious emotional processing.
Currently, there is not sufficient evidence to include any invertebrates in this Bill. However, none of us knows what the scientific evidence will be in 20 or even two years' time. The Protection of Animals Act 1911 Act failed to do so, but this Bill aims to create flexibility to respond to changes in society's values or scientific knowledge. It would not be in keeping with that principle if we were unable easily to extend the definition of ''animal'' if the appropriate evidence became available.
Before the Minister discusses the future of the definition, may I ask whether he has examined the evidence from the European Food Safety Authority's report of December 2005? On the specific issue of whether to include cephalopods, the report said that those animals can experience, and learn to avoid, pain and distress—for example, they can learn to avoid electric shocks. If they can decide to avoid electric shocks, they can clearly experience pain from them, and they seek to distance themselves. Does that not meet the Minister's first requirement?
I am about to come on to the very point that the hon. Gentleman raised in his initial remarks and has subsequently re-raised. He was right to draw the attention of Committee members to the ongoing review of directive 86/609 on the protection of animals used for experimental and other scientific purposes. It may help if I give a couple more details about that to Committee members who may not be as aware of the issue.
On 22 December last year, the European Food Safety Authority published the opinion of the animal health and welfare panel on four questions, including on some invertebrate species' sentience and capacity to feel pain, suffering or distress. That report is now with the Commission, which will draft proposals. Those will be consulted on and then go to the European Parliament for consideration. I assure the Committee that we shall closely monitor the review and ensure that it is considered as we examine the exclusion of invertebrates in future.
The hon. Gentleman also mentioned the status of cephalopods under the Animal (Scientific Procedures) Act 1986, as did my hon. Friends the Members for Cleethorpes and for Stroud (Mr. Drew). To correct what my hon. Friend the Member for Stroud said, only one species of cephalopod is included in the legislation, namely octopus vulgaris. He asked what the difference was between the Act and this Bill. One crucial difference is that it is more understandable to adopt a precautionary principle where animals are used for scientific procedures. In practice, octopus vulgaris is not currently used in scientific procedures in this country.
It should also be remembered that the legislation proposes some quite serious criminal sanctions for people who break the law, so a burden of proof will be required. I think I am right in saying that no one has been prosecuted under the 1911 Act for inflicting suffering on fish, although they are included in the Act, because nobody believed that it was possible to satisfy the burden of proof. The Government framed the Bill so that it will be possible to satisfy the burden of proof when there is a prosecution. That is a different consideration from what one would want to bear in mind with the Animal (Scientific Procedures) Act, and the European legislation to which the hon. Member for Lewes referred earlier.
A number of hon. Members also highlighted the EFRA Committee's recommendation based on that Committee's belief that a strong case had been made for inclusion. The Committee also acknowledged that
''we have received insufficient evidence on which to base a final conclusion on this matter.''
That is where the Government stand. As I have tried to reassure hon. Members, we believe the Bill gives the flexibility for extension in future to cephalopods and crustaceans, and even others. We have gone some way already in extending the scope of the Bill by including fish and amphibians, bearing it in mind that until now it has been difficult to prove suffering in such cases before the courts. Subsection (3) contains the important power to amend or extend the range of animals to which the Bill applies.
On that basis I urge that the amendment be withdrawn.
The Minister made an elegant argument, rather as I suspected he would. I have no problem in withdrawing my own amendments, as there are drafting errors and I prefer amendment No. 190, which the hon. Member for Stroud tabled. However, the Bill's purpose should not be simply to create a legal framework, but to set an example to our society that neglecting one's animals or treating them cruelly is not acceptable, whether they be wood lice or higher beings. One can buy spiders and scorpions in pet shops, and those animals are excluded from the Bill.
I do not think that anyone really doubts that all creatures can feel pain, because pain is a protectionist sensation designed to stop beings from hurting themselves consistently. I do not think that there is any real doubt about that. However, we must set an example in how we consider the issue. I take the point about conscious awareness, but I do not think that the debate about analgesia is particularly relevant. We should look at the other recommendations of the Select Committee, which said that there should be a code of practice for the treatment of crabs and lobsters, particularly before they are eaten and while they are still alive.
We are trying to achieve various things through the amendments. I would be much more content if the Minister would tell us his programme for evaluating invertebrates. The Bill has the flexibility to include them, but I think that we would all be content if we could do that in a more prescribed manner. I do not mind withdrawing my own amendments, but I think that amendment No. 190 has great merit. I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
In case any hon. Members present have not served on Committees before, I shall explain the procedure, particularly in light of what the hon. Gentleman has just said. In any group of amendments, only the lead amendment is formally moved, so there is no question of withdrawing the others. Members will notice that the next group of amendments consists of one that relates to clause 1 and one— amendment No. 72—that relates to clause 10. If Mr. Wiggin or any other hon. Member wanted to move that grouped amendment, he would need to notify the Chair. It would be debated now, but moved formally when it was reached in the process of discussing the Bill.
I hope that that is clear. I do not wish hon. Members to miss opportunities, and if anybody wants to move an amendment that is not called as part of a group, they must notify the Chair—either myself or Mrs. Humble—and we will make a decision as to whether or not it is proper to move that amendment.
This is a more thorny subject. In moving the amendment, I seek to ensure that the law is applied consistently across England and Wales. Do we really want a situation to arise whereby the Secretary of State in England and the National Assembly for Wales create different regulations to fulfil the duties set out under subsection (3)(a), (b) and (c)? If the Bill is passed in its current form, we might see the Secretary of State and the National Assembly applying different definitions of what constitutes an animal. The Secretary of State and the Welsh Assembly could also duplicate each other's work when seeking to extend the definition of an animal under clause 1. Moreover, as presently drafted, subsection (3)(c) gives the Secretary of State and the National Assembly for Wales powers to amend subsection (2) differently. It is absurd that someone could be criminalised in Wales for an activity deemed criminal there but not in England. If an animal is deemed eligible on a scientific basis to be added to the definition of ''animal'' under subsection (3)(a), I fail to see the logic of the matter having to be determined separately in England and Wales.
We must also consider the impact of the legislation if it is not amended to ensure consistency. What will happen to properties that straddle the English and Welsh border, many of which are in my constituency? Which regulations, codes and licensing regimes will they have to follow? The amendment would ensure that such uncertainties did not exist, and would guarantee legal consistency.
Amendment No. 72, which is in the same vein, would prevent the possibility of different sets of laws being in place on each side of the border. As the provisions are designed to enable the creation of regulations to promote animal welfare, we must ask ourselves whether it would be wise to permit the creation of different sets of regulations. That would not only create problems of cost, but present the legal system with a formidable challenge. After regulations have been made, if they are broken it is possible that the offender will be prosecuted in the criminal courts. England and Wales share the same criminal law and criminal courts, and in the event of different regulations applying in each, our legal system will be sorely tested. For example, could a person who had violated a regulation specific to Wales be tried in a court in England, or for that matter in Scotland or Northern Ireland?
Moreover, the Bill makes no mention of how regulations would affect the hundreds of cross-border farms, and which set of regulations the farmers would have to follow. Who would decide? Would the farmers get a choice, or would an arbitrary line be drawn across their land, with English regulations on one side and Welsh on the other? Unless the Bill is amended, we will run the risk of having different standards of animal welfare in England and Wales. Responsible legislators would not permit that to happen.
The Bill does provide for good devolution. It gives a great deal of power to local authorities, pushing that power from the centre to the lowest possible level to allow local people to ensure local animal welfare standards. However, the aspect of devolution in question sets a dangerous problem for us as legislators. Although devolution can deliver genuine benefits, so that local people have a say over what happens to them and their animals, the provision is a bad example of the Government legislating on a principle without thinking about its consequences.
The hon. Gentleman was right to acknowledge that the Bill contains provisions applying equally to England and Wales: the main provisions—on unnecessary suffering, fighting, the duty of care and the sale of animals to under-16s, to name but a few—will apply to both countries. Those provisions, which form the basic law on animal welfare and cruelty, will be the same in England and Wales. DEFRA officials have worked carefully and closely with their counterparts in the Welsh Assembly on all aspects of the Bill, and we recognise the desirability of maintaining that uniformity between the two countries.
However, the hon. Gentleman is also right to point out that the Bill provides the National Assembly for Wales with powers to make its own secondary legislation and codes of practice or to extend the definition of an animal. Such provisions are likely in practice to be similar to those made in England, for the reason, which he gave last week on Second Reading, that they will have a common scientific base. But he is right: it is not inevitable that Wales and England will always regulate identically.
Amendment No. 104 would prevent the National Assembly for Wales from introducing regulations allowing it to extend the definition of an animal, and amendment No. 72 would prevent it from making any regulations that it thinks fit to promote welfare. The Government believe that the Bill's flexibility is sensible and would allow each Government to introduce regulations or codes that reflect their own priorities and which they believe are fit for purpose. That is consistent with, and in the essence of devolution, and I hope that we would all welcome it.
The main examples that the hon. Gentleman gave would apply to farm animal welfare, which tends to be set at European level anyway, so there would be consistency across borders. However, I am sure that my officials will continue to work with officials in the Welsh Assembly Government on any future regulations and codes. On that basis, I urge him to withdraw the amendment.
The Minister assures me that his officials have worked with the current Welsh Assembly Government. That is very good of them, but it does not tell us anything about what will happen in the future. I am interested to know what the Welsh Assembly Government officials involved in those discussions said they wanted to change in Wales that we would be unlikely to change in England. What will happen there that will be different from what happens here? I understand that if something is wrong, cruel and unfair to an animal and breaches the duty of care, it should be universally banned. I have grave reservations about the Minister's answers, but then he might put me right on what the Welsh Assembly Government want to change and the Committee could make a decision based on that.
The Minister is also wrong about cross-border farms. Of course the majority of animals in cross-border farms will be farm animals, but most farmers, particularly sheep farmers, have dogs, which do not constitute farm animals. They will be protected by the Bill, and their welfare is fundamental. If a sheep farmer has a holding on both sides of the border, the chances are that his dog will cross back and forth, just as the farmer does. I agree with the Minister on the advantages of devolution, but the argument does not cut much ice with me in that specific case, which is not the right use of devolutionary legislation. The Government have included the provision because they want to tick the box and say, ''We have given more powers to the Welsh Assembly Government.'' However, it is not the sort of power that I believe the Welsh Assembly Government are asking for, nor is it the sort of power that will strengthen the case for animal welfare throughout the UK. He has the opportunity to help me on the matter. I feel that the provision is well intentioned but erroneous.
I am happy to respond. I am advised by my officials that Welsh officials did not give any examples of the type that the hon. Gentleman mentioned, but they did make it clear that they wanted the power and the flexibility. For argument's sake, it is not inconceivable—although I should not consider it desirable—that the Welsh Assembly might reach a different view from those of the equivalent authorities in Scotland or England on the tail docking of dogs, which we shall perhaps discuss later today.
If that is the case and a person takes their dog to have its tail docked in Wales, where it might not be illegal, when in England it is, how will it be possible to prosecute those sorts of cases? Every time a person is caught with a dog with a docked tail that person can say, ''I went to holiday in Wales, had a wonderful time and the dog was docked there.'' That is why I feel that that is an unnecessary part of the Bill.
If I were in the Welsh Assembly Government, I would not want the law to be particularly different. I would want the efforts of the whole of the United Kingdom law-making machine to produce the best possible animal welfare legislation, and would not necessarily want that law to be different across the border. It is therefore important that the Minister bears that point in mind.
Given my previous job as shadow Secretary of State for Wales, I have strong feelings about devolution and I do not want those to cloud my feelings about this part of the Bill. However, because of my previous position, I understand why the Welsh Assembly Government would want flexibility. Who does not? I hope, however, that they would also want to deliver the best possible animal welfare legislation. So I will be more relaxed if the Minister can satisfy me on that.
I am not sure that I can satisfy the hon. Gentleman on the points that he raised. I simply reiterate that the provision satisfies the devolutionary settlement. We will come to tail docking later today or on Thursday. In the event of tail docking being banned for dogs, a prosecution would be brought against the person who had carried out the illegal procedure. So yes, there would be a territorial implication, but the same point could be made about tail-docking tourism to European countries where the procedure would still be allowed.
Bill Wiggin rose—
Order. I suspect that there is going to be copious opportunity to discuss tail docking more specifically later in the Bill. I understand that the hon. Gentleman raised the issue to illustrate a point in connection with the amendment. That is perfectly in order, but a full debate on tail docking, which we will have in due course, is not. I am afraid that he will have to decide whether he wants to press the amendment to a Division or withdraw it.
Having heard what the Minister said, I think that his hon. Friends will have the opportunity to persuade him that their passionate feelings about any issue covered in the Bill may be damaged by the devolutionary part. Due to my track record on devolution, I am not going to press the amendment, in order to show that not only is my mind open, but that I am very fond of Wales, particularly the Conservative Members of the Welsh Assembly Government who do a tremendous job. I would hate people to think that my interest in this part of the Bill is about me and Wales instead of the great danger that people might be able to cross the border and escape some of the helpful parts of the Bill that I hope will be enacted. I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.