Secretary of State’s powers to give financial assistance

Part of Agriculture Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 3:00 pm on 30th October 2018.

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Photo of Jenny Chapman Jenny Chapman Shadow Minister (Exiting the European Union) 3:00 pm, 30th October 2018

Why the reluctance to have this provision in the Bill, if we are all so clear, certain and confident about it? I do not see the problem. It is important because, in a sense, it would act as an instruction to future Governments when they create legislation. It has previously been, and ought to be, the basis of law-making on animal welfare. I accept that there has been a lot of noise and confusion around the debate, and I hope that we do not get sucked into that kind of confusion as we discuss this topic.

Just as an example, one Tory MP—I hope it was not the hon. Member for North Dorset—said:

“This government, and in fact all governments, are deeply committed to continuing to protect animals as sentient beings. That law is already written into our own law.”

But it is not written into our own law—that is the point—and it would be so much better if it were. The reason we are bothering with this Committee is to make the Bill better. I do not think any Minister who has served on a Committee has ever said, “My Bill is perfect. Don’t bother discussing it; let’s all go home.” The idea is that we improve the Bill as we go forward, and I notice that the Government already have many amendments, so they are obviously open to improving the Bill. This amendment would be one way to make the Bill better.

How people feel about this topic, I suppose, depends on whether they think it is important that animal sentience should be specifically recognised, or that the law as it stands goes far enough. There might be differing views on that, but the Opposition think that animal sentience needs to be recognised in law. If the Government wanted to bring forward their own wording on this—I expect the Minister will tell me why mine is deficient any minute now—we would be interested in working with them on it, because this issue matters to so many people around the country that we need to be constructive about it. Should the Government want to do the right thing, we will work with them. I will leave it there for now, and listen to what the Minister has to say before I speak further.