Animal welfare and sentience

Trade Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 12:15 pm on 1 February 2018.

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“(1) Regulations may only be made under section 2(1) if the provisions of the international trade agreement to which they relate are compatible with—

(a) any provision in UK law (including retained EU law) relating to animal welfare standards and the welfare of animals in the production of food; and

(b) any obligations relating to animal sentience by which the UK is bound, or any principles relating to animal sentience to which the UK adheres.”—

This new clause would ensure that our animal welfare and food production standards are, at a minimum, maintained in any international trade agreement.

Brought up, and read the First time.

Photo of Barry Gardiner Barry Gardiner Shadow Minister (Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy) (Energy and Climate Change), Shadow Secretary of State for International Trade

I beg to move, That the clause be read a Second time.

This is the last new clause we will deal with in Committee, and it is our last attempt in Committee to introduce a high-level principle into the Bill. We have tried to establish the legal framework for an ethical trading policy that respects human rights, labour standards, environmental integrity and the needs of countries and communities poorer than our own. The Government turned down every single amendment and new clause that tried to enshrine those principles in law. None the less, we will have one final push. We are trying to establish the principle of animal welfare and sentience at the heart of our trade policy. Perhaps the Government will agree to stand up for those species that share our planet with us, but that have no representatives of their own to speak for them.

My hon. Friend the Member for Bradford South spoke persuasively—though not persuasively enough to get Government Members to agree—about the importance of maintaining high food standards in all our trade agreements. She referred to the connection between high food standards and the call for animal welfare, whether in respect of the general requirement for food hygiene or the specific target set by the Veterinary Medicines Directorate for a reduction of antibiotic use in agriculture. We also argued for animal welfare to be included in any impact assessment of the UK’s trade agreements, whether it is carried out ex ante or ex post. That call stands, and we will continue to press the point until we are satisfied.

I am pleased that the Minister saw fit to agree with us about the importance of this issue. I quote from the Hansard report of our sitting a couple of days ago:

“The Government have always been clear that we will maintain our very high standards on food and animal welfare, and for protection in that space. There will be no race to the bottom. Nothing in free trade agreements precludes a Government from regulating in the domestic environment. I hope that that is enough reassurance for the hon. Gentleman.”––[Official Report, Trade Public Bill Committee, 30 January 2018; c. 196.]

Photo of Greg Hands Greg Hands The Minister of State, Department for International Trade

The hon. Gentleman was a Minister in the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs under Tony Blair. Can he point to specific occasions when he raised concerns about animal sentience with respect to trade agreements that were going through at that time?

Photo of Barry Gardiner Barry Gardiner Shadow Minister (Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy) (Energy and Climate Change), Shadow Secretary of State for International Trade

That is one on which I will probably write to the right hon. Gentleman. I am convinced that there were a number of occasions when I did exactly that. I will try to dig them out from my records and send them to him. I am delighted that he did not stand up to repudiate the remarks recorded in Hansard, as he did the other day. Given that, I take it that he stands by them.

Sadly, the Minister’s reassurance on this matter is not enough. The right of parties to regulate in favour of animal life and animal health is regularly mentioned in the text of international trade agreements, yet that same right is typically circumscribed by requirements that any measures to protect animal health must be undertaken while facilitating trade. Governments may take any measure they like to protect animal health so long as it does not create an “unjustified barrier to trade”. It is left to a tribunal of trade lawyers, who examine the justification of the measure in relation to international trade law, to decide whether it is justified or unjustified.

There is sometimes a clause in the general exceptions chapter of a free trade agreement that affirms that a state may introduce whatever measures are necessary to protect animal life or health, but the meaning of “necessary” is left up to another tribunal of trade lawyers to decide. They may rule that an alternative measure is available that would be less burdensome on trade and therefore conclude, even if the alternative would be less effective, that the measure that was taken does not qualify as necessary after all.

This is familiar territory to anyone who has looked into the history of international trade disputes, both before and since the founding of the World Trade Organisation. There is an entire sub-discipline of trade lawyers and academics who have written about what they call the “necessity test” that is employed to ascertain whether a measure is necessary and thus allowed under international trade law, or unnecessary and thus prohibited.

Let me take as a specific example a free trade agreement that was mentioned in written evidence by the RSPCA, because it contains a fleeting reference to animal welfare. The Government are keen to replace the EU-Korea free trade agreement with a new UK-Korea agreement, which would be implemented using the powers afforded to the Government by the Bill. The chapter of the EU-Korea agreement devoted to sanitary and phytosanitary measures includes specific clauses about enhanced co-operation between EU and Korean authorities on animal welfare issues—anyone who wishes to look them up will find them in article 5.9—yet those fine sentiments are thoroughly undermined by the clause at the outset of the chapter, which states that the objective of the chapter as a whole is

“to minimise the…effects of sanitary and phytosanitary measures on trade”.

The health and welfare of animals—and of humans, for that matter—is already subordinated to commercial interests. That is precisely the problem.

We must ensure that animals are farmed for human consumption under the very best and most humane conditions, not to mention the conditions in which they are transported, which often happens when they are still alive and fully conscious of their surroundings. More than 3 million live animals are transported out of Europe every year, some as far away as Singapore, on their way to slaughter. Many die on the journey. Britain exports 30,000 live animals overseas for slaughter each year—a trade that we have been powerless to ban as long as we have been a member state of the European Union. Even a country such as New Zealand, with its considerable reliance on meat exports, outlawed the trade in live animals more than a decade ago.

The new clause seeks to ensure that no regulations may be made under clause 2(1) of the Bill unless they are compatible with the UK’s legal requirements on animal welfare—particularly as they relate to animals farmed for food. By introducing the new clause, we seek to ensure that, where the commercial aspects of a free trade agreement come into conflict with the principles of animal welfare, the animal welfare principles prevail.

We also seek to ensure coherence and consistency between the Bill and the draft Animal Welfare (Sentencing and Recognition of Sentience) Bill, which the Government published last December and which will enshrine in law the recognition that animals are sentient beings capable of experiencing both pleasure and pain. Given that that is one of the flagship pieces of legislation being championed by the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, we hope that our last new clause might find favour with the Government after all—or perhaps the Minister is not able to agree even to this.

Photo of Kemi Badenoch Kemi Badenoch Vice-Chair, Conservative Party 12:30, 1 February 2018

I will be brief. We all believe in maintaining the very highest standards in animal welfare and food production; I do not think that is in dispute. The Government have done quite a lot in the last few months—we know about the ban on microbeads, to protect marine wildlife—but this is one of the areas in which we are able to go further and do better than we ever could while we were in the EU.

There is much to agree with in the statements from the hon. Member for Brent North; I, too, am against the export of live animals. However, we must remember the Bill’s purpose: ensuring the smooth roll-over of existing trade agreements. It is not about future trade agreements, so I do not believe that the Bill is the appropriate place for the new clause. In fact, if I were being cynical, I would say that this looks like a mischievous attempt to reignite the debate on new clause 30 that was proposed to the European Union (Withdrawal) Bill, in order to generate press releases.

Our job is to make good law. The draft Animal Welfare (Sentencing and Recognition of Sentience) Bill was published on 12 December. It sets out to do exactly what the new clause would do, but even better. If Labour Members were serious about raising animal welfare standards, rather than virtue signalling, they would focus on the draft Bill. We should not tack on to the Trade Bill a new clause that is outside its scope.

As it happens, the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee yesterday released its report on the draft Bill. It made several recommendations for improving it, including bringing forward a new and completely separate Bill on animal sentience. The Government have to reflect on that report and its recommendations, and it would be inappropriate for us to pre-empt the Select Committee’s report and the Government’s reaction.

Photo of Alan Brown Alan Brown Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Transport), Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Infrastructure and Energy)

As the hon. Lady said, nobody can argue against the new clause’s intentions: maintaining animal welfare and food production standards when entering into international trade agreements. I am sure that the Minister will say that the new clause is not needed, because existing agreements will roll over and they comply with all the legislation, but as we heard from witnesses, in the roll-over process everything is up for grabs, so there is an argument for protecting animal welfare and food production standards in the Bill, and I understand why the proposal has been made.

One concern that I have about the new clause is that it refers to UK law and does not recognise that law is devolved; animal sentience should also be a devolved matter once we withdraw from the EU. From my perspective, the new clause does not take cognisance of the Scottish Government and the devolved Administrations, so that causes me concern about how it is written.

The hon. Member for Saffron Walden said that the Tory Government are bringing in good law, but then admitted that the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee has made recommendations against the draft Animal Welfare (Sentencing and Recognition of Sentience) Bill. As a member of that Committee, I can say that witnesses have basically said that the current proposal as regards recognising animal sentience is not good law and not fit for purpose, and the Committee is recommending that the Government think again on that Bill in terms of sentience, so they are a long way from making good law.

I support the principles of the new clause, but as stated, I have concerns about it not recognising the devolved Administrations.

Photo of Faisal Rashid Faisal Rashid Labour, Warrington South

I commend my hon. Friend the Member for Brent North for his excellent opening remarks in support of a very important new clause. I hope that the Government will agree with me and my hon. Friends that it is vital that we protect animal welfare and food production standards when building our trade policy. We must prioritise a sustainable, long-term future for our farming, fishing and food industries. We cannot allow Brexit to be used as an excuse to reduce food standards or to allow cheap and inferior produce to flood the UK market. We have a moral duty to protect animals and their welfare, and that should go hand in hand with the protections that we must afford to our farming and production industry and to British consumers.

Photo of Anna McMorrin Anna McMorrin Labour, Cardiff North

Does my hon. Friend agree that this is not a partisan issue, but a question of the kind of society we want to live in?

Photo of Faisal Rashid Faisal Rashid Labour, Warrington South

Absolutely. That is a crucial point, which I hope Government Members will take into account.

Photo of Mark Prisk Mark Prisk Conservative, Hertford and Stortford

Is it not actually the case that good law is not made on the rush? The very nature of the new clause that we are debating is on the rush, and that is why we should reject it.

Photo of Faisal Rashid Faisal Rashid Labour, Warrington South

I will give the Minister time to respond on that.

Photo of Alan Brown Alan Brown Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Transport), Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Infrastructure and Energy)

I completely agree with the previous intervention: good law is not made in a rush. But that is exactly what the Government did in reaction to voting down amendments to the European Union (Withdrawal) Bill: they rushed out legislation that is really poor.

Photo of Faisal Rashid Faisal Rashid Labour, Warrington South

I thank the hon. Gentleman for that intervention. I ask the hon. Member for Hertford and Stortford how the new clause would prevent the easy roll-over of EU trade agreements. This issue is controversial, but I will move on.

There are real concerns that if we produce trade agreements that allow the UK market to be flooded with cheap and poor-quality food, we will be forcing our farming and food production industries to make an impossible decision. Either they face becoming uncompetitive and being undercut by cheap and poor-quality imports, thus risking the jobs of the 3.9 million people employed in the industry, or they are pressured to cut corners and their own standards, putting at risk the welfare of the animals and potentially of consumers.

Many health risks are associated with poor-quality produce, and often such produce is consumed without knowledge, especially given the mass catering in schools, hospitals and takeaways. British people deserve to feel confident that they will be eating high-quality produce, wherever it has come from, following our departure from the European Union.

Nick Dearden of Global Justice Now told the Committee that

“we probably all now know more than we would like about chlorinated chickens”––[Official Report, Trade Public Bill Committee, 23 January 2018; c. 6, Q3.]

That is true, but it is important that we are aware of the potential negative impacts of failing to build a strong and sustainable future trade policy. Have the Government considered the negative impact on animals, on the farming and production industries, and on consumers of not supporting this new clause?

UK farmers have made great strides in recent years to improve animal welfare, and we are proud to have some of the highest animal welfare and food standards in the world. We have heard many times that our departure from the European Union is an opportunity for the UK to return to being a world leader in international trade. That prompts the question of why the Government are not committed to legislating for animal welfare protections to ensure that the rug is not pulled out from under the food and farming markets and to help the British farming industry to continue to lead the way in animal welfare and international trade.

There has already been much controversy surrounding the Government’s approach to animal welfare and sentience. It is no secret that the Prime Minister has faced difficulties in getting the Cabinet to agree on much in recent weeks, but she claims that it remains unified. The Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs said that there will be

“no diminution in our environmental or animal welfare standards in pursuit of trade deals.”

In that case, I am hopeful that we can expect Government support for this new clause, which would legislate for the protection of animal welfare standards—or is the Cabinet no longer unified on that position?

Photo of Matt Western Matt Western Labour, Warwick and Leamington

I rise to speak to new clause 12, and I thank my hon. Friend the Member for Brent North for proposing it. It would ensure that we provide important safeguards for not just livestock but our farming communities and our consumers by specifying animal welfare and sentience in the legislation.

In November, as we have heard, the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs promised to make “any necessary changes” to UK law to ensure that it recognises that animals can feel pain. That came after proposals to accept that they are sentient beings were voted down. Now the Government are apparently looking at making UK law that specifically recognises animal sentience. I remind the Committee that the first sentence of the Bill says that it will

“Make provision about the implementation of international trade agreements”.

That is why—when we have spoken at previous sittings about ensuring that it is a comprehensive Trade Bill—we have said that this issue should be included.

According to the written evidence from the RSPCA, the EU has 19 farm animal welfare laws that the UK has implemented, giving a high degree of consistency on standards and a level playing field for trade in farm products. That will not be the case when the UK starts to negotiate FTAs with other countries. Thankfully, the UK has some of the highest farm animal welfare standards in the world, although it is well documented that Canadian and American farm welfare standards tend to be based on corporate standards rather than federal law, as we heard in the International Trade Committee yesterday.

Likewise, an FTA may include sectoral chapters on cosmetics, pharmaceuticals, chemicals and pesticides. The UK needs to be careful that it does not compromise any existing UK laws, such as cosmetics regulation, or risk that those laws are as sensitive to change as the farm animal ones that I have mentioned.

Photo of Greg Hands Greg Hands The Minister of State, Department for International Trade

The hon. Gentleman is making a good speech. One of the points he raises surely gets to the nub of the matter. When he says that we should not do anything contrary to domestic law in trade agreements, he rather makes the point for me that the Government and the country will have a right to regulate most of these matters domestically, which is the important thing. We can introduce protections domestically in our laws that would not be subject to the trade agreement.

Photo of Matt Western Matt Western Labour, Warwick and Leamington

I thank the Minister for his intervention. There is the law that goes through this place, and there is the role and power of the Minister, and very much at the nub of this debate over the Bill is the control the Minister has, as opposed to the controls we and other bodies will have, in influencing any trade agreements.

Given that the Government are now proposing a new process in the draft animal welfare Bill to ensure that any future legislation or policy is assessed against animal welfare science and standards, it is clear that that will need to be recognised in the Trade Bill, otherwise one of the most important areas that could undermine animal welfare standards—trade negotiations—would be outside the ambit of that Bill. As Peter Stevenson, the chief policy adviser for Compassion in World Farming stated to the Select Committee,

“what the US will press for, if you look at recent trade agreements, is regulatory coherence, a requirement that we in the UK and the US try to bring our regulations on the environment, food safety and animal welfare close to each other. This is going to be very difficult because the USA has almost no regulations to protect the welfare of animals whereas the UK has very detailed legislation on the welfare of pigs, calves, meat chickens and egg-laying hens and on the welfare of animals during transport and slaughter.”

With that in mind, and particularly given the recommendation of the Secretary of State that animal welfare and sentience should be addressed by UK law, I urge all Members on the Committee to support this new clause.

Photo of Anna McMorrin Anna McMorrin Labour, Cardiff North 12:45, 1 February 2018

It is imperative that animal welfare rights are protected after we leave the EU and that animals keep their status as sentient beings under UK law, which is why this new clause is absolutely vital.

I wrote to the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs after the defeat in the House of Commons on this very issue. That letter was signed by over 100 MPs. It is disappointing that the Trade Bill neglected to make it clear that the UK will not enter any trade deals in the future that will require us to water down animal welfare standards. It is clear from the reaction of the public, and from the campaigns and letters that I am sure all MPs have received from constituents and organisations, that people have no interest in seeing chlorinated chicken in our supermarkets, are not happy to see live animal exports and are not willing to compromise in any way on animal rights to please the likes of the current US President or any other leader of a country that does not share the same concerns and views as us on animal welfare and animal sentience. Any trade negotiation or deal will impact on UK animal welfare standards.

Under article 13 of the Lisbon treaty, the UK recognises animals as sentient beings—that they are not just goods but have the capacity to feel pain, hunger, heat and cold—and that the Government must pay full regard to their welfare requirements. Recognising animals as sentient beings is accepted across animal welfare science and means that we acknowledge that animals are capable of feelings such as pain and are deserving of our respect. It is appalling that this Government could not vote in favour of maintaining—let alone progressing—existing animal welfare standards during the European Union (Withdrawal) Bill.

Photo of Greg Hands Greg Hands The Minister of State, Department for International Trade

I am not accusing the hon. Lady of spreading misinformation, of course, but a lot of the reactions to that vote spread a lot of misinformation. Various otherwise reputable news outlets such as The Independent and Evening Standard had to retract and withdraw and to print clarifications and apologies for putting out misinformation about the Government’s view on animal sentience. The Government strongly believe in animal sentience, and the European Union (Withdrawal) Bill vote was not contrary to that.

Photo of Anna McMorrin Anna McMorrin Labour, Cardiff North

I thank the Minister for his intervention, but the fact remains that this Government did not vote for that amendment, so are we to keep that trust that this UK Government will introduce those welfare standards post-Brexit? I for one do not find that trust. I struggle to understand this decision by the Government, which is a massive blow for the welfare of wildlife, pets and livestock alike.

Photo of Kemi Badenoch Kemi Badenoch Vice-Chair, Conservative Party

There is a draft Bill on sentencing and animal sentience coming in. Why does the hon. Lady feel that there will be no commitments in that Bill, given what it is called? What are her concerns about that Bill?

Photo of Anna McMorrin Anna McMorrin Labour, Cardiff North

I thank the hon. Lady for her intervention, but does she not realise that this Bill is about the rules and regulations during trade? That is why we need the new clause in the Bill.

Only domestic animals are covered by the Animal Welfare Act 2006; animals in the wild and laboratory animals are expressly exempt. As we seek new deals in our negotiations with countries that perhaps have much lower animal welfare standards, we are particularly concerned that there will be the temptation to lower our standards. The Bill needs strengthening to better protect UK animal welfare standards. I hope the Government will see some sense and support the new clause to ensure that we do not water down those standards.

Photo of Greg Hands Greg Hands The Minister of State, Department for International Trade

The Government have made clear that we intend not only to retain our existing standards of animal welfare once we have left the European Union but, indeed, to enhance them. We are proud to have some of the highest animal welfare standards anywhere in the world, and they will not be watered down when we leave the EU.

Our food is held in high repute thanks to our animal welfare standards. The withdrawal Bill will transfer on to the UK statute book all EU animal welfare standards— it is very important to understand that in the context of the withdrawal Bill, which was raised by the hon. Member for Cardiff North. Our current high standards, including import requirements, will apply when we leave the EU.

Similarly, the Government are committed to retaining the EU’s recognition of animal sentience. That is why, as has been referred to quite a few times in this helpful debate, at the end of last year the Government published the draft Animal Welfare (Sentencing and Recognition of Sentience) Bill, which sets out how we can go even further and better enshrine in domestic law the recognition of animals as sentient beings. That point was capably made by my hon. Friend the Member for Saffron Walden and others.

Photo of Barry Gardiner Barry Gardiner Shadow Minister (Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy) (Energy and Climate Change), Shadow Secretary of State for International Trade

Does the Minister understand that the new clause’s intention is not to run counter to or prevent what we hope the Government will bring forward in that Bill? It seeks to establish the hierarchy of principles in international trade so that a necessity test or any other precursor in the clauses and paragraphs that deal with such issues cannot mean that animal welfare is of a lower order in that hierarchy.

Photo of Greg Hands Greg Hands The Minister of State, Department for International Trade

Let us try to separate out those two issues. We will deal with animal sentience in the draft Animal Welfare (Sentencing and Recognition of Sentience) Bill. What we are talking about here is transitioning existing trade agreements. I will return to the intervention I made on the hon. Gentleman in relation to existing trade agreements, but let me first point out a few more things in the draft animal welfare Bill. It proposes a new obligation on Ministers of the Crown to have regard to the welfare needs of animals as sentient beings when formulating and implementing Government policy. A public consultation on the draft Bill has recently closed and DEFRA is considering all the responses received.

We are absolutely clear that all existing commitments relating to animal welfare will remain when these agreements are transitioned—I cannot be any more definitive than that. That is in line with our clearly articulated principle that it is our intent to transition solely the existing effects of the current agreements.

On current agreements, Mr Davies, you and I were elected in 2005, and in a couple of those early years we shared in Parliament I distinctly remember the hon. Gentleman being a DEFRA Minister. I was intrigued when he was seemingly unable to offer any single occasion when, as a Minister in DEFRA—the Department with primary responsibility in this area—he had raised any objection to EU trade agreements going through the House in relation to animal welfare or animal sentience.

I look forward to receiving the hon. Gentleman’s letter, in which he will explain in detail those occasions he was unable to remember today—he may have time to dig through his filing cabinet from 12 or 13 years ago to find them. I remember well that it was very rare for any Government Minister in Tony Blair’s regime to go against the word of Mr Blair, and very rare for any Government Minister to go against the word of the European Union, so I am interested to see if the hon. Member for Brent North managed to do both at the same time. I very much look forward to getting this letter. May I suggest that he shares it with the whole Committee, because I do not think that it is something I should abuse by keeping it private to myself? I look forward to that letter.

Photo of Barry Gardiner Barry Gardiner Shadow Minister (Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy) (Energy and Climate Change), Shadow Secretary of State for International Trade

May I just point out to the Minister that I voted for the ban on hunting mammals with dogs? I believe that most of the Conservative party voted to retain hunting mammals with dogs. I also voted to secure an end to cosmetic testing on animals, to ban fur farming and to introduce the Animal Welfare Act 2006. So there were a number of occasions on which my voting record on animal welfare and animal sentience stands up very strongly. I suspect that it would it be in marked contrast to many Members on the Government side of the House.

Photo of Greg Hands Greg Hands The Minister of State, Department for International Trade

I thank the hon. Gentleman for that intervention, because I now find it even more illuminating. He has now been able to remember all these other occasions when he stuck up for animal welfare, but he still cannot remember a single occasion when, in relation to EU trade agreements, which is what the Bill is all about—

Photo of Greg Hands Greg Hands The Minister of State, Department for International Trade

Perhaps the hon. Gentleman has now remembered the single occasion. I will give him another opportunity to tell us all about this disagreement he had with Tony Blair or the European Union.

Photo of Barry Gardiner Barry Gardiner Shadow Minister (Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy) (Energy and Climate Change), Shadow Secretary of State for International Trade

It is not about a disagreement with Tony Blair or the European Union, because actually we did vote to ban the export of animals on the hoof in that Government. That was precisely about trade—it was banning live exports. The Minister has to accept that I have a very clear record on animal welfare in terms of not only domestic legislation in this country but international trade.

Photo of Greg Hands Greg Hands The Minister of State, Department for International Trade

I am still looking forward to the letter. The hon. Gentleman has still not remembered a single occasion when he raised this in relation to a European Union trade agreement. He has an opportunity. I am sure he will take a little bit of time to prepare the letter, and I am sure that all members of the Committee will look forward to receiving it.

The hon. Gentleman did mention live animal exports, which is an interesting subject. He says that he was concerned about live animal exports, but you and I know, Mr Davies, that while we remain an EU member we are unable to ban live animal exports. I do not know whether, at that point, he was taking an early Eurosceptic turn. Perhaps he mentioned to Tony Blair that he had this fundamental problem with the European Union. It was just after Tony Blair had promised a vote on the EU constitution, which was not delivered, so it may have been an interesting time to have made these Eurosceptic points that he now says that he has.

Photo of Matt Western Matt Western Labour, Warwick and Leamington

Far be it from me to talk about what happened five or 10 years ago and under a different ministerial dispensation, but my recollection was that in the 2000s there was a huge issue about veal being transported in crates, and it was EU legislation that was introduced that actually put an end to that. I would like to think that the UK Government were in support of that, but I do not know—I will defer to either the Minister or my hon. Friend the Member for Brent North.

Photo of Greg Hands Greg Hands The Minister of State, Department for International Trade

If the hon. Gentleman is a strong believer in EU law, surely he should be voting, and have voted, for the European Union (Withdrawal) Bill, which seeks to take all of this retained EU law into the UK domestic environment.

To return to the issue, we have a manifesto commitment to take early steps to control live animal exports as we leave the European Union. The hon. Member for Brent North claimed that FTAs contain provisions stating that animal health measures must

“not be unjustifiable barriers to trade”.

Again, that returns to the point I made in my intervention on the hon. Member for Warwick and Leamington, that it importantly does not prevent states from imposing their own high animal welfare standards, which is what we currently do and will expect to enhance in the future.

My hon. Friend the Member for Saffron Walden made an excellent and succinct speech, outlining why the Bill is about existing trade agreements and why the Government have separate proposed legislation relating to animal sentience. I can tell her that the consultation closed yesterday and we will consider the 9,000 responses, as well as the report by the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee, in due course.

The hon. Member for Kilmarnock and Loudoun raised a relevant point when he said that the issue of animal sentience is devolved. I can tell him that the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs is speaking to the devolved Administrations regarding animal sentience. The clause in the draft Animal Welfare (Sentencing and Recognition of Sentience) Bill refers only to UK Ministers and the role they play, but I would be interested to see what proposals the Scottish and Welsh Governments might bring forward in this space as well.

I hope that is sufficient reassurance to the hon. Member for Brent North. I very much look forward to his letter, but on that basis I ask him to withdraw the new clause.

Question put, That the clause be read a Second time.

The Committee divided:

Ayes 5, Noes 9.

Division number 37 Caledonian Pinewood Forest — Animal welfare and sentience

Aye: 5 MPs

No: 9 MPs

Aye: A-Z by last name

No: A-Z by last name

Question accordingly negatived.

Question proposed, That the Chair do report the Bill to the House.

Photo of Greg Hands Greg Hands The Minister of State, Department for International Trade

Mr Davies, I thank you and everybody concerned with this Bill. I am delighted that we have so thoroughly scrutinised this short yet important Bill over the last five Committee sessions. I thank Committee members for the constructive way in which they have engaged in the debate. I am pleased that we have completed proceedings within the allotted time. In fact, we have a little time to spare.

This has been an unusual Bill Committee. The Bill, in my view, is relatively uncontroversial and certainly quite short. Indeed, on Second Reading, I think a little unfairly, the hon. Member for Brent North called it a

“hollowed out little embarrassment of a Bill, which extends to just six pages and four schedules.”—[Official Report, 9 January 2018; Vol. 634, c. 223.]

I think he was calling it small and unimportant; I am interpreting the words “hollowed out little embarrassment” in that way. Therefore, I find it all the more remarkable that the Opposition have called some 37 votes on the Bill so far. I am not trying to make a wider political point—or maybe I am—but it was clear on Second Reading and now that they are against the UK having its own trade remedies, against the UK being able to benefit from the more than 40-plus EU trade agreements, and against UK companies participating in the £1.3 trillion global procurement market. I hope they will change their minds on Third Reading.

I also thank the Government Whip and the Opposition Whip, who have ensured that the Committee has run smoothly and effectively. We have had a helpful and constructive consideration of the Bill, and the debate has been superbly conducted by you, Mr Davies, and by Mrs Ryan and Mr Gray, in the Chair. I am very grateful for your and their guidance during our deliberations.

Further, I would like to pay tribute to the usual channels, who I know quite well from previous experiences in this House, for their help and guidance throughout. I also recognise in particular the hard work of Hansard in recording everything. I thank the Clerk for his advice, the Doorkeepers for keeping good order, and my excellent team of officials for their support. This is the Department for International Trade’s first ever piece of legislation, and the officials have done the Department very proud indeed.

Photo of Barry Gardiner Barry Gardiner Shadow Minister (Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy) (Energy and Climate Change), Shadow Secretary of State for International Trade

I, too, would like to express, on behalf of all my team, my thanks to you, Mr Davies, to Ms Ryan and Mr Gray, and to all the officials who so ably supported the Minister. We tried to throw as many difficult questions at him as possible, and they tried to field them and provide him with answers as quickly as possible. I have to say we were not always convinced by the answers he came up with, but we recognise the work that went into them and hope that we did not cause the officials too much trouble.

I pay particular tribute to Kenneth Fox, the Clerk of the Committee. He is an exemplary Clerk, and he aided us in ensuring that our amendments were substantive and all in good order. It was extremely helpful to us to be assisted by someone of his experience and wisdom—and calm. I say that because, as you know, Mr Davies, amendments are worked on until the last moment to ensure that they are tabled in good time, and Mr Fox did so with the greatest humour.

I am grateful to all my team: my hon. Friends the Members for Bradford South, for Sefton Central, for Cardiff North, for Warrington South, for Blaenau Gwent and for Warwick and Leamington. It has been an excellent team effort. I am delighted that they were all able to contribute to debate in a most positive way. I also thank the Government Members. I thank the Minister, who I think took every intervention he was offered, for his courtesy. I know that serving on such Committees is often a thankless task for Government Back Benchers, who are told by the Government Whip to sit quietly and not to take up too much of the proceedings, but when they did intervene, they did so with courtesy.

We have scrutinised the Bill in great detail. We have not come to an agreement—that much is clear. There are lacunae in the Bill that need to be remedied, and we will return to it on Report and subsequently. I thank everyone associated with the Committee and in particular you, Mr Davies, for conducting proceedings with absolute fairness and impeccable order.

I am very grateful to the Minister and the shadow Minister for their kind words. I thank the House authorities, including the Doorkeepers, who have been very busy with Divisions, and the Clerks. I reiterate the thanks to Kenneth Fox, the principal Clerk, who has guided me throughout these proceedings with his normal efficiency and courtesy. I thank all Members for making it so easy to chair the Committee. You have all been a credit to your respective parties.

Question put and agreed to.

Bill accordingly to be reported, without amendment.

Committee rose.