Clause 2 - Reports of the Committee

Animal Welfare (Sentience) Bill [Lords] – in a Public Bill Committee at 11:45 am on 10 February 2022.

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Photo of Kerry McCarthy Kerry McCarthy Labour, Bristol East 11:45, 10 February 2022

I beg to move amendment 5, in clause 2, page 1, line 13, leave out “adverse”.

This amendment would change the prescriptive wording of the question clause 2 requires the Animal Sentience Committee (ASC) to consider, which allows that only “adverse effects” should be considered, and would enable the ASC to be free to consider positive effects which may otherwise be overlooked.

I hope to deal with this amendment pretty quickly. As I said on Second Reading, I do not subscribe to the idea that this country is wonderful on animal welfare. Would action have been taken against a very well-known footballer for kicking his cat had he not videoed himself doing so? There are far too many examples of people with aggressive dogs. Everywhere we see examples of people treating them badly and training them to be angry, aggressive and dangerous creatures. It is clear that the RSPCA does not have the teeth—that is not a pun—to address this. We will later discuss farm animal welfare, where there are many examples of how we could do better.

The amendment would remove the word “adverse” from clause 2. As it stands, the Animal Sentience Committee can only consider the adverse effects of legislation or whatever is put in front of it. I understand that, and I understand that this is meant to be about raising the bar and making sure that future legislation does not worsen animal welfare, but I do not think there would be anything lost if it considered all the effects, rather than just the adverse effects. If the committee were to say of legislation that came before it, “We actually think this is good for improving animal welfare”, where is the harm in that? That would set down a marker to do better in other respects. If that were flagged up, other Departments—and even other Governments in devolved Administrations or, indeed, our former EU partners—might think that it had consequences for them.

The committee should be able to identify the positive effects as well as the adverse effects. Any positive effects would strengthen the case for the legislation. If the Government were having trouble getting their Back Benchers to support a Bill, I would hope that if the Animal Sentience Committee said that it was good for animal welfare, that would strengthen support for it.

The amendment is supported by groups such as Compassion in World Farming. As I have said, animal welfare really is the big forgotten element. We talk about pets—I lose track of how many debates we have about puppies, for example. It is good to be nice to puppies, but far more animals live on farms than live as pets, and I would welcome any move to try to improve their welfare, too.

Photo of Jo Churchill Jo Churchill The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

I thank the hon. Lady for the amendment. The Animal Sentience Committee is there to improve transparency in policy making. The committee’s ultimate success will be felt in ongoing improvements to the way the Government make decisions affecting animals, and seeing improvements is the hon. Lady’s underlying argument. We agree that sentience is about both the positive and negative experiences that animals might have. Clearly, an adverse effect of a policy would include aspects that restrict positive experiences.

I thank the hon. Lady for her comments, but I think the issue is one of drafting, not of misunderstanding. By way of explanation, the committee would be free to assess policy decision making for its consideration of adverse effects. A nice explanation would be in the area of nutrition for pets, for example. Whereas the negative outcomes of poor nutrition are obvious, the positive outcomes, such as ability to play, cannot be realised if pets suffer from poor nutrition. The committee is not required to limit its consideration purely to the adverse effect. By definition, it will consider both sides, but it is not necessary, for the avoidance of doubt, that the point that positive effects can be considered is reinforced in the committee’s draft terms of reference.

I sympathise with the sentiment behind the amendment, but I do not think it is necessary. I agree with the hon. Lady’s point that good exemplars may well be a stimulus to others to behave.

Photo of Kerry McCarthy Kerry McCarthy Labour, Bristol East

I just do not understand, from what the Minister has said, why the Bill cannot say “effects”. She seems to be saying that the committee would look at positive effects—all effects and adverse effects—so I do not understand why the word “adverse” has to be there, based on what she has just said.

Photo of Jo Churchill Jo Churchill The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

With respect, this is about semantics. It is a matter of drafting, as I have said, and not about misunderstanding. It is simply not necessary to include anything other than that.

Question put, That the amendment be made.

Division number 1 Animal Welfare (Sentience) Bill [Lords] — Clause 2 - Reports of the Committee

Aye: 5 MPs

No: 9 MPs

Aye: A-Z by last name

No: A-Z by last name

The Committee divided: Ayes 5, Noes 9.

Question accordingly negatived.

Photo of Ruth Jones Ruth Jones Shadow Minister (Environment, Food and Rural Affairs)

I beg to move amendment 2, in clause 2, page 1, line 20, at end insert—

“(4A) In preparing its reports, the Animal Sentience Committee may consult or request information from government departments and other public bodies.

(4B) Public bodies and government departments must cooperate with requests from the Animal Sentience Committee under paragraph (4A).”

This amendment would require Government departments to respond constructively to requests for information from the Animal Sentience Committee.

It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Sir Charles, and to move amendment 2 to this important piece of legislation. I wish the hon. Member for Cities of London and Westminster a belated happy birthday for last week, especially since she was born in Wales and us Welsh sisters have to stick together—a little plea there.

I rise to move the amendment in the names of the shadow Secretary of State, my hon. Friend Jim McMahon, and my hon. Friends the Members for Leeds North West (Alex Sobel), for North Tyneside, for Cambridge, for Plymouth, Sutton and Devonport (Luke Pollard), and for Bristol East. I thank House staff, the teams supporting us as Members, the Clerks and the Public Bill Office in particular for their work helping us to get here today. It is important to say that at the beginning because we tend to forget at the end, and it is important to note their work.

As we discuss another important piece of legislation in the form of the Animal Welfare (Sentience) Bill—not the sentencing Bill as it says on the door—it is important for us to think about the scope and reach of our actions and the effectiveness of legislation that passes through the House. That is why we are moving amendment 2 and will press it to a vote. The Bill is one of a number of major pieces of animal welfare legislation that either has gone through the House, is before the House or will come back before us in the weeks ahead.

In short, amendment 2 would require Departments to respond constructively to requests for information from the Animal Sentience Committee. That is important to ensure the committee receives the information it needs to prepare its reports.

My hon. Friend the Member for Plymouth, Sutton and Devonport was an excellent and energetic shadow Secretary of State, and I enjoyed working with him. Amendment 2 is very much a reflection of the points he raised during Second Reading on 18 January 2022. In his excellent speech, he quite reasonably suggested that a large Department that has been historically removed from animal welfare issues could feel empowered to ignore committee requests for information, and it could do so because there is currently no legally binding obligation on Departments to engage with the committee. That is why the amendment is so important and would be a welcome addition to the Bill.

I am sure the Minister would want to ensure the Animal Sentience Committee, in the words of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee, is not “toothless”—sorry, I get told off for my pronunciation. I urge the Minister to let Labour help her. Amendment 2 provides the perfect opportunity to ensure the Bill is not a toothless piece of legislation and that the Animal Sentience Committee is a body that will deliver. Neil Parish, who chairs the Select Committee, is right to want a strong Bill and a strong Animal Sentience Committee. We all eagerly await to hear what the Minister thinks about that. I agree with the EFRA Committee that we want the Bill to be strong. We want the scope and reach of the committee to be strong, and the amendment would do exactly that. Does the Minister agree with us?

In preparing to move amendment 2, I caught sight of the written evidence from the campaigners Better Deal for Animals, and I ask the Minister to take a moment to reflect on it and in doing so, to give her support to amendment 2. The evidence makes the point that

“the Bill does have a weakness. The delegation of animal sentience responsibilities to the ASC, a body adjacent to rather than part of Government, creates the risk that the ASC (and with it, animal sentience issues) could be effectively ignored by decision makers. This risk was highlighted in the letter from the Chair of the EFRA Select Committee to the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs ahead of second reading in the Commons, which warned that ‘the ASC risks becoming simply another toothless Whitehall committee whose reports gather dust, while critical issues of animal welfare within policy-making go largely unaddressed.’”

It says that while the terms of reference

“provide some assurance that the ASC will have the independence and powers it needs to do its job, amendments to the face of the Bill would go further in ensuring that the ASC and its work is closely tied into government operations and Parliamentary business, to such an extent as to make it difficult to ignore.”

I hope the Minister will accept the amendment.

As we consider the amendment, we need to think about what Compassion in World Farming said:

“Compassion continues to feel that the Bill provides a satisfactory implementation of the commitment to maintain a commitment to full regard for animal sentience in policy development after Brexit, and we welcome the fact that the Government has sought to go beyond a bare statement to establishing a mechanism to monitor its ongoing commitment. The draft terms of reference successfully clarified a number of the issues raised in the Lords, and we hope that the Bill will complete its passage without delay, leading to a successful launch of the Committee later this year and reinstating the official recognition of animal sentience in the formulation and implementation of policy.”

I share much of that view, and it is why the Labour party supports the Bill.

The amendment would ensure that the Bill is fit for purpose as it works its way through to passage without delay. As the Minister will recall, Labour Members spoke proudly in favour of the Bill—indeed, support for the Bill was stronger on this side of the House than among some Conservative Members—so I hope that the Government will meet us half way and accept the amendment in the spirit in which it is intended.

Although the amendment was tabled by the Labour party, we are not the only ones who want to see the issues that it covers put into practice. Indeed, I was interested to read the thoughts of Dr Steven McCulloch, senior lecturer in animal studies at the University of Winchester’s Centre for Animal Welfare, who remarked:

“Aside from the power to produce a report, there are no further powers provided for in the Bill. In order to conduct the three functions” of

“animal welfare impact assessments, ethical review, Government scrutiny,” the Animal Sentience Committee

“would require access to certain information. This information would include…advance notice of any policies that might impact sentient species…relevant documents related to the potential impacts” of the above,

“access to the minister(s) and civil servant(s) that are leading on such policies, and…access to documents and other sources of information relating to how the Government has gone about paying ‘all due regard’ to animal welfare in policy making.”

In the light of those words, I suspect that Dr McCulloch would look favourably on the amendment, and I hope that the Minister will, too.

The Minister’s noble Friend Lord Moylan gave a curious speech in their Lordships’ House. He said:

“I was once on the Zambezi and had the opportunity to observe the crocodiles. These are largely placid animals that sit basking in the sun but, when hungry, they can move with terrifying rapidity and can kill very rapidly indeed. The person I was with, who knew about crocodiles, said—and I will stand corrected by the noble Lord, Lord Trees, if I have got any of this wrong, of course—that the brain of a crocodile is a very small thing. The size of a pea was suggested to me, and that there was no capacity within the brain at all, neurologically, for a function that allowed for any memory. The consoling thought that was offered to me was that, since a crocodile cannot remember anything, if it did eat me, it was not personal.”

He went on:

“We are about to enact a Bill—we are close to passing it through our House—without limitation that, as I understand it, declares a crocodile to be a sentient creature; that is, a creature that can experience pleasure and pain, and science is prayed in aid to support this. I take the crocodile simply as an example, there are other creatures with brains almost as small as a crocodile and probably even smaller that are being covered and in scope of this Bill. The difficulty of this is, they have very limited functions, partly because the size of the brain simply limits the functions that they can actually have.”

Amendment 2 is so important because, as Lord Moylan continued,

“No one doubts, as a matter of science, that a crocodile, as I say taken as an example, will respond in a certain way if a sufficiently strong stimulus is applied to it. That is a neurological reaction explicable by the movement of chemicals and electrons through the nervous system and in what passes for the crocodile’s brain. What we are being asked to do here goes way beyond that. How can this be extended scientifically—not by analogy, not by empathy, but scientifically—to include the concept of pain in a crocodile as we understand pain.”—[Official Report, House of Lords, 6 December 2021; Vol. 816, c. 1735.]

That is more than enough from the noble Lord.

I want the Bill to be effective and snappy—to continue with the crocodile inspiration. I know that crocodiles in the Zambezi would be supportive of amendment 2, and that is why it would be a welcome addition to the Bill. I urge the Minister to join us in our support for the amendment. Let us make the Bill fit for purpose.

Photo of Daniel Zeichner Daniel Zeichner Shadow Minister (Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) 12:00, 10 February 2022

It is a pleasure to follow my hon Friend, who made an important set of points about this amendment. I would like to move from crocodiles to pigs because, frankly, what is happening across the fields of the country is ghastly. While there may be questions over the size of a crocodile’s brain, I think we all know that pigs are intelligent creatures.

My point in raising that is that, with this amendment, a range of Government Departments would be driven to have to respond in a crisis like this. It has an awful effect on the people having to kill pigs in fields—we think possibly some 35,000 so far. I must also say, there was a dreadful response from DEFRA to a written question from the shadow Secretary of State, my hon. Friend the Member for Oldham West and Royton, just on DEFRA’s basic knowledge of the numbers—“We don’t know; we don’t ask”.

A much stronger piece of legislation like this, driving the committee, would have forced Government Departments to have actually acted. I notice that the Minister did not respond to my earlier question about the current situation of sentience. We in the Opposition all know that pigs are sentient, but the hiatus in the legal setup means that it is very hard to hold the Government to account for the awful set of circumstances that are unfolding.

Photo of Jo Churchill Jo Churchill The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

I agree that this is an important piece of legislation and, like the hon. Member for Newport West, I hope it will go forward in a timely way. I thank the EFRA Committee for the work that it has done in helping to guide us in ensuring that the Bill is as precise as it is. It is important to understand that there are two duties here.

The hon. Lady argued that the Animal Sentience Committee needs the power to compel Government Departments and public bodies to provide any information that the committee requests. While I would agree that it is key for the committee to have the necessary information to do its job, placing an additional duty on Departments to provide the committee with documents would just create additional grounds for judicial reviews. If a Department or public body was seen not to fully comply with the requests made by the Animal Sentience Committee, there would be grounds for a challenge.

The Bill has been carefully considered and worded to give meaningful effect to the principle of animal sentience without getting tied up in legal challenges. We want the committee to focus on current and future policy. Its aim is to improve transparency in decision making and in the policy-making process. The committee will build on and improve the evidence base, which I have referred to, that informs Government policy.

Photo of Ruth Jones Ruth Jones Shadow Minister (Environment, Food and Rural Affairs)

The Minister talks about the evidence base, but how can the committee develop an evidence base if it submits a request to another Department, but that Department sees fit to ignore it?

Photo of Jo Churchill Jo Churchill The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

I will come on to that in my answer because, arguably, the one thing the committee does have up its sleeve is the ability to name and shame if it is not responded to. That is the key thing to keep there.

The scope of the Bill covers all central Government policy decisions, from formulation to implementation. It aims to support the policy-making decision process, rather than operational decisions made by public bodies outside of those Departments. We have kept the scope to Ministerial Departments because we want the committee to focus its scrutiny on the key policy decisions affecting animal welfare.

That is why, as set out in the terms of reference, which the hon. Lady referred to, the committee’s secretariat will assist in raising awareness of the committee’s role and in forming an overview of relevant policy decisions. That work has already started in the Department to ensure that other Departments, at an official level, are ready, and there, to establish effective communication—which arguably was the underlying ask of the amendment—with the Committee. Guidance will also be provided to Departments on their responsibilities under the Bill. We believe that to be the most effective way in which to ensure that the committee has all the information that it needs to do its role. There are two powers in the Bill, not just one: we establish the committee and, crucially, that responsibility on a Minister—the duty to reply.

I am sure that Governments will provide the committee with relevant information, if requested, and if the committee struggles to engage with a particular Department or to receive information, it will be free to highlight that in its response. Ministers will then have their duty to respond to those reports. I am confident that no Minister will want their Department to be highlighted as unco-operative in the area of animal welfare. I therefore believe that the Bill, and the functions and the powers that it confers on the Animal Sentience Committee, are sufficient as drafted.

Photo of Ruth Jones Ruth Jones Shadow Minister (Environment, Food and Rural Affairs)

I thank the Minister for her comments. We are still not satisfied, so we will press the amendment to a vote.

Question put, That the amendment be made.

Division number 2 Animal Welfare (Sentience) Bill [Lords] — Clause 2 - Reports of the Committee

Aye: 5 MPs

No: 9 MPs

Aye: A-Z by last name

No: A-Z by last name

The Committee divided: Ayes 5, Noes 9.

Question accordingly negatived.

Photo of Ruth Jones Ruth Jones Shadow Minister (Environment, Food and Rural Affairs)

I beg to move amendment 4, in clause 2, page 2, line 15, at end insert—

“(8) The Secretary of State must, within one year of the commencement of this Act, set out a timetabled plan for the extension of Animal Sentience Committee scope to any other public bodies deemed relevant.”

This amendment would require the Secretary of State to consider extending the Animal Sentience Committee to public bodies.

The amendment is in the name of the shadow Secretary of State, my hon. Friend the Member for Oldham West and Royton, my right hon. Friends the Members for Hayes and Harlington (John McDonnell) and for Kingston upon Hull North (Dame Diana Johnson), and my hon. Friends the Members for Leeds North West, for North Tyneside, for Cambridge, for Plymouth, Sutton and Devonport (Luke Pollard), for Bristol East, for Hornsey and Wood Green (Catherine West), for Canterbury (Rosie Duffield), and for Denton and Reddish (Andrew Gwynne), and my hon. Friend Christian Wakeford, among others listed on the amendment paper.

The amendment is self-explanatory, but I will take the opportunity to speak to it briefly and, I hope, to persuade Conservative colleagues in Committee to support it. I gently remind the Minister that the Bill has the support of the Opposition, but we want to make it even better, stronger and go further. Like the excellent amendment 3, which will be moved by my hon. Friend the Member for Cambridge, amendment 4 proposes a realistic and pragmatic addition to the Bill. All things being equal, it should be welcomed by all colleagues in Committee.

The amendment would require the Secretary of State to consider extending the scope of the Animal Sentience Committee to public bodies. My hon. Friend the Member for Plymouth, Sutton and Devonport is no longer on the Bill Committee—we all wish him well in his new role—but I wish to quote him. In a strong speech on Second Reading, he said,

“on scope, I know that Ministers want the Bill to apply first to Government Departments—to the main Departments of State—but there is a strong case for Ministers to set out how they would accelerate its roll-out to apply it to non-departmental public bodies. For instance, I find it hard to justify the idea that the Bill will apply to the Department for Work and Pensions before it applies to Natural England and the Environment Agency. That does not make much sense, so I would be grateful if the Minister could set out the timetable for applying the Bill to every single non-departmental public body, and particularly to all the bodies in DEFRA…to ensure that they are within the scope of the Animal Sentience Committee.”—[Official Report, 18 January 2022; Vol. 707, c. 255.]

How could anyone disagree with that?

The Minister would do us all a favour by making it clear that extending the Animal Sentience Committee to public bodies would be really effective. If she will not support the amendment, I hope she will explain why. The amendment would bring some common sense to the Bill, and it would make for a joined-up approach that will deliver real results. That is what the Bill must be about—it must be about results, delivery and making the committee fit for purpose.

In its excellent submission to the EFRA Committee, the RSPCA said:

“The Bill is novel and important because, for the first time in the UK, it requires an animal welfare impact assessment to be undertaken by Government Ministries when making policy. Such a system already exists in New Zealand and the Netherlands; establishing this in the UK is an important step for animal welfare, restoring this country’s position as a world leader in this area. A balancing exercise already exists for many environmental considerations, such as the protection of endangered species within the planning process.”

I thank the RSPCA for its report and submission, for all the work it does in standing up for animal welfare and supporting the Bill, and for delivering for our animals and wildlife for so many years. I note that Her Majesty the Queen is patron of the RSPCA. In the week that Her Majesty marks her accession to the throne, I know that hon. Members, in considering amendment 4, will want to send her our appreciation and thanks for a lifetime of service.

I want the Minister to know that amendment 4 would help her to meet the aims and objectives of the Bill. We are charting a new course, which is why many Opposition Members are confused that some Government Members do not welcome the Bill. We are making history, and we have the chance to set an example now and in the months and years ahead. By extending the remit of the new Animal Sentience Committee to public bodies, we would be delivering a sensible and coherent plan to maintain and protect the sentience of animals in all parts of our national life. My hon. Friend the Member for Bristol East, from whom I know we will hear more later, has form on this issue. Back in 2020, she moved her excellent ten-minute rule Bill attempting to put sentience into law while at the same time covering public bodies. Once again, she was ahead of the curve.

Extending the ASC to cover public bodies is something that the campaign organisation Better Deal for Animals strongly argued for in 2019. It stands to reason that the Animal Sentience Committee should be able to consider whether a public body that regularly has an impact on animals has taken welfare into account in its decision making, which is why I have tabled amendment 4. Let us take Natural England as an example of why the amendment is important. When Natural England decides on contentious issues such as licensing the shooting of game birds, the welfare of those birds as sentient beings should be a factor in its consideration. The amendment would ensure that the ASC is able to scrutinise whether the welfare of the game birds has been taken into consideration. The Minister will see that the wording of amendment 4 is intended to be helpful. It gives a year for the Minister to provide the timetable for the extension of the committee’s scope to other public bodies, so there is time to prepare.

Finally, I want to say a word about the British Veterinary Association. In advance of this morning’s sitting, I read the BVA’s policy statement on the recognition of animals as sentient beings with great interest. It says:

“Recognising animals as sentient beings provides the basis for our moral concern for the welfare of animals. Animals are living beings with the capacity to have feelings, including pain and pleasure, so they should be legally protected. This is an important issue for the veterinary profession.”

The statement continues:

“BVA supports placing a duty to consider animal welfare on public authorities when formulating and implementing policies in line with the duty that exists within Article 13 of the TFEU. This duty should be inclusive of wild animals, animals used in laboratories, sport and recreation, farm animals, Equidae, companion animals, and animals kept as part of zoological collections. This duty on public authorities would complement the duties placed on individuals by the UK’s Animal Welfare Acts.”

The BVA is correct, and the amendment will give effect to its thoughts and those of many campaigners who welcome the Bill and want to see it strengthened. We would be giving effect to our collective moral concern for animals, and I urge the Minister and all her colleagues to support the amendment.

Photo of Jo Churchill Jo Churchill The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs 12:15, 10 February 2022

I thank the hon. Member for Newport West for her co-operation; I know that she is merely trying to assist. At this point, I would like to associate myself with her comments on Her Majesty the Queen.

I am grateful for the opportunity to discuss the Animal Sentience Committee’s scope and public bodies, because we gave a great deal of consideration to both the scope and appropriateness. We expect the committee to focus on Government policy decisions that could have a significant impact on animal welfare. As we have previously indicated, that is expected to be in the region of six individual policy decisions per year. Given the breadth of government, the committee will need to be selective in what it scrutinises. It is unlikely that these kinds of decisions will be made outside ministerial Departments, because the vast majority of policy decisions with a significant bearing on animal welfare will be made within the Departments themselves.

The Bill is designed to create timely, proportionate and targeted mechanisms for holding Ministers to account. By their nature, and relative to core Departments, non-departmental public bodies operate at arm’s length from Ministers. Extending this committee’s remit beyond central Government Departments would not be targeted and so would not be in line with the aims of what we are trying to achieve. By the same token, we will not ask the committee to scrutinise policy decisions that may be made at local authority level, for example, because that would impose an unnecessary workload on the committee and, arguably, on our hard-working local authorities. It is unclear who would then answer in Parliament to any reports that came forward—that might be issued by, say, a local authority or a body—because Ministers cannot answer for a report and decisions that they did not make. For those reasons, the Government consider that the current scope of the Bill is the right one.

Photo of Ruth Jones Ruth Jones Shadow Minister (Environment, Food and Rural Affairs)

Given the NGOs’ comments and encouragement to the Opposition to lay this amendment, we will push it to a vote.

Question put, That the amendment be made.

Division number 3 Animal Welfare (Sentience) Bill [Lords] — Clause 2 - Reports of the Committee

Aye: 5 MPs

No: 9 MPs

Aye: A-Z by last name

No: A-Z by last name

The Committee divided: Ayes 5, Noes 9.

Question accordingly negatived.

Question proposed, That the clause stand part of the Bill.

Photo of Jo Churchill Jo Churchill The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

Clause 2 tasks the Animal Sentience Committee with publishing reports that give its opinion on whether, or to what extent, Ministers have had all due regard to the needs of animals as sentient beings when formulating and implementing Government policy. The clause allows the committee to include recommendations on how this might be done in the future development of a policy in question. Lastly, the clause requires that the committee’s reports are published.

These measures sit at the heart of our proposals to create a proportionate and timely accountability mechanism that rests with Parliament, rather than the courts. The committee will have the powers to publish reports—importantly, including critical reports—on the Government policy decision-making process. However, the committee’s powers are well defined so as to ensure that it complements that decision-making process by giving additional evidence. The clause and the wider Bill do not authorise the committee to dictate or advocate a particular policy position, or critique how a Minister might decide to balance competing policy considerations. Ministers will continue to decide the appropriate balance between animal welfare and other important considerations when making decisions.

In the event that a committee report was critical of Government performance, Parliament would be able to consider the report and the Government’s written response that must be laid before Parliament within three months of the report’s publication. After considering them, the decision would rest with hon. Members in this House and noble Lords in the other place on whether to make further inquiries on the subject using the mechanisms available.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause 2 accordingly ordered to stand part of the Bill.