Clause 22 - Advisory bodies

Genetic Technology (Precision Breeding) Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 4:00 pm on 5th July 2022.

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Photo of Daniel Zeichner Daniel Zeichner Shadow Minister (Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) 4:00 pm, 5th July 2022

I beg to move amendment 18, in clause 22, page 15, line 26, leave out “negative” and insert “affirmative”.

Photo of Esther McVey Esther McVey Conservative, Tatton

With this it will be convenient to discuss the following:

Clause stand part.

Clause 23 stand part.

Clause 24 stand part.

Amendment 20, in clause 25, page 16, line 19, leave out “may” and insert “must”.

Amendment 9, in clause 25, page 16, line 24, at end insert—

“(1A) In making regulations under this section the Secretary of State must consider (among other things) the possible direct or indirect adverse impact of precision breeding traits on the—

(a) respiratory system,

(b) cardiovascular system,

(c) immune system,

(d) bone strength,

(e) mobility, and

(f) ability to exhibit normal behaviour patterns of precision bred animals and their qualifying progeny.”

Clause 25 stand part.

Photo of Daniel Zeichner Daniel Zeichner Shadow Minister (Environment, Food and Rural Affairs)

Amendment 18 is another that seeks to replace the negative procedure with the affirmative procedure. Much has been said about the advisory bodies in the Bill—that is the point we are reaching in the clauses. We understand—because it is outlined in clause 22(1), which contains a reference to the Environmental Protection Act 1990—that ACRE will be the advisory committee that considers whether precision bred organisms are indeed precision bred. We are familiar with ACRE, a senior member of which gave oral evidence.

As I hinted in my previous comments, however, the welfare advisory body that considers the impacts on animal welfare is much less clearly defined. The Bill allows for that body to be an existing committee or a new one. Much of the administrative set up of the Committee, and details on how it will operate, are—guess what?—being left to secondary legislation.

Had the Bill not been drafted in such haste, and had the Government determined those details, we would not have felt the need to table so many new clauses. This is a framework Bill. It is a far-from-satisfactory piece of legislation that, as I have just explained, makes it quite hard to work out how the whole system will function. In the light of the role that the welfare advisory body will play in making important considerations about the welfare, pain and health of animals that we now all agree are sentient beings, the provisions in clause 22 should be laid under the affirmative procedure, not the negative procedure. We have tabled amendment 18 to that effect.

I mentioned that I would come to the definition of “adverse effects”, which are referenced in clause 25 but are not laid out in full. That clause states simply that “regulations may prescribe” what is considered an adverse effect on the health or welfare of an animal. As this matter underpins the Bill, and given the ability of the welfare body to consider applications, I believe that that necessary requirement should be a “must” rather than a “may”. We have tabled amendment 20 to that effect.

Amendment 9 was tabled to give examples of what the Bill should consider when it comes to adverse welfare effects, such as the impact of precision breeding traits on the respiratory system, on the immune system and on the ability to exhibit normal behaviour patterns. There is a fairly familiar pattern in what we are seeking to achieve through our amendments, and I suspect that I know what the Minister’s answer will be.

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

I thank the hon. Gentleman for tabling amendment 18, but he will not be surprised to hear that I do not feel that it is necessary. In the case of the measures in clause 22, the affirmative procedure would be inappropriate. The identity of the welfare body will be of interest to Parliament. The appointment itself is a straightforward administrative matter, and it is therefore appropriate for the regulations to be subject to the negative procedure. I urge the hon. Gentleman to withdraw the amendment.

Photo of Daniel Zeichner Daniel Zeichner Shadow Minister (Environment, Food and Rural Affairs)

Almost inevitably, I disagree. The measures are of considerable significance and public interest, so I will press the amendment to a vote.

Question put, That the amendment be made.

Division number 11 Genetic Technology (Precision Breeding) Bill — Clause 22 - Advisory bodies

Aye: 4 MPs

No: 10 MPs

Ayes: A-Z by last name

Nos: A-Z by last name

The Committee divided: Ayes 4, Noes 10.

Question accordingly negatived.

Clause 22 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clauses 23 and 24 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Amendment proposed: 20, in clause 25, page 16, line 19, leave out “may” and insert “must”—(Daniel Zeichner.)

Question put, That the amendment be made.

Division number 12 Genetic Technology (Precision Breeding) Bill — Clause 22 - Advisory bodies

Aye: 4 MPs

No: 10 MPs

Ayes: A-Z by last name

Nos: A-Z by last name

The Committee divided: Ayes 4, Noes 10.

Question accordingly negatived.

Clause 25 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Ordered, That further consideration be now adjourned. —(Gareth Johnson.)

Adjourned till Thursday 7 July at half-past Eleven o’clock.