§ 4. Mr. Thomas Cox
asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food when he will announce his policy on the export of live animals for slaughter.
§ 7. Mr. Stallard
asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if he will make a statement on his policy on animal welfare.
§ Mr. Peter Walker
The welfare of farm animals, whether on farms or in transit, is a matter of concern to us. We are currently holding discussions with interested organisations and we shall be announcing our proposals, I hope, within the next few weeks when these are completed.
§ Mr. Cox
I thank the Minister for his reply. However, I am sure that he is aware of the utter disgust of millions in this country caused by the stories that they hear about the treatment of animals. Is he aware that, whatever regulations there may be in this country, the moment animals leave our shores there are, regrettably, no apparent regulations for their protection? Will the Minister, as a matter of urgency, include his European partners in the discussions? That is where the problem lies.
§ Mr. Walker
I agree with the hon. Gentleman that it is not satisfactory to deal with the matter in this country only. We have all heard of cases of hardship resulting from transport overseas. For that reason, we shall press with our partners in the Community that action should be taken throughout Europe.
§ Mr. Peter Mills
Will my right hon. Friend bear in mind that Conservatives made a firm commitment that we would do something about the problem of old cows and old sheep being exported? Will he at least make a start on that as quickly as possible?
§ Mr. Walker
Yes, I will. I know that the commitment was made in the last debate on this subject and the attitudes 600 taken in that debate are affecting our thinking on these topics. This is a matter for which I have joint responsibility with the Home Office and I hope that we shall be able to make specific announcements within a matter of weeks.
§ Mr. Strang
Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the major initiative taken by the last Prime Minister and his announcement of the setting up of a new council for animal welfare and the appointment of a new independent advisory committee on farm animal transport were widely welcomed, not only by the animal welfare interests, but by the growing number of people throughout the country who are concerned about these matters? Surely the Government will go ahead and appoint members to both those bodies.
§ Mr. Walker
The announcement by the previous Prime Minister was generally welcomed as an important advance in this area. Obviously we have studied the last Government's specific proposals and they will be influencing our thinking. I ask the hon. Gentleman to wait until we announce our own detailed proposals, but I assure him that the objective of those proposals will be exactly the same as the intentions of the previous Government.