HC Deb 18 October 1990 vol 177 cc1370-1
10. Mr. Moss

To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what initiatives he has taken to improve animal welfare throughout the European Community.

Mr. Gummer

I am pressing for the adoption of comprehensive Community rules setting high welfare standards for animals on farms, during transport and at slaughter.

Mr. Moss

I congratulate my right hon. Friend on the positive lead that he is taking on this issue in the European Community. Does he agree with the vast majority of the British public that the conduct of some French farmers of late is entirely unacceptable? Will he take action to ensure that our high standards on animal welfare, particularly on the live transportation of animals, become the benchmark of any future European Community legislation?

Mr. Gummer

I entirely agree with my hon. Friend. I am sure that he will be pleased to know that I have received further assurances from the French Government about the continuance of cases against people who indulge in those appalling acts. I am sure that he would also want us to raise our standards in those few areas in which we do not reach the highest, and then ensure that the whole of Europe continues to improve its standards, as it ought, as intra-Community trade increases.

Mr. Dalyell

Will the Minister have a word with the hon. Member for Devizes (Sir C. Morrison) and the right hon. Member for City of Chester (Mr. Morrison) about what is happening on Islay and the way in which, for commercial reasons, A and C Sporting Services is apparently being allowed to conduct the slaughter of the rare white-fronted Greenland goose? It is a European scandal.

Mr. Gummer

I am responsible for many things, but the white-fronted Greenland goose is not one of them. I am perfectly happy to ask my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Environment to look into the matter. In so far as it is my responsibility or that of the Secretary of State for Scotland, I shall see that attention is drawn to the hon. Gentleman's remarks at once.

Dame Janet Fookes

What steps is my right hon. Friend taking to ensure that there are adequate numbers of inspectors and adequate enforcement procedures, without which the welfare regulations will not be worth the paper on which they are written?

Mr. Gummer

I entirely agree with my hon. Friend. It is not possible to have effective welfare regulations unless they are properly enforced. One thing that we seek to do in the European Community is to ensure that countries that claim to meet high standards can show that they are doing so by having proper inspectors and proper enforcement. Indeed, we are having discussions with the Commission about several countries. We shall make sure that at the end of them we are much happier about enforcement of the present rules in those countries. We also want to improve the rules considerably.

Mr. Skinner

Is it true that the Minister is looking into the possibility of sending a fact-finding tour of Members of Parliament to Greenland in the winter to look after the Greenland goose? Or is it that he cannot find enough people because they are all on fact-finding tours between the Tropic of Cancer and the Tropic of Capricorn? Why does not he send one there instead?

Mr. Gummer

I am not sure that a fact-finding tour in Greenland would be helpful on this occasion. I promise the hon. Gentleman that if I send a tour to Greenland, he will have first option for a place on it and it will be at a time of year to suit his convenience and personal bodily comfort.