HC Deb 24 February 1994 vol 238 cc422-3
6. Mr. Harris

To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if she will ask the agricultural attaches at British embassies to report on the level of compliance in each member state of European Union agricultural and animal welfare regulations and obligations.

Mr. Soames

We regularly seek information from our agricultural attaches about compliance with Community law in their host member states.

Mr. Harris

Is my hon. Friend aware that, following my visits to our embassies in member states, I am far from convinced that our diplomats, especially the agricultural attaches, are on the ball in monitoring what is happening—or what is not happening—in the member states? For example, several questions have today been asked about non-compliance and national aid. What specific information does my hon. Friend receive? Will he give some posts a rocket in order to ensure that Ministers are well informed, because many countries are getting away with murder in terms of Common Market regulations?

Mr. Soames

As my hon. Friend knows, Ministers are always extremely well informed on those matters. I shall ensure that his concerns are passed to the administration. May I make it clear to my hon. Friend that we always find that, in dealings with the agricultural attaches, we are able to find out all the information that we need. However, it is true that enforcement is a matter of great concern to everyone in the country and a level playing field is something for which we all seek to strive and I will ensure that his remarks are passed on.

Mr. Lewis

Is the Minister aware that cruelty to animals being exported is now endemic and that it is a growing problem? Is not that a case for which Ministers should introduce the doctrine of subsidiarity?

Mr. Soames

No. We believe that animal welfare is not a suitable subject for subsidiarity. It is a pan-European problem and it will not make anyone in the country feel any better if animals are badly treated in Spain when they are well treated in Britain. We want to see a properly enforced regime for animal welfare across Europe, in which people will have complete confidence that animals will be safely and properly transported in a humane manner.

Mr. Sykes

Is the Minister aware, that in many European countries, people do not obey their own laws, never mind those that come from Brussels?

Mr. Soames

That is not the sort of penetrating question that I expect from my hon. Friend. The fact—[Interruption.] The fact is that in this country we have a traditionally high standard of compliance and high standards in the way in which we apply the rules in our public life. It is not quite the point for us to always consider that everything is done better here than elsewhere. What matters is that enforcement of the rules must be carried out across Europe on an absolutely equal basis. That is the aim of Her Majesty's Government.

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