HC Deb 23 February 1995 vol 255 cc475-6
9. Mr. Flynn

To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if he will make it his policy to prevent those with convictions for cruelty to livestock from continuing to export livestock.

Mrs. Browning

The law provides for severe penalties of up to £1,000 per animal on conviction for mistreating animals in transport. We are also pressing for the introduction of a Community-wide licensing system which would provide for the disqualification of persistent or serious offenders.

Mr. Flynn

Should not the Morris report on animal transport be implemented and should we not ensure that hauliers of livestock are licensed to prevent men such as Richard Otley, who was convicted of calculated cruelty to animals and Mr. Roger Mills, who was convicted of assaulting a disabled woman who protested because he was mistreating cows, from continuing to inflict prolonged suffering on defenceless calves and lambs?

Mrs. Browning

I can assure the hon. Gentleman that all major recommendations in the Morris report have been implemented to ensure that high standards of export certification are maintained.

I can assure the hon. Gentleman that we are working very hard on the licensing question. There is unanimity in the European Community, among both veterinarians and Ministers, that there should be a Community-wide licensing system. We must ensure that if the cowboys—those people who do not respect animals—cross the channel and commit offences in other countries, we can bring them before the courts in the country where they committed that offence.

Mr. Mark Robinson

Does my hon. Friend agree that penalties for cruelty to animals are stiffer in this country than they are in many other European countries? Will she continue her work to help other European countries to bring their animal welfare standards up to our level?

Mrs. Browning

My hon. Friend is quite correct: we have high standards in this country, and we enforce them. We want to see animal welfare standards raised throughout the European Community. As was explained in yesterday's debate—I think it is an important point—it is not just a question of the welfare of animals within the United Kingdom. If we are really serious about animal welfare, we should be concerned about animals in the UK, Spain, Greece or wherever. We shall achieve the greatest prize on a Europewide basis, as my right hon. Friend the Minister told the House yesterday.

Mr. Morley

While I welcome the Minister's comments about the need for a Europe-wide licence scheme, does she accept that we could take national action on that, as we are not restrained by European legislation? We could introduce a licensing scheme in the UK which would crack down on the cowboys and those people who are bringing the entire industry into disrepute.

Mrs. Browning

The hon. Gentleman and I are at one on the need to toughen the law and, as he knows, on 23 January we introduced further measures to do just that. However, we are aware that it is not a seamless robe, and if the hon. Gentleman and his party have any practical suggestions about enforcing the rules, we should be happy to examine them.