HC Deb 26 January 1995 vol 253 cc463-5
8. Mr. Flynn

To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what new proposals he has to improve animal welfare.

Mr. Waldegrave

We have a very wide range of measures in place.

Mr. Flynn

Will the right hon. Gentleman congratulate the demonstrators at the three sites for their great courage and foresight? They are in advance of public opinion and have roused the Government's conscience. Had the Government listened to Compassion in World Farming 10 years ago, the changes could have been made in an orderly way, thus avoiding the problems of sudden change now faced by farmers.

Now that the right hon. Gentleman is claiming one prize, will he go for the triple crown and move on other fronts where sentient living creatures are treated as though they have no feelings and no nervous system? Will he respond to the campaigns on other animal abuse and stop hunting for sport and unnecessary experiments on animals?

Madam Speaker

Order. That is a total abuse of Question Time.

Mr. Waldegrave

Action was under way before I arrived at the Department. My right hon. Friend the current Secretary of State for Education was leading the way with a shift in the Government's position and a move to the vanguard of the campaign to improve transportation. That proves that action was genuinely under way.

I do not believe that anyone in the country is not now behind the movement to ban veal crates and to achieve higher standards. I am sorry to say, however—the vets are telling us this—that animals in lorries surrounded by the uproar of a demonstration suffer and often have to be put down there and then. Animal welfare is suffering from the methods being used.

I say to the demonstrators that they should go to Brussels. This may sound odd, but I was sorry to find that there were no demonstrators in Brussels on Monday. It would have been better to have support from the very powerful British non-governmental organisations to press for change where it is needed, which is in Brussels.

Sir Peter Emery

Will my right hon. Friend point out to many of those people that there is a considerable movement of animals between Scotland and the west country and between Scotland and other parts of country, and that that movement has been undertaken sensibly for many years, with full protection for animals although those journeys are often much longer than those taken by animals exported across the channel?

Mr. Waldegrave

I do not believe that the occasional abuse that takes place in this country is the source of all the concern. We have reasonable rules, which are policed. The concern is not that one cannot move an animal humanely a reasonable distance—one can. The concern is to achieve better welfare standards in Europe. That must be done by changing European law. Otherwise, as I said earlier, the whole of British farming will come to a halt. If that happened, the same people who are campaigning and complaining now would be asking what we are doing to support British farming.

Mr. Morley

Does the Minister agree that one of the steps that could be taken to improve animal welfare would be to introduce a licensing scheme for animal hauliers and exporters? Does he think it acceptable that exporters such as Phoenix Aviation from Coventry should operate cargo planes without proper export permits, that Hall Farms of York should continue to export animals after being prosecuted for breaking journey time regulations, or that people like Richard Otley, who is exporting sheep through Brightlingsea, who has criminal convictions for animal cruelty, and who was arrested last week for deliberately provoking and abusing local people, deliberately flouted agreements with Brittany Ferries and is associated with people convicted for violence? Incidentally, he claims to have been approached to be a Tory candidate and to have the ear of the Prime Minister. Does the Minister agree that such people bring the livestock industry into disrepute?

Mr. Waldegrave

I am slightly disappointed that the hon. Gentleman, who is a decent man, did not take the opportunity to apologise. Last week he said a range of things which turned out to be not quite right, so I should like to check all his allegations closely before I comment on them.

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