HC Deb 17 July 1997 vol 298 cc512-3
7. Mr. Flynn

To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what proposals he has to improve the welfare of animals held in quarantine. [7281]

Mr. Morley

We are currently inspecting those quarantine kennels that have signed up to a voluntary code of practice for the welfare of dogs and cats in quarantine premises to ensure they can meet all its requirements. We would like to put the code on a statutory basis when parliamentary time can be found.

Mr. Flynn

Is my hon. Friend shocked by the list of situations, reported to him by Passports For Pets, in many of the quarantine kennels that are outside the present code? They are no-go areas for animal welfare. There are cases of neglect and sometimes cruelty, leading to great suffering for the animals incarcerated there. Although my hon. Friend is, I am sure, planning for a major reform of our absurd, cruel and unnecessary quarantine system, will he give an assurance that the Animal Health (Amendment) Bill, which was presented to the House yesterday, will have the Government's full support when it is considered by the House again in November?

Mr. Morley

I was present in the House yesterday when my hon. Friend presented the Bill and I congratulate him on his arguments on the serious issue of maintaining very high standards in quarantine kennels. At present, 74 quarantine kennels have signed up to the Ministry's voluntary code of practice; five have not. There are no powers at present to insist that they do sign up. We will look at the matter and we will examine my hon. Friend's Bill carefully when it is published to see whether we can use it as the basis of taking this issue forward.

Mr. Walter

Does the Parliamentary Secretary agree that a significant reduction in the problem of the welfare of animals in quarantine could be brought about by reducing the necessity for animals to go into quarantine? Do the Government have any plans to introduce new rules to allow animals coming in from the European Union and other rabies-free countries with the necessary veterinary certificates not to have to go into quarantine for the period at present required?

Mr. Morley

The Government's policy is to ensure that this country retains its rabies-free status; that is obviously very important. Having said that, we acknowledge there have been new advances in technology and new procedures. We committed ourselves, when in opposition, to a review of quarantine procedures. We have carried out that review and we propose to produce a consultation paper in the not-too-distant future on the various options that could be considered, ensuring that we maintain the rabies-free status of this country.