§ 4.7 p.m.
§ Lord Craigton
My Lords, I beg to move that this Bill be now read a second time. In 1974 the noble Lord, Lord Janner, with a great deal of help from the noble Lord, Lord Donaldson of Kingsbridge, had tried twice to bring in a zoo Bill. The noble Lord, Lord Donaldson, has asked me to say to your Lordships that he regrets that he cannot be here and he supports the present Bill in its entirety. That Bill would have provided a controlling body financed by a levy on the admission money. It would have been limited in scope and expense for the zoos. Throughout all the work of preparing this Bill we have had to bear in mind that zoos are not very profitable undertakings, and that any Bill that was to be too much of an expense for them would not be workable and would work against the zoos and the animals themselves.
Control of some sort was necessary. The following year, 1975, as operating a zoo was virtually the only animal business or activity not licensed by local authorities, I felt that the answer for the control of 25 zoos lay in that direction. I drafted a Bill and started discussions. Later that year I had lunch with a senior official in the Home Office. He agreed with me that there ought to be a Bill, and six months later he confirmed that the Minister had authorised his department to give me informal advice and assistance, but no drafting assistance and no prospect of a Government Bill. From then on I was engaged in discussions with all who would be affected by the Bill. For the last three years I have had the invaluable help of a parliamentary draftsman.
By September 1978 the Bill was far enough advanced to send a draft to the local authority associations. Only the districts showed interest, and subsequently the councils declined to have any responsibility in connection with zoos. Early in 1979 the Bill was discussed by the All-Party Conservation Committee of both Houses of Parliament. It was decided that, because of the vital importance to zoos of conservation, a meeting of all concerned should be called to try to settle once and for all the still conflicting points of view. But because of the general election which then intervened I called the meeting at the Royal Society of Arts in April 1979. Members of Parliament and Peers were invited and it was attended, even though the election was on, by the noble Lord, Lord Janner, the Home Office; the local authorities of England and Scotland; the British Veterinary Association; the RSPCA; the University Federation for Animal Welfare (UFAW); and the two zoo bodies—the National Federation, which was then just the Federation, and the National The Association of British Wild Animal Keepers (ABWAK) was unable to come. But throughout the previous year I had been in touch with them and they had made helpful suggestions for the Bill and they too agree exactly with what the Bill says.
At this meeting, therefore, after four years of negotiations and countless redrafts of the Bill, six major decisions were agreed upon unanimously. First, the existing zoos must be inspected and approved before a licence was granted—that appears in Clause 20. Secondly, there should be formal inspections every three years—Clause 10. Thirdly, licences should be renewed every six years—Clause 5. Fourthly, there should be special arrangements for small zoos, and those special arrangements have been much improved in another place—Clause 14. Fifthly, the district council licensing was approved—Clause 2. However, that fifth decision was conditional upon the sixth, which was that the Secretary of State should maintain a panel of vets and zoo experts without whose advice no licence would be given or taken away—Clause 8.
The troubles were not yet over. I had an agreed measure. We had a change of Government and the Home Office told me that they did not wish to proceed. Their four years of work, however, was not wasted because throughout those four years they had contacted the various Governments departments and gradually built up what appears before your Lordships now. By March 1980 the transfer of the zoos to the Department of the Environment was completed. The Department of the Environment has taken a much more understanding approach to the Bill and since taking over has helped in making considerable improvements.
26 One would have thought that after six years of successfully concluded negotiations with all affected and concerned, and five years of constant contact with Government departments, the Bill, of which in another form I moved the First Reading in this House, and which was then introduced by Mr. John Blackburn as a Private Member's Bill in another place, would have been generally accepted. No praise is too high for John Blackburn in another plcae. He took over the Bill without the background which I had had with it. It is true that he had been a county councillor in Dudley and that he had the Dudley Zoo in his constituency. Nevertheless, it was his skilful handling and untiring work that managed to get the Bill through the other place. His problem and my problem was always that all concerned wanted the Bill—they agreed the principles—but they wanted it in their way in minor respects. There was a full day's debate on Second Reading in another place and then, believe it or not, over 350 amendments and 11 new clauses were tabled in three Committee sessions and a full day's Report stage. The result was a great deal of work, but a much improved Bill.
Having given your Lordships the background against which this measure is brought, let me deal with the common purpose of all of us in what we want to achieve. Today anyone can open and operate a zoo and, within reason, treat the animals as he wishes. A local authority licence is now required for a riding establishment or one breeding dogs or boarding animals, for a pet shop or for an individual keeping certain dangerous wild animals. Why not a licence for a zoo?
For the zoos the right answer was not just a licence—it is not as simple as that. Let me explain why. First, unlike other licensed activities the local community has an important stake and interest in its zoo. Zoos have education, recreation and conservation functions. So far as the schools are concerned some zoos have hundreds of thousands of schoolchildren visiting them every year and to all the people in the locality a day off spent at the zoo is something important, and where there is a tourist element of course it is very important. Furthermore, many of the zoos breed and maintain for posterity many species already endangered and some no longer alive in their natural habitat. That is the first reason.
Secondly, the keeping of zoo animals is a highly specialised technique beyond the experience of many local authority vets. The Bill, therefore, while retaining the local authority licence-granting machinery, brings in experts appointed by the Secretary of State whose advice must be sought on all matters affecting the welfare of the animals.
Thirdly, the Bill, to be effective, had to go even further. It must, by regular skilled inspection, not only control the welfare of the animals, but gradually improve Britain's zoos. That is not an easy goal because a zoo cage rebuilt and modernised can be very expensive. There are a number of very bad zoos and there are many cages and enclosures which are unacceptable. As I see it, if this Bill is ever enacted, the inspectors will say to such a zoo, "That bear can no longer live in that cage. You must either rebuild the cage or, if you cannot afford to do that, you must get rid of the bear". There is no other way of doing it.
27 The key provisions for the improvement of Britain's zoos appear in Clause 10(5) which says:the report may include … recommendations for any practicable improvements designed to bring any features of the zoo up to the normal standards of modern zoo practice".I heard someone in another place ask, "What is 'modern zoo practice'?". I was dying to answer. It means what it says. It is changing all the time. The art and the technique of building zoos is improving all the time and we want the zoos, wherever possible, to follow those improvements.
Finally Clause 17(1)(a) provides that a licence may be lost:if any reasonable requirements relating to the premises or conduct of the zoo … are not complied with within such time as is reasonable in the circumstances".Therefore, the importance of the Bill is the value of the zoo to its area and to conservation; the considerable part played by the Secretary of State; and the provisions for steady improvements in the zoos themselves.
There are other interesting provisions. The popular definition of a zoo is widened in Clause 1 to include any wild animal collection to which the public have access. It applies to everything from the London Zoo to the fish tank of strange fish in the pub, or the strange bird collection in a café, provided the animals or birds are wild and not normally domesticated. It is for the Secretary of State's inspectors to decide whether, however small the collection may be, the animals will be safe without even an annual visit from the local authority, and the Secretary of State may change his mind at any time if the circumstances differ. Applications for the grant or refusal of a licence are fairly common form and except, as I said, on grounds of animal husbandry, the Secretary of State has the final control.
There are three kinds of inspection. First there is the formal "spit and polish" inspection every three years. Secondly, the local authority can at any time and without notice inspect the subject of a particular complaint. Finally, there is an informal inspection in a year when no other inspection has taken place. There is a problem about the cost of all this. The major zoos, both the federation and the national, now pay their associations to be inspected at three-or four-yearly intervals. The inspection will be much like the inspection under the Bill. The associations were always prepared to pay instead for a local authority/Secretary of State inspection. All zoos under the Bill can pay for their inspections by annual instalments which means, in practice, that they can divide the cost of the visit by three until the next inspection comes round. Clause 14, which is extremely important, authorises the appointment of fewer inspectors for a zoo which makes the case that it cannot afford the full inspection team. It was part of the deal made with the Home Office and the Department of the Environment that there would be no major cost to the ratepayer or the taxpayer in this Bill.
But I am concerned that too much perhaps unnecessary use may be made of the emergency inspections under Clause 11. The zoos are very accustomed to complaints arising from ignorance and prejudice against them. Clause 11 is tightly worded in order to reduce this problem as much as possible. But, 28 nevertheless, I ask my noble friend the Minister in front of me to confirm that in the guidance that he will issue to local authorities he will ask them to make sure that a complaint is bona fide and, if possible, to phone the zoo or make an informal visit before actually incurring the cost of using Clause 11.
Clause 13 is a wonder of tact and precision. What does one do if the zoo belongs to and is run by the licensing authority? Clause 13 is the answer. Clause 20 deals with existing zoos. Every zoo owner or owner of a wild animal collection has to apply for a licence within six months. The next move is up to the local authority which will then have time, in conjunction with the Secretary of State, to arrange inspections and to make decisions on those Clause 14 smaller zoos that either escape the Bill or have modified inspections either in frequency or number of inspectors. From the point of view of the collector or zoo operator, until he gets an inspection or decision he carries on as before.
There is some disquiet among a few zoos that Clause 20 will operate harshly against them and that under Clause 3 an opportunity will be taken to protest against the continuance of zoos. In this Bill we are having to control for the first time activities and establishments which are uncontrolled and which are legal now. The zoo and the public both have rights that must be protected, and if there are problems, the zoo must be given a reasonable opportunity to meet and cure those problems.
The main reason for making the first licensing period four years is to provide just such an opportunity. I would ask my noble friend to give an assurance that he will ask both the local authorities and his inspectors to give that opportunity, unless of course a situation is beyond redemption and a zoo has to be closed forthwith.
There is another assurance that I have been asked to seek by my noble friend Lord Zuckerman. There are many deaths in zoos and some are due to infections and communicable diseases; handling the carcases can be dangerous unless special precautions are taken and the same applies to the disposal of carcases. The assurance I ask—unless my noble friend can assure me that the health and safety people will give it—is that among the conditions which the Secretary of State will require under Clause 9 should be that zoo proprietors should have the necessary veterinary services to make accurate diagnoses and have proper facilities for the disposal of carcases.
Finally, I must thank my noble friend Lord Cranbrook, who also regrets that he cannot be here, and who supports the Bill. He recently followed me in the chair of the National Federation—I followed the noble Lord, Lord Donaldson of Kingsbridge—and before him was his father, who was the first chairman of the federation. It was my noble friend—and I should like this on the record (and this has never been challenged in this Bill)—who in the early days of the Bill wrote the first ever legal interpretation of what exactly an animal is, and he brought about that delightful phrasing about taxonomic categories. We owe a great deal to him.
If the Minister will give me the three assurances for which I have asked and if the provisions of the Bill are introduced with understanding, the animals, the zoos 29 and their numerous public of children and adults will benefit from it. I beg to move.
§ Moved, That the Bill be now read 2a.—(Lord Craigton.)
§ 4.24 p.m.
§ Lord Melchett
My Lords, I should like to start by giving this Bill a very warm welcome indeed. I look forward to hearing the maiden speech of the noble Baroness, Lady Gardner of Parkes. It gives me the opportunity to say that I made my maiden speech on a previous zoo Bill. I then had a speech which should have taken about 12 minutes and I did it in five; today I have a speech which should take five minutes and no doubt I shall take 15 over it. I certainly fully support the objective at which the Bill of the noble Lord, Lord Craigton, is aiming. I should like to associate myself with what he said about the efforts made in another place on this Bill.
It is never easy to get a Private Member's Bill through and although your Lordships' House has passed Bills in previous Sessions which would have introduced some controls on zoos—particularly Bills which were introduced in this House by my noble friends Lord Janner and Lord Wynne-Jones—another place has never seen fit to take on those excellent measures and pass them into law when it should have done. It is to the great credit of those who are involved in this Bill that they managed to get it through another place.
It would also be right to say to the noble Lord, Lord Craigton, how much I am aware of the enormous amount of effort and time that he has devoted to this enterprise over a great many years. Without someone prepared to devote that time, with that expertise and the wide range of contacts, and who was in a position not to be seen as partisan by any particular interest, I do not think that we would be discussing a Bill of this sort today. Certainly all those who are interested in the welfare of animals in zoos and in the good running of zoos have very great cause to be grateful to the noble Lord for all his efforts.
I think that it is important to look upon this Bill as a first step. As the noble Lord, Lord Craigton, said, if this Bill becomes law we shall, for the first time, be introducing some regulation, control, inspection and licensing to an area which has not been subject to these things at all. It is against that background that the provisions of the Bill need to be seen because certainly for my part, if I was sitting down to write an ideal licensing Bill for zoos, I should have gone a great deal further than the noble Lord has in his Bill.
I am tempted to make a usual Second Reading speech and go into some of the rights and wrongs of zoos, keeping animals in captivity, the benefits alleged and otherwise of zoological collections, and so on; but I am also aware that we shall be taking this Bill through your Lordships' House at considerable speed if the proposed timetable is kept to in order to get it back to another place early enough for it to be able to become law this Session (if it needs to go back to another place after amendments are made here). It seems to me that I should avoid the temptation to talk about the sort of things that one is meant to talk about on Second Reading, and instead go into a little bit more detail; first, hopefully to elicit some response from the noble Earl, Lord Avon, today, or, if not today, 30 during the rest of this week, or from the noble Lord, Lord Craigton, depending on who feels most able to answer my points, so that, if possible, I can avoid tabling amendments at the Committee stage or at least if I do put down amendments on these points, everyone will know what particular points I intend to raise.
First, I should like to give a particular welcome to the provisions in Clause 5(3)(b) about the keeping of records. Of course, this is something which all well-run zoos will already do; they not only keep the records but they publish them in their annual reports so that the information is available to the public. It is excellent that this is to be made part of the conditions of a licence and that it is included in the Bill.
My first question is to ask whether these conditions, which are listed in Clause 5(3)(a), (b), (c) and so on, will be mandatory; in other words, do conditions relating to these particular points have to be included in a licence, or are they simply discretionary? Clause 5(3) begins by saying:Any licence under this Act may be granted subject to …the following conditions, and for the life of me I cannot understand why that word there is "may" rather than "shall".
The things that are listed—precautions against escape, the records which I have mentioned, insurance against liability for damage—seem to me to be three examples of things which any zoo which has any right to keep any animals in it at all must be doing now, and would have to be doing under the provisions of the Bill. I would hope that either those conditions are in fact going to be mandatory or the Secretary of State will make them so, which he has powers to do later in the Bill, or that we could agree to change the wording of Clause 5(3) so that it is clear that a licence shall contain those particular provisions.
To go back, and quickly, through a number of minor points, Clause 2 seems to me to list a number of things in subsection (2) which an owner, or somebody who is going to run a zoo, must give details of when they apply for a licence; including the kinds of animal that are going to be kept; the approximate numbers, and so on. What this does not say is something which the noble Lord, Lord Craigton, mentioned in his opening speech, and that is that the prospective zoo operator will have access to veterinary advice. Nor is there any reference that I could see in Clause 2 to the security of any proposed enclosures. Given recent experience and the general need to ensure that dangerous wild animals are kept in secure premises, that seems to me to be something that could be mentioned in Clause 2, and I wonder why it is not.
Turning to Clause 3, I understand that an assurance was given in another place that, among those persons who are going to be consulted under Clause 3(2)(d), national voluntary animal welfare organisations will be included. I hope that we can have that assurance repeated today. If not, it seems to me that the wording could be clearer. I am not clear, for example, that a voluntary organisation such as the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals is really a national institution, much as those concerned with it might like to think that to be the case. I cannot understand why the word "institution" is used there rather than "organisation", or something similar, which I 31 should have thought would be the usual word in other legislation.
It seems to me odd that in Clause 4(3) "may" is used. The local authority in this case can refuse to grant a licence for a zoo if they are not satisfied with a number of things. These seem so basic that it should be mandatory on the local authority not to grant a licence. Indeed, in an earlier draft of the Bill, that was the case. I should welcome some comment from one of the two noble Lords opposite as to why Clause 4(3) has not remained as a mandatory provision so that the local authority have to refuse a licence if, for example, somebody has been convicted of an offence under a number of Acts of Parliament. I noted with interest that the Wildlife and Countryside Act is not listed there. Whether this signals a decision by the Government to drop the legislation and bring in a new and better Bill I do not know, but I look forward to hearing what the noble Earl, Lord Avon, has to say about that.
On Clause 5 I have already referred to the question of including conditions in the licence about the escape of animals, and records, and so on. Clause 5(3)(b), which refers to the keeping of records, does not include any provision for records to be kept about the transfer of animals. I imagine that there are a number of organisations running zoos which have more than one set of premises and will be transferring animals from one to the other. I wondered why the provision had not been made for records to be kept of such transfers, which seems to be an important matter about which records should be kept.
Looking at the question of inspections, I am unhappy about the extension of the period of notice from, I think it was, seven days to now 28 in the draft of the Bill that we have. The noble Lord, Lord Craigton, referred to these major inspections as "spit and polish inspections". I wondered whether that was actually what was going to happen. With 28 days' notice a zoo would have a lot of time in which to tidy things up and move animals, and change things around, before the major inspection took place. I appreciate that there can be inspections taking place on a more informal basis, but it still seems to me to be a fairly long period of time of notice before the major inspections.
On inspections, I am unhappy at the moment—and it may be because I do not adequately understand the procedures set out in the Bill—about what happens after an inspection has taken place and recommendations have been made. First, I do not understand why in Clause 10(5) the inspectors only give advice on the keeping of records, but can make recommendations on improvements designed to bring features of the zoo up to normal standards. I should have thought that they ought to be able to make recommendations about the keeping of records as well as making recommendations about other matters.
Then, having made recommendations, the only thing that I can see happening is under Clause 17(1)(a):The local authority may … revoke a licence",if recommendations made as a result of an inspection are not complied with. But there is nothing in the Bill which says that the local authority shall act on the inspector's recommendations. The inspector's report 32 has to go to the zoo. It does not then say that the zoo shall have a certain period of time in which to implement the recommendations, otherwise the provisions in Clause 17 come into effect. I would find it helpful if one of the two noble Lords opposite could give me an idea of how they see the system working if the inspectors have made a series of recommendations about changes, let us say, in the size of enclosures, or the type of perimeter fencing for enclosures, or something of that sort, and where that procedure is laid out in the Bill.
My final worry is about Clause 14, the dispensation for particular zoos. I can understand the desire to not burden small zoos, or collections of one or a very small number of species, with the full-scale, full rigours, as it were, of the inspection system which the Bill will introduce for other zoos. But my worry is that I think all of us would agree that there are a number of zoos where there have been some quite appalling abuses, and that very often these have been small zoos rather than the largest collections. Inevitably small zoos get visited by fewer members of the public, there is less likelihood of people bringing forward complaints, and there is less public check on what is happening. I would also say that I think that some small zoos and collections of one or a small number of species represent some of the best zoos in the country, so I am certainly not making any general comment about this, but it seems to me that the small zoos probably contain the very worst as well as the very best, and I therefore do not see why a general dispensation has been allowed for.
It would be helpful to have some assurance from the noble Earl, Lord Avon, about the sort of circumstances in which the Secretary of State will exercise his discretion—because it has to be the Secretary of State—to give this sort of dispensation, and whether there will be some procedures so that for the very worst zoos—which many people hope will either have to change dramatically or cease trading once the Bill becomes law—there will be some check rather than any blanket dispensation given to that sort of operation.
The final question, again directed at the Government, that I have is about Clause 9; the Secretary of State's standards. This was referred to by the noble Lord, Lord Craigton, as covering standards about the management of zoos and the animals in them, and the Secretary of State will specify standards of modern zoo practice. I am not so much concerned about what standards of modern zoo practice the Secretary of State will be setting, but what sort of field these standards will cover. It would be important for Parliament to have had some rather clearer statement than has been provided so far, certainly in another place, about the areas of operation that these standards will cover. Will they, for example, cover questions such as the numbers of animals kept in enclosures, the desirability of animals being kept in social groups, and the need for certain types of enclosures for particular animals? For example, some animals like primates need a great deal of opportunity for activity in their enclosures.
Will those kinds of things be covered by the Secretary of State's standards? Will there be standards relating to the quantity and quality of food, the frequency and type of veterinary inspections of zoos, 33 the degree of access to veterinary advice, and hospital treatment, as well as the important question which the noble Lord, Lord Craigton, raised, of disposing of the carcases of animals and of the importance of conducting a proper post mortem so that the zoo knows the cause of death of the particular animal and has a record of it?
There are a number of other matters one could think of which should be covered by the standards, and I hope that before the Bill leaves your Lordships' House, if not today, we could have some guidance from the noble Earl, Lord Avon, about what the department sees the standards containing. I appreciate that this proposal was not in the original draft of the Bill—it was inserted during the Bill's passage through another place—but I hope that by now the department has had sufficient time to give thought to the matter and to be able to give us more information.
I am not asking for a draft of the standards, although obviously that would be the most desirable information to have, and indeed in normal circumstances Parliament would insist on having it, but we appreciate that this is a Private Member's Bill and, if we had the paragraph headings from the Government before the Bill leaves this House, that would at least give us some idea of the scope of this very important code of practice, which is, I imagine, the way in which it will operate.
I reiterate our welcome for the Bill, but I must raise the question of timing. As I understand it, the Bill must be back in another place in the comparatively near future, which is why we are intending to take future stages of the Bill rather more quickly than usual. That, understand, is caused by the Government's refusal to give some assurance that, having got this far, the Bill will if it gets it Second Reading today, reach the statute book. That seems to be putting this House in particular in a quite impossible position. In effect, the Government are saying to us, "If you amend the Bill in any way, we cannot guarantee that it will go through, or even that there will be time for it to be considered in another place. What is more, you must take the Bill at an extraordinarily fast pace, although we now have an overspill in the autumn and therefore plenty of time for your Lordships to consider the matter at a reasonable pace, because, again, the Government will not give any guarantee that they will ensure, first, that the Bill can be adequately considered here and, then, that our amendments, if any, can be adequately considered in another place.
I know that my noble friend Lord Houghton wishes to refer to this matter, so I will leave it there. However, I would press the Government very strongly to think about this issue again, to say to your Lordships' House that it will be possible to amend the Bill and to ensure that it can then be considered sensibly by another place and not simply lost because we found something in it that we wanted to change. That does not seem to me to be treating this House with the respect your Lordships are normally accustomed to demand from any Government, nor treating the Parliamenary process with very great respect, and I therefore hope the Government will reconsider the matter.
I have no doubt that the Bill will receive a Second Reading today. It has from my noble friends and me our warmest support. I hope we can get it through 34 before the end of the Session, if necessary with amendments being made here.
§ 4.44 p.m.
§ Lord Beaumont of Whitley
My Lords, we owe a large debt to the noble Lord, Lord Craigton, for introducing the Bill into your Lordships' House and for the immense amount of work he has put into the subject over a period of years. There are, of course, many others who have put a great deal into it too, not least in another place recently, and we should express our gratitude to them.
Looking round your Lordships' House today, and at the speakers' list, it looks like a replay in miniature of the Wildlife and Countryside Bill of sad memory. I thought the suggestion of the noble Lord, Lord Melchett, that we might have that over again made the noble Earl, Lord Avon, turn white as he sat on the Government Front Bench. Certainly I could not greet that suggestion with any great enthusiasm. However, we have some changes, and I am sure we all look forward to the maiden speech of the noble Baroness, Lady Gardner of Parkes. Certainly from these Benches we think she is more usefully employed in your Lordships' House than fighting Liberals in the West Country, so we are particularly pleased to see her here.
We welcome the Bill in principle. It is long overdue and it has been long in gestation. It was fully debated in the Commons, not least in terms of the part played there by my honourable friend Mr. Stephen Ross, and a number of reasonable compromises were reached. It is not my purpose today to go into the details of the various amendments, not least because I find myself, not for the first time with this type of measure, in considerable agreement with the noble Lord, Lord Melchett, who covered to the ground in a speech of moderate length; mine will be rather shorter, so perhaps between us our speeches will average out at something quite reasonable.
On the whole, I tend to go along with the suggestions made by the RSPCA for strengthening the Bill. The real need is that it should be made a bit tougher and tighter, and it would seem that the obligation is all that way. In particular, I pick out two clauses which, because the noble Lord, Lord Melchett, covered them, I do not propose to cover in detail. The question about records being mandatory is extremely important. The noble Lord, Lord Melchett, and the noble Lord, Lord Craigton, asked the Government whether they regarded the clause as at present drafted as being mandatory. It seems to me that it certainly is not, and that that is a real gap which should be filled. The second subject which we particularly need to look at again is the exclusion of small zoos and the conditions appertaining to them.
I await with particular interest the reply of the Government to the final question posed by the noble Lord, Lord Melchett; it would be a most unsatisfactory state of affairs if we were in the position, as a number of people have said—it has not been said necessarily in this debate but the matter has been raised by a number of people outside—of not being able to amend the Bill for fear of losing it. The time is long overdue for the Government to think about a procedure for dealing with Bills which reach this sort of stage at this time in the 35 Session. It is not uncommon, and very often useful Private Members' Bills introduced either here or in another place—Bills which are not of basic contention—are lost; sometimes they are lost year after year. Or they are passed here and fail to find a Private Member sponsor in another place and then when they come here, having found one at last (as is the case with this Bill), they are in danger of getting killed; or almost worse, we are not able to make improvements or amendments, which most people think are necessary, for fear of losing them. This is a most unhappy and unsatisfactory situation which demands a strong constitutional examination, and I commend that to the Government.
Many of us have ambivalent feelings about zoos. In fact, I should not be surprised if everyone in your Lordships' Chamber did not have ambivalent feelings about zoos. We dislike the unnatural surroundings. We rather dislike the whole idea of keeping wild animals in captivity. But we enjoy the pleasure of seeing wild animals, which otherwise we would not see, and we enjoy the educational value, too. There are all kinds of reasons why zoos give much pleasure to a great many people and provide a certain amount of necessary education, not least in these days when many people in this country are out of touch with almost all animals except dogs and cats. But, whatever the balance of our ambivalence between the good and the bad regarding zoos, there is one thing that is entirely intolerable—and that is a bad zoo. A bad zoo is an offence to God and man, and therefore even if we are not able to improve the Bill further, we certainly must welcome it, as we on these Benches do.
§ 4.51 p.m.
§ Baroness Gardner of Parkes
My Lords, most of us have very happy memories of a childhood visit to the zoo, and I am no exception in that respect, but I think it particularly appropriate that today I should be making my maiden speech on this Bill, since on my first visit to London I came specifically to see the zoo. Many other people might say exactly the same, but few will have travelled 12,000 miles to do so. In 1937 my mother embarked on what was then a very long sea voyage from Australia and she was persuaded to bring the two youngest of her large family with her, so that we could see the newly-opened penguin pool in Regents Park Zoo. On the way back to Australia we visited every zoo en route. My interest in, and enthusiasm for, zoos have never waned, and I live close enough to Regents Park Zoo to keep in fairly regular touch with what is going on there from the point of view of a member of the public, not at all from that of a zoologist.
Some aspects of the Bill give me cause for concern. I do not support the choice of local authorities as the licensing body. I spent 10 years on Westminster City Council. I sat on licensing committees there. I well remember the confusion that arose and the time that was spent over street traders' licences; after many hours spent on the matter we decided not to grant any licences. Most of those people one sees selling fruit and vegetables in Oxford Street are unlicensed, and yet in all the years that I had seen them there I imagined that they had licences.
36 At one time I was chairman of the committee responsible for the public health inspectorate, and that taught me quite a lot. There were demands and pressures from the public for constant inspection of everything. I was pleased to see that in the Bill there is a provision—Clause 19(3)—covering the offence of obstructing an inspector. I remember an instance of a public health inspector attempting to take a food sample. Someone rushed away with it and flushed it down a toilet to prevent him from doing so, and we had no resourse to law in relation to that matter.
Under Clause 3(2)(f) and (g) almost anyone could demand inspections, and I believe that this could involve considerable unnecessary time and expense. I strongly support the point that was made by, I believe, the noble Lord, Lord Craigton, that it is very important that the people involved should be bona fide objectors and should have good grounds for wanting an inspection carried out. This, too, is an area where one must be very careful. There is a parellel here with my experience on the Greater London Council in relation to licensing music and dancing. We have discovered that one determined person who intends to be an objector can, conscientiously and constantly, set himself up as representing all kinds of residents' associations and can go on appearing in different guises. This ends up by the incurring of a great deal of expense without any real necessity for it.
I know that Westminster City Council has considered informally the fact that it would be responsible for the licensing of Regents Park Zoo, and really it would prefer not to be. The council is concerned that Clause 14, which deals with exemptions, allows exemptions only on the grounds of a zoo being too small, and not on the grounds of a zoo being too large or of the matter so involving expertise that a local authority cannot cope with it. This is one of the worries in the Westminster Council. It is felt that to appoint a sufficient number of people with the expertise necessary to deal with the licence would not be at all inexpensive. On the other hand, the council is perfectly happy to maintain a register of the notices that are served. If there was a central licensing authority, the public would still be able to inspect any objections at the local council.
Clause 4(2) of the Bill appears to be simple and clear, but to me it is far from being so. It covers the conditions under which a licence may be refused if the authority is satisfied,that the establishment or continuance of the zoo would injuriously affect the health or safety of persons living in the neighbourhood of the zoo, or seriously affect the preservation of law and order".At the Greater London Council we have similar provisions for the licensing of late-night public music and dancing, but we find that whenever anyone makes his first application for a licence it ends up being granted because one cannot prove that any of the feared nuisances would actually occur. Therefore the first licence is granted. Afterwards an applicant comes back for a renewal and says, "We have spent so much money—you can't possibly ignore this capital expense. You can't put our livelihood at risk. You must renew". Usually such cases are decided at public hearings with three elected councillors sitting, and the councillors feel that they are placed in a position where it is very difficult to refuse a licence. 37 Surely that is not the intention of this Bill. Surely the Bill is intended to protect people and to protect the animals in the zoo.
I think it very important that your Lordships should realise that a possible consequence of a Bill of this kind would be the holding of a large number of public hearings. Under the licensing legislation to which I have referred—actually it is the Local Government Act—there is no obligation to hold public hearings, but public pressure mounts to such an extent that elected councillors feel that the only way to satisfy it is to hold a public hearing so that justice can be seen to be done. This situation has developed into a vast enterprise, with over 1,600 applications a year and about 100 public hearings. According to what we have been told, there are about only 150 zoos in the whole of the country. If in the local authority to which I have referred it is not possible to appoint adequate expertise in order to deal with the licences—and hundreds are being dealt with—how will other local authorities be able to develop the necessary expertise? A local authority might deal with only one licence of this type and never have to deal with another. I feel that licensing should be carried out centrally, with a panel of experts operating the scheme.
I was interested to read the requirement in Clause 8(2) about those involved having experience of animals. That impressed me very much. When one Sunday morning I went to the zoo, as a dentist I was fascinated to see treatment being given to Guy, the gorilla. Had that case involved a human being, it could have been handled simply in my surgery, or that of any other dentist, but with Guy it was a major, difficult task. He had to have a general anaesthetic and his sheer size and bulk meant that he needed expert attention. The point I want to make is that the operation called for special expertise. Certainly Guy was very bad in that he ate sweets, and so perhaps there was a comparison here with cases involving humans. But in Guy's case the treatment involved required real expertise.
I think elected councillors are subject to too many local pressures and too much electoral influence. I also think that even with the best intention they may not be capable of deciding whether standards are being met, as laid down in Clause 9. As to the inspection clauses, as I said Westminster Council are not keen to undertake the duties in relation to a zoo such as Regents Park. That would be a very large expense; and although the Bill believes this would be totally recoverable, there is nothing to guarantee that. But the informal inspections, I think, are probably very valuable because, as was said by, I think, Lord Melchett, informal inspections mean that nobody has been able to put their house in order. But I think the other inspections, with the notice, are also valuable, because if such an inspection had the effect of putting someone's house in order, then surely that is worthwhile.
Above all, it is important to keep down the cost of this Bill. Zoo attendances are falling everywhere. At the present moment, in Regents Park it is £3.50 for adult admission and £1.50 for a child. I have always been very keen to see a kiwi, and I went to Regents Park to see the kiwi in 1961, but sadly it was in a terminal condition and no visitors were allowed. 38 So I was delighted to see that two of these famous birds had been presented to the zoo last year, and I should like to quote from the annual report of the Zoological Society, which said:The birds are housed in the nocturnal section of the Clore Pavilion where, though rather elusive, they can with perseverance and luck be seen".I have had three unsuccessful attempts so far, and I have decided that "rather elusive" is the typical British understatement. My only hope is for luck; and my perseverence would be sorely tried if I were paying £3.50 every time I went to have another look.
For parents and two young it costs at the moment £10 to go to that zoo, plus their fares to get there. So families feel obliged to make it into a really long day, to try to see everything in order to get value for their money. This is no way to endear zoos to children, and to have them grow up with the same degree of affection that people of my generation have. I believe that science and research are very important, and I know that Lord Craigton stresses this side of the matter; but I think the public are very important, too, and the zoos are there for the benefit of the public. If we bring in any scheme which is going to add to the already vast expense, then we will find it counter-productive. We will have fewer people going to the zoos, and this, in turn, will damage the zoos themselves. So I favour a licensing scheme; but I should like to keep it simple, I should like to keep it central, and I should like to have it operated by one authority with the expertise to deal with this matter.
§ 5.3 p.m.
§ Lord Clifford of Chudleigh
My Lords, it is most apposite that to me should fall the honour of congratulating the noble Baroness on her maiden speech. It is apposite because 10 years earlier (I regret to say) I also arrived from Australia. It is apposite also in that my grandfather, who was then in your Lordships' House and was a member of the Zoological Society, took me off—it was March. I was in shorts and I had just come from an Australian summer—to the zoo. It was very cold. I hope we shall hear from the noble Baroness often, and I should like to congratulate her again on her maiden speech.
With great respect to the noble Lord, Lord Craigton, I must be honest and say that I think this is an un-satisfactory Bill. If there are a few bad zoos, they could be dealt with in a far less bureaucratic fashion. As I understand it, the National Federation of Zoological Gardens of Great Britain and Ireland and the National Zoological Association of Great Britain, which I gather are about to merge, carry out their own inspections; and they probably do it far more efficiently than the inspections proposed here, for one simple reason, and that is that they have them carried out by people who are experts on zoo management—and there is no mention of that in this Bill. In addition, of course—and this comes to what the noble Baroness said—they do it without the proposed cost, which would put out of business many good zoos as well as the few bad ones which, I think we are all agreed, we want to put out of business.
This Bill lays on local authorities the onus to inspect licensed zoos. There are hundreds of local authorities, or even thousands, and they are all different in make-up 39 and wisdom. What a dog's breakfast you are going to get from that! They have not got the expertise, and their views will differ from year to year with the swing of the political pendulum in the locality. There will be no chance of getting a uniform standard throughout the country. As I say, with the ebb and flow of local politics a zoo could get a licence one year and, in the three-yearly inspection that follows, probably lose it just because somebody had lobbied a councillor.
Another thing to remember is that in this country we have more animal cranks per square mile than anywhere else in the world, and they are the people who are all the time at their local councillors and other representatives. Someone comes along and complains about the smell, complains about the noise or complains about this or that, and if they have "pull" with the local councillors you can see what will happen. There must be many of your Lordships who have come up against local planners from time to time, with their more than adequate powers already under the various planning Acts. If you argue that it would be impossible for a centralised body to control the whole country, then why not let the councils do the licensing but the major decisions be taken by those on the Secretary of State's list? But, of course, you will have to improve that list.
It sounds fine to talk about a set of standards. Standards are improving all the time. But how many different species of animals, birds, fish, insects, reptiles, et cetera, are there? Millions? It would be a brave man who would say that he knows the right standard of housing, temperature and all the rest of it for the lot. If you try to lay down standards by definition, you will freeze them where they are and you will prevent progress. I would hate to have to recruit a team to run a zoo under the limits of Clause 4. The best people with animals and birds who I know are our local keepers, but I do not know one of them I would be allowed to employ under this Bill. I must warn my keeper, by the way, not to let anybody visit his excellent aviary, because he will be for the high jump under this.
It is this definition of zoos that I am a bit worried about. What about those of us who open our stately homes? I have a couple of donkeys, I have some geese and duck, and my wife has some free-flying budgerigars in the garden. Can somebody who has got it in for me come along and accuse me of being a zoo, and then get me put out of business? I do not think the definition is entirely satisfactory. Then there is all this business of periods and conditions under Clause 5. Surely it is big brother run wild. Clause 5(3)(a) brings to mind the damage caused by coypu and mink which were released when the owners could no longer get their fodder at the beginning of the last war.
If this Bill is enacted and there are many zoos, good and bad, put out of business, what are we going to do? Are the noble Lord and his friends going to have hundreds of marksmen ready to shoot the animals or will they be left to run wild? The coypu and the mink are quite small; but what if you have a few elephants and so on? I think you must be careful not to put financial burdens on the small zoos or the inspectors will put them out of business. You have only to live in my neck of the woods to have ample evidence of the 40 damage to local wildlife by the mink. We are one of the worst areas in the country in this respect. Those from East Anglia will know the cost of the coypu.
§ Lord Melchett
My Lords, the noble Lord will recall that in the Wildlife and Countryside Bill it will be an offence to release wild animals in the wild without a licence.
§ Lord Clifford of Chudleigh
; My Lords, I thank the noble Lord for that intervention. It bears out the question I was asking earlier; whether the movers of this Bill will have enough slaughtermen available to get rid of all the animals that will be, so to speak, made redundant if the zoos are put out of business by the financial burdens. Under Clause 8, the Secretary of State's list must contain people with experience of zoo management, if it is to work at all. But I see no reference to them in the lists we have had so far. Most vets can deal with cats, dogs, horses or cattle; but when you come to these specialised animals you will not find vets to deal with them. You can go on for hours asking questions about specialist treatment on giraffes or anything else. Section 9, so far as I can make out, is impossible to operate owing to the multitudinous number and variety of standards. Clause 10 deals with inspectors and inspection. Inspectors must not be appointed locally. For reasons I have already given, I consider it would cause too much trouble in any village to have a local person coming in to take judgment on something on which people will be at each other's throats. Anyway, the "3+2+1" formula is too cumbersome and expensive.
Talking about local planners, I can give you an example of an analogous case, but nothing to do with zoos. A neighbour of mine who bought a property of which the park, like mine, had been designed by Capability Brown, went into Exeter, found the original designs and copied them. He came back and decided that he would plant a small coppice where it had disappeared and take down the coppice which had grown up since. When he took down that one, some interfering local complained locally. Up came the planner and said, "What do you mean by taking that down?" He said, "I want to make it more like Capability Brown planted it"—to which came the reply from this person with powers of life and death, "Who's 'e?"
Those with experience of the working of the Health and Safety at Work Act asked the NFU and the CLA in the country. One knows what an expensive pastime it is; but we do not have to pay for those inspections. Why pick on zoos? I think the relevant part of the Health and Safety at Work Act should be repealed and transferred to something like a zoo licensing authority. Clauses 13 and 14 speak for themselves. They are further time-wasting, Big Brother-like operations. Clause 15 makes a field day of putting extra burdens on zoos and adds to bureaucracy. This is not the stage where your Lordships put points to improve the Bill; but to Clause 4(4)(c) one must add the words, "to the knowledge of the proprietor"; otherwise it is not being fair.
As far as penalties (Clause 19) are concerned, I know a zoo, well-run, which made a profit last year of £37. Supposing they got a £500 fine, that would fix that 41 zoo. Clause 21(1) interprets "animals". How extraordinary! Will the Minister's list include experts in all these animals. Where will you find a chap to inspect a butterfly farm or perhaps the new leader of the Greater London Council could be co-opted to inspect toads—or is it newts he breeds? That is what I think will be the difficulty; that of finding people who can not only lay down standards but also know what they are talking about. I can understand those who believe that no animals should be kept in captivity, but that is no longer practical politics. Zoos have meant the saving of many species which would otherwise have died out. I do not want to labour the educational point. That has been mentioned. But let us bear it in mind. I think that this Bill ought to be replaced by a far more practical one. At best, it is taking a sledgehammer to crack a nut.
§ 5.17 p.m.
§ Lord Houghton of Sowerby
My Lords, I join other noble Lords in warm congratulations to the noble Baroness, Lady Gardner, to whose maiden speech we listened, enchanted by her survey of administration problems in a Bill of this kind. There, I thought, was the voice of practical experience of local authorities trying to be "jacks of all trades and masters of none". Local authorities are given many different tasks which require considerable expertise and experience and probably we pause too infrequently before imposing more burdens upon them. I will come back to that later; but I am sure that the noble Baroness knows a good deal more about other subjects than many of us in terms of practical experience and that she knows a lot about subjects besides zoos. We shall be glad to have the benefit of her experience in other debates. As a citizen, and ratepayer of the Westminster County Council, I had a personal interest in the noble Baroness's ability and capacity for reviewing the problems of an important city authority.
The noble Lord, Lord Craigton, is to be congratulated and applauded for his diligence and work on this Bill and our thanks go to Mr. Blackburn in another place for his zeal and application to the intricacies of this problem. Probably unfamiliar with them as he was, he applied his mind, I think, with great effect in piloting this Bill through another place. Before coming to the Bill, I want to get something off my chest. I want to follow some of the remarks made by my noble friend Lord Melchett and the noble Lord, Lord Beaumont of Whitley, about the ridiculous position in which your Lordships are put on this Bill this afternoon. It is time that we expressed more than dissatisfaction; I think that we should express annoyance with the way in which this procedure of Private Members' Bills is leading to these quite impossible situations from time to time. Talk about public expenditure! The amount of money that is spent in this building and elsewhere on Private Members' Bills which are frustrated, obstructed and go into limbo is nothing short of disgraceful. After an enormous amount of time and trouble spent upon them they have no fruitful conclusion in terms of legislation at all.
When a Bill is selected by a Member in another place in the ballot for Private Members' Bills, and he gets the Bill through another place, he ought at least to be assured that even though your Lordships' House 42 have amendments to make to that Bill, when it goes back to another place it shall not be lost through lack of time.
When I was in the Government some years ago we resolved this problem to our own satisfaction and that of a great many other people. We said that any Bill that gets a Second Reading under its own steam shall not fall through lack of time if it is a Bill upon which there is widespread concern and evidence of a public desire for reform or change. We took through Parliament some Bills which were extremely controversial at that time which no Government would have wanted to bring forward. No Government will touch abortion; no Government will touch divorce; no Government will touch homosexuality. Those Bills had to come forward for legislation through the initiative and persistence of Private Members.
Unless Governments give time for Parliament to reach a conclusion on important matters of public interest, then the intentions of Parliament can be frustrated for year after year. I constantly complain about legislation by lottery. That is only the beginning of this tiresome exercise. If one has a Bill which comes in the first six or seven in the ballot in another place one will probably have a Friday upon which that Bill will be the first order of the day. There is a chance of a decision by the House of Commons to give that Bill a Second Reading. Thereafter it goes into the hazards of obstruction and frustration and the ability of those who know the ropes of parliamentary procedure to beat it at the final post.
This is a system which should come under serious review. What is our position this afternoon? We have a Bill which has come up from another place. We are hurrying on; we are virtually conducting Committee stage debates on the Second Reading of the Bill because we are all harassed by the thought of lack of time. Your Lordships should know (if you do not already know) that this Bill must get back to another place by Friday week unless it is to fall like many other Private Members' Bills have fallen in the past even when they are within touching distance of the finishing post.
The number of days allotted in another place to the completion of Private Members' Bills is running out. We have to have the Committee stage this coming Friday; it has to be back in another place by the Friday after that. This means, as my noble friends have been saying, that we are virtually precluded from amending this Bill without putting it in peril. If it goes back to another place with amendments it can be put at risk by the prolongation of the debate there upon whether another place will accept the Lord's amendments or not.
I ask your Lordships to look at the concluding stages of the Third Reading of this Bill in another place and see the scramble that went on at the end of the day to get it through to beat the clock. Indeed, as the clock was ticking away a Member rose to speak obviously with the intention of talking the Bill out at the final moment of the Third Reading of this Bill. And we call this parliamentary procedure! We tell the country that it must bring itself up-to-date; it must computerise itself; it must be modern and improve methods. We must get out of our lethargy. We are in a competitive world; we have a living to earn. If 43 Britain does not wake up, we shall go down the drain. Here we are conducting our affairs as if we are in the middle of the 19th century. Expense notwithstanding we go on as if this was the be-all and end-all of the democratic process. We must be the laughing stock of the world having a legislature which conducts its affairs on methods which were only appropriate in the leisurely days of the past century.
Your Lordships' hands are virtually tied behind your backs. We have heard criticisms from the noble Baroness on administration; we have heard criticisms from the noble Lord, Lord Clifford of Chudleigh, on various aspects of this Bill. My noble friend Lord Melchett and the noble Lord, Lord Beaumont, were asking questions which we want cleared up before the Bill finally goes through your Lordships' House. If we begin to alter it, we may well be in trouble. I am sorry to be so emphatic about this, but having lived with this problem for so long in another place and seen it operate in this place I think that a message of grave dissatisfaction should go to the Government.
Another side to this story is that if we introduce a Private Members' Bill in this House there is no obligation on another place to find any time for it down there. If the noble Lord, Lord Craigton, had had to introduce his Bill as a Private Member's Bill in your Lordships' House, and if Mr. Blackburn had not taken this matter up in the House of Commons (so that he started where it really matters), Lord Craigton's Bill could have passed every stage in this House, be sent down to the other place and be completely ignored.
Did I not have a Bill myself on pet animals? It has been down there since March. Nobody has taken it up. It gets read over every Friday—Private Members' days. Some anonymous "nit" on the Government Front Bench calls "Object" and down it goes.
§ Lord Craigton
My Lords, that is what happened twice to Lord Janner's Bill in 1975. He saw the Bill through every one of its stages and that is how it finished.
§ Lord Houghton of Sowerby
My Lords, that is almost a three line underlining of what I have been saying. There is no mutuality between the two Houses on Private Members' Bills. This is another very sad reflection upon our methods of doing business. I conclude my remarks by saying in quite short terms that I think that when a Private Member's Bill has gone through all stages in another place and is sent up here for consideration, the Government might at least underwrite that Bill as regards time and allow Parliament to function. It is simply monstrous that one Member can get up and prevent Parliament from functioning at all unless the sponsors of the measure—whoever they may be—can get a Motion through that the question be put and apply the closure to the debate at the last minute of the last hour available for that Bill. That is enough on that.
Now, so far as the Bill is concerned, this problem of control and regulation of the use of animals is a serious one for all of us. It will grow as time goes on. Our community is on a crowded island with additional activities coming forward all the time; rising standards of affluence; mobility increased; public interest en- 44 lightened and excited on new visions; new experiences and new things to see; children today being given opportunities that no children of my generation could possibly have ever hoped for. All these have to be accommodated within the narrowing precincts of our growing population and our crowded conditions. I think that regulation is unavoidable.
One thing we have not heard about so far in this debate is circuses. They are next on the list: there is not the slightest doubt about that. There is far less to be said for circuses than there is for zoos, and zoos can arouse in many people—they do in me—the very thing that the noble Lord, Lord Beaumont, referred to; a kind of ambivalence. My prejudice is against animals kept in captivity. I think there is a great deal of useful work to be done on research, especially regarding endangered species, animal diseases, conservation and so on; and an enormous lot of useful work can be done only if one has the living species there for observation, for treatment and all the rest of it that is necessary, if you are to understand what you are dealing with.
But for public entertainment I think zoos are probably in decline. Some aspects of zoological gardens always appall me because they are put there expressly for the entertainment of the public. I dislike, for example, the "chimps' tea party" aspect of the zoological garden. I do not think animals should be put through the indignity of being asked to behave like human beings just to entertain a public who cannot understand an animal if it behaves like an animal. They always want to see an animal behave like a human beings in order to be able to understand it. That is the last way in which one can understand an animal. In fact, to look at people behaving like human beings is probably the least understandable way of studying human beings. Anyway, I think that aspect of zoological gardens is open to objection.
It may be that public taste in zoos is declining and that is why attendances are falling off and charges are being increased; but if we accept that some regulation, some supervision and some oversight is necessary, the question is: Who is going to do it? The local authorities are the nearest to hand. The zoos are in their areas and part of the local environment, and local citizens will have views about whether or not they are well conducted and whether or not they are acceptable to the community. To go to a central control in order to get the necessary standard of expertise has its dangers, not only in this field but in many others as well, and I think that we have to accept that local authorities must equip themselves for tasks they have been given. For that purpose they should be given adequate means for raising finance for the purpose.
We have got a dog problem. We have an urban problem of the control and discipline of the dogs in our society. I was chairman of the joint advisory committee on this subject. There is a proposal for dog wardens and for a dog warden service to be conducted by the local authorities. All this is in the pipeline. So more duties and responsibilities of this kind may come forward in the years to come.
I will not go over the ground that noble Lords have already gone over with regard to the Bill itself. Without going into the detail of it, I welcome the first opportunity of getting a Bill on the statute book to 45 regulate and license the conduct of zoos. That, as a beginning, is a desirable purpose of Parliament and my concluding words are that I think more and more human responsibility to the animal kingdom should become a major purpose of political and parliamentary life.
I had hoped for more from the Government than we have had so far in this Parliament on this subject of animal welfare. All three parties brought forward pledges about animal welfare in their manifestos. The Government have not much to show for that so far. They have not been interested in Bills that have already come forward and they have made no offer to ensure that this Bill survives the proceedings still to come in another place to enable it to be the subject of final judgment for legislative purposes by Parliament itself.
We shall have to follow this up another time. It will be another "penalty point" when we come to mark up how the Government have conducted themselves during their period of office. It has not been good enough. Probably Labour would not have been much better, but we are dealing with the Government—any Government—and we want to see more come out of government resources for animal welfare. It is a pity they did not father this Bill earlier and give us ample time to consider it here so that we could take pride in the work we do instead of scampering along in order to get this Bill back to another place while a good deal of Government trivia will occupy our time now and in the autumn.
§ 5.36 p.m.
§ Lord Fisher
My Lords, I should like to congratulate the noble Baroness, Lady Gardner, on an extremely clear exposition of two major difficulties concerning the Bill. I should like to congratulate her on her maiden speech and, more than that, on the way she delivered it. I suppose that age is catching up with me so that I cannot always hear as well as I should like, but I heard every word that she said and she expressed it so well that I understood it, which is a great thing.
Listening to the speeches today so far, I should like to join with everyone who has said that it is a shame this Bill has been rushed through. Amendments will have to be made in this House if it is to be workable. I must declare an interest in that my wife and I are the owners, administrators and builders of a zoo which we started in 1972 and opened in 1973. We have built it up over the past nine years. It is a country zoo which we call a wildlife park. It is devoted to animals and birds from the one-time vast Spanish empire in America. It has taken up all our time, and I should like to apologise to your Lordships for my resulting infrequent appearances in your Lordships' House. We are members of the National Federation of Zoological Societies of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, which is almost as long a name as that of the famous shipping line which runs from Southampton to Cowes—the South of England Steam Navigation Company of the Solent.
I have been involved at the last moment in trying to have some amendments introduced into this Bill which will make it less punitive towards existing zoo establishments. The Government have made some modifications in another place which help towards this end, 46 but the Bill in its present form will cripple most zoos with its administrative expenses which Clause 15(5) orders local authorities to recover in fees and charges made to zoos. Let me make it clear that my colleagues in zoos up and down the country wish for legislation for one reason or another, but this Bill has been produced largely without consultation with them, and certainly without taking into account their ideas. It is claimed that the zoos were in agreement with this Bill but I know of only one zoo which is.
The noble Lord, Lord Craigton, has been dealing with this Bill in one form or another for several years, as he has told us. His Bill has been taken up in another place and here it is returned to us in a vastly altered form. I know he is unhappy with the changes that have been made and he has said so in a letter to the chairman of the National Zoological Association. As chairman of the federation, he was worried about the financial burden to be placed on zoos. Let it be plainly understood that zoos will have tremendous expenses forced on them by this Bill in Clause 15(5) in order to cover the cost of Clause 2—that is the cost of putting in an application for a licence; Clause 10—that concerns the periodic inspections every three years; Clause 11, which provides for inspection when somebody drops a hat; Clause 12, which provides that if a hat is not dropped, inspection has to be made once a year; and Clause 18—that is the clause which allows for an appeal to a magistrates' court. I would ask your Lordships to remember that if the local authority engages a QC to put their case, it is the zoo which is going to pay that QC, under the provisions of Clause 15(5). These charges can be paid only at the expense of cutting the zoos' breeding programmes and educational facilities, both of which activities have been expanding to fill present needs, one for conservation and the other where education grants have been reduced in other places.
As to the possible costs, here is an example. A week ago today, the West of England's Zoological Society's establishment at Bristol was inspected by the federation's inspectors. There were two inspectors, one a zoo man and the other a zoo vet, and their recorder. They were there from 10.45 a.m. until 6 p.m., including a 45-minutes working lunch. They did one-quarter of the zoo. These, I must add, were new buildings put up since the last inspection, and the inspection was therefore very thorough. However, that was a small zoo, covering 11 acres, and only one quarter of it was covered in a day. How long would a full Clause 10 inspection take and what would that cost?
May I draw your Lordships. attention to another matter which has been repeatedly raised elsewhere? The zoos and the main progenitor of this Zoo Licensing (No. 2) Bill, the RSPCA, are at one in agreeing that the district councils are not the people to deal with licensing operators in 330 different ways, and that has been said again this afternoon. Licensing should be in the hands of the Secretary of State, and I shall endeavour to show why. He can apply one set of standards to the whole group. About two years ago, he took over responsibility for zoos and issued a statement expressing his pleasure. Yet now he appears to be passing the buck.
He is, in fact, involved directly under Clause 13 in licensing local authority zoos and, I presume, zoos 47 on land leased from local authorities and zoos supported from local authorities grants in aid. He is also involved directly under Clause 17(2), if a licence is to be revoked on grounds involving the care or treatment of animals. If the Secretary of State is responsible to this extent, why can he not grant the licences? We are told that that be must done by the district councils, but they certainly have no idea how they may do this, as is apparent from replies given by several chief executives when asked.
It has been suggested that the Bill should be administered in the same way as the Riding Establishments Act and the Pet Shops Act. The Sunday Times colour supplement had this to say on Sunday 28th June:There are 2,500 licensed riding stables in Britain, but because they are licensed by the local authority, they are not necessarily good. Many, in fact, have ponies in bad condition, disintegrating saddlery (which is highly dangerous) and poor instruction. 'In one place that I visited, only six of the 26 animals I looked at were fit to carry a saddle, let alone a rider too', Major Chilmaid of the BHS [British Horse Society] told me".A claim is made in the preamble that this Bill will have no effect on public service manpower, yet a local authority will, first, have to handle Clause 2, which deals with applications for a licence and refer to Clause 3, dealing with the consideration of applications for a licence. Secondly, it will have to consider Clause 2 under the terms of Clause 4, on the granting or refusal of a licence, and keep records of those licences under Clauses 5, 6 and 7, which cover the conditions, renewal and transfer of licences. Thirdly, records of inspections under Clause 10, 11 and 12 must be kept and of the necessary action taken, together with any appeals under Clause 18. Fourthly, Clause 14 will require records, inspections and decisions as to which establishments will be outside the scope of this Bill, or which should be excused the burden of either Clauses 10 or 11, or both, and of any appeals on those decisions by either party under Clause 18. Fifthly, Clauses 16 and 17, on power to alter and revoke licences, will require continual watch to be kept on all these actions to ensure their enforcement.
Who, in a local authority, will do this on existing manpower? The DoE might, since they already have a department dealing with exotic birds and animals. Since local authorities are involved, the Secretary of State, without additional manpower, will have to answer inquiries from 330 local authorities on the administration of these clauses. He will also have to licence local authority zoos under Clause 13 and, as I have already remarked, I hope he will include zoos in which local authorities must declare an interest, such as being a landlord or giving a zoo support, directly or indirectly.
The Secretary of State is also required to administer Clause 8, which deals with his consultation teams and inspection personnel; Clause 9, which deals with the setting up and supervision of a code of practice; Clause 10(6) on guidance in disagreements between inspectors and Clause 17(2) on the revocation of a licence on grounds involving the care or treatment of animals. In these five cases, the DoE, or the Secretary of State, must make decisions and see that they are put into practice using existing personnel. So before considering this Bill, I have drawn your Lordships' attention to what I consider to be two misleading 48 statements; first, that zoo people agree to the Bill in its present form, and, secondly, that no extra public manpower will be required to administer it.
May I consider some of the more important items in the Bill, with which the zoos are not happy? It has been said already this afternoon that the word "continuance" in Clause 3(2)(f) and Clause 4(2) allows existing zoos to be refused a licence for their operators—not for the zoos—even though those operators have run a zoo in that place for many years. A zoo may have planning permission and all the other permissions required, but its director, who must have been running a perfectly respectable zoo for many years, may be refused a licence on the allegation of anyone in the neighbourhood, presumably in direct conflict with the existing planning permission. The word "continuance" is surely open to abuse.
I presume that the zoo itself may not be closed, with the loss of employment, amenity, recreation and education for the visitors and the dispersal or destruction of its animals, since it could continue under a fresh director to whom the local authority felt they could issue a licence. The Secretary of State has been kind enough to alter Clause 8, after representations by the zoo directors, so that matters of animal welfare will be dealt with and inspections made by his nominees who will be familiar with zoo animals and zoo administration. For this change, and for others discussed at a meeting held two weeks ago. the zoo directors are most grateful.
Clause 10(4)(a) specifies that there shall be three appointees of the local authority on the inspection team. As they will not be dealing with zoo matters or animal matters, as those are the prerogative of the Secretary of State's list, why are they necessary? If they are inspecting under some other legislation, let them come at any time, as they are empowered to do under that legislation, and at the local authority's expense, but please do not include them in the zoo inspection team. I can assure your Lordships, from experience of an inspection, that there will be absolute chaos with different people inspecting different things at different times.
The federation's inspections are done by a zoo man and a zoo vet, accompanied by a recorder who is familiar with zoo terms. They follow a pro forma to simplify and regulate the different disciplines on which they are asked to report. I imagine that the Secretary of State's list members will be using a very similar technique. Clause 10(3) states that inspections will be made approximately every three years, which is very similar to the present routine of the federation's periodic inspections. The federation is making 12 inspections this year. It made 10 inspections last year and seven the year before that, and it has approximately 40 members. So it will be up to date with inspections if your Lordships pass this Bill.
Clauses 11 and 12 call for an annual inspection on each zoo and an inspection at any time upon the laying of information against a zoo director by anyone. The inspector will be a person "competent for the purpose". In another place in the debate on Third Reading on 12th June (Hansard, col. 693) it was clearly stated that this second inspection would be madeonly if there is an offence".49 Surely the inspection occurs to ascertain whether the licensed zoo director has committed an offence? Who pays, should no offence be discovered? It is still the zoo that pays. The zoo baiters and zoo haters (and there are many among the sponsors of this Bill) will have a field day, and the wretched Aunt Sally of a zoo will be milked of its reserve funds. To what end? To close the zoo. This is a totally unreasonable situation, which will apply to all zoos, good or bad. In their present form, and coupled with Clause 15(5), Clauses 11 and 12 are penal clauses. May I quote from the words of a right honourable gentleman in another place, again during the debate on the Third Reading (Hansard, col. 693):Why impose this unnecessary intrusion on people who behave properly? This provision seems to be designed to make it difficult for people to run their businesses in an orderly way and to create round them a nasty atmosphere of suspicion that they are basically unkind, careless, cruel people who keep animals without any regard for their proper welfare. I find that unacceptable.I heartily endorsed what the right honourable gentleman Mr. Peyton, said.
This question of expense leads on to Clause 15(5), which orders local authorities to recover all their costs in connection with this Bill from those they charge, that is the zoos. I have drawn your Lordships' attention to the extra work that a local authority will be saddled with as a result of Clauses 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 10, 11, 12, 14, 16, 17 and 18. Who is going to pay for this extra work, and when? Will it be included in a lump sum charged to zoos for their annual inspection? Could someone please tell me, so that we may have an idea of the size of the bill? It was kindly said that the bill could be paid in instalments, annually, but could someone please tell me so that we may have an idea? Clause 14 will itself cover a huge number of people; it will cover anyone with a fish tank which can be seen by the public, and we have heard about that already.
Clause 15(5) is the really killing clause and it gives local authorities the chance to "knock off" zoos and all the animals in them. In fact the clause orders local authorities to do so by bleeding the zoos dry financially. What a temptation to redevelop and bring in a higher rateable value—or am I being too innocent or too cynical? Zoos deserve some sort of protection from the officious crank, the ignorant but kindly, and—above all—from the nine-till-five conservationist. The word "continuance" in Clauses 3(2)(f) and 4(2) should be deleted. Neither do I see the necessity for including three local authority nominees under Clause 10(4)(a)(i). Zoos deserve to be allowed to carry on their business with the minimum of interference. Once the operator has been granted a licence then inspections under Clauses 11 and 12 should be kept only to those inspections listed in the conditions attached to the licence, and the invitation to mischief contained in Clause 11 should be cut out.
Directors do not mind having their zoos inspected; every ticket I sell is an invitation to any individual to inspect my zoo and to put a comment in the comment box, which will be heeded. All the great zoo directors I have met all over the world have been unanimous in saying that they all enjoy visiting other zoos because, however much one thinks one knows, in every zoo there is always something new to learn. This legislation is more destructive than creative; it brings an 50 entirely new and somewhat unwilling set of people into zoo administration—people who have no interest in zoos or in animals. It makes zoos a political toy for the local electorate, and a cockshy for anyone who wishes to make a complaint about a real or imagined abuse. I hope that your Lordships' House can make some amendments in the Committee stage, as was so often promised in the other place on Third Reading.
Great offence has been taken by my colleagues, the zoo directors, who have given up much time in the middle of the season to rectify a bad Bill, in which they seem to have been treated as criminals rather than responsible citizens trying to run zoos—zoos which are doing such an excellent job of conservation and education as well as providing an amenity for the public and the tourist. We all want bad zoos closed, but they could be dealt with under existing Acts.
I should like to quote from a letter I have received from Mr. Lawrence Tennant, MBE, MRCVS, manager of Knowsley Safari Park. He says:There is perfectly adequate existing legislation to control the opening of new zoos and the conduct of existing zoos.
- 1. New zoos have to go through the full planning procedure, which is extremely thorough and can take years. If a local authority does not want a new zoo in its area, it can block the planning permission almost indefinitely.
- 2. The welfare of animals in zoos is fully covered by the Protection of Animals Acts 1911 to 1964 which contain the general provisions relating to the protection of domestic and captive animals. The following actions constitute cruelty punishable by fine or imprisonment: (a) cruelly to beat, kick, ill-treat, over-ride, over-drive, over-load, torture, infuriate or terrify any animal; (b) to cause unnecessary suffering by omitting or doing any act.The Protection of Animals Act therefore fully covers the welfare of animals in zoos and anybody, including the RSPCA, can ask the police to prosecute under this Act".Why has this Act not been used?
I can promise your Lordships that in its present form this Bill will destroy any existing and excellent zoos and the animals in their charge. This is an "anti" Bill. It is a direct slap in the face of many members of zoological societies up and down the country. Above all, it is quite evidently a Private Member's Bill that has been taken under the wing of people in high places. The way in which this Bill has been pushed through its parliamentary procedures without any reference to practical zoo people staggers me. The members of the federation have been ignored and the whole of the NZA has been ignored.
On page 53 of its Annual Report 1980 the RSPCA states:A crucial meeting between the Secretary of State for the Environment, Michael Heseltine, and the RSPCA's Political Affairs Controller and Chief Wildlife Officer, took place on Monday 17th November, when an illustrated presentation was given demonstrating a very large number of examples of conditions in zoos which most worry the RSPCA. Mr Heseltine was visibly concerned by what he saw and acknowledged the need for zoo legislation".My Lords, I am sure that we would have all been distressed; but might we not have written a letter to the directors of the zoos concerned? With a collection of legal experts at hand, might we have asked why, with evidence before us, no action has been taken under existing laws? At no time since the meeting has the federation or the NZA been consulted about what the Secretary of State was shown. Instead, this shabby 51 Bill with its wrecking legislation has been rushed through.
I hope that your Lordships will exercise your traditional powers and give your impartial consideration to amendments which must be made to this Bill in your Lordships' House to make it into a workable and worthwhile Act. I thank your Lordships for your patient reception of my efforts to show how the faults in this Bill may be corrected.
§ 5.59 p.m.
§ Lord Gibson-Watt
My Lords, I rise to speak after a long list of noble Lords who made a number of informed speeches—not least among them the speech made by my noble friend Lord Fisher and that made by my noble friend Lady Gardner of Parkes, who showed in her speech her experience of local government and of the problems of licensing. I, too, have local government experience, though it is some way back in my career. I go along with a great deal of what she said. May I say to her, as have other Members, that we hope very much to hear from her again. We liked her reference to her childhood voyage across the sea to the zoos here. It so happens that at lunch today I sat next to an Australian lawyer who had come overseas (though I do not think by sea) for five days to visit a certain place not very far from London Zoo. He was going to watch 22 white-flannelled gentlemen play the game of cricket. I shall not go further and say who I hope will win. All I hope is that he enjoys his visit here.
The Bill gives me some cause for concern. Its intention is excellent. I sympathise very much with many of the things which were said by my noble friend Lord Craigton. His experience of this matter is certainly far longer than mine and is probably longer than that of many of your Lordships. However, to say that this Bill is uncontroversial is not fact. Indeed, a moment ago the noble Lord, Lord Houghton of Sowerby, pointed out the number of controversial points which have been made by various Members of your Lordships' House.
The problem to me is threefold: first, the way in which this Bill comes before your Lordships' House and its timing; secondly, the question of who is to carry out the inspections; and, thirdly, who is to pay for it. If I were to be satisfied on those last two points, then I think I should be happy with the Bill.
As the noble Lord, Lord Houghton of Sowerby, knows full well, the problems over Private Member's legislation are always the same, unless you happen to be drawn very early in the draw in another place. I am not totally without experience of this. In 1957, in the dim past, I introduced a Private Member's Bill in another place which my noble friend Lord Hawke got through your Lordships' House in a couple of minutes because it was uncontroversial. This Bill, the Registration of Births, Deaths and Marriages Bill made it possible for illegitimate persons to have the same coloured birth certificates as others. At that time, some of my friends in another place asked me whether I had any particular or personal interest in the Bill! But that is by the way.
I do not have a personal interest in this Bill, but I 52 should like to look at some of the points which the noble Lord, Lord Houghton of Sowerby, made in his speech, which was divided into two parts. He spoke as an ex-Cabinet Minister, with all the experience that that brings with it; but towards the end of his speech I detected that he was speaking as chairman of the RSPCA and that, metaphorically, he was shaking his fist at the Government Front Bench and saying, "You must do a great deal better about animal welfare". I do not blame the noble Lord for that; in our own way, we are all lobbyists. However, I would say that this Government certainly have not lagged behind any previous Government with regard to animal welfare.
The noble Lord pointed out that this Bill is to some extent controversial. I wish it was not. I wish the Bill could go through without any amendment, but as it stands at present I honestly do not think that it is good enough. My noble friend Lord Fisher spoke not only as one who had spent his time and money upon building up a zoo, but as somebody who obviously speaks for so many others who are in the same position. If I may give the gist of what was said by the noble Lord, Lord Beaumont of Whitley, in a perfect world we would not have zoos at all. That is quite right. There is something repugnant about having wild animals in cages or under any restriction whatsoever. Unfortunately, though, we do not live in a perfect world. We have zoos. To be honest, most of the zoos in this country are a great deal better than some of those which I have visited in Europe. This is not to say that all zoos in this country are good. Indeed, there is a great deal of room for improvement. However, as has already been said, zoos have been going through a bad time, partly because of the strong pound, partly because of the bad weather and also because of a number of other factors. This has led to reduced attendances at zoos. I see that the noble Lord wishes to speak.
§ Lord Melchett
My Lords, is the noble Lord going to mention the general economic climate of the country under the present Government?
§ Lord Gibson-Watt
No, my Lords, that would not be exactly in my nature. I happen to think that matters have greatly improved, and I have faith that they are going to improve even further in the next couple of years or so. Zoos as a whole play a very great part in the tourist industry, which I happen to be interested in. For instance, the zoo at Twycross was visited during one morning by no less than 4,000 to 5,000 school children. I think that puts the matter into perspective.
I repeat again that I am not against the Bill, except for two matters. The first relates to who is to do the licensing. A great deal was said about this in another place. I believe that Mr. Hector Monro said that local authorities already have experts on zoos. It is going to take a great deal to persuade me that district councils—for it is district councils, not county councils that we are dealing with—up and down the country have got experts in zoo inspection. It is not "on" to talk like that. To suggest that district councils, except the great ones in the cities, can carry out those inspections is, frankly, nonsense.
53 I would much prefer this to be done by the Ministry, whether it be the Department of the Environment or, far better, the Ministry of Agriculture. It is largely a veterinary matter. I see that the noble Lord is smiling. He knows that I am, like him, a farmer. Why is it that successive Governments have tried to take away from the Ministry of Agriculture responsibilities which should be theirs? In my view, this responsibility should rest firmly upon the Ministry of Agriculture. However, whichever Ministry the responsibility should go to, certainly it should not be left in the hands of district councils.
My second point was made very well by my noble friend Lord Fisher. It concerned the expense of such inspections. I will not say very much about it, but I believe that the inspections will be very expensive. For some of the smaller zoos these expenses could well be crippling. I believe that the Government must look at both of these problems if they are to have any chance of getting the Bill through unamended. In those two respects the Bill is unacceptable to me.
I agree with Clause 5(3) which deals with transfers. This is an important matter. As noble Lords will be aware, every livestock farmer today has to fill in a transfer of animals book. There is no reason why zoos should not have to do the same. I find it very encouraging that certain zoo operators or owners desire genuinely a Bill of this kind to be put upon the statute book. In view of the assurances which were given in another place—no fewer than seven different assurances were given there—may I ask the Government to tell us whether they are going to honour those assurances, and also whether they are going to give way on the question of who runs the licensing and who pays for it?
§ The Earl of Avon
My Lords, many people have worked long and hard to produce this Bill, but I think none has worked longer or harder than my noble friend Lord Craigton. We are all deeply indebted to him, not only for the excellent exposition of the Bill he has given to us this afternoon but for all the years he has spent in discussion with the zoo industry, with animal welfare organisations and with central and local Government in order to produce a workable and sensible Bill. I found the remarks of my noble friend Lord Fisher, when he said that this was an "anti- by non-professionals", slightly excessive.
We are also grateful to those in another place who have helped the Bill to make such good progress, who supported it at every stage and whose amendments have improved the Bill and made it a measure which the Government are happy to commend to the House. I should particularly like to pay tribute to my honourable friend the Member for Dudley, West, Mr. John Blackburn, whose decision to introduce the Bill into another place and whose hard work in getting it through have made the Zoo Licensing Act a real possibility.
I should like to add my congratulations to my noble friend Lady Gardner of Parkes on her maiden speech and hope that we may often hear her talking in this House. I was intrigued to know that she had travelled 12,000 miles to get to the London Zoo, and I realise how spoilt one is when I used to live well within 12,000 feet of Regents Park and its Zoo. Her wide experience of local government and particularly her varied exper- 54 ience of licensing I am sure will be a great asset to this House. I was made aware that should I wish to go dancing in Oxford Street she would certainly be the lady to ask. She also said that Westminster City Council had some trepidation about taking on the licensing of the Zoo in Regents Park. I should have thought that it would have been a good challenge and something which they would have enjoyed doing.
We are fortunate in this country in having some excellent zoos which provide a valuable service in educating and entertaining the public and in conserving endangered species. Many zoos already subscribe voluntarily to the system of inspections run by the National Federation of Zoological Gardens and the National Zoological Association and they adhere to the codes of practice which these organisations have produced. But, my Lords, there are—and here I should like to refer to the remarks made by the noble Lord, Lord Clifford of Chudleigh—also some bad zoos; zoos in which animals are kept—whether through ignorance or lack of resources—in totally unsuitable conditions, and these are not members of any responsible, self-policing organisation. It is these zoos which bring the entire zoo industry into disrepute and the good zoos lose visitors and revenue as a result.
This Bill will make all zoos, for the first time, liable to periodic inspection and licensing. It will provide a means of ensuring that standards of zoo management are steadily improved to the benefit of the animals, the visiting public and, ultimately, of the zoos themselves, by making zoos more attractive places to visit.
The Government consider that the licensing system provided by the Bill is sensible, flexible and economic. The licensing function will be carried out by existing local authorities—the district councils and their counterparts in London and Scotland—who already have experience of other licensing legislation dealing with animals. Their lack of specific zoo expertise will be remedied by the provision for zoos to be inspected by experts nominated by the Secretary of State from a list drawn up for the purpose, and by the provisions, added in another place, for licensed conditions to reflect standards and conditions laid down by the Secretary of State, as well as the recommendations of the inspectors. During my brief remarks I shall be referring to the Secretary of State quite often, which I hope for those who feel that the local authorities are getting too much to do, will in some way reassure them.
Most noble Lords mentioned the cost of licensing. When the Bill was introduced into another place, my colleague, the Under-Secretary of State for the Environment, indicated that the Government welcomed the licensing proposals in principle but were concerned about the implications for public expenditure. Amendments have been made to the Bill to ensure that the licensing system will be completely self-financing and that the costs of licensing and inspection will be recovered in their charges. It has been suggested that this will place a heavy financial burden on zoos, which cannot afford to pay for frequent inspections. However a zoo will normally have a full inspection only once every three years and an informal, one-man inspection in each of the intervening years. It is only if it appears that there is something wrong at the zoo that there will be additional inspections and it is not 55 unreasonable that, if the zoo is creating work for the licensing authority, it should pay for it. We recognise that there may be problems for particular zoos if they are subjected to repeated special inspections as the result of a series of malicious or unfounded complaints by someone with a grudge against the zoo or who mistakenly believes that something is wrong. However the Government think that local authorities can be relied on not to act upon trivial or unsubstantiated complaints and it should be possible for zoos to protect themselves against the consequences of well-meaning but misguided complaints by perhaps taking out a suitable insurance cover.
I am happy to assure my noble friend Lord Craigton that the guidance to be issued by my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for the Environment will stress the importance of keeping the cost of inspections down and of avoiding any special inspections if an informal approach can sort out misguided or trivial complaints. I also undertake to bring his remarks about the informal inspections to the attention of my right honourable friend the Secretary of State, so that consideration of suitable wording in the guidelines may be drafted.
Considerable reference has been made to Clause 9. Between the time that the Bill is enacted and the time that it is brought into force my right honourable friend the Secretary of State will be consulting the zoo organisations, the British Veterinary Association, the Health and Safety Executive and other interested organisations on the formulation of standards which can be incorporated into the licensing procedures and conditions. We intend to draw widely on the existing expertise and indeed on the existing codes of practice produced by the Zoo Federation and the NZA in laying down guidelines and standards to ensure, not only that licensing authorities and zoo operators know what standards the zoo needs to achieve in order to get a licence, but also what sort of best practice it should strive to emulate, so that no zoo will fall below the lowest acceptable level and everybody aims for the best. We know that the zoo organisations themselves have had difficulty in agreeing detailed specifications for enclosures and barriers and we recognise that in some cases requirements will have to be general and flexible. It will be the exprience of the inspector that enables him to judge that certain arrangements are adequate, rather than in compliance with an absolute standard.
The noble Lord, Lord Melchett, asked particularly about this and suggested various aspects of zoo operations which ought to be covered by such a guideline, and I can confirm that the Secretary of State's standards will require that animals shall be kept in suitable enclosures and groups, that they should be adequately and suitably fed and provided with proper veterinary treatment and that standards will also cover procedures for dealing with dead animals, the disposing of surplus animals and transporting animals as well as setting up standard procedures for record keeping. I hope that that will reassure quite a number of your Lordships.
With regard to safeguards for the small zoos, this Bill also contains provisions to reduce the costs of inspection and licensing for small or specialised zoos. 56 We recognise the point made by my noble friend Lord Gibson-Watt, and this is one of the reasons for this safeguard. Under Clause 14 the zoo operator can apply to the Secretary of State for a reduction in the size of the inspection team, and the Secretary of State can also decide, on a representation from the local authority and after consultation with experts from the list, that a small, well-run zoo may be exempted from some or all inspections for the time being. That is a decision that can be reversed if it becomes apparent that standards at the zoo have deteriorated.
My honourable friend the Under-Secretary of State for the Environment also expressed concern in the other place when the Bill was introduced, that local authorities would be obliged to refuse licences to substandard zoos and that such zoos would have to close. He suggested that it would be preferable to give zoos time to put things right by the issuing of licences on conditions. The Bill has been amended so that local authorities will be able to issue licences stating conditions to bring zoos up to standard, but they will still be able to refuse a licence if there is no prospect of improvements being made which will bring standards up to an acceptable level.
Another feature of the Bill which caused some concern in the other place when it was introduced was the possibility of overlap with existing legislation, especially in the field of health and safety and a duplication of enforcement effort. We have looked at this matter very carefully, and have concluded that, while it is sensible that the amount of overlap should be reduced as far as possible, it would not be sensible to try to eliminate it altogether. In theory, a complete separation of zoo licensing legislation and health and safety legislation would require the zoo licensing procedures and inspections to ignore altogether considerations of human health and safety. Inspections and inspectors' reports, decisions about issuing licences and attaching conditions, would be able to take into account only the effects that the arrangements for accommodating and handling the animals had on the animals, whatever the effects on people working in or visiting the zoos.
In practice, of course, the health and safety of the animals is inseparable from the health and safety of people. The barriers which protect the animals from the public also keep the public safe from the animals. Arangements for feeding and handling the animals affect the health and safety of the staff and public as well as the animals. Whatever legislative arrangements were made, it would be necessary for the zoo licensing authority to liaise with officers of the Health and Safety Executive to ensure that zoo operators were not subjected to conflicting requirements. It did not seem sensible that the Secretary of State's highly qualified and competent inspectors, with experience of treating and keeping zoo animals, should be not able to make recommendations for arrangements to protect the health and safety of people as well as the animals, or for the local licensing authority to act on them.
It has, therefore, been agreed, in discussions between the Departments of Environment and Employment and the Health and Safety Executive, that the inspections and licensing system under this Bill should cover all those aspects of zoo management where the arrange- 57 ments made for keeping the animals and displaying them to the public affect the health, safety and welfare of the people in the zoo or living nearby as well as the animals; but where arrangements relate solely or primarily to the health, safety and welfare of people working in the zoo they will be dealt with exclusively under the Health and Safety at Work Act.
The Bill does, therefore, cover matters which are also covered by the Health and Safety at Work Act, and we recognise that this means that the possibility of duplication or conflict theoretically exists, although Clause 20 of the Bill provides that in the event of conflict between requirements imposed under the Health and Safety at Work Act and the licensing conditions imposed under the Zoo Licensing Bill, the Health and Safety at Work Act will prevail. In practice, we shall ensure, through sensible administrative arrangements and close liaison between the Health and Safety Executive, local authorities and the Department of the Environment, that conflicts and duplication will not occur. Guidance to be issued by the Secretary of State will set out a procedure for ensuring that the conditions attached by local authorities are not incompatible with Health and Safety Executive requirements, and that HSE are kept informed about licence conditions. Any standards specified by the Secretary of State will be formulated in consultation with the HSE as well as organisations representing zoos and people from the Secretary of State's list.
My Lords, I hope something of what I have said has reassured noble Lords. The noble Lord, Lord Melchett, made a number of specific points. I think my noble friend will deal with some of them in detail, and I will ensure that he gets an answer on the others as soon as possible. Most noble Lords have brought up the fact that we have to hurry this Bill through. I had worked out all sorts of things to say about it, but the noble Lord, Lord Houghton, in his first 10 minutes not only asked me all the questions but, luckily, gave me all the answers. I think a careful reading of his speech will explain exactly what is the position.
If I may just make one thing clear, we have to get this Bill to the other place, if there is an amendment, by Friday week because that is the only time they can take the Bill in the other place. However, what we do not know is whether they will give enough time for it, even if we do send it back with an amendment, and this is where we are rather hoisted on a petard. I took very much Lord Beaumont's point that this is a strange procedure, and I will certainly make sure that the remarks made in the House today are taken up by the proper channels. I think this is a worthwhile Bill which will lead to a steady improvement in standards of zoo management, and I hope that your Lordships will accept it kindly and that we shall see a Zoo Licensing Act on the statute book by the end of the present Session.
§ 6.26 p.m.
§ Lord Craigton
My Lords, as the noble Lord, Lord Gibson-Watt, said, this is a not uncontroversial Bill. I hope the noble Baroness, Lady Burton, will forgive me for delaying her Question, but I should like to answer some of the very important points made. The noble Lord, Lord Melchett, and the noble Lord, 58 Lord Beaumont, asked whether Clause 5(3)(a) to (c) are mandatory. I can assure noble Lords that the Secretary of State will ensure that these are in fact incorporated. The words "may" and "shall" have been our worry all through this Bill. The "may" to which he refers can also include other conditions. On the question of records, if he will look at page 7, Clause 10(4)(e) says the inspectors shall—not "may"—"require the production of all records". Without that being incorporated in the conditions of licence they do not have the power to demand production of records
Turning to Clause 3, the noble Lord asked whether it is intended to include the RSPCA. Were they, he asked, a national institution concerned with the operation of zoos? Anyone who saw their film, which they showed in this House and in another place, and believe the noble Lord, Lord Fisher, said this to himself, could do no other than conclude that they are very much concerned with the operation of zoos. With regard to Clause 4, the "may" and "shall", that is the draftsman's advice and I cannot do more than accept that. He referred to the transfer of animals. In fact that is covered by this Bill because the record is a record of acquisition and disposal. The record has got to say, "I got this from Howlett Zoo", or, "I sent it to the London Zoo".
The noble Lord asked why 28 days and not seven days for the inspections; he said that, as it is, this was a spit-and-polish-inspection. The whole experience, as the Army would have said in connection with the last debate, is that the really skilled inspector can see through the spit-and-polish. Zoo proprietors have told me time and time again that it is the inspections that really bring them up to standard and make them do things that they would not otherwise do. Apart from that, if you are going to get skilled inspectors to go down, you have to book hotels and transport and that sort of thing, and it is impossible to do that in seven days. That is the reason. The noble Lord asked as to what happens after the inspector's report. The inspector recommends changes in a list and he gives a time limit of when this or that should be done. That time limit automatically becomes part of the conditions of the licence. So the zoo is told not only what to do but, where it is relevant, the time they should take in doing it. This is a condition of licence. The guide all the time is the inspector's report.
The noble Lord referred to small zoos where there are abuses, as though they would slip through the net. The Secretary of State's inspectors can and would in that case recommend that the whole Bill applies to the zoo. The guiding factor here in small zoos is the condition and the welfare of the animals themselves. If this Bill allowed small zoos with badly treated animals to slip through the net it would be the wrong Bill.
§ Lord Melchett
My Lords, I am sorry to interrupt the noble Lord, particularly as this has been a long debate, but this is a particularly important clause in the Bill. Is he saying that, the local authority having recommended to the Secretary of State that a particular zoo should be exempted from the provisions of the Bill, the Secretary of State may—it says in the Bill "hellip; after consulting such persons as he thinks fit", in practice what that means is that he will consult his 59 inspectors who have visited this zoo and will act on their advice? If that is the understanding, I am satisfied.
§ Lord Craigton
My Lords, this is the principle of the whole Bill, that whatever the local authorities may do about licensing the Secretary of State is firmly in the saddle through his list; otherwise the Bill would not work.
I must thank the noble Lord, Lord Beaumont of Whitley, for his constructive welcome to the Bill, and I, too, must congratulate the noble Baroness, Lady Gardner of Parkes, on a magnificent speech. I realise the great experience that the noble Baroness can bring to this House. I hope that she will join the supporters of wildlife and conservation. The noble Baroness and the noble Lord, Lord Clifford of Chudleigh, referred to the unfortunate choice of local authorities as the licensing authorities. However, I would ask your Lordships to think about the situation for a moment. Local authorities have a vital interest in education and recreation. The noble Lord, Lord Gibson-Watt, referred to 4,000 schoolchildren going to one zoo in one day. Is that not of vital interest to the local authorities? They have the existing machinery for licensing. Where the misunderstanding about this Bill arises is that, in relation to animal welfare and animal husbandry, the key is in the Secretary of State's list. The people on that list have the expertise: they are the panel of experts.
§ Lord Gibson-Watt
My Lords, before the noble Lord, Lord Craigton, leaves that point, I should like to say that, of course, he is right when he says that the local authority has a concern about the number of people who go to the zoo. However, can he meet the point which I made?—it is that I do not believe that district councils at present have the right sort of inspectors to carry out the provisions of this Bill and that it will mean a lot of extra expertise.
§ Lord Craigton
My Lords, I am glad that the noble Lord has asked that question because that is the question that I have been trying to answer all the time. The local authorities do not require that sort of expertise because they cannot take away or grant a licence without reference to the Secretary of State's list. The Secretary of State's list contains the experts. So what will happen in an inspection is that the local authority vet—who honestly does not know anything about zoos, although after some time he may learn—will go round with the guidance of a vet who is an expert in zoo animals. Without that it would be impossible to give a fair decision.
The noble Lord, Lord Clifford of Chudleigh, says that there is no mention of management. If he reads page 6, Clause 8(3), he will see that it goes on about management ad nauseam. It explains exactly what sort of management there will be. He mentioned damage by mink and coypu. That is why Clause 5(3)(a) is in the Bill in relation to zoos. The prevention of escapes of animals which will become feral in this country is most vital and something which has concerned local authorities very much. They will gather from all the ministries concerned with escapes what exactly has to be done. That information will be 60 co-ordinated by the Department of the Environment and will then be sent to the local authority as part of the conditions of the licence. The noble Lord rightly referred to the unskilled vet in the local authority. That is why, as I said, the list dominates the methods and the decisions regarding animal welfare.
The noble Lord, Lord Houghton of Sowerby, criticised the chimps' tea-party. How I agree with him! He will be interested to know that the London Zoo discontinued that as they thought it was an insult to the dignity of the animals concerned.
The noble Lord, Lord Fisher, said that the Bill would cripple some zoos as regards the cost. My noble friend dealt with that point and I would refer the noble Lord to Clause 10. He now pays, as a member of the Federation, to be inspected once every three or four years. Instead of paying the Federation, he will pay the local authority—perhaps he will pay a little more, but it can be paid over three years. So there is not much danger there. I agree with him about Clause 11. We cannot have everything perfect. I have asked for and have now received an assurance from the Minister that they will warn the local authority to be jolly careful about Clause 11 inspections. Clause 12 is a minimal cost.
I am sorry to say that the noble Lord misled your Lordships. As he did so a number of times perhaps he did not do it by mistake. He said that there was no consultation with the zoos. The noble Lord is a member of the Federation. If he referred to the minutes of every council meeting of the Federation for the last four years, he would see that I had made a report and that discussions had taken place on the Zoo Bill. He also knows, or should know, that several times I went and met the whole National Zoological Association Council to discuss the Bill. The noble Lord referred to the misuse of manpower. The local authorities already licence six animal functions—this is the seventh. So here again I am afraid that he has made a mis-statement.
Some of your Lordships will clearly want to get further assurances as to some of the points raised, although I hope that I have answered some Committee points. The Committee stage is put down for this coming Friday. I shall co-operate in every possible way, and so will my noble friend, to get amendments down. I am perfectly ready to assist as regards the Report and Third Reading for the following week. As your Lordships know—and this is our last straw—John Blackburn was sixth in the draw for Private Members in another place. This is the last Private Member's Bill that your Lordships will have to consider. I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Houghton, that time is short. He said everything that is necessary to say. So, in the interests of the animals, if nothing else—and they have waited so long for the Bill—I sincerely hope that your Lordships will co-operate in this matter. I beg to move.
§ On Question, Bill read 2a, and committed to a Committee of the Whole House.