HL Deb 16 June 1994 vol 555 cc1809-11

Lord Mottistone asked Her Majesty's Government:

Whether there is a danger that the education and training of farriers is becoming principally college-based and not retaining sufficient of the strong practical input of the present apprenticeship scheme with approved training farriers.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Employment (Lord Henley)

My Lords, it is for the employers in the farriery industry to decide which type of training suits them best. Presently there is the traditional apprenticeship system with employers or introductory college training prior to getting a job in the industry.

Lord Mottistone

My Lords, does my noble friend not agree that it is very important that the apprenticeship scheme has priority over any college-based equivalent? Does he further agree that it is important that the horses are looked after by farriers who are sympathetic to them and who understand how to deal with them? At the same time, they have to be good craftsmen and know how to make proper shoes for the horses. Therefore, is it not of paramount importance that the apprenticeship scheme should continue roughly as now and that it should not become over-college-based, as I fear may happen?

Lord Henley

My Lords, my noble friend is right to draw attention to the fact that it is the welfare of the horses that is the most important point to consider. However, I believe that there is validity in both systems. I can tell my noble friend that the Farriers Registration Council is under review at the moment. It is clear that whatever the outcome of the review, the quality of the training will be the most important matter. The issue of the long-term recruitment and training policy, under any new terms, will be a matter for the industry to decide. I understand that the farriery industry has expressed interest in being involved in the new modern apprenticeships announced by my right honourable friend last year.

Baroness Turner of Camden

My Lords, can the Minister say whether the National Vocational Qualification is available for this craft and, if so, whether steps are being taken to ensure that it can be obtained?

Lord Henley

My Lords, the noble Baroness is right to draw attention to the NVQ. I understand that a contract to develop it in farriery has now been signed.

Lord Boardman

My Lords, can the Minister confirm that the welfare of horses is best protected by farriers who have been apprenticed to appointed or qualified trainer farriers rather than having a training that is purely college-based? Does he agree, for example, that, although horses understand and respond to language, it might not be possible to take college examinations in that language?

Lord Henley

My Lords, as I made clear, I believe that there is validity in both systems. It is a matter for the Farriers Registration Council, which keeps a register of qualified farriers, to maintain the appropriate standards of practice. I can give my noble friend an assurance that it is illegal for an unregistered farrier to shoe horses in England or Wales.

Lord Gisborough

My Lords, in view of the greater use of horses by many foreign countries as compared to this country, to what extent is our training available to farriers from those countries? Would not such training help to secure improved animal welfare abroad?

Lord Henley

My Lords, my noble friend may be aware of a funding appeal by the Princess Royal some years ago. That was to some extent superseded by the training and enterprise councils after about £0.5 million had been raised. I understand that the balance is being re-targeted to establish an international institute of farriery for foreigners coming to the United Kingdom. It is also important to make the point that the farriery industry is very interested in having its qualifications and competence recognised in Europe. I understand that the second diploma directive covering this matter, which was agreed, I believe, in 1993, will come into force in a couple of days' time.

Lord Ironside

My Lords, is my noble friend aware that excellent farriery training facilities are available at the Ministry of Defence's animal centre at Melton Mowbray? Are those services offered to all comers—in other words, are they on offer outside the armed services?

Lord Henley

My Lords, my noble friend is right to draw attention to the excellent facilities available at Melton Mowbray. As regards his substantive point, I am afraid that I cannot help him. I can, however, assure him that the officer in charge of that establishment is represented on the Farriers Registration Council.

Lord Mottistone

My Lords, perhaps I may press my noble friend. Is he aware that the Farriers Registration Council is not wholly respected by all farriers because they suspect it of veering away from the apprenticeship schemes towards over-college-based training? Can he bear that in mind when seeking the advice of the council and ensure that any scheme has the backing of all farriers, particularly those offering training?

Lord Henley

My Lords, the important point is that the Farriers Registration Council keeps a register of qualified farriers. No one can act as a farrier who is not registered by the council. As I made clear, the council is under review at the moment and obviously the outcome of that review has yet to be finalised. What is important is that in the end the long-term recruitment and training policy, under any new terms, will be for the industry itself to decide.

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