Sir Geoffrey Clifton-Brown moves an amendment to the Animal Welfare (Sentience) Bill which would replicate the safeguards of the EU law in respect of recognition of local customs relating to religious rites, cultural traditions and regional heritage.
I will speak to amendment 2, in my name and those of 30-odd colleagues.
The problem with the Bill is that it goes beyond the commitment made by Ministers to recognise animal sentience in British law in the same way that it is recognised in European Union law. My amendment is designed to ensure that the safeguards of the EU law are duplicated in British law. Currently, those safeguards are not in the Bill, as was the original ask of the animal welfare lobby.
It seems to me that we should have a bit of equivalence here. If this committee is set up by statute, its remit should also be defined by statute. I therefore ask the Government seriously to consider accepting my amendment as a sensible, fairly minor, but nevertheless important amendment to the remit of the committee, which recognises local customs,
“religious rites, cultural traditions and regional heritage”.
That seems to me a perfectly reasonable thing to do. With these few words, I strongly urge my hon. Friend the Minister to see whether she cannot, on behalf of the Government, accept my amendment.
To the point that my hon. Friend has rightly made about the cross-cutting nature of the Bill across Government Departments, I quite like that. For example, the Department for Education might educate people on how to look after pets properly. There are many useful areas where the Bill could have a role.
My hon. Friend makes a good point. We now have charities that take dogs into schools to ensure that people can look after a dog or their pets properly. Most families do so, but unfortunately there are families who do not. That is where it is absolutely necessary and that is why I am not negative about the Bill. I do not think we ever needed to get to this place, but, as they say, we are where we are. That is why we have this Bill. A lot relies on the Secretary of State to get it right. I believe that it can be made to work across Government, but I am still intrigued as to how all those Departments will take notice of this powerful Animal Sentience Committee.
I am very grateful to the hon. Gentleman for giving way. I use this intervention to inform the House that my constituent has brought 55 different databases to produce one horse database, with all the biological markings of horses on it. He is working—and I am working with him—with senior civil servants in DEFRA to produce a similar database for dogs and cats. As a further refinement, there are some rogues out there who remove microchips from dogs and put in a substitute microchip. I am working with the police to put the DNA that forces like my own collect into the database so that we can see when microchips have been removed and replaced.
I thank the hon. Gentleman for that intervention, and he is right in what he says. A lot of dogs have been stolen during the covid period and having microchips in place was one method of trying to find out where they had ended up. He has referred to one methodology to make sure we can improve the system, which is what he is committed to. I hope that tonight we can see more of that improvement happening.
Amendment 2, which is in the name of my hon. Friend the Member for The Cotswolds (Sir Geoffrey Clifton-Brown), would require the committee’s recommendations to respect religious rights, cultural traditions and regional heritage. We have heard the strength of feeling on this matter both here and in the other place, and I assure him that we have listened and decided to support the amendment.
I thank my hon. Friend for her careful consideration of my amendment. I think it is a sensible, proportionate amendment that will allow a committee with limited resources to focus on those really egregious areas where animal sentience is being abused, and not run into some of the less important areas. I thank her for accepting the amendment, and I thank all my hon. Friends who supported and signed it.