Clause 20 - Guidance

Animal Welfare (Kept Animals) Bill – in a Public Bill Committee am 11:15 am ar 16 Tachwedd 2021.

Danfonwch hysbysiad imi am ddadleuon fel hyn

Photo of Daniel Zeichner Daniel Zeichner Shadow Minister (Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) 11:15, 16 Tachwedd 2021

I beg to move amendment 116, in clause 20, page 11, line 3, leave out “may” and insert “must”.

This amendment would require the Secretary of State to provide guidance to local authorities.

This is the familiar “may” or “must” argument, and I suspect that we will go over old ground yet again with it, but it does allow me to speculate on what happens if the Secretary of State is tardy in providing guidance to local authorities. This takes us back to the equally long-standing issue of support for local authorities, or lack thereof. Throughout the proceedings on the Bill and in the evidence and submissions that we have had from various organisations—we have talked about this at some length this morning already—real concern has been expressed about the capacity of local authorities to enact the system that we are talking about. We all look forward to a time when we can talk about local authorities without adding such adjectives as “underfunded”, “cut” and “on the brink of collapse”. We all know the circumstances in which local authorities find themselves. What strikes me is that the Government continue to load extra obligations on to local authorities without necessarily giving them the help that they need to take on yet more responsibilities.

I have already summed up the Kafkaesque picture of the monkey dumped in the reception of the guildhall in Cambridge. Quite what the monkey or the council officer is supposed to do in those circumstances I am not sure, and it may superficially seem quite amusing, but my partner used to work for a local authority, and quite often they are the last resort, particularly with animals and where people have mental health issues and so on. It is the poor old social worker who ends up at 6 o’clock on a Friday evening trying to find a home for the primate who has been dumped in the lobby.

We need clear guidance. In the evidence session, I asked Dr Girling, chair of the Zoos Expert Committee of the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, what happens to animals when zoos or others fail to meet licensing standards. The answer was:

“They become the responsibility of the local authority in the first instance”.––[Official Report, Animal Welfare (Kept Animals) Public Bill Committee, 9 November 2021; c. 28, Q40.]

Well, good luck to the local authority. The guidance ought to be there. It should not be a “may”; it has to be a “must”. I very much hope that that will be done in a timely manner. Were we to transfer this provision to “must” rather than “may” we would be insisting upon it.

Photo of Victoria Prentis Victoria Prentis The Minister of State, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

As I have said several times, we certainly intend to develop guidance on the implementation of these primate measures, and in doing so we will continue to engage closely with local authorities, vets and specialist primate keepers. Local authorities do much good work, included in which is their work with dangerous wild animals and other licensing. I have already referenced how they will be able to charge fees to enable them to carry out that work.

I very much hope that the Kafkaesque situation that the hon. Gentleman envisages never comes to pass, and that we are able, because we have brought into play a sensible and proportionate licensing system, to have transitional arrangements that mean that a suitable space in a zoo or rehoming centre where appropriate can be found for primates that need to be rehomed. Government amendment 18 will ensure that any guidance developed for local authorities will be published so that it is fully transparent and available to all. In those circumstances, I ask him to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Ordered, That further consideration be now adjourned. —(Heather Wheeler.)

Adjourned till this day at Two o’clock.