Category Archives: Diary

Lord Trees presses Home Office Minister over veterinary workforce shortage

On  17 July the House of Lords debated the EU Committee report on Brexit: UK-EU movement of people. Lord Trees took this opportunity to speak on the workforce issues affecting the veterinary profession.

He outlined key statistics concerning veterinary workforce shortages and asked the Home Office Minister Baroness Williams:

  1. Can the Minister assure the House that non-UK EU nationals currently working in vital sectors such as veterinary science will be given the same rights in the future which mirror those that would have applied were we to remain in the EU?
  2. What is the Government doing to inform EU nationals in their own countries that they are welcome and under what conditions?
  3. Will the Home Office restore vets to the Shortage Occupation List – from which they were removed in 2011?

In her reply the Minister stated:

“The noble Lord, Lord Trees, talked about the shortage of vets following the UK exit. We have made it clear that both the best and brightest will continue to be welcome to come to the UK, and future policy will be based on the future consideration of the evidence. I am sure the veterinary profession will want to contribute to that evidence picture. The noble Lord gave a number of significant statistics, and they will certainly form part of the consideration. The noble Lord also suggested that vets should be on the shortage occupation list. ​That list is produced by the independent Migration Advisory Committee, and the Government do not act independently of the MAC in this regard.”

and

“The noble Lord, Lord Trees, asked what steps the Government were taking to make it clear to EU nationals that they are welcome in the UK. We have made it clear that so long as the UK remains a part of the EU, EU citizens have full rights to come here and remain welcome. We have made this point clearly and repeatedly.”

The full transcript of his speech is available here: http://hansard.parliament.uk/Lords/2017-07-17/debates/C046AC3A-0357-41FF-A40E-7210AD6BC5BD/BrexitUK-EUMovementOfPeople(EUCReport)#contribution-26D32A73-7F82-455C-A287-1C8DCDC73C34

The debate was paused for a statement on Schools and continues here (Minister’s reply is at the end):

http://hansard.parliament.uk/Lords/2017-07-17/debates/57244431-1ABB-4DC4-92C4-5D8AF856B6FE/BrexitUK-EUMovementOfPeople(EUCReport)

Lord Trees’ contribution was warmly received by the House including by:

 

Lord Cormack “We have just heard in the splendid speech of the noble Lord, Lord Trees, how a very small but vital sector of our economy could indeed be damaged in a most dangerous way if we do not behave with suitable sensitivity.”

Lord Stunell “I was interested to hear what the noble Lord, Lord Trees, had to say about vets—for recruiting, retraining, mentoring and developing a UK workforce.”

Lord Kennedy “The noble Lord, Lord Trees, highlighted the problems regarding the challenges Brexit poses to the veterinary profession, and to other science and healthcare professions. He made the point well in respect of Brexit further exposing the risk and the crisis that is looming large.”

Peers interview Defra Officials on the impact of Brexit on Animal Health and Welfare

In March 2017 the House of Lords EU Select Subcommittee on Energy and Environment interviewed Nigel Gibbens (UK Chief Veterinary Officer, Defra) and Pamela Thompson (Head of EU Exit Team for Animal & Plant Health, Defra) as part of their inquiry into the impacts of Brexit on Agriculture in the UK.

Under the Chairmanship of Lord Teverson (a Liberal Democrat Peer and former Member of the European Parliament) the committee, including Lord Trees, led a substantial and constructive discussion on the impacts of Brexit on Animal Health and Welfare.

The discussion included:

  1. Workforce issues including the degree to which our veterinary and agricultural sectors rely on the work of non-UK EU nationals
  2.  The extent to which animal health and animal welfare is regulated through EU law
  3. Particular challenges associated with the Great Repeal Bill for animal health and welfare regulations
  4. Future arrangements for surveillance, prevention and control of animal diseases in the UK
  5. The extent to which a new trading regime with the EU and third countries will impact on animal health and welfare

A video of the session is available here 

Follow this link for details about the full Brexit: agriculture inquiry including transcripts of oral evidence sessions.

Would you like to be the next Parliamentary Veterinary Intern?

cropped-vprf.jpgLord Trees is pleased to welcome applications for the next Parliamentary Veterinary Internship starting in October 2017. The internship offers the chance to work at the House of Lords alongside the sole veterinarian active in Parliament. It offers a personal insight into veterinary policy and the parliamentary process; a chance for those interested in policy making and the roles of veterinarians in society to develop new skills and provides a unique career development opportunity.

The internship is made possible by donations kindly provided by several veterinary organisations and universities.

Job specification

£17,000 per annum
London based
One year appointment.  Part-time (three full days per week whilst Parliament is sitting (a total of c.110-120 days per annum)
Commencement date:  October 2017

The position is open to veterinary graduates (who are MsRCVS) and to veterinary undergraduates at any UK veterinary school who have completed the third year of the undergraduate course.  Candidates must demonstrate a commitment to the advancement of the veterinary profession in the UK.

The intern will support the activities of Professor the Lord Trees. Further details including job description and requirements for the role are available here.

The application deadline has now passed and interviews are due to take place in late June 2017.

 

Brexit and Veterinary Research

Lord Trees and the Parliamentary Intern have recently been very active in researching and speaking up on the potential impacts which Brexit may have on research and higher education.

Today, an article written by Lord Trees was published in the RCVS Knowledge website “Veterinary Evidence Online“. The article includes commentary on the impacts which Brexit may have on: the future availability of funding for research in the UK, the capacity for international collaboration, and the geographical movements of researchers and students.

The full article is freely available here

Since the UK referendum on EU membership in June this year, Lord Trees has submitted a written question and spoken in three debates in the House of Lords chamber concerning research and higher education. Links are available below:

Written question:
07/07/2016   Research: Finance

Oral contributions:
20/07/2016   Brexit: UK Universities
03/11/2016    Brexit: Impact on Universities and Scientific research
27/11/2016    Immigration: Overseas Students

 

Parliamentary Veterinary Intern interviewed in Westminster

Parliamentary Veterinary Intern Anthony Ridge was recently interviewed outside the Palace of Westminster for a British Veterinary Association (BVA) video exploring the wide ranging career opportunities available to veterinarians. The video “Where can a veterinary degree take you?” was produced in association with ITN Productions and also features Hannah Jordan, Parliamentary Veterinary Intern 2013-2015 and currently Policy Officer at the BVA.

The BVA “Veterinary View” series is available to view here.

Lord Trees to host meeting of young vets at the House of Lords

Trees big benOn Wednesday 14th September Lord Trees will be hosting 40 young vets at the House of Lords for a roundtable discussion on experiences both in clinical practice and in non-clinical careers. The event is free to attend and will also include lunch, refreshments and an optional tour of the Palace of Westminster. The event is kindly being supported by The Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons and the British Veterinary Association as part of the Vet Futures initiative and offers the opportunity not only to visit the House of Lords and share your experiences in the profession but also to help guide actions being taken to improve veterinary wellbeing and career satisfaction. To apply to attend visit: www.emailmeform.com/builder/emf/VetGrad/HouseofLords and complete the online form by Friday 22nd July. If you are unable to attend in person but would like to contribute to the discussion the online form can also be used to submit comments or suggestions.

Should the event be oversubscribed, priority will be given to vets who qualified in 2010-2012 and also to those able to recommend a fellow young vet not currently working in clinical practice. For further information e-mail Anthony Ridge (Parliamentary Veterinary Intern): ridgea@parliament.uk. More information on the Vet Futures initiative is available at vetfutures.org.uk

Ensuring the Future Funding of Equine Veterinary Research and Education

A proposed change to the levy funding structure could have major implications for the future of equine veterinary research and education. The horseracing industry is heavily dependent on a levy collected from bookmakers but in recent years there has been a decline in levy funding associated with rapid increases in online and overseas gambling that are not subject to the levy. In response the Government have announced plans to modify the levy in order to widen the source of funding and ensure the sustainability of the racing industry (worth £3.5 billion to the UK economy) but there are concerns that the way the levy is modified could dramatically reduce the funding available for veterinary research and for the provision of specialist veterinary training programs.

The Horserace Betting and Levy Board (HBLB) currently collect and administer the funds that amount to approximately £70 million per year. Whilst the majority of this funding is used for the improvement of horseracing (primarily through its allocation as prize money) the levy also provides vitally important funding for equine veterinary research and education (approx. £1.8 million per year) and also for the preservation of rare-breeds of horses (approx. £115,000 per year). Several groups including the HBLB Veterinary Advisory Committee, the British Equine Veterinary Association and the British Horseracing Association have expressed concerns that these relatively small but highly significant forms of funding may not be fully recognized during the proposed modification of the levy funding structure.

Lord Trees took the opportunity of the debate last night to speak in support of the vital role that HBLB funding has played in improving the health and welfare of horses in the UK.  A transcript of the debate is available here.

Lord Trees asked the minister representing the Government for reassurance that the level of funding for equine research and education would be maintained and that it would be administered by an independent organisation. We were disappointed that the minister did not give us the full reassurance we requested however it is likely that the Government will take the concerns raised into account particularly as the Lord Trees’ views were shared by several other Peers in the debate. We will continue to seek every opportunity to press the government on this important issue in order to ensure that the importance of maintaining the health and welfare of the horses is fully recognized by the new levy system that is expected to commence in April 2017.

 

Lord Trees visits Hampshire farms with EU committee

Last week Lord Trees visited Kingsclere Estate, Manydown Farm, and Vitacress Salads Ltd  alongside other members of the House of Lords EU Energy and Environment Sub-Committee. 

For the last two years Lord Trees has been a committee member of the House of Lords EU Energy and Environment Sub-Committee that meets weekly to scrutinize legislative proposals from the EU commission. Fluctuations in the market prices for agricultural products (price volatility) poses a major threat to the financial security of farmers and to the sustainability of food supply in the EU. In response, the committee is currently working on an inquiry into creating a more resilient agricultural sector. The final report from the inquiry is due to be published in early May 2016.

The chairman of the committee,  Baroness Scott of Needham Market, said:

“Our visit to the Hampshire really brought our current inquiry to life. It was an honour to hear from farmers who have had to weather the storm of price volatility in recent months and years. What was clear from our conversations was that price volatility is here to stay and that the true potential of much of UK agriculture depends on farmers’ ability to innovate and diversify. We were impressed with the vision and the confidence of the people we met and we were grateful for the time that they took to share their thoughts with us as we begin to prepare our final report.”

Pictures:
Left: Lord Trees (centre) with Baroness Scott of Needham Market, the chairman of the Sub-Committee (second left) discussing soil structure at Kingsclere Estate.
Right: Lord Trees observing salad processing at Vitacress Salads Ltd.

VPRF Annual Report and AGM

Last week the we hosted the third VPRF AGM at the House of Lords and presented our Annual Report including a summary of our activities over the last year.

Highlights from 2015

Lord Trees took part in a range of debates with topics including dog breeding, the dairy industry, welfare of animals at slaughter, hunting and Lyme disease.

Lord Trees became a member of the House of Lords EU select committee in 2015 and continued his work as a member of the EU Sub-Committee for Energy and Environment (formerly Agriculture, Fisheries, Environment and Energy).

In May 2015 Lord Trees submitted a private members bill calling for the protection of the title “Veterinary Nurse”.

Our new parliamentary veterinary intern Anthony Ridge joined the VPRF in October 2015.

The VPRF fact file on non-stun slaughter was been updated in November 2015 with new figures on the numbers of animals involved and an update on the relevant legislation. 

Thank you to our sponsors

The VPRF relies on sponsorship in order to continue the work that we do. At present our sponsors include RCVS, NOAH, BVA, BSAVA, CVS, Medivet, Goddard Veterinary Group, Willows Veterinary Group, Royal Veterinary College, Nottingham Veterinary School, Liverpool Veterinary School and Lord Trees. We were very pleased to meet with representatives from so many of our sponsors last week and grateful for the positive feedback and many supportive comments we received.

If you are interested in sponsoring the work of the VPRF or would like to find out more about what we do please do not hesitate to contact us.

What is in store for 2016?

2016 is likely to be a landmark year for global decision making on combating the growing threat of antimicrobial resistance. We are currently creating a fact file on UK antimicrobial resistance and will seek to support rational and proportionate steps that balance the need to maintain the health and welfare of both humans and animals.

We will continue to speak up on issues related to animal welfare and plan to table a question on the use of CCTV in slaughterhouses.

Microchipping of dogs becomes mandatory on 6th April 2016 and we will monitor and respond to any concerns raised by the veterinary profession.

DEFRA have launched a consultation on animal licensing with a view to update and consolidate rules on the licensing of animal related activities including the sale of pets. This presents a great opportunity to address concerns over the unregulated trade of animals via the internet, puppy farming and the welfare of exotic pets. We will follow this closely and seek to contribute to relevant meetings or debates.

Next week Lord Trees has initiated a debate on Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTDs) and in February we will be hosting the launch of the Global Network for Rabies Control’s End Rabies Now campaign.

Debate on welfare of animals at slaughter

The recent introduction of the new Welfare of Animals at Time of Killing (England) 2015 regulations (WATOK) has been the focus of a debate last night in the House of Lords.

Background

EU regulation 1099/2009 on protection of animals at time of killing came into effect in 2013. The purpose of the regulation is to enhance protection of animals at the time of slaughter by establishing standard operating procedures to reduce pain and suffering of animals, improve training of personnel through the introduction of certificates of competence and regulate the use of equipment (including the use of stunning equipment). Annex I of the regulations include specific requirements for the stunning prior to slaughter based on a scientific review performed by the European Food Safety Authority.

For many slaughter houses in the UK, compliance with the EU regulations requires an increase in the currents used for electrical stunning of poultry in a water-bath. The parameters were set in an attempt to ensure that stunning is effective following evidence that at low currents birds are likely to remain conscious despite appearing to be stunned. However, there have been objections from the Islamic community that the higher currents are more likely to kill birds rather than stun them and prevent meat from being classed as Halal. There have also been objections from meat producers that the higher currents are likely to cause damage to meat.

The Welfare of Animals at Time of Killing (WATOK) regulations implement the EU Regulations in the UK. WATOK regulations were due to come into effect in England in May 2014 but were withdrawn at the last minute due to concerns over the impact of the regulations on religious slaughter. The legal requirement for EU recommended stunning methods to be followed for stunning prior to religious slaughter was removed and the new WATOK regulations came into effect on 5th November 2015. This contrasts with Wales and Northern Ireland where WATOK regulations do specify that the EU recommended stunning parameters must followed when stunning prior to religious slaughter.

The debate

The introduction of the English WATOK regulations were met with concern from the BVA over English poultry failing to be effectively stunned under the new regulations. This was reported on in the Veterinary Record and the Times newspaper.

In response, Lord Hodgson raised a motion of regret in the House of Lords to highlight the issue and create an opportunity for debate on the welfare of animals at slaughter. Lord Trees spoke in this debate today and a transcript from the debate will soon be available here.

The broader picture

This debate is part of wider discussion over the use of stunning to safeguard the welfare of animals at slaughter. It remains legal in the UK to slaughter animals without prior stunning in order to allow for Halal and Shechita traditions to be maintained and we have recently updated a document that summarises the key facts concerning non-stun slaughter in the UK.

We regard stunning as an essential means by which to reduce pain and suffering of animals at slaughter and would support efforts to ensure that stunning is carried out in all cases and is performed using means that are proven to be effective in safeguarding animal welfare. Almost a billion animals are slaughtered for food each year in the UK and we have a moral obligation to ensure that this process affords each animal the highest possible standards of welfare.