Category Archives: Legislative business

Amendment to EU Withdrawal Bill seeks to embed animal sentience in UK law

Lord Trees, alongside Peers from other parties, have proposed an Amendment to the so-called ‘Brexit Bill’ to ensure that existing high animal welfare standards in the UK will be maintained. He has written a short explanatory note to accompany it:

Amendment 40: EU Protocol on animal sentience (Article 13 of the Treaty for the Functioning of the EU)

This Amendment attempts to ensure that existing high animal welfare standards in the UK will be maintained after Brexit. This is a matter of very considerable concern to the public, the media and animal welfare and veterinary organisations. The Amendment would bring into UK law the principle enshrined in the EU Protocol on Animal Sentience contained in Article 13 of the Treaty for the Functioning of the EU (TFEU). This places an obligation on government to pay regard to the welfare of animals (as sentient beings) in the formulation and implementation of public policy. As such, it complements our existing Animal Welfare Act 2006 which places an obligation on the individual keeper of an animal(s) for the welfare of the animal(s) under their care. Since Article 13 is part of a Treaty it has not been embraced automatically in the EU Withdrawal Bill, so that without special measures, such as this Amendment, UK legislation when we leave the EU will NOT be equivalent to that of the remaining EU 27 countries.

Although the Government defeated an Amendment by Caroline Lucas to the EU Withdrawal Bill relating to Article 13 in the House of Commons it faced such a backlash of public and media criticism that it brought out a very brief draft Animal Welfare Bill 2018, part of which seeks to embed the principle of Article 13 into UK law. This Bill was the subject of an inquiry by EFRAcom published at the end of January. Whilst this welcomed the spirit of the Bill it was critical of its brevity and vagueness, and liability to invite unintended consequences. So we have a situation where the Government as well as opposition parties broadly agree about the destination of travel i.e. to embrace in some way the spirit of Article 13, but the means of travel are as yet uncertain.

We have drafted Amendment 40 with care to address the shortcomings of earlier amendments and the draft Animal Welfare Bill 2018, and are very grateful for the advice of Dr Mike Radford, University of Aberdeen, an expert on animal welfare legislation. In particular we have sought to minimise the risk of malicious judicial review, so the Amendment charges Parliament with the exclusive responsibility of holding Ministers to account.

Given the time pressures and the tsunami of legislation which in the coming months will be competing for a finite amount of parliamentary time, adoption of this Amendment – or variations to it – will immediately ensure our legislation with regard to animal welfare is exactly the same after Brexit as it is now. It would provide important support in our negotiations to achieve trade agreements in livestock and livestock products with the EU 27 and the rest of the world, and reassurance to the public that animal welfare will not be compromised by Brexit.

This Amendment is due to debated on Wednesday 25th April around 4-6pm (although times may vary), watch live at parliament.tv/Lords.

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The Veterinary Nurses (Protection of Title) Bill

Updated January 2016

What did we do?

On Tuesday 19 May Lord Trees submitted the ‘Veterinary Nurses (Protection of Title) Bill’ into the House of Lords Bill ballot.

As it is drawn up, the Bill would prohibit use of the title ‘veterinary nurse’ for any person whose name is not on our Register of Veterinary Nurses. Any non-registered person who used the title veterinary nurse or a name, title or description that implied they were on the Register would be guilty of an offence and may be fined or convicted under the Veterinary Surgeons Act.

Veterinary Nurse (Protection of Title) Bill

Why?

Currently the title ‘veterinary nurse’ is not protected, and this is a problem because it means anyone, even if they lack the relevant training and education, can refer to themselves as a veterinary nurse. The veterinary professions believe that this should change.

Registered veterinary nurses :

  • may give medical treatment to, or carry out minor surgery on, animals under Schedule 3 of the Veterinary Surgeons Act 1966 under the direction of a veterinary surgeon.
  • commit to follow the RCVS Code of Professional Conduct, and keep their skills and knowledge up-to-date.
  • may be subject to our disciplinary process if they should fall short of their professional responsibilities.
  • may be suspended or removed from the Register at the direction of the RVN Disciplinary Committee if found guilty of serious professional misconduct.

Consequently, we believe that it is inappropriate for people without formal training to describe themselves as a ‘veterinary nurse’, and that to do so potentially puts both animal welfare and the welfare of the individual employed as a veterinary nurse without qualification at risk.

Protection of the title is supported by the British Veterinary Nursing Association, the British Veterinary Association, the respective representative bodies for veterinary nurses and veterinary surgeons in the UK, and also by their regulator, the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons.

See more at: http://www.rcvs.org.uk/registration/about-the-vn-register/protect-the-title-veterinary-nurse

How to submit a Private Members Bill

  1. Ensure your sponsoring Peer has taken the Oath of Allegiance.
  2. Submit a Private Members Bill into the ballot.
  3. Get drawn early in the ballot to improve the chances of getting time in the chamber.

How did we do?

The Bill was submitted on time and was drawn 36 out of 44 bills entered into the Lords ballot. This relatively low position in the ballot decreases our chance of getting time in the chamber for the second reading of the Bill; in the House of Commons bill ballot, it is expected that the first seven bills drawn are usually debated in the chamber. The rest of the time in either chamber is devoted to Government-led legislation. If the Bill did make it through the Lords it would require sponsorship from an MP to pass through the Commons chamber and become law.

The introduction of the bill stimulated wide discussions and media attention and helped to raise the profile of this issue. An online petition was launched by the RCVS in August 2015 and received over 20,000 signatures (correct as of December 2015).

How did the Government respond?

Minister George Eustace discussed the protection of the title Veterinary Nurse with his DEFRA team and whilst they are extremely sympathetic with the aims of the bill we have been advised that it will not be supported by the government. The government believes that “the legal protection already in place to make sure that animals in veterinary care are treated only by individuals who are trained and qualified to do so” is sufficient and that “criminalising the use of the term “veterinary nurse” by other animal carers in a veterinary setting to be an unduly harsh solution.” To address the issue DEFRA have suggested that the “RCVS and the veterinary membership associations work with veterinary practices to encourage that only properly qualified, registered veterinary nurses should be referred to as such.”

Where do we go from here

Despite this position the government have shown willingness to continue discussions and have invited the RCVS “to discuss further with Defra how new thinking may require existing laws and regulations to be amended to bolster and clarify the role of veterinary nurses.”

 

Draft Dog Microchipping Regulations

Microchipping of Dogs (England) Regulations 2014

On Thursday afternoon the new Microchipping of Dogs (England) Regulations were considered in Grand Committee. Lord De Mauley (C), Baroness Miller of Chilthorne Domer (LD), Lord Trees (CB) and Lord Grantchester (L) all contributed to the discussion around the Regulations. Links to HOL Hansard online and the Parliament TV coverage of the discussion are provided below.

Lord Trees speaking in Grand Committee
Lord Trees speaking in Grand Committee

Lord Trees welcomed the legislation, but warned that it would not be a silver bullet for all canine-related animal welfare issues. After scrutinising the legislation there were a number of areas where we felt the wording left things unclear, but the Minister respectfully disagreed. In Regulation 9, the term ‘veterinary nurse’ was used in the manner of a legally and professionally protected term when it is not. We suggested that the term ‘registered veterinary nurse’ be substituted because this will become a professionally protected term under the new Charter of the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons, which is likely to be granted in February. We await an answer on this point.

We were surprised to note that it was not considered appropriate to legislate on the site of implantation, despite the existence of a specific ISO-standard, but that the legislation does provide for the notification of the Secretary of State on migration of a microchip – which seems entirely unnecessary.

LordDeMauley_Microchipping_220115Last, but not least, the legislation around transfer of ownership seemed unclear (Regulation 8). Lord De Mauley clarified that the the new keeper must update the database where there is a change of keeper. However, and somewhat confusingly, not to do so is not listed as an offence. The Noble Lord the Minister intends to write to us on any points he had not addressed or wished to address further.