Tag Archives: Lord Trees

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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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.

 

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.

Committee Business: Billingsgate Fish Market

EU Sub Committee for Environment and Energy visits the Billingsgate Fish Market

Billingsgate (135)Members of the EU Sub-Committee for Environment and Energy were invited to attend Billingsgate Fish Market in east London on the morning of Tuesday 21 July.

Billingsgate (117)The visit, which started at the crack of dawn, was organised so that Sub -Committee members could see the market in action. It also provided the opportunity for discussion about the impact of EU fisheries policy on the UK fishing industry and the food supply chain that follows. The visit concluded with a Dover sole breakfast.

Billingsgate (113)

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.”