Animal Welfare (Sentience) Bill – An Animal Sentience Committee

I have tabled nine amendments to the Bill to ensure that the animal sentience committee will be a properly functioning entity that can support a meaningful improvement in recognising the sentience of animals, and what that should mean for government policy.

My first amendment, Amendment 6, starts the process of improving the committee by explicitly stating its purpose. It seems a basic drafting failure that the purpose of the committee is not laid out. It seems rather strange to have it absent from the Bill, so here I am suggesting an option. If somebody wanted a public body to achieve a purpose, I think that they would specify that purpose in the enabling legislation. My concern is that, as the Bill is currently drafted, the animal sentience committee will not be able to achieve much. We have heard Lords use particular phrases about why animal sentience is not in our legislation: somebody said it just fell out and somebody else said it was dropped by accident. To me, that is a rewriting of history, because I remember that the Government took it out deliberately.

I spoke to the Bill in Grand Committee: It is a pleasure to follow Lord Forsyth. I usually disagree very strongly with almost everything he says. However, something he said rang a bell with me, which was that the drafting of Bills is so much worse now than when he was a Minister. I totally agree that we are getting some very poorly drafted Bills, and perhaps he could give some advice to the Government on how to improve that situation.

In the earlier group, the Minister said that he felt as if he was navigating between Scylla and Charybdis. I am on the side of Scylla, the safest option, so perhaps he will hear all my comments with that in mind. I have tabled nine amendments to the Bill to ensure that the animal sentience committee will be a properly functioning entity that can support a meaningful improvement in recognising the sentience of animals, and what that should mean for government policy. I owe a particular debt of gratitude to Lady Fookes, who has signed all nine of my amendments. She is well known for her love of animals, and I therefore see her support as an indication that I am doing something right on behalf of animals.

My first amendment, Amendment 6, starts the process of improving the committee by explicitly stating its purpose. It seems a basic drafting failure that the purpose of the committee is not laid out. It seems rather strange to have it absent from the Bill, so here I am suggesting an option. To be honest, if somebody wanted a public body to achieve a purpose, I think that they would specify that purpose in the enabling legislation.

Amendment 62 inserts a schedule for the operating of the committee. There is a lot of overlap between this schedule and amendments tabled by other noble Lords. Having a schedule seems like a tidy way to bundle all the important things together. I am sure that we can work together to make sure that we come up with something better and more agreeable by Report. I am happy to work with others to develop joint amendments that can carry this whole idea forward.

My concern is that, as the Bill is currently drafted, the animal sentience committee will not be able to achieve much and that Parliament will have missed a vital opportunity to make the lives of millions, possibly billions, of animals better. In the previous group, we heard Lords use particular phrases about why animal sentience is not in our legislation. Somebody said it just fell out and somebody else said it was dropped by accident. To me, that is a rewriting of history, because I remember that the Government took it out deliberately. There was such an outcry from the public and Peers that the Government realised they had to do something about it, and this is their way of doing that. So let us help the Government make sure that this Bill is the best Bill it can be.

Read the whole debate on Hansard