This House of Lords Library Briefing has been written ahead of the debate in the House of Lords on 7 December 2017, that: “this House takes note of Her Majesty’s Government’s plans to improve the natural environment and animal welfare”.Jump to full report >>
On 7 December 2017, the House of Lords is due to debate a motion, moved by the Earl of Caithness (Conservative), that: “this House takes note of Her Majesty’s Government’s plans to improve the natural environment and animal welfare”. This short briefing presents an overview of some of the Government’s plans on the natural environment and animal welfare. A selection of key documents is identified at the end of the briefing to provide further detail.
The Government has committed to publishing a 25 Year Environment Plan with the objective of ensuring the current generation “would be first to leave the environment in a better state than [they] inherited it”. In September 2016, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs had stated that it would establish a series of indicators as part of the plan to record progress on improving the environment, and that the aim of the plan would be to involve business and environmental non-governmental organisations in the delivery of its objectives. The Government has since stated that the plan would now be published during the 2017–22 parliament. The Labour Party has criticised the Government for the delay in the publication of the plan, describing it as “unacceptable”.
The Government has also announced its intention to create a new, independent, statutory body responsible for environmental standards in England. The Government has said that this new body would have oversight of environmental policy decisions, which are currently overseen by the European Commission. A consultation on the specific powers and scope of this body is scheduled to be launched in early 2018.
Support for Agriculture
The Government has argued that leaving the EU presented the UK with an opportunity to change the way in which farmers are supported. It has also announced it would match the support currently received by farmers, as part the Common Agricultural Policy, until 2022. In this context, the Minister of State at the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, George Eustice, has stated that the Government would seek to establish:
[…] a more coherent domestic policy to support farmers to become more profitable, to support environmental outcomes and to promote things such as animal welfare.
The Government has said that it would seek to achieve this through provisions in its new Agriculture Bill, announced in the 2017 Queen’s Speech. This Bill would also include measures intended to provide stability for farmers as the UK left the EU, the Government has stated. The chair of the House of Lords European Union Energy and Environment Sub-Committee, Lord Teverson, questioned how the Agriculture Bill could be finalised while there was still a lack of clarity on what the UK’s future relationship with the EU would eventually be.
Animal Welfare Standards
House of Lords European Union Committee has argued that, once the UK has left the EU, there would be a risk of increased pressure on the Government to relax farm animal welfare standards. The Government has said it would seek to avoid UK animal welfare standards being undermined by cheaper imports from countries with lower standards, and would consider what measures might be taken as part of its future trade policy, within the requirements of existing World Trade Organization rules.
In addition to those announcements relating to the UK’s departure from the EU, the Government has also announced a number of other policies relating to animal welfare. These include proposing to increase the maximum sentence for animal cruelty offences to five years imprisonment and to make closed-circuit television mandatory in slaughterhouses.
Lords Library notes LLN-2017-0088
Author: Edward Scott
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