§ 4.25 p.m.
§ Lord Carter
rose to move, That the order laid before the House on 23rd November be approved [33rd Report from the Joint Committee, Session 1999–2000].
The noble Lord said: My Lords, I move this order on behalf of my noble friend Lady Hayman. The Mink Keeping (England) Order 2000 has already been made and will come into force when it has obtained the approval of both Houses. The order is made under the Destructive Imported Animals Act 1932 and will ensure that mink are kept securely to prevent their escape into the wild. It replaces the existing order, which expires on 1st January 2001.
Last month the Fur Farming (Prohibition) Act 2000 received Royal Assent and fulfilled the Government's pre-election pledge to ban fur farming. The order we are debating today will have no effect on the banning of fur farming under that Act and the ban will go ahead after a winding-down period of at least until the end of 2002. During that winding-down period, we need to ensure mink continue to be kept securely. If the order is not renewed mink farming will be deregulated. The Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food would then not have the powers to enforce the stringent security conditions that are required to prevent farmed mink from escaping into the wild. That situation would be unacceptable to the Government and to anyone who is concerned about the environment.
I must stress that neither the order nor the regulations cover welfare issues. Those are dealt with under separate legislation. We shall, of course, continue to ensure that fur farmers comply with the welfare requirements which will remain in force while the industry is winding down.
Previous mink keeping orders covered Great Britain as a whole, but, following devolution, the Mink Keeping (England) Order 2000 will cover England only. Separate orders are being made in Scotland and Wales to renew their powers to enforce security conditions. The keeping of mink will be prohibited absolutely in those areas where there is currently neither a feral mink population nor any mink farms; that is, all off-shore islands, excluding the Isle of Wight, which already has a mink farm. That is the reason for the exclusion. The purpose of the absolute prohibition in these areas is to prevent the establishment of feral mink populations. Mink keeping can continue in all other areas of England under licence until the end of the winding-down period under the Fur Farming (Prohibition) Act 2000, when fur farming will be banned absolutely in England, and, in fact, in Wales, as the Act also applies there.
Under the Fur Farming (Prohibition) Act 2000, the 906 earliest that a ban can be brought into force is 1st January 2003. While this might suggest renewal of the order for two years only, I propose a three-year order as that will allow some flexibility as to when the ban is brought into force without the need to renew the order. A modified form of mink keeping order will still be needed when fur farming is banned to permit the licensed keeping of mink and coypu for special purposes such as exhibition and research.
The order is essential in order to maintain the powers needed to enforce the stringent security conditions required to prevent farmed mink from escaping into the wild. Until fur farming is prohibited, applications for licences will be considered in the usual way and licences will be issued where the required standards have been met.
My noble and learned friend Lord Williams of Mostyn gave an undertaking to this House that, when moving regulations which are subject to affirmative procedure, Ministers will always inform the House whether they are satisfied that the instrument is compatible with the European Convention on Human Rights. In accordance with this undertaking, I can confirm that it is the Government's view that the provisions of the Mink Keeping (England) Order 2000 are compatible with convention rights. I commend the order to the House.
Moved, That the order laid before the House on 23rd November be approved [33rd Report from the Joint Committee, Session 1999-2000].—(Lord Carter.)
§ Lord Henley
My Lords, I have two brief points. First, I am grateful to the noble Lord the Chief Whip for mentioning the Isle of Wight. That caused me some problems because I could not understand why the Isle of Wight was mentioned and not other islands. He has now dealt with that point.
Secondly, I have a point about compensation. Compensation will be offered in due course following the passage of the Act this year in relation to mink-keeping. Mink farmers are very concerned as to when they will get compensation, particularly as the breeding season will arrive in about March. Can the noble Lord say when they will get compensation because it is of concern to them in terms of their farming operations?
§ Lord Carter
My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord the Opposition Chief Whip. I am dealing with only the one order today; I think that he is dealing with four or five. I am sure his fellow Whips and his shadow Ministers are grateful to him.
With regard to compensation, the advertisement has been placed for the independent consultant who is required. It is hoped that he will be appointed by the end of January. All farms will be visited by 21st February.
The noble Lord mentioned the breeding cycle. It is intended that there will be three months of consultation on the draft order from around June onwards. It is hoped that the statutory instrument to deal with compensation will be laid in October.
§ On Question, Motion agreed to.