Cynulliad Cenedlaethol Cymru

Yn ôl i Chwilio

Y Pwyllgor Newid Hinsawdd, Amgylchedd a Materion Gwledig

Climate Change, Environment and Rural Affairs Committee

05/02/2020

Aelodau'r Pwyllgor a oedd yn bresennol

Committee Members in Attendance

Andrew R.T. Davies AC
Jenny Rathbone AC
Joyce Watson AC
Llyr Gruffydd AC
Mike Hedges AC Cadeirydd y Pwyllgor
Committee Chair
Neil Hamilton AC

Y rhai eraill a oedd yn bresennol

Others in Attendance

Lesley Griffiths AC Gweinidog yr Amgylchedd, Ynni a Materion Gwledig
Minister for Environment, Energy and Rural Affairs
Richard Lewis Cyfreithiwr, Llywodraeth Cymru
Lawyer, Welsh Government
Tom Henderson Uwch-reolwr y Bil, Llywodraeth Cymru
Senior Bill Manager, Welsh Government

Swyddogion y Senedd a oedd yn bresennol

Senedd Officials in Attendance

Elizabeth Wilkinson Ail Glerc
Second Clerk
Katie Wyatt Cynghorydd Cyfreithiol
Legal Adviser
Marc Wyn Jones Clerc
Clerk

Cofnodir y trafodion yn yr iaith y llefarwyd hwy ynddi yn y pwyllgor. Yn ogystal, cynhwysir trawsgrifiad o’r cyfieithu ar y pryd. Lle mae cyfranwyr wedi darparu cywiriadau i’w tystiolaeth, nodir y rheini yn y trawsgrifiad.

The proceedings are reported in the language in which they were spoken in the committee. In addition, a transcription of the simultaneous interpretation is included. Where contributors have supplied corrections to their evidence, these are noted in the transcript.

Dechreuodd y cyfarfod am 09:30.

The meeting began at 09:30.

1. Cyflwyniad, ymddiheuriadau, dirprwyon a datgan buddiannau
1. Introductions, apologies, substitutions and declarations of interest

Bore da. Good morning. Can I welcome Members to the Stage 2 process of the Wild Animals and Circuses (Wales) Bill? Have any Members got any interests to declare? No.

2. Bil Anifeiliaid Gwyllt a Syrcasau (Cymru): Trafodion Cyfnod 2
2. Wild Animals and Circuses (Wales) Bill: Stage 2 proceedings

Can I welcome Lesley Griffiths, the Minister for Environment, Energy and Rural Affairs, Richard Lewis, a lawyer at Welsh Government, and Tom Henderson, senior Bill manager at Welsh Government?

The purpose of the meeting is to undertake Stage 2 proceedings of the Wild Animals and Circuses (Wales) Bill. Members should have before them the marshalled list of amendments and the groupings of amendments for debate. The marshalled list of amendments is a list of all amendments tabled, marshalled into the order in which the sections appear in the Bill. For this meeting, the order in which we consider amendments will be sections 1 to 13, the Schedule and the long title. You'll see from the groupings list that the amendments have been grouped to facilitate debate, but the order in which they are called and moved for a decision is dictated by the marshalled list. Members will need to follow the two papers, although I will advise Members when I call them whether they are being called to speak in a debate or to move their amendments for decision. There'll be one debate on each group of amendments. Members who wish to speak in a particular group should indicate this in the usual way.

In line with our usual practice, legal advisers to the committee and the Minister are not expected to provide advice on the record. If Members wish to seek legal advice during proceedings, please do so by passing a note to the legal adviser.

Are we all okay with that? Okay.

Grŵp 1: Trosedd i ddefnyddio anifeiliaid gwyllt mewn syrcasau teithiol (Gwelliannau 1, 41)
Group 1: Offence to use wild animals in travelling circuses (Amendments 1, 41)

We move now on to the list. Group 1 is the offence to use wild animals in travelling circuses, amendments 1 and 41. Group 1 relates to the offence to use wild animals in travelling circuses. The lead amendment in the group is amendment 1 in the name of Llyr Gruffydd. I call on Llyr Gruffydd to move amendment 1 and speak to the amendments in this group.

Cynigiwyd gwelliant 1 (Llyr Gruffydd).

Amendment 1 (Llyr Gruffydd) moved.

Diolch yn fawr, Chair. As is evident, I think, from the amendment, my amendment 1 expands the definition of what constitutes an offence under this legislation to make it clear that the use of a wild animal in a travelling circus includes traveling with that circus. Currently, of course, the Bill only forbids wild animals performing or being exhibited for entertainment in a travelling circus environment, and the current wording would therefore still allow a wild animal to be legally taken on tour with a travelling circus. Now, I believe it's important, from an animal welfare perspective, that the Bill bans transportation as well as performance and exhibition. And doing so, of course, would also address some of this committee's concerns, as we expressed as part of our Stage 1 deliberations and our Stage 1 report—and I quote—that,

'in practice, it may be difficult for inspectors to distinguish between instances when a wild animal is "deliberately" displayed and "inadvertently" viewed.'

Now, if you recall, the Minister acknowledged in evidence to us that determining, when a non-performing animal is still travelling with a circus, whether an offence had been committed when an animal was on display outside of the circus tent may be challenging, and the Minister's official stated in evidence—and I quote again:

'If they’re out to grass next to the big top, then arguably that could be a form of promoting the circus.'

So, there's a risk that the Bill, as it stands, would prevent travelling circuses from allowing their wild animals outside for legitimate purposes, such as grazing or exercise. Now, that's unacceptable, and that risk, of course, could be done away with by banning their travel with a travelling circus. To not do so I think would be a missed opportunity and something I think we would regret in future.

Oh, yes—I've got to move my amendment, haven't I? [Laughter.] I was so taken by the early hour that we're here. Yes, I'm moving amendment 41 on the basis that some of the evidence that we've received in committee highlighted that they would be able to continue to train animals and justify the training of animals as a legitimate purpose to have those animals with them on the road when the circus is going on their tours—their summer tours in particular. I think it merits the approval of amendment 41, which would specify specifically that the training of animals would be excluded under the legislation as well, which, at the moment— the evidence we took in committee, especially from the circus operators, indicated there was a potential for that to happen. So, that's why I've tabled amendment 41 in my name.

We're all learning. Are there any other Members who wish to speak? Jenny Rathbone.

Yes. I oppose amendment 1, because we heard clear evidence that it is in the best welfare interests of the animal that is attached to the person in the travelling circus to stay with them, rather than being dumped in a cage and left for a period of time. You wouldn't do that to a dog—there'd be outrage if you did it to a dog—and it should also apply to these other animals, which are born in captivity and they enjoy travelling and, therefore, they'll be much better off staying with what they know.

09:35

I agree with Jenny Rathbone. Certainly, the evidence we received was that none of these animals is actually wild in the sense that we would understand lions and tigers born in the wild. These animals are accustomed to a form of travelling domestication, if you like, and I think that the psychology of this, as outlined by Jenny, is something that is well worth considering.

Thank you. Do other Members wish to speak? I call on the Minister.

Thank you, Chair. Probably, just to say at the outset—I know everybody's very aware of this, but the purpose of this Bill is to address ethical concerns by banning the use of wild animals in travelling circuses in Wales. It's not on welfare grounds—the welfare of animals is already protected under other legislation.

So, this Bill really has a very narrow purpose. It seeks to make it an offence for an operator of a travelling circus to use, or cause or permit another person to use, a wild animal in a travelling circus. A wild animal is used if that animal is performing or is exhibited. If circuses choose to keep and train their wild animals and use them in a different way, that's their prerogative, provided they do so within the law.

The circuses, in giving evidence to this committee, have already said they intend to keep using their wild animals, albeit not as part of the travelling circus. In order to do this, they would, presumably, need to train them. Any decision on the future of their wild animals is likely to have already been made, given that the ban in England came into force last month. One would assume it would be uneconomical for circuses to continue to take their wild animals with them when they tour if they can't use them, although, of course, that would be a decision for them.

The proposed amendments amount to de facto bans either on travelling circuses keeping wild animals, which would constitute the complete deprivation of property, or the training of wild animals, and this would risk infringing the right to the peaceful enjoyment of possessions, which is protected by article 1 of protocol 1 to the European Convention on Human rights. So, restricting how an animal is used in a circus environment, as we are trying to do here, is less of an interference than depriving an owner of it entirely, or restricting how they use wild animals outside of the circus environment.

So, I don't believe that the amendments that have just been moved can be justified. The purpose of the Bill, I repeat, is to address ethical concerns about how wild animals are used in travelling circuses, so I'd urge Members to reject these amendments.

Yes, I understand that this Bill has been brought forward on an ethical basis, although the Minister did tie herself up in knots previously when we discussed this, I have to say. I can't see that there's an ethical case to be made for putting wild animals through the experience of being dragged around the country, whereas they could be kept out to pasture or kept in an appropriate environment in a static context. Jenny Rathbone suggested that they didn't want to be dumped in a cage. Well, they're currently dumped in a travelling cage, effectively. I think their welfare would be much better addressed in a static location, as opposed to being dragged around the country, and I think there are ethical grounds for arguing for that as well.

Clearly, I want to move to a vote on my first amendment, but I also just want to say that I do support amendment 41 as well, because I think exposing wild animals to forced training with these circuses is hugely inappropriate. The only question I have around that amendment is whether it applies to only training wild animals for travelling circuses and whether it's feasible to differentiate; I'm not sure it is. But in principle I'm opposed to training those animals for either, so I'm happy to support that amendment.

Okay, thank you. The question is that amendment 1 be agreed. Does any Member object? [Objection.] We've had an objection. The question is that amendment 1 be agreed. Those in favour, please raise your hands. Those against. The amendment is lost, with two in favour and four against.

Gwelliant 1: O blaid: 2, Yn erbyn: 4, Ymatal: 0

Gwrthodwyd y gwelliant

Amendment 1: For: 2, Against: 4, Abstain: 0

Amendment has been rejected

Next, we move on to Andrew Davies—do you wish to move amendment 41?

Cynigiwyd gwelliant 41 (Andrew R.T. Davies).

Amendment 41 (Andrew R.T. Davies) moved.

The question is that amendment 41 be agreed. Does any Member object? [Objection.] I will, therefore, take a vote on a show of hands. Those in favour. Those against. Okay, so there's two in favour, three against, and one abstention. Therefore, it is lost.

09:40

Gwelliant 41: O blaid: 2, Yn erbyn: 3, Ymatal: 1

Gwrthodwyd y gwelliant

Amendment 41: For: 2, Against: 3, Abstain: 1

Amendment has been rejected

Grŵp 2: Anghymhwyso troseddwyr (Gwelliannau 2, 3)
Group 2: Disqualification of offenders (Amendments 2, 3)

That takes us on now to disqualification of offenders, amendments 2 and 3. Group 2 relates to the disqualification of offenders. The lead amendment in this group is amendment 2, in the name of Llyr Gruffydd. I call on Llyr Gruffydd to move amendment 2 and speak to the amendments in this group.

Cynigiwyd gwelliant 2 (Llyr Gruffydd).

Amendment 2 (Llyr Gruffydd) moved.

Thank you, Chair. These amendments would provide the courts with the option to disqualify those committing an offence under this legislation from keeping wild animals for a set period of time. Present proposals mean those guilty of an offence under this legislation are only liable to a fine on conviction. I don't believe that's sufficient. The option to disqualify would be more proportionate, I believe, to the offence, and more consistent as well with penalties found in other animal-related legislation, such as the Dangerous Wild Animals Act 1976 and the Animal Welfare Act 2006. These proposed new sections in amendments 2 and 3 are based on provisions in the Animal Welfare Act 2006. So, a similar precedent already exists on the statute book, and they're understood by those already involved in the sector and those who use these provisions on a regular basis. The RSPCA and others support such provision and believe that the ability to disqualify would also meet public expectations, especially in light, of course, of the Minister highlighting to us in her previous evidence the overwhelming public support for a ban. So, I would urge Members to support both amendments 2 and 3. 

Thank you. Do any other Members wish to speak? Jenny Rathbone. 

I think this is disproportionate to the offence. There's already in the Bill opportunity to impose unlimited fines. So, if it was a repeat offence, then I'm sure the courts would take that into account. So, I really don't think that—. You know, there are unseen consequences of doing that, and I think the Bill as stated is sufficient. 

Thank you. The penalties must be proportionate to the severity of the offences, and the Bill empowers courts to impose unlimited fines. So, it would make it increasingly uneconomic for repeat offenders to pursue what will become an illegal activity. Again, it's very consistent with the approach taken both in Scotland and England. The offence isn't linked to animal cruelty, and someone who's found guilty of using a wild animal won't automatically be guilty of cruelty offences. I've already explained, where any evidence is found of an animal being mistreated, the Animal Welfare Act 2006 will apply, as is currently the case.

The proposed amendments do appear to have been taken from that piece of legislation, which provides for the disqualification of offenders from owning, keeping and transporting animals. The Act also provides for possession to be taken of an animal if it's suffering or if it's likely to suffer if its circumstances do not change.

So, the main problem with these amendments is that they have the potential to ban a person from effectively doing anything with a wild animal in any capacity, so not just part of a travelling circus. That again gives rise to proportionality. And like the previous amendment, it risks raising human rights issues under article 1 of protocol 1 to the European Convention on Human Rights. So, given the powers to disqualify offenders from keeping certain animals where welfare issues arise already exist in other legislation, the proposed amendments are not required. 

It won't surprise Members to hear that I don't necessarily agree with all of the points that have been made. Of course, this would only offer an additional option. It's another tool in the armoury, if you like. I think that it's well worth us adopting this policy, because you will get repeat offenders, and I think there will be certain circumstances where disqualification is the only feasible option. 

If amendment 2 is not agreed, amendment 3 will fall. The question is amendment 2 be agreed. Does any Member object? [Objection.] So, the question is amendment 2 be agreed. Those in favour. Those against. The voting is two to four. Amendment 2 is lost. As such, amendment 3 falls.

Gwelliant 2: O blaid: 2, Yn erbyn: 4, Ymatal: 0

Gwrthodwyd y gwelliant

Amendment 2: For: 2, Against: 4, Abstain: 0

Amendment has been rejected

Methodd gwelliant 3.

Amendment 3 fell.

Grŵp 3: Canllawiau (Gwelliannau 42, 4)
Group 3: Guidance (Amendments 42, 4)

I now move to group 3: guidance, amendments 42 and 4. Group 3 relates to guidance to accompany the Bill. The lead amendment in this group is amendment 42, in the name of Andrew Davies. I call on Andrew Davies to move amendment 42 and speak to the amendments in the group. 

Cynigiwyd gwelliant 42 (Andrew R.T. Davies).

Amendment 42 (Andrew R.T. Davies) moved.

I move amendment 42 in group 3. This amendment places a duty on Welsh Ministers to produce and publish guidance on the interpretation as to what constitutes a travelling circus. This strengthens the provision in section 4(3), which states that 'regulations may specify' what undertaking is to be regarded or not regarded as a travelling circus. Furthermore, placing a duty on Ministers to produce guidance will help the interpretation, understanding and implementation of the Bill, by helping to reduce ambiguities within the current definition, thus closing potential loopholes.

And I have to say, I'm going to put a note on my next legislation to write it bigger. When you're sitting in committee, it's too small, the writing is.

But we did receive evidence that there was some ambiguity in the interpretation that could be put on a travelling circus, and I do think it's important that this particular area is tightened up so there's a very clear definition and that can't be stretched, shall we say, when people are trying to understand what constitutes a particular travelling circus. So, I hope this amendment will carry in the committee today, to give strength to the Bill and actually respond to the evidence that we received in our evidence-gathering sessions.

09:45

Yes, thank you. Clearly, there was a recommendation in our Stage 1 report calling for statutory guidance to support the implementation of the Bill, and both Andrew and my amendments put that into effect. The difference between amendment 42 and amendment 4, my amendment, is that I want to go further.

Whilst the proposed amendment 42 talks about guidance on what constitutes a 'travelling circus', my amendment 4 is more comprehensive as it also requires guidance to be given on the meaning of 'wild animal' and 'exhibit'. We did hear evidence that there were concerns around potential loopholes and the need to address those. So, we need that clarity, in my view, to make sure that—. It'll help aid interpretation, understanding and effective implementation of the Bill, making sure that we achieve the objectives that we're trying to achieve.

And it's important to make the point as well that the ability for a Minister to revise such guidance is very important, and it'll help futureproof the legislation so that people can't circumvent what we're trying to achieve here through the loopholes that Andrew referred to earlier. So, I would urge Members to support—preferably my amendment, because it's more comprehensive, but in principle as well, I support Andrew's too.

Thank you very much. Are there any other Members who wish to speak? Jenny Rathbone.

I oppose both amendments, because I think this is already 'a sledgehammer to crack a nut' piece of legislation, and it's important that—. Given that we are being forced to do this because England and Scotland have already done it, we need to have something that's consistent with whatever guidance comes out in England and Scotland. We need to make it as simple and as easy to understand as possible, and consistent. We already have in the legislation the opportunity—well, the obligation on the Minister to issue guidance. So, that's already there. So, I will oppose the amendments.

I agree with the broad outline of what Jenny has just said, and I would make one more point in relation to this: guidance from a Minister is not law unless we choose to make it so. But I think, in general, it's not a good policy to give Ministers discretion to make law as they go along or interpret law that is then binding upon the general public as they see fit. Ministerial discretion is something that ought, I think, to be constrained, because the law of unintended consequences could easily flow. It's a bad thing to give too much power to the Executive, albeit this is in a very narrow and restricted area. As Jenny has said, I agree that this Bill is 'a sledgehammer to crack a nut', on the basis of the evidence that we received in the course of this Bill's proceedings. So, I do think that this is supererogatory and it goes further than is necessary in order to achieve the practical purposes of the Bill.

I do agree with what Jenny has said. I've seen through legislation many, many times in different areas and it's always been the case that the guidance will follow, and I think that that's important. The Minister has given assurances that the guidance will be there. The interpretation of that guidance, and it's something that Neil said, will be down to the people responsible for the law that follows through from the Act, using that guidance. It isn't for us here to give a power to a Minister to exercise that right.

09:50

Thank you, Chair. There's no obligation to issue guidance in the Bill, but I have already committed, as Joyce said, to producing guidance, and we will also ensure that we consult with stakeholders on that guidance. The guidance will not set out additional requirements or obligations, but it will provide general guidance on the content of the Act and, where appropriate, additional information on its provisions. The guidance does not need to form part of the Act, and neither will it be a comprehensive description of the Act. It will be as helpful as possible, but it cannot give a definitive interpretation of the law. Ultimately, it's for the courts to interpret the Act.

It's consistent with the approach taken in Scotland, where the Scottish Government has produced well considered, non-statutory guidance to accompany their Act. I think it's a really good example of the type of guidance that we would want to produce. The UK Government have also committed to a similar approach. This is different from the type of guidance that would normally be statutory, such as the codes of practice that we issue under the Animal Welfare Act 2006.

The amendments tabled by Members would put a requirement on Welsh Ministers to issue guidance to include, but not limited to: the meaning of 'wild animal', the meaning of 'travelling circus', and the meaning of 'exhibit'. This committee, in its Stage 1 report, said you

'are broadly content with the meaning of "wild animal" set out in the Bill.'

In giving evidence to this committee, animal welfare organisations also acknowledged that it was consistent with the well-established meaning of 'wild animal' contained in the Zoo Licensing Act 1981. Our definition of 'wild animal' is:

'an animal of a kind that is not commonly domesticated in the British Islands'.

Again, this definition is similar to the definition of 'wild animal' in the 1981 Act. This avoids a situation where the same species could be considered wild in a zoo, but domesticated when kept in a circus. Our definition of 'wild animal' is also similar to the definitions in the Scottish and English Acts. Animals considered commonly domesticated in their country of origin, but not of a kind commonly domesticated in the British islands, would be 'wild animals' under the Bill. So, examples include camels and reindeer. It's not practical to produce species lists of what is considered wild or domesticated. The guidance to the Zoo Licensing Act 1981 sets out examples, but not exhaustive species lists, of animals that should be regarded as wild or domesticated. Again, we'll consider a similar approach in our guidance. This committee, in its Stage 1 report, also said you

'are broadly content with the meaning of "travelling circus" set out in the Bill.'

The guidance will set out the types of activity we consider will and will not be covered by the ban. We do not consider activities such as travelling bird of prey displays, festive reindeer displays or wild animals used in television or film work, for example, should be affected. Having already committed to producing guidance, and I can absolutely assure you that's something I will do, I ask Members to reject the proposed amendments as they're not necessary.

I'm trying to put my Abraham Lincoln hat on and trying to be passionate and swing the committee around to my amendment, but I doubt whether I'll succeed on that. I can confidently predict it's most probably going to be four to two.

But I do believe that this is an area the committee did look at and made a recommendation on, and this amendment basically reflects that recommendation. I agree with the Minister on what she says about we're not trying to capture wild bird displays or reindeer parades, I agree entirely with that. That's why I believe that it needs to be in the body of the Bill, rather than rely on the assurances from you, Minister. With the greatest respect, I have the highest regard for you, Minister, but, Ministers come and Ministers go, and I do think that another Minister might take a different view of this, as such, then. So, that's why I do think that this amendment would strengthen the Bill, based on the evidence that we received as a committee, but I fully understand where other Members are coming from.

I would urge Members to consider the evidence we received during our evidence-gathering sessions, and align that with this amendment that I have tabled, which I believe would give greater clarity to the Bill and greater clarity to its implementation. That's why I formally move this amendment.

It would make my life easier if you'd do it at the beginning. [Laughter.] The question is that amendment 42 be agreed. Does any Member object? [Objection.] I therefore take a vote by show of hands. Those in favour. Those against. It's two in favour, four against, no abstentions. Therefore, it is lost.

09:55

Gwelliant 42: O blaid: 2, Yn erbyn: 4, Ymatal: 0

Gwrthodwyd y gwelliant

Amendment 42: For: 2, Against: 4, Abstain: 0

Amendment has been rejected

That now takes me to amendment 4. Can I take a vote on a show of hands? Oh, sorry, does the Member wish to move it?

Cynigiwyd gwelliant 4 (Llyr Gruffydd).

Amendment 4 (Llyr Gruffydd) moved.

I wasn't quite sure if you moved it. Those in favour of amendment 4. Those against. Abstaining. So, there are two in favour, three against. I'll take the other as an abstention. Therefore the vote is lost.

Gwelliant 4: O blaid: 2, Yn erbyn: 3, Ymatal: 1

Gwrthodwyd y gwelliant

Amendment 4: For: 2, Against: 3, Abstain: 1

Amendment has been rejected

Grŵp 4: Dod i rym (Gwelliant 5)
Group 4: Coming into force (Amendment 5)

That takes us on to group 4, 'Coming into force', amendment 5. Group 4 relates to the coming into force date. The only amendment in this group of amendments is amendment 5 in the name of Llyr Gruffydd. I call on Llyr Gruffydd to move and speak to amendment 5.

Cynigiwyd gwelliant 5 (Llyr Gruffydd).

Amendment 5 (Llyr Gruffydd) moved.

Thank you, Chair. I move amendment 5, the only amendment in this group, and the purpose of the amendment is pretty straightforward: it's to ensure that the Bill comes into force sooner—or the ban comes into force sooner—than is proposed in the Bill. The suggestion or the proposal in my amendment is that it comes into force two months after the Act receives Royal Assent, rather, of course, than the proposed date of December 2020. I'm sure we all agree that a ban is long overdue, and I'm told that discussions within the Senedd go back to at least 2006 on this ban, with the tabling of a statement of opinion that hoped that the Animal Welfare Act would empower Wales to act in this area. In 2015, of course, the Welsh Government said that it believed that there was no place for the use of wild animals in circuses, yet five years later we are now going to be the final nation in Great Britain to introduce a ban. We know that, in England, the ban came into force last month, while in Scotland, of course, they've had a ban since May 2018. But, as drafted, here in Wales we will have to wait till 1 December 2020, which of course would pave the way for one final tour this summer for travelling circuses, and I don't feel that that reflects the feeling here in Wales in terms of the need to act more swiftly on this. 

The Welsh Government itself has said that it doesn't wish Wales to become a sanctuary for travelling circuses, yet that is the possibility over the larger part of the remainder of this year. We heard in evidence how a number of people wish to see a ban come into force as soon as possible. The Minister's indicated on a number of occasions to me in this committee, and in Plenary in the Assembly Chamber as well, that she's open-minded to introducing the ban sooner than proposed if there is a consensus to do so. Well, this is our opportunity to demonstrate that consensus and our belief that the ban should kick in as soon as is practically possible. 

Just really to say that you're right—it was said in Plenary that the Minister was open-minded as to the date, and to share, I suppose, your concerns that we might go on this year having wild animals in circuses. Of course, that can be prevented by not giving them licences in the first place, and I'm sure we've all lobbied for that not to happen. What I suppose I'm saying is that what I would like to hear before I vote on this is an explanation by the Minister as to, if there is an objection to this, the reasons behind that objection. 

I oppose this amendment because, again, I think it's unnecessary and it's disproportionate to the objects of the Bill. We know that there are only 19 animals that are actually affected by this proposed legislation, and they are animals like zebras and others that we wouldn't normally think of as wild animals. I know they do live in the wild, but we normally think of lions and tigers and fierce beasts of that kind as wild animals—we don't have any animals of that kind that are likely to be covered by the Bill; they don't exist in Wales. So, I think it is right to give travelling circuses the time to accommodate themselves to what is in prospect, and just to wait a few more months for the Bill to come into effect doesn't seem to me to be too great a burden on those who believe that this is a useful piece of legislation. I personally do not think this is ultimately a very useful piece of legislation, because of what we know about the limited scope of the Bill given the current state of circuses. Jenny said earlier on that circuses have changed over the years because public tastes have changed, and we are now used to seeing wild animals in the wild on television and the internet and so on, and so the novelty aspect of circuses has changed over the years as well. Public demand has changed as well. So, I personally think that the Bill as it is goes as far as is necessary to achieve its purpose. 

10:00

Yes. All my amendments in this Bill have been predicated on the evidence we received, and I think I'm correct in saying, Chair, that the evidence we received about the timing of the implementation of this Bill was that the actual circus season would have started and the circuses would already be travelling, they would. This, ultimately, if it was implemented earlier, could cause welfare issues by pulling the animals off the road, if they were indeed on the road in this travelling season; I'll stand to be corrected on that. So, that's where I have a little bit of difficulty in supporting this amendment. I shall be abstaining on the amendment, based on the evidence that we received. I'd love to see it, if we've accepted the principle that legislation needs to be brought in, that the legislation is brought in as timely as possible, but if, on the welfare evidence we received, this would cause a welfare issue because the season would have started, then I think it is sensible to wait until the end of that season and the necessary rehoming of the animals has been sorted out by the proprietors of the circuses, which, again, I think was another piece of evidence that we received about, well, it's all well and good putting the legislation in place, but these animals have to be rehomed as well. Again, I look forward to listening to what the Minister has to say, but at the moment I am minded to abstain on this amendment.  

To follow up on what Andrew R.T. Davies is saying, travelling circuses may already have entered into commercial agreements for this year, because we're already in February. I don't think it should be an intention of this Bill to penalise financially businesses who are trying to earn a living. If they cancel now, they could be seriously having to pay penalty fines for having entered into a contract that they're now breaking. So, I think we should stick with 1 December, which gives people time to reorganise their business plans. 

Thank you, Chair. Just to say at the outset, I absolutely understand Llyr's desire to see a ban implemented as soon as is practicable. We know that, if the Bill is successful, it's scheduled to receive Royal Assent in May and come into force on 1 December. This issue has been raised during the debate on the general principles, and I said I would consider an earlier coming into force date, and I repeated that when I gave evidence to this committee in October. However, in your Stage 1 report, in acknowledging the concerns around the timing of the ban and the calls to introduce the ban earlier, and I quote:

'Time allowed for legislative scrutiny of the Bill would provide limited scope to bring forward the coming into force date. Given this, and the practical implications of introducing the ban during touring season, we are satisfied that the coming into force date is reasonable and appropriate.'

The reason for the December coming into force date has just been alluded to, around when the travelling circuses would have used their wild animals. They'll be expected to have completed touring and returned to their winter quarters by this time. I say 'have used' because they may decide not to tour again in Wales with their wild animals, given the activity is now prohibited in England, where both the circuses are based.

But it is possible they will. For six of the last seven years, one of the circuses, Circus Mondao, who I know gave evidence to this committee, have started touring in Wales in April. Two years ago, they started in March, and there's no way of preventing them coming to Wales at that time. Peter Jolly's normally comes later, and they normally come every other year, and this is the year that they are due to come. So, any decision to bring the date forward would have to be considered in the context of the impact on the travelling circuses. So, implementing a ban during the touring season, which could be any time from March to November, could put the circuses in the difficult and unreasonable position of having to comply with the provisions of the Bill whilst they're on tour with their wild animals.

We have looked at this very, very carefully. I'm not even sure we could produce the guidance in time and, as I've given a commitment to do that, obviously that would need to be done. So, I'd therefore ask that Members are consistent with the view expressed by this committee in its Stage 1 report, and reject this amendment.

Thank you, yes. I'm disappointed. Clearly, the message is coming back loud and clear from all directions. But I have to say the RSPCA support this proposal, so, in terms of concerns around animal welfare, I'm sure that might allay some people's fears that there is a sound basis for asking for the legislation to be implemented sooner than is currently being proposed. The direction of travel, in terms of policy, is perfectly clear for those travelling circuses. Surely, they're not in any doubt as to whether this ban will be introduced or not, and I'm surprised that that isn't something that they'd already be factoring into their plans for this year.

You told us earlier, Minister, that you're introducing this legislation on an ethical basis, but you're now saying that you won't be introducing it until it's convenient for those circuses that are travelling. So, it's ethics, yes, but only when it's convenient for certain people. So, I'm not sure that there's a consistency of argument there, and I would therefore want to move to a vote.

10:05

Thank you. The question is that amendment 5 be agreed. Does any Member object? [Objection.] The question is that amendment 5 be agreed. Those in favour. One. Those against. Four. And abstentions. One. In relation to amendment 5, it is lost.

Gwelliant 5: O blaid: 1, Yn erbyn: 4, Ymatal: 1

Gwrthodwyd y gwelliant

Amendment 5: For: 1, Against: 4, Abstain: 1

Amendment has been rejected

Grŵp 5: Pwerau gorfodi (Gwelliannau 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25, 26, 27, 28, 29, 30, 31, 32, 33, 34, 35, 36, 37, 38, 39, 40)
Group 5: Powers of enforcement (Amendments 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25, 26, 27, 28, 29, 30, 31, 32, 33, 34, 35, 36, 37, 38, 39, 40)

Okay. We now move onto group 5, powers of enforcement. Group 5 relates to the powers of enforcement. The lead amendment in this group is amendment 6 in the name of Llyr Gruffydd. I call on Llyr Gruffydd to move amendment 6 and speak to the amendments in this group. 

Cynigiwyd gwelliant 6 (Llyr Gruffydd).

Amendment 6 (Llyr Gruffydd) moved.

Thank you, Chair. I move all of the amendments in this group, although it's amendment 7 that's the substantive amendment, of course, with a raft of consequential amendments stemming from it. Now, these amendments, which propose to extend powers under the Bill to police constables, will ensure enforcement opportunities and provisions of the legislation in Wales are strengthened. As it stands, the Bill confers powers of entry to appointed inspectors if they have reasonable grounds to believe an offence is being committed, and those inspectors, of course, are appointed, for the purposes of the Act, by a county or a county borough council in Wales or by Welsh Ministers.

I believe that such powers of entry should be extended to include police constables, as is the case, of course, in the Wild Animals in Travelling Circuses (Scotland) Act 2018. Amending the Bill in this way also brings enforcement provision into line with the Animal Welfare Act 2006, providing consistency and clarity for local authorities and members of the public across the Wales with regard to who has powers of entry relating to animal health and welfare offences. While the Minister doesn't anticipate constables would enforce this legislation, provisions within the Bill are already included for police officers to accompany inspectors, highlighting, of course, the role they could play.

Police constables must be given powers of entry if we're really serious about ensuring that the Bill becomes a successful Act, otherwise its enforceability will come into question and we will have failed to achieve what we originally set out to achieve with this Bill. I've no wish to delay the passage of this Bill, but this is an important principle. Other parts of the UK have included powers for police constables in this respect, and I believe that we should be afforded the same opportunities so that we can do so as well, because it is, I believe, the right thing to do, and, of course, this is the place for us to do it.

This is an unnecessary amendment, simply because police already have powers to enter premises where they think there's a breach of the peace likely to be committed. The police are already overstretched covering more serious matters, like the enslavement of children by drug gangs, so I think the idea that they should be deployed instead onto a duty that can easily be carried out by a local authority inspector by obligation—I think it's not a necessary amendment.

My understanding is that the police can already enter premises, and that there are cases where they are invited by inspectors to attend, but they have the same powers anyway, and I think it's unnecessary. I'm not going to actually say this should have more focus for the police than anything else, because I think this needs a real focus and that's why we're taking the Bill through. But the reason I won't be supporting it is because I don't actually think we need it.

Thank you. Any other Member wish to speak? If there isn't, I call on the Minister.

Thank you. Breaches of the provisions of the Bill, either by contravening the ban or by intentionally obstructing an inspector in the exercise of their duties, are unlikely to arise often, if at all, and there are unlikely to be many cases requiring investigation.

The offence of using a wild animal would be publicly obvious and I expect travelling circuses to comply with a ban. I know the Member raised the issue of police powers during the debate on the general principles of the Bill and I said I didn't anticipate police would be involved in the enforcement of this legislation, and that's still my view. The power of entry in paragraph 8 of the Schedule conferred upon an inspector includes the power to take 'such other persons' as appear appropriate, and that includes the police, and, therefore, references to a 'constable' do not need to be included in the Bill.

Under paragraph 10 of the Schedule, police constables, if taken on to premises by an inspector, may exercise any power conferred on an inspector by paragraph 9 of the Schedule. So, if they're taken on to premises as part of a multi-agency team, for example, they would have the same powers as the inspector, and, additionally, police can enter premises to deal with or prevent a breach of the peace under the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 if necessary.

The effect of the proposed amendment to insert a new paragraph 14 to the Schedule is to say that powers conferred on constables by the Bill do not affect any other powers they have, but there's nothing in our Bill that would prevent a constable exercising any other power they may have.

These proposed amendments are not necessary, so I'd ask Members to reject the proposed amendments. But, again, I'd like to provide reassurance: the omission of specific reference to police constables will not weaken the enforcement of a ban on the use of wild animals in travelling circuses.

10:10

I don't buy the argument that the police—. I do buy the argument that police are overstretched, but, of course, you could use that in relation to anything else that they do or propose to do. So, I mean, we need to remind ourselves that local authority inspectors are also overstretched as well. So, maybe we need to broaden the pool a little bit so that they can mutually support each other. But there we are. We're not going down that route, I suppose. 

The Minister says it's unlikely that these circumstances will arise. Well, that suggests that there is a possibility that the circumstances will arise, that this is required. I mean, they've done it in Scotland, and I know they have the powers to do it themselves in Scotland, but, clearly, it's something I would in principle like us to be able to include. I've heard what the Minister has said, and in anticipation of losing the vote, I'm happy to take the Minister on her word that she feels that the Bill as it's proposed is sufficient, so I won't—or I think, actually, I technically did move, did I, when I opened the debate? So, there we are. We might have to vote on them, but if the Chair is willing, then I—

Okay, go on then, because I would be minded to withdraw those amendments if—

Does any Member object to the withdrawal of amendment 6—6 and 7? Are you withdrawing 6 and 7?

Fine. Does any Member object to the withdrawal of 6 and then from 7 to 40? If no Member objects, then they are—. If there are no objections, they are withdrawn.

Tynnwyd gwelliant 6 yn ôl gyda chaniatâd y pwyllgor.

Amendment 6 withdrawn by leave of the committee.

Ni chynigiwyd gwelliannau 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25, 26, 27, 28, 29, 30, 31, 32, 33, 34, 35, 36, 37, 38, 39, 40 (Llyr Gruffydd). 

Amendments 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25, 26, 27, 28, 29, 30, 31, 32, 33, 34, 35, 36, 37, 38, 39, 40 (Llyr Gruffydd) not moved.

Grŵp 6: Pwerau arolygu (Gwelliannau 43, 44, 45)
Group 6: Powers of inspection (Amendments 43, 44, 45)

That takes me on now to the next group, which is group 6—which is hard to find. Group 6: powers of inspection—amendments 43, 44 and 45. Group 6, which is the final group, relates to power of inspection. The lead amendment in this group is amendment 43 in the name of Andrew Davies, and I call on Andrew Davies to move amendment 43 and speak to the amendments in this group.

Cynigiwyd gwelliant 43 (Andrew R.T. Davies).

Amendment 43 (Andrew R.T. Davies) moved.

Thank you, Chair. I formally move amendment 43 and the other amendments standing in my name in this group. I think this is a really important area, powers of inspection, and defines people who are responsible for doing that inspection. If I use my agricultural background: bovine TB, for example—the people who undertake the testing have to be specific professionals in that field, either veterinary surgeons or lay testers who, obviously, have gone through certain training. This Bill obviously captures a certain section of animals—wild animals, obviously—that would require a professional individual to undertake that inspection, and, if challenged, draw on their professionalism to ultimately collaborate the evidence that they collected when they arrived on site. So, for the avoidance of ambiguity, I do think that the Bill does need to be changed and amendment 43 seeks to remove the powers currently conferred on to the inspector to be able to examine or measure an animal found on the premises under section 9 of the Schedule.

Amendment 44 is consequential to amendment 43, and, again, seeks to remove the powers conferred on an inspector to take a sample from an animal found on premises under section 9 of the Schedule.

Amendment 45 then goes on to explicitly state that any examination or testing of an animal found on the premises must be carried out by a trained professional, and that is really important, I would suggest to the committee, and based on the evidence that we've received. And I would hope, therefore, that these amendments will find support amongst committee Members, so that it actually strengthens the Bill and actually points to a specific person to go in with the necessary professionalism, especially on welfare grounds, to enforce any provision that might be enacted from this Bill.

10:15

Just to register my support, really, for these amendments. It is important that samples are taken by those with an appropriate level of expertise in animal health and welfare. And in many cases, of course, appointed inspectors would have or may already have that expertise, but I think these amendments would give us added guarantees around that, and I welcome that.

I oppose this simply because we're talking a scale of—. You're trying to make this even more complicated than it needs to be. We're talking about two possible circuses, therefore two possible places where animals might be found who need to be tested, and you're suggesting that we have a specialist inspector on hand, when samples can easily be taken by somebody who isn't a vet. We're talking samples of—

Okay, so I just don't understand why it isn't possible for somebody from a local authority who's appointed to inspect these premises can't take samples from an animal. I'm not suggesting that a local authority inspector who's not a vet can take blood samples, but it's perfectly possible for the pick-up of a sample of faeces, for example.

Thank you. Anyone else wish to speak on this? I call on the Minister to speak.

Thank you, Chair. Paragraph 9 of the Schedule sets out the powers of inspection, search and seizure available to an inspector when exercising a power of entry. An inspector cannot seize a wild animal, but may, for example, examine it or take samples.

These are not novel powers and they mirror those already in place in other legislation. That includes the Animal Welfare Act 2006. It includes the Wild Animals in Circuses Act 2019 and the Wild Animals in Travelling Circuses (Scotland) Act 2018 has also got similar powers. So, it's very unlikely these powers will be needed, but to restrict inspectors in the way being proposed is unjustified, particularly as they are already working with the same powers in other legislation.

Paragraph 8 of the Schedule provides inspectors may take onto the premises other persons and such equipment and materials as the inspector considers to be appropriate to assist in their duties. The other people could include specialists, for example a zoological specialist to help identify animals or a veterinary surgeon. A veterinary surgeon would be required to take a sample from an animal only if the sampling is considered to be a practice of veterinary surgery as defined by the Veterinary Surgeons Act 1966. There are exemptions but taking the sample of blood, for example, for DNA testing to determine if an animal is of a species commonly domesticated in the British islands or not would have to be carried out by a veterinary surgeon.

Paragraph 10 of the Schedule provides any person brought onto the premises by the inspector is able to exercise the inspector's powers under paragraph 9, provided they are under the inspector's supervision. A veterinary surgeon accompanying an inspector could, under supervision, take samples from an animal for identification purposes.

It follows that the proposal to specify that only a veterinary surgeon or suitably trained person may examine, measure, test or take a sample from an animal, and the associated regulation-making powers, are unnecessary.

So, I ask Members to reject these amendments, which, as well as being entirely unnecessary, could actually restrict inspectors in carrying out their job.

You won't be surprised that I will disagree with the Minister who says that it could prevent inspectors undertaking their job. I mean, for consistency, I drew on my experience in the agricultural world. When it comes to bovine TB, a identified inspector/veterinary surgeon has to have the necessary professional experience to undertake those tests and those samples. I think this clearly calls not just for a veterinary surgeon, but a suitably trained inspector, and I think that's really important, especially if there is a contestation of the evidence that has been taken and it ends up in court.

I accept the point fully that we're talking about two travelling circuses, and, sometimes, when you think of the numbers involved—I think 19 animals in total—we are using a sledgehammer to crack a nut, but we have a piece of legislation before us that is dealing with that. Surely, in any other instance, we would be making sure that the inspector would have the professional background; he or she would be able to stand up in court and give that evidence and challenge, if it was to be challenged, and by not putting this provision in, as the amendment seeks to put in, to make sure that training and that professionalism is respected, I think you're leaving a gaping hole in the legislation that could be challenged, if that uncertainty crept into the inspection process.

And I did notice that the Minister did use the word 'could' choose to go in, but we don't want 'could' when it comes to legislation, we want to have 'must' in legislation so it clears out any ambiguity in the inspection process, and that's why this amendment, I believe, is very important. I had hoped it wouldn't have been contested because, obviously, very often as politicians, we stand in the Chamber, or we stand in committee, and talk about the need for professionals to take professional advice and suitably qualified people. At the moment, the legislation doesn't refer to that; this amendment would do that, and I do think it's important that this amendment carries today, although I'd be surprised if it does, given, obviously, the indication from the Minister and the Government bench. But I formally move the amendments that stand in my name.

10:20

I was waiting for that last bit. The question is amendment 43 be agreed. Does any Member object? [Objection.] A Member has objected, so we move to the vote. The question is amendment 43 be agreed. All those in favour, three. Those against, three. I thus use my casting vote as Chair, in accordance with the rules I have to follow, and vote against the amendment. So, the amendment falls.

Gwelliant 43: O blaid: 3, Yn erbyn: 3, Ymatal: 0

Gan fod nifer y pleidleisiau yn gyfartal, defnyddiodd y Cadeirydd ei bleidlais fwrw yn unol â Rheol Sefydlog 6.20(ii).

Gwrthodwyd y gwelliant

Amendment 43: For: 3, Against: 3, Abstain: 0

As there was an equality of votes, the Chair used his casting vote in accordance with Standing Order 6.20(ii).

Amendment has been rejected

We now move on to amendment 44. Do you wish to move amendment 44?

I think as amendment 43 has fallen, I withdraw the other—. Am I allowed to do that under the process?

Does any Member object to the withdrawal of amendments 44 and 45? No. The amendments are withdrawn.

Ni chynigiwyd gwelliannau 44 a 45 (Andrew R.T. Davies). 

Amendments 44 and 45 (Andrew R.T. Davies) not moved.

Thank you. Is everybody happy with that?

At the end of this session, can I thank the Minister and her officials for their attendance? Obviously, as you know, you will be sent a copy of the transcript to check for factual accuracy.

This completes Stage 2 proceedings. Stage 3 begins tomorrow. The relevant Stage 3 proceedings will be published in due course. Can I thank the Minister again for coming along and thank the Members for helping us get through this relatively painlessly?

Barnwyd y cytunwyd ar bob adran o’r Bil.

All sections of the Bill deemed agreed.

3. Papurau i'w nodi
3. Papers to note
4. Cynnig o dan Reol Sefydlog 17.42(vi) i wahardd y cyhoedd o weddill y cyfarfod
4. Motion under Standing Order 17.42(vi) to resolve to exclude the public from the remainder of the meeting

Cynnig:

bod y pwyllgor yn penderfynu gwahardd y cyhoedd o weddill y cyfarfod yn unol â Rheol Sefydlog 17.42(vi).

Motion:

that the committee resolves to exclude the public from the remainder of the meeting in accordance with Standing Order 17.42(vi).

Cynigiwyd y cynnig.

Motion moved.

Can I move the motion under Standing Order 17.42 to resolve to exclude the public from the remainder of today's meeting?

Derbyniwyd y cynnig.

Daeth rhan gyhoeddus y cyfarfod i ben am 10:23.

Motion agreed.

The public part of the meeting ended at 10:23.

Dysgu am Senedd Cymru