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Diary of a parliamentary intern
  1. Hannah Jordan

Abstract

Food labelling, non-native species, dog breeding licensing, the bovine TB strategy, the rural economy, stunning of poultry and WATOK regulations have kept our parliamentary diarist, Hannah Jordan, busy this month.

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There has been plenty to keep us occupied this month, not least a substantial chunk of reading through the Consumer Rights Bill to hunt for anything pertaining to food labelling, and the Infrastructure Bill due to its section on non-native species. However, it turns out that it is the innocuous-looking Deregulation Bill that might be the most relevant bit of legislation to vets. It removes the requirement for dog breeding licence holders to keep prescriptive dog breeding records in anticipation that new compulsory microchipping records will suffice; concerns have been raised that this make it easier for disreputable breeders to obtain licences.

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Lord Trees' oral and supplementary questions on bovine TB strategy provided a useful assurance from the Government that future research goals of oral badger vaccination, cattle vaccination and appropriate cattle diagnostics will not be inhibited by funding restrictions. Considering that there has been a Cabinet reshuffle and Hannah Jordan is the parliamentary intern to veterinary peer Lord Trees that Defra is now under new leadership, it is comforting to have that reassurance. Follow-up questions revisited badger culling before Lord Cunningham reminded the House of the current and projected costs of bovine TB. It is important to note that the Defra budget doesn't just get squeezed by the Chancellor each year, but also by the increasing costs of tackling bTB.

Although we did not win the crossbench ballot for a debate on food security, Lord Trees spoke recently on the subject in Earl Shrewsbury's debate on the rural economy. He highlighted the potential impact of political unrest, climate change, energy production, population growth and a change of dietary habits on demand for UK land resources. Without a strategy, particularly in land use planning, investment in food production and agriculture is stalling, and the effects for the veterinary industry and consumers are becoming evident. We discussed this again in Lord Plumb's debate on July 24.

The final evidence session on welfare at slaughter of the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Beef and Lamb took place on July 9, to hear from Defra via George Eustice MP. In the session it was established that the changes to the EU parameters for electrical stunning in poultry were under further discussion by the Government. There are concerns that the new parameters may kill birds and thus ‘force’ halal slaughterhouses to adopt a non-stun policy. It is our understanding that most large-scale units have moved to gas stunning for this reason. As regards a decision on labelling, Defra thinks it would be best applied at EU-level and consequently will await the completion of the report into the matter by the EC. At the end of the session I mustered the courage to ask the minister whether he was prepared to comment on the revocation of the Draft Welfare of Animals at the Time of Killing regulations, but all I got was a squirm and ‘under consideration’. We shall wait and see!

In other news, my ‘politician bingo’ sheet is improving – on reshuffle day I spotted Mr Miliband chatting under the collonades and later I almost got run over by Boris Johnson on a bicycle. The highlight of this week was watching as Black Rod narrowly avoided getting leapt on by some enthusiastic Morris men at the summer fayre in Westminster Hall.

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