The speech made by Mark Tami, the Labour MP for Alyn and Deeside, in the House of Commons on 4 February 2022.
First, I would like to put on record my thanks to the hon. Member for Wolverhampton North East (Jane Stevenson) for bringing in this Bill. Particularly as she is a new Member, I hope she will get the Bill through. That would be more than I have done in 20 years in this House, so she will have done incredibly well.
Following other Members, I feel I must very quickly, before I upset you, Madam Deputy Speaker, mention Muffin, Bobby and Mrs Skittles, who are my cats. I would advise Members to look at the House calendar, because Mrs Skittles features in this month’s photograph. That was organised by the late David Amess, who organised the competition for many years. We certainly miss him in this place.
My amendments cover two key areas. The first area looks at where a trap is laid and an animal other than a rodent is caught. At present, the wording in the Bill is:
“A person who sets a glue trap in England for the purpose of catching a rodent commits an offence.”
I am sure Members of the House are well aware that it is not just rodents that are caught in glue traps—even though that practice, to me, is barbaric in itself. Birds are caught too. They are also probably aware of the tragic situation in which a pet cat was trapped for some time on a glue trap or a number of glue traps and had to be put down. I hope this provision is not a loophole; I am looking at the Minister. I am sure, as we have heard previously, that that is covered in other legislation and that there is not a problem with any loophole in this Bill. Clearly, if people look to get around the legislation by claiming that they are laying traps for a different purpose, that defeats what we are trying to achieve.
The second area looks at dealing with regulation. Pest control is not a very well regulated industry, and the concern I and a number of others have is that we cannot have a situation in which anybody can designate themselves as a pest controller. I would certainly want some assurances that that is not the case, so that a porter in a hotel or a restaurant—or the owner, or anybody else—could not suddenly describe themselves as a pest controller and have access to glue traps. It is important that the industry is regulated, or at the very least that there are some assurances that this is a person’s profession rather than something they have just decided to do for a period of time.
I would like those assurances, and if I receive them I will wish the Bill swift progress and will not push the amendments to a vote.
Jane Stevenson (Wolverhampton North East) (Con)
I want to speak briefly to the amendments, as it gives me a chance to thank the right hon. Member for Alyn and Deeside (Mark Tami) for all his work on glue traps. He has tabled an early-day motion on these barbaric traps and we share the aim of stopping the cruelty and suffering that, sadly, they cause. I want to reassure him: I have also been contacted by animal welfare charities and believe that clause 1(2) closes the loophole:
“A person who sets a glue trap in England in a manner which gives rise to a risk that a rodent will become caught in the glue trap commits an offence.”
I cannot think of a location where a trap could be set even if someone said they were setting it for parrots or for cats; I cannot think of an occasion when another animal could be in a place that could be guaranteed to be free of rodent access. For that reason I did not think that the amendments were necessary, but I appreciate the right hon. Gentleman’s efforts.
The other points the right hon. Gentleman raises in the amendments give me the chance again to plead with the Minister to make the licensing enforcement regime watertight. I share the concern that people given licences should have to prove a very high level of competence in the ability to dispatch quickly and humanely any animal stuck on a glue trap. I thank the right hon. Gentleman again for his contributions.
The Minister for Farming, Fisheries and Food (Victoria Prentis)
I hope I will be able to reassure the right hon. Member for Alyn and Deeside (Mark Tami), and indeed Muffin, Bobby and Mrs Skittles along the way.
I understand the concern expressed through the amendments on glue traps, as we do want to prevent other small vertebrate animals and indeed birds from falling victim to the traps. The Bill already addresses that in its current wording, however, so the amendments are unnecessary.
The Bill refers specifically to rodents as they are the primary target of glue traps, which are marketed with catching rodents in mind; however, it would not be a defence for a user to claim that a trap had been set to catch a vertebrate that was not a rodent. If a trap is set in a manner which gives rise to a risk that a rodent will become caught, that is an offence regardless of the intent. It does not matter what was the target or intended target of the trap; if a trap is set outdoors to catch another vertebrate animal, that in itself is an offence, so other vertebrate animals at risk from a glue trap would still be protected by this Bill. It is also important to note that it is already an offence under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 to set a glue trap in any place where a wild bird could be caught.
Again, I understand the reasoning behind amendments 4 and 5, but the Bill already covers what they seek to address. They might also create difficulties for a future licensing regime. The Bill is drafted to allow a range of licences to be granted in order to ensure that the Secretary of State has the flexibility to grant the most suitable type of licence for the intended use or pest controller. The precise details of the licensing regime will only be worked out following extensive discussions with stakeholders, who will include pest controllers, animal welfare organisations and the licensing body. We do not want to prejudge the outcome of these discussions; however, whatever the form of licence granted, the Bill makes it explicit that licences can only be issued to pest controllers on an exceptional basis.
The Bill sets out clear limits on the Secretary of State’s power to grant licences to ensure that any licence can only be granted once the Secretary of State is satisfied that the licence is necessary to preserve public health or safety and there is no other satisfactory solution available to meet this purpose. It would not be appropriate further to restrict the type of licence that could be granted, as that might need to reflect a number of variables such as their intended use, the pest controller to whom the licence is to be granted, and the measures that can be taken to safeguard the welfare of any rodents or other animals that might be caught in a licensed glue trap.
Finally, I turn to amendment 6. Again, I fully understand what the right hon. Member for Alyn and Deeside is trying to get at in the amendment, but I think it is unnecessary, as it would not change the effect of clause 2 and his concerns will be addressed through the licensing regime. The amendment seeks to ensure that the definition of pest controller is worded to apply to a business that provides a pest control service. The current wording—
“a person…who, in the course of a business, provides a service which consists of, or involves, pest control”—
amounts to the same thing. I know that he is concerned that a restaurant owner could class themselves as a pest controller. However, we cannot see that a court would agree with that interpretation; indeed, no one would like to think of a restaurant business providing its customers with a service that included pest control.
Concerns have been raised about the training of those who are granted pest control licences. The Bill will allow licences to be granted only to those pest controllers who can demonstrate the relevant training or competence. We plan for the licensing regime to require that, and we plan to engage with stakeholders in the pest control industry and in animal welfare organisations on how to implement that effectively. I believe these amendments to be unnecessary.
Having heard what the Minister has said, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.