CONSERVATIVE
New Forest East

DEFRA – HORSE EXPORTS FOR SLAUGHTER – 31 March 2004

Dr Julian Lewis: In endorsing the hon. Gentleman's [Andrew George's] views about the role of the press, I praise the Southern Daily Echo on its efforts [against live export of horses]. I draw his attention to a headline in today's edition, which states categorically "Ponies off the menu". This suggests that the whole episode is over and done with as a result of the European decision. A Liberal Democrat MEP [Chris Huhne] is even quoted as saying that there is now no question of New Forest ponies being exported for slaughter. Given the hon. Gentleman's more cautious remarks, am I right in thinking that that is not quite yet the position?

[Liberal Democract DEFRA spokesman Andrew George: The hon. Gentleman is absolutely right. It would be quite inappropriate of me to admonish a fellow member of my party for perhaps being a little hasty in his conclusions. However, it is obviously encouraging that a Committee of the European Parliament has accepted the amendment in its present form. No doubt my Liberal Democrat colleague hoped that the robustness and strength of the case made in that Committee would make the Minister highly likely to take on board the logic of our argument. ...

Gregory Barker: I concur with much of what the hon. Gentleman has said. Will he be sure to reiterate the point made by my hon. Friend the Member for New Forest, East (Dr. Lewis), and thus not encourage his colleagues to think that the war is won? There is much more to do. It would be wrong to send a message out now that we can relax and everything will be all right. We must keep up the pressure.

Andrew George: The hon. Gentleman is right. We could have adjourned this debate had the war been won. The fact that we are here and feel passionate about the issue helps to make the point. It is important that we do not give a false impression that the battle is won – of course it is not. We have achieved something important, which members of all parties should celebrate, but the battle is certainly not won and that is why constructive engagement with the Minister (Alun Michael) and the Department is important. I hope that, rather than bludgeon the Minister into submission, we shall persuade him to accept a logical, robust and sensible measure.]

 [For further developments, click here.]