ANIMAL welfare was the focus of a discussion in the House of Lords yesterday in which a Cumbrian baroness quizzed the minister.

Former Workington MP and now Baroness of Ullock, Sue Hayman quizzed Lord Goldsmith the minister for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.

Prior to the meeting, Baroness Hayman pledged to hold Government to account on promises made around animal rights.

Speaking to The Minister of State in the Lords, she said: “The Animal Welfare Sentencing Bill is an important part of legislation with cross party support but it appears to have got stuck, can I ask the minister if there is a date for committee stage and if not why not?”

The Animal Welfare Sentencing Bill 2019-21 passed its Second Reading in October and proposes that punishment for animal cruelty is bolstered.

Chris Lodor MP, who proposed the bill believes it brings the nation “into line with the maximum penalties available in other Commonwealth countries.”

Lord Goldsmith said that Government supports increasing the maximum sentence for animal cruelty from six months to five years and “we’ve always been clear about that.”

He added that Government are awaiting a date for the Committee Stage.

Baroness Hayman also asked the minister what the Government is doing to crack down on cases of illegal fox hunting.

She said: “Regarding the breaking of The Hunting Act, particularly in light of the Hunting Office webinars that are now being investigated, does the minister accept that enforcement will remain difficult unless action is taken to strengthen the law and stop trail hunting being used as a cover for illegal hunting?”

Lord Goldsmith said: “The offences that the noble lord has just cited are already offences, they’re already illegal so the issue really is one of enforcement.”

He said the revelations that some trail hunts are used as a smokescreen for real hunting “troubling”, but a matter for police.

Investigations are ongoing around trail hunts after a webinar was leaked showing members of the hunting community discussing “smokescreen” tactics.

The Lake District National Park, The National Trust and United Utilities have since paused trail hunts on their land.