The Glue Traps (Offences) Bill is a private member’s bill sponsored in the House of Lords by Baroness Fookes (Conservative). The second reading of the bill is scheduled for 25 March 2022. The bill was first introduced in the House of Commons by Jane Stevenson (Conservative MP for Wolverhampton North East) and completed its Commons stages on 4 February 2022.

The bill would restrict the use of glue traps as a means of pest control in England. These differ from ‘sticky traps’ designed to catch flies and other insects. Glue traps are instead designed to catch rodents using a non-drying adhesive from which a rat or mouse is unable to escape. They are currently widely available for public purchase but are considered inhumane by animal welfare groups and others. For example, the British Veterinary Association (BVA) has noted that rodents caught by glue traps can suffer from “torn skin, broken limbs and hair removal and die a slow and painful death from suffocation, starvation, exhaustion and even self–mutilation”. The RSPCA has also observed that non-target animals including birds, hedgehogs and cats can get stuck in the “indiscriminate” traps.

The Government supports the bill as it would implement a policy ambition outlined in its Action Plan for Animal Welfare, published in May 2021, to “restrict the use of glue traps as a means of pest control to help make sure rodents are despatched in a humane manner”. The document added that glue traps “can cause immense suffering to rodents and other animals that inadvertently fall victim to their use”.

What would the bill do?

The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs explained in a memorandum prepared for the House of Lords Delegated Powers and Regulatory Reform Committee that the 10-clause bill would make it an offence to:

  • set a glue trap for the purpose of catching a rodent;
  • set a glue trap in a manner which gives rise to a risk that a rodent could become caught;
  • knowingly cause or permit one of these offences to be committed; and
  • find a glue trap that has been set in a way that gives rise to a risk that a rodent could become caught and, without reasonable excuse, fail to ensure the trap no longer gives rise to such a risk.

However, the bill would permit the secretary of state to grant licences authorising pest control professionals to use glue traps to catch rodents in exceptional circumstances, including to preserve public health or safety in cases where there was no suitable alternative. A licence would exempt a pest controller from the offence provisions when using traps within the terms of a licence.

The bill would also:

  • require courts, upon conviction, to order the forfeiture of glue traps used or held;
  • allow police constables and appointed inspectors to take enforcement action;
  • make it an offence to intentionally obstruct or pretend to be an authorised inspector; and
  • grant powers to ministers to allow for the charging of fees and other charges in connection with licences, make provision for appeals in relation to licensing decisions and delegate licensing functions to a competent public authority such as Natural England.

The bill contains four delegated powers, three of which would be subject to the negative procedure and one of which would be a commencement power not subject to parliamentary scrutiny.

In the bill’s explanatory notes, the Government said it would expect to commence regulations relating to the licensing regime ahead of bringing the offence-related provisions into force two years after the bill received royal assent. It added that the expected annual costs of operating the licensing regime, including compliance inspections, were expected to be “significantly less than £1m per year”. In addition, it said the expected two-year timeframe for the commencement of the offence provisions would allow for pest control behaviour change that would likely result in a low number of future offences being committed.

What happened in the House of Commons?

The bill was introduced in the House of Commons on 16 June 2021.

It received its second reading on 19 November 2021. Initiating the debate in Jane Stevenson’s absence due to illness, Cherilyn Mackrory (Conservative MP for Truro and Falmouth) said the bill would “make it an offence to set a glue trap for the purpose of catching a rodent or in a manner that gives rise to a risk that a rodent could become caught in it”. She explained this would also prevent the “primitive traps” being used “where they pose a risk to other animals”. Ms Mackrory then outlined the rationale for a licensing regime to provide for exceptions to be made:

In exceptional circumstances, the use of glue traps by professional pest controllers may unfortunately still be necessary. Glue traps may capture rodents more quickly than other methods, so they could still be needed when a rapid capture is required for reasons of public health or safety, such as in the cockpit of a jumbo jet before it is due to take off or if there was a risk of a fire in a hospital. If rodents have got in and are gnawing wires where other types of traps cannot be placed and we think that public safety is at real risk, glue traps might need to be used. To cover such eventualities, clause 2 sets out the provisions for a licensing regime that will allow the secretary of state to authorise a pest controller to use a glue trap to catch a rodent if that is needed to preserve public health or safety and—this is key—no other satisfactory solution is available.

Ms Mackrory cited the examples of Ireland and New Zealand where use of glue traps had been restricted “without any demonstrable impact on rodent control”. She concluded her remarks by urging the House to “take this opportunity […] to continue to raise the bar on animal welfare in this country and ban the use of glue traps in all but the most exceptional circumstances”.

Speaking on behalf of the Labour Party, Shadow Minister Olivia Blake said that although the opposition had “some reservations about the scope of the bill […] it is definitely a big step in the right direction”. Noting that the Labour Party’s animal welfare manifesto called for a ban on the “sale and use of snares and glue traps”, she confirmed her party welcomed the bill and would “wish it well through its remaining stages”. However, she expressed concern that the language on rodents was “rather too exclusive” and that the provisions relating to the licensing regime could be clearer on who licences might be issued to and what kind of training those people would need. She also queried why the bill would not ban the use of glue traps altogether, as pest control industry guidance that traps should be visited within 12 hours allowed for an “incredibly long time for suffering to continue”.

Speaking for the Government, Jo Churchill, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, confirmed the Government supported the bill. After summarising the bill’s main aims, Ms Churchill cited the example of New Zealand, which had banned the use of glue traps but had to later “pull back” so that traps could be allowed in exceptional circumstances. She added that the provisions in the bill had therefore been “written in a way that means that we do not have to approach the matter in that iterative way”. Ms Churchill said that in the case of New Zealand, the pest control industry had adapted well to the requirement for ministerial approval for the use of glue traps with the “number of approvals now […] only in single figures”. She added that a licence regime would allow the imposition of “strict conditions”, including regular monitoring to safeguard welfare. The bill was read a second time without division.

Committee stage, report stage and third reading

No amendments were tabled or made during the bill’s committee stage on 19 January 2022.

Ahead of the bill’s report stage on 4 February 2022, Mark Tami (Labour MP for Alyn and Deeside) tabled six amendments aimed at either explicitly adding the wording “or any other vertebrate animal” in places or tightening the scope of the licensing regime. During the report stage debate, Jane Stevenson explained that the chosen wording around setting a glue trap “in a manner which gives rise to a risk that a rodent will become caught” would ensure that other vertebrate animals would be protected. Speaking for the Government, Victoria Prentis, Minister for Farming, Fisheries and Food, also said that the bill’s current wording rendered the relevant amendments unnecessary. On the proposed changes to the licensing regime, she added that the bill had been drafted to “allow a range of licences to be granted” and that restricting this flexibility would be inappropriate. After debate, Mr Tami withdrew his amendments.

The bill’s third reading immediately followed report stage. During the debate, Ms Prentis said both the Scottish and Welsh Governments had announced plans to introduce similar legislation. The bill was passed without division and was subsequently introduced in the House of Lords on 7 February 2022.

Amended to include the date of the second reading of the bill.

Cover image by Joshua J Cotten on Unsplash.