(The full debate may be read here.)

Extracts from the speeches of some of the speakers in the Second Reading Lords' Debate on the Animal Health amendment Bill ~ January 14th 2002

Note: The speeches may not be given in full here. What is intended is to give an idea of the general trend of the speakers' views. Several excellent speeches are given in their entirety however.

(alphabetical order)

The Earl of Arran

Lord Berkeley

Lord Beaumont

Viscount Bledisloe

Baroness Byford

Lord Caithness

Earl Ferrers

Baroness Gibson of Market Rasen

Lord Greaves

The Lord Bishop of Hereford

Lord Jopling

Lord Kimball

Baroness Mallalieu

The Countess of Mar

Baroness Miller of Chilthorne Domer Lord Moran

The Duke of Montrose

Lord Neill of Bladon

Lord Palmer

Lord Plumb

Lord Peel

Earl of Selborne Earl of Shrewsbury

Baroness Thornton

Lord Willoughby de Broke

TOP

Baroness Byford:

My Lords, we are here today to give a Second Reading to the Animal Health Bill. It is a comparatively small Bill but one which gives huge powers to the Minister to enter an individual's premises for the purpose of inspecting and slaughtering animals. In my view, the Bill should not be entitled the Animal Health Bill but instead the "Animal Death Bill". At this stage I remind your Lordships of our family farming interests.

I have grave concerns about the Bill. I had originally considered voting against it at Second Reading. The noble Baroness, Lady Miller, has tabled an amendment--I look forward to hearing about it shortly--which regrets that the Government are pushing ahead with the Bill before the various foot and mouth inquiries have reported. Why this sudden haste to rush the Bill through? Why not wait until the Government's own inquiries have been completed? The Government say that they will respond to the recommendations from those inquiries but that alterations will no doubt have to be made to the Bill. I repeat: why is there undue haste when alterations may be inevitable?

The Minister, Mr Elliot Morley, recently called for a complete review of all legislation relating to animal welfare; some 11 Acts. I support such a step. Consultation on this matter will end by the end of April. That is another reason to wait. Conservatives are willing to support the introduction of sensible, practical, proportionate measures to deal with future outbreaks of foot and mouth and other diseases, but those assumptions and legislative requirements must be based on good science and not brought forward as a knee-jerk response to last year's outbreak. My honourable friend Ann Winterton referred to the lack of support for the Bill from all sides of the House and to the considerable reservations expressed at Second Reading.

When the Bill was considered in another place, Members from all sides of the House expressed their concerns, particularly about the Draconian powers being sought. Mr Morley indicated that he would give consideration to those concerns, yet the Bill was passed without a single amendment being accepted. The Government have failed to understand the depth of feeling, and, indeed, the amount of mail that many of us have received. Consequently, we have all been overwhelmed by representations from organisations and members of the public.

It is against that background that we begin our debate today. The Minister should not underestimate the effects of last year's foot and mouth disaster on the farming community and on the thousands of rural businesses and tourism enterprises, which were financially crippled too. The Government's handling of the epidemic has come in for much criticism. We raised our concerns in this House and called for a full public inquiry so that lessons could be learnt to ensure that such an outbreak would be prevented in future. The Minister, and other Ministers, acknowledged that mistakes were made, but refused to consider a public inquiry.

Recently, Professor Mark Woolhouse told the Select Committee on agriculture that the if the Government had imposed a ban on livestock movement 72 hours before they did, it would have halved the spread of the disease and saved some three million animals from slaughter and #1 billion from being paid out. The same Government now ask this House to give them sweeping powers to enter premises and kill animals on suspicion that the disease might be present.

The Bill does nothing to stop diseases being brought into the UK in the first place. The Minister will recall the number of times that we on these Benches have raised the issue of illegally imported meats. We have called for a tightening up of import controls. Clive Lawrence, director of Ciel Logistics, which is responsible for animal product shipments, warned Nick Brown that meat from Africa was being smuggled through Heathrow and that it carried an extremely high risk of foot and mouth.

The Bill is strong on measures for suppressing farmers but lacks any reference to the Government's role or duty in controlling or preventing the disease in the first place. The Bill is considered by many as one which takes all rights of appeal away from the farmer. The Government will be able to seek authorisation from a magistrate to enter premises and kill animals on suspicion. At that stage, the farmer will have no access to the magistrate and therefore will be unable to appeal against such authorisation. The Government maintain that the Bill does not contravene human rights. However, we have been informed differently. In Committee, that aspect of the Bill will be debated rigorously.

Further, although the Government maintain that the Bill does not contravene human rights, we suggest that it arguably offends against the European Convention on Human Rights. It denies the right to "a fair hearing". Therefore, the Secretary of State's certificate under Section 19(1)(a) must be clarified. Again, in Committee, an answer will be sought.

If the Government are serious about animal welfare and animal health, they should extend the legislation to all those who import, process and retail food and food products in the UK. They should bring in a Bill making it illegal for anyone to buy, sell or consume pork from countries without a tether ban, chicken from countries which employ battery cages smaller than the EU standard, and beef from countries in which foot and mouth or any diseases on list "A" are present. The Minister referred to the likelihood of more diseases coming into this country. Perhaps it is time for him to take action on that observation.

The Bill raises for problems for the president of the Royal Society of Veterinary Surgeons. He has warned that the legislation could become unworkable for vets and create epidemics much more widespread and damaging than the foot and mouth crisis. He describes the Bill as containing,

"many unsupported scientific judgements",

and raising,

"an ethical issue which is critical to the regulatory role of the RCVS".

The recent January edition of the Veterinary Record refers to that matter.

The Minister will be aware of some of the court cases that have been heard. He will know of the case brought by MAFF against Mrs Upton which was heard by Mr Justice Harrison. He will recall that Mr Justice Harrison found in favour of Mrs Upton. In his summing-up, the judge said:

"So far as the pig is concerned, Mr Smith submits that there is no evidence that there has been any physical contact between pig and anyone or anything that has been carrying the virus and that, therefore, if the pig were to be infected, it could only have been through air-borne transmission and that, on the scientific evidence, it is simply not feasible for that to have happened, as such a large amount of the virus has to be transmitted in order to infect the pig".

Mrs Upton's animals were saved from destruction. But under this Bill they would have been destroyed. Where are her human rights under the Bill, and those of many others who challenged MAFF's decisions?

Under the Bill the appeal system would not save animals from death. The farmer would be able to make the appeal only after the killing had taken place. In addition, he would have to pay a fee for the honour of so doing. We are concerned about the complexity and the timescale of the proposed appeals system. In our view, it is totally inadequate.

To add insult to injury, the Government propose that compensation--the Minister referred to this--should be limited to 75 per cent of the value of the animal, with the additional 25 per cent being made available should the Government decide that biosecurity measures in place are adequate. This proposal contravenes the normal British stance that everyone is innocent until proved guilty. Any compensation deduction or penalty must be made on the basis that farmers and everyone have been given clear advice on what is meant by biosecurity measures and what measures they are supposed to be carrying out.

The Bill before us has two main purposes; first, to provide additional powers to tackle foot and mouth disease and for those powers to extend to other animal diseases by order, and, secondly, to provide additional powers to deal with TSE in sheep. I have questioned the Government on the draconian powers in respect of foot and mouth; I have equal concerns about the assumptions they make on TSE. The department's research into whether BSE is in the sheep population has been, at best, a disaster. Noble Lords will remember the whole episode of cows' and not sheeps' brains being tested which resulted in September in the announcement by Elliot Morley that it was possible that the whole of the sheep flock might have to be killed.

I cannot state firmly enough that this not only set panic among farmers but among members of the public. It is monstrously unfair to farmers and to consumers for the Government to scaremonger, threatening millions of people with the possibility of contracting CJD from eating lamb. Thankfully, the Food Standards Agency stepped into the breach and affirmed on 10th January that lamb posed no risk to human health. But the fears had already been set running. I am not against the eradication of scrapie from our flock but the voluntary route was working, albeit slowly. If changes are needed to speed up such eradication, they must be based on good science.

The Minister referred to the lobby by the Rare Breeds Survival Trust. At a meeting for foot and mouth stakeholders held on 9th November 2001, it reported that a representative of the Chief Scientist's office admitted that it was still not known how many varieties of scrapie there are. If one does not know what one is looking for, how can one legislate for its eradication? I urge caution on the Government in this area before proceeding with a compulsory slaughter policy.

As noble Lords will by now have gathered, I have grave reservations about the Bill. For example, it gives Ministers the power to slaughter both vaccinated and unvaccinated animals. Will that be acceptable to our European colleagues? At the international meeting held in Brussels on 12th and 13th December 2001, Mr Alun Michael was reported as stating that he welcomed the consensus about eradication of FMD and noted that vaccination could be a tool. He was sympathetic to the points made about the mass slaughter of animals. But the implementation of those recommendations needed better testing, purer vaccines and better trade rules.

Are we not rushing ahead with a Bill when there are still so many questions? This morning, Farmers' Weekly presented a petition to Tony Blair at No. 10 Downing Street. It called for an independent public inquiry. Some 146,000 people had signed that petition. Perhaps their voice and those of the many others expressed over the past months will be recognised. The Government at last announced on Friday-- so close to today's Second Reading--that they will be holding consultations with stakeholders. The Minister referred to that. The consultation is due to end by 15th March. Surely, if there are all these consultations, it beholds the Government to wait rather than to push ahead with the Bill. After Second Reading, the Bill should not be considered further until those consultations and inquiries are completed.

The Bill is a modification of an existing Act of Parliament. It is itself likely to be modified. This is a Bill which affects only England and Wales. It does not include Scotland and Northern Ireland. Especially in Scotland, it could pose problems for future regulations. The Bill is the panic reaction of a government who know that they acted late, ill-advisedly and almost illegally in controlling the foot and mouth outbreaks last year. They know that some of their proposals have no scientific foundation; that they lack the support of the veterinary profession; and that they deprive an important sector of our community of any effective rights of appeal. In short, it is a bad Bill.

TOP Baroness Miller of Chilthorne Domer rose to move, as an amendment to the Motion that the Bill be now read a second time, at end insert "but this House regrets that the Government have brought forward legislation to deal with the control of future outbreaks of animal diseases without waiting for the recommendations of the Royal Society inquiry which they commissioned to report by the summer".

TOP

The noble Baroness said

: My Lords, in moving this amendment, I should like noble Lords to be certain that we Liberal Democrats accept that there is a need to amend and supplement the Animal Health Act 1981. We need to ensure that our animals--our livestock--are healthy. We believe that ensuring the health of our nation's livestock is essential for a number of reasons: because, in choosing to keep animals, we become responsible for their welfare; because an outbreak such as that of foot and mouth disease last year costs the nation billions of pounds; because some diseases can threaten public health; and crucially, because in parts of Britain, the whole future of farming, rural communities and the landscape is dependent on a vibrant, healthy national livestock herd. We need to restore national and international confidence in the health of British livestock, and we agree that there is a need to work towards a scrapie-free national sheep flock. We accept those needs, but I am moving the amendment because we are unhappy that a Bill addressing those needs came through the other place and comes to your Lordships' House in advance of the report of the scientific review, in particular, and of the other inquiry reports that should have shaped it. Indeed, it passed through the other place with no amendment whatsoever. That was not because the Standing Committee was happy with it, but because the Government used their majority.

The main change from the 1981 Act, which the Bill will amend, is that it gives the Minister powers to slaughter for the purpose of controlling foot and mouth disease and, by order, other diseases not because animals are, or are suspected of being, infected, but because they are--and I quote from the Bill--

"any animals the Minister thinks should be slaughtered".

That means animals that have not been exposed to disease--not been in contact with any infected animals--could still be slaughtered. That empowers the Minister to deal with animals that need to be culled as a "firebreak" or perhaps as a total species eradication, in the case of other diseases.

That is a major change from the 1981 Act, and any judgement of its necessity must be based on sound scientific consensus and proper consultation, neither of which we have at present. It is a major change for veterinarians to order slaughter based solely on ministerial wish, with no evidence of infection or contact with infection. The Bill presumes that no test will become available to do quick, pen-side tests for infectivity.

Nor does the Bill contain any definition of the geographical area over which the ministerial power might apply. Might it be two miles from an outbreak? Might it be 50 miles downwind of an outbreak? If the Government are after the right to exercise a contiguous cull, they should certainly define what "contiguous" means.

The Bill also changes the right to compensation for slaughtered stock. Animals will be slaughtered and the farmer will be entitled to receive only 75 per cent compensation. The other 25 per cent will be payable if he has been helpful in the slaughter of his animals and if his bio-security arrangements have been adequate.

The public inquiry that ought to have been held may well have concluded that a contiguous culling power was essential. But it would have done so in the context of hearing how to build a firm consensus between officials and farmers and would have spelt out in full the duties and responsibilities of each. However, the Government chose to commission three separate inquiries into the future of food and farming, the lessons learnt from the 2001 outbreak and a third--to which my amendment refers--from the Royal Society into the transmission, control and prevention of animal diseases. The report of that inquiry, at least, ought to have been the basis of the Bill.

We should have had the latest science behind conclusions as to how to prevent the spread of such diseases. After all, science has moved on considerably since 1981 and any amendment of the 1981 Act should take that into account.

The extent of last year's outbreak of foot and mouth disease represented a number of failures: in knowledge, understanding and certainly in contingency planning. Successive governments failed to ensure that the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food learnt the lessons set out in the Northumberland report.

There has also been a long-term failure to invest in the State Veterinary Service and in research into disease prevention and eradication. Contingency planning was clearly low on MAFF's list of priorities. Yet only the year before the outbreak, the Government had been warned of the threat of animal disease by the UN organisation responsible for that area. The Minister responded in Answer to my Written Question about whether the Government then believed the State Veterinary Service was adequate to deal with disease prevention. I do not believe that I received an adequate answer to my Question.

This is a bad Bill, and it will not put those matters right. A more comprehensive overhaul is needed. The Bill starts from the premise that farmers do not want to control and eradicate foot and mouth disease. In fact, the evidence is to the contrary. Affected members of the farming community co-operated with the Government to a huge extent in incredibly difficult and distressing circumstances. While there may have been a few examples of obstructive behaviour, they were certainly not the norm. Officials, too, were usually conscientious, over-stretched and trying to do their best in a stressful situation.

The Bill will not help those people's relationship. It will damage it, because it is only about what to do about "bad" farmers, careless farmers, or obstructive farmers. It says nothing about bad officials, careless officials or--crucially--about Ministers' responsibilities and duties.It aims to give officials the right to deal with animals as they think fit and to criminalise the farmer if they interpret behaviour as obstructive or even simply impeding. Would putting up one's arm to slow down a discussion, for example, be considered an impediment by an official in a hurry? The Bill provides all that with no right of appeal by the farmer.

The Bill then goes on to give the Minister or his officials the right to withhold 25 per cent of the compensation due to the farmer for his slaughtered stock if the person appointed by that same Minister thinks that the extent of co-operation with inspectors or other persons was inadequate. So a farmer who is stressed, distressed, exhausted or angry--not in a state to help but not actually obstructive--who fails to help as much as the inspector thinks fit could have his compensation reduced by 25 per cent.

Compensation can also be withheld if the inspector believes that the farmer or persons under his control acted in such a way as to create a significant risk of the spread of foot and mouth. On the face of it, that is entirely reasonable. Yet the way in which the disease is transmitted is still unclear. Until the Royal Society reports, we know no more than during the outbreak. At that time, no one--officials, farmers or Ministers--really knew how much of a risk were vehicle movements or people movements, whether the pyres spread the disease or how many "dirty" officials--by which I mean officials who had visited infected premises--were working on other uninfected premises too soon. We need the Royal Society report to answer those questions. If the Government intend the Bill to enable them to withhold compensation due for creation of a significant risk, they should be able to issue precise guidelines as to how that risk is to be avoided.

The Bill allows the Minister's official to be judge, prosecutor, defence and jury. First, he will decide whether the premises contain animals that pose a risk--on no evidence of disease, just his suspicion. Then he will decide if the farmer has maintained adequate bio-security for the past 21 days--no doubt sometimes debating that heatedly. His version of these events alone will then be presented to a magistrate. The officials would use a procedure analogous to that seeking an arrest or search warrant, but this is not about a temporary loss of liberty or the searching of premises. It is about the irreversible destruction of often valuable and much loved livestock against the owner's wishes.

If the magistrate agrees with that version, having heard no other, the Bill allows an inspector to require any person--not just the farmer or the stockman, but any aged aunt, visiting vicar or district nurse--to give such assistance as the inspector believes that he needs to slaughter the stock.

We should contrast all of that with the Act that the Bill would amend. The Animal Health Act 1981 makes it an offence to impede or obstruct an inspection and recognises that it might be a first or only offence. The Act simply requires the owner and person in charge of any sheep to,

"comply with all reasonable requirements of the inspector as to the collection and penning of the sheep and afford all other reasonable facilities for the examination of the sheep by the inspector".

That is reasonable, and it is a far step from being required to assist with the slaughter of stock. The Bill imposes a requirement to do anything that the inspector wants. There should be no such requirement.

The 1981 Act lays duties on the Minister, too. For example, if the Minister is to destroy wildlife to contain a disease, he shall,

"ensure that destruction is carried out on any such land in as safe a manner as is possible".

This Bill lays no onus on the Minister to justify decisions to slaughter. Are the powers in the Bill proportionate? Are they the right powers to control foot and mouth disease? As far as the 2001 outbreak is concerned, we simply do not know.

Mr Scudamore, the chief veterinary officer, told the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee in another place on 31st October, in response to Question 23, that he did not know what proportion of the original suspect cases in which culling took place proved to be negative. He said:

"We do not know because the problem we had at the height of the outbreak was that we were removing contiguous premises and not sampling them. We did not have the resources to do that".

That may be understandable, but we do not know yet whether contiguous culling, vaccination and slaughter, vaccination alone or the stopping of all traffic movement would have been among the most effective long-term solutions. Under this Bill, when an official goes to a magistrate for a warrant to enter and slaughter, the farmer--or his representative--has no right to put his side of the case. Is that reasonable? It is not.

The Government have not produced hard scientific evidence that it was the lack of legal powers that caused the infection to spread so far. I heard what the Minister said, but I think that many people would contest that point. There is hard evidence, however, that well founded appeals saved the nation a good deal of money.

There is nothing in the first part of the Bill about promoting animal health. The Bill is silent on the relationship between the long-distance transportation of live animals throughout the country and the stress and subsequent vulnerability to disease that it causes. Section 37 of the 1981 Act addresses the issue as it was then, relating mainly to food and water. One of the main lessons that we learnt from 2001 was that the transportation of sheep had become a long-distance web of almost continuous travel. It was among livestock dealers, not farmers, that the disease was spread so fast. Seventeen of the first 20 cases in last year's outbreak were among dealers. Urgent action is needed to secure a market for farmers that obviates the need for the middle man and strengthens farmers' ability to market their livestock themselves.

The Government are also silent on the original cause of the outbreak of foot and mouth disease. It was, almost certainly, illegally imported meat or improperly checked meat from a country from which we import meat, despite the Government's assurances that it had not come from a region affected by foot and mouth disease. Although there are now warnings at airports, it is still the case that individuals are entitled to bring animal products into this country. If the Government are to deal with cases of urgency, it should have used the Bill to close that loophole.

We need legislation and action that truly address the question of animal health, including imports, adequate geographical spread of abattoirs and regulations and incentives to encourage those who try to follow the highest animal welfare standards. We must be sure that those who put animal health at risk are identified and dealt with. The part of the Bill that deals with the eradication of scrapie should have regard to the fact that the science behind it is still evolving rapidly. It is far too extreme to criminalise people. More exact science and legislation should follow, and that, too, should proceed from the report of the scientific community.

On Friday, the Minister issued a protocol on the slaughtering procedure, much too late to be considered by the other place, when it discussed the Bill. In his winding-up speech, the Minister may claim that it has a more reasonable tone than the Bill, but the powers of the Minister are enshrined in the Bill, not the protocol. In any case, I hope that the consultation on the protocol will be completed so that the House can have the benefit of it before it has to discuss our conclusions in any more detail.

Many noble Lords have grave concerns about the Bill. I look forward to benefiting from the depth of knowledge and experience of those who are about to speak in the debate. I commend my amendment to the House. Moved, as an amendment to the Motion that the Bill be now read a second time, at end insert "but this House regrets that the Government have brought forward legislation to deal with the control of future outbreaks of animal diseases without waiting for the recommendations of the Royal Society inquiry which they commissioned to report by the summer".--(Baroness Miller of Chilthorne Domer.)

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The Lord Bishop of Hereford:

My Lords, I wish that it were possible to give even a qualified welcome to the Bill. Undoubtedly, it is well intentioned, in so far as it would equip the department to deal more effectively with any future outbreak of foot and mouth disease. However, as has already been made plain, it has been greeted with great dismay in the farming community, the livestock industry and the veterinary profession. We must take those expressions of dismay seriously.

The Bill is harsh, unjust and untimely. It is harsh and unjust because it is so one-sided, giving sweeping powers to the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, with practically no right of appeal and no need for explanation or justification and no opportunity for the farmer to be represented when an application is made for a slaughter order. The Bill shows no confidence in the farming community and assumes fault in biosecurity and compensation. Above all, the Bill is untimely. We still await the reports of the inquiries into the science of foot and mouth disease and the lessons to be learnt from last year, and the stakeholder consultations are about to take place. That makes the Animal Health Bill appear absurd in its timing, unhelpful in many of its provisions and unpleasant in its tone.

The Bill attempts to achieve a desirable end by undesirable and unacceptable means, and it leaves undone those things which it ought to have done, above all the provision of tougher and more effective import controls at docks and airports, as the noble Baroness, Lady Miller of Chilthorne Domer said. Why, after all that we have been through, are we so slack and undisciplined about the matter, compared with, for example, the United States, Australia or New Zealand? It is unbelievable that we still do not have such import controls in place. An amendment along those lines is urgently needed, and I understand that the Minister in another place, Mr Elliot Morley, indicated that the Government might welcome such an addition to the Bill. I hope so.

Meanwhile, I wish to support the amendment in the name of the noble Baroness, Lady Miller of Chilthorne Domer, which picks up on the untimely character of the Bill. The House has reason to be grateful to the noble Baroness. I hope that there will be careful consideration of and support for the amendment.

I intended to express sympathy with the Minister for having to introduce the Bill. I thought that he had, once again, found himself introducing government business in which his heart was not truly present. However, he passionately defended the Bill and said that that came from the heart. I know him to be a reasonable and fair-minded man, and I hope that he will listen to the debate and be as flexible and responsive in the Government's answer as he was, for example, over the Countryside and Rights of Way Bill. This House did an excellent job in improving the Bill during its passage through Parliament.

The farming community is still reeling from the effects of last year's traumatic experiences. It is battered, in almost every case impoverished further, with a few rare exceptions demoralised and very unsure about the future. The track record of the Government during the foot and mouth outbreak was not good. There were many confusions and delays as the crucial targets of 24 hours to slaughter and 48 hours to the disposal of carcasses of infected animals were often not met. There were grievous mistakes, with sometimes wildly inaccurate epidemiological modelling and misapplication of resources. The Minister acknowledged that there were faults. However, it is not reasonable to ask the farming community, in its present mood and in the light of that unhappy record of last year, to accept these even more draconian proposals.

We need clearer policies but we should first put in place import controls; then await the outcome of the two reports; and then bring forward a Bill which grants powers of entry and slaughter only after a public hearing in which both sides can take part. That need not involve any delay. We accept the rightness of an appeal to a magistrate, but ask for the simple courtesy of consultation and the justice of an equal right to make a case to the magistrate. There must be a commitment to introducing an immediate ban on all animal movements as soon as the disease is discovered. The delays in doing so last year were very serious.

There should be similar legislation to cover Scotland and Northern Ireland. It is deeply unsatisfactory and potentially dangerous if different provisions are made there from those in force in England and Wales, as the cross-border Cumbria/Dumfries example in the foot and mouth disease outbreak made clear, where similar policies were essential on both sides of the Border.

The compensation provisions in the Bill are the wrong way round, as has already been said. The assumptions should be the full 100 per cent compensation, with a proportion being withheld only if lax bio-security can be proved. The Minister admitted that only 7 per cent of those cases which were investigated were serious cases of lax bio-security. Most farmers are very responsible and the burden of proof should be reversed.

The Bill needs to be more clearly drafted. The various usages in it--"veterinary surgeons", "veterinary inspectors" or just plain "inspectors"--do not encourage confidence and they leave room for uncertainty. While it is true that the current state of scientific knowledge, in particular the doubtful reliability of the test to distinguish between antibodies following vaccination and the presence of the virus itself, means that vaccination cannot yet be wholeheartedly recommended in place of slaughter. It would have been good if the Bill had provided for a different policy to be introduced as our scientific knowledge grows, as I hope it rapidly will.

I hesitate to touch on the highly technical sections of the Bill which deal with the elimination of scrapie. All responsible people must share the objective of eradicating this disease and all transmissible spongeform encephalopathies--a hard "c" of course because it comes from the Greek. The Minister in another place spoke of a protocol to ensure that the powers conferred in the Bill will not be used in a disproportionate, inconsistent or unfair way. It is fine for it to be in the protocol but, as the noble Baroness, Lady Miller, said, it needs to be on the face of the Bill, together with a formal commitment to local veterinary consultation.

I hope that this will be a helpful debate. I suspect that by the time it is finished the same points will have been made many times over. I am grateful for the privilege of having made one or two of them for the first time and having echoed the points made so admirably by the noble Baronesses , Lady Byford and Lady Miller, particularly the long list of desirable things which could well have been added to the Bill. I look forward to hearing what other noble Lords have to say, but only after that journey into the golden future of our railways on which we are about to embark

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The Lord Bishop of Hereford:

My Lords, I wish that it were possible to give even a qualified welcome to the Bill. Undoubtedly, it is well intentioned, in so far as it would equip the department to deal more effectively with any future outbreak of foot and mouth disease. However, as has already been made plain, it has been greeted with great dismay in the farming community, the livestock industry and the veterinary profession. We must take those expressions of dismay seriously.

The Bill is harsh, unjust and untimely. It is harsh and unjust because it is so one-sided, giving sweeping powers to the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, with practically no right of appeal and no need for explanation or justification and no opportunity for the farmer to be represented when an application is made for a slaughter order. The Bill shows no confidence in the farming community and assumes fault in biosecurity and compensation. Above all, the Bill is untimely. We still await the reports of the inquiries into the science of foot and mouth disease and the lessons to be learnt from last year, and the stakeholder consultations are about to take place. That makes the Animal Health Bill appear absurd in its timing, unhelpful in many of its provisions and unpleasant in its tone.

The Bill attempts to achieve a desirable end by undesirable and unacceptable means, and it leaves undone those things which it ought to have done, above all the provision of tougher and more effective import controls at docks and airports, as the noble Baroness, Lady Miller of Chilthorne Domer said. Why, after all that we have been through, are we so slack and undisciplined about the matter, compared with, for example, the United States, Australia or New Zealand? It is unbelievable that we still do not have such import controls in place. An amendment along those lines is urgently needed, and I understand that the Minister in another place, Mr Elliot Morley, indicated that the Government might welcome such an addition to the Bill. I hope so.

Meanwhile, I wish to support the amendment in the name of the noble Baroness, Lady Miller of Chilthorne Domer, which picks up on the untimely character of the Bill. The House has reason to be grateful to the noble Baroness. I hope that there will be careful consideration of and support for the amendment.

I intended to express sympathy with the Minister for having to introduce the Bill. I thought that he had, once again, found himself introducing government business in which his heart was not truly present. However, he passionately defended the Bill and said that that came from the heart. I know him to be a reasonable and fair-minded man, and I hope that he will listen to the debate and be as flexible and responsive in the Government's answer as he was, for example, over the Countryside and Rights of Way Bill. This House did an excellent job in improving the Bill during its passage through Parliament.

The farming community is still reeling from the effects of last year's traumatic experiences. It is battered, in almost every case impoverished further, with a few rare exceptions demoralised and very unsure about the future. The track record of the Government during the foot and mouth outbreak was not good. There were many confusions and delays as the crucial targets of 24 hours to slaughter and 48 hours to the disposal of carcasses of infected animals were often not met. There were grievous mistakes, with sometimes wildly inaccurate epidemiological modelling and misapplication of resources. The Minister acknowledged that there were faults. However, it is not reasonable to ask the farming community, in its present mood and in the light of that unhappy record of last year, to accept these even more draconian proposals.

We need clearer policies but we should first put in place import controls; then await the outcome of the two reports; and then bring forward a Bill which grants powers of entry and slaughter only after a public hearing in which both sides can take part. That need not involve any delay. We accept the rightness of an appeal to a magistrate, but ask for the simple courtesy of consultation and the justice of an equal right to make a case to the magistrate. There must be a commitment to introducing an immediate ban on all animal movements as soon as the disease is discovered. The delays in doing so last year were very serious.

There should be similar legislation to cover Scotland and Northern Ireland. It is deeply unsatisfactory and potentially dangerous if different provisions are made there from those in force in England and Wales, as the cross-border Cumbria/Dumfries example in the foot and mouth disease outbreak made clear, where similar policies were essential on both sides of the Border.

The compensation provisions in the Bill are the wrong way round, as has already been said. The assumptions should be the full 100 per cent compensation, with a proportion being withheld only if lax bio-security can be proved. The Minister admitted that only 7 per cent of those cases which were investigated were serious cases of lax bio-security. Most farmers are very responsible and the burden of proof should be reversed.

The Bill needs to be more clearly drafted. The various usages in it--"veterinary surgeons", "veterinary inspectors" or just plain "inspectors"--do not encourage confidence and they leave room for uncertainty. While it is true that the current state of scientific knowledge, in particular the doubtful reliability of the test to distinguish between antibodies following vaccination and the presence of the virus itself, means that vaccination cannot yet be wholeheartedly recommended in place of slaughter. It would have been good if the Bill had provided for a different policy to be introduced as our scientific knowledge grows, as I hope it rapidly will.

I hesitate to touch on the highly technical sections of the Bill which deal with the elimination of scrapie. All responsible people must share the objective of eradicating this disease and all transmissible spongeform encephalopathies--a hard "c" of course because it comes from the Greek. The Minister in another place spoke of a protocol to ensure that the powers conferred in the Bill will not be used in a disproportionate, inconsistent or unfair way. It is fine for it to be in the protocol but, as the noble Baroness, Lady Miller, said, it needs to be on the face of the Bill, together with a formal commitment to local veterinary consultation.

I hope that this will be a helpful debate. I suspect that by the time it is finished the same points will have been made many times over. I am grateful for the privilege of having made one or two of them for the first time and having echoed the points made so admirably by the noble Baronesses , Lady Byford and Lady Miller, particularly the long list of desirable things which could well have been added to the Bill. I look forward to hearing what other noble Lords have to say, but only after that journey into the golden future of our railways on which we are about to embark. ........ TOP

Lord Jopling

They graphically reflect the Government's incompetence in the wider sense. First, this is a knee-jerk reaction to a serious problem. Secondly, it tackles only part of the problem. Thirdly, it is unco-ordinated. Fourthly, it is mean. Fifthly, it lacks scientific justification. Sixthly, it is arrogant and unfair. Seventhly, over the past year, the whole problem has been presided over by first a Minister and now a Secretary of State who do not command and have not commanded the respect of the farming community and they do not appear to have a grip of the facts. TOP

Viscount Bledisloe .

The Government are apparently putting in place what they think is needed to do better next time, but doing so without consultation with the farming bodies or awaiting the benefit of the inquiry that they have appointed. One of those inquiries is called "Learning the Lessons". In my day, one learned one's lessons before attempting to write the answers; the Government seemingly prefer the opposite approach. .....
Jeremy Bentham told us many years ago that civil servants are not the right people to deal with emergencies. They will always be more concerned with formalities and paper than with action. What is needed is a small national body solely devoted to crisis management which can step in and take charge of a crisis of any kind without being overcome by the necessity of ensuring that the paperwork is in order. Surely that was demonstrated by the transformation which occurred in Cumbria once a brigadier took over from a civil servant. ....
.It seems to me that that is a novel requirement to import into the criminal law--to oblige a man to work actively on the instructions of an official and to make it an offence not to comply. Basically, the criminal law does not require one to act, merely to refrain from wrongful conduct--"one shall not kill but need not strive officiously to keep alive".

Therefore, I wrote to the Minister and asked his departmental staff to let me know what precedents there were for that kind of provision. This morning I received an impressive letter with a list of no fewer than nine examples which appeared to be convincing and to destroy my point. However, being of a somewhat non-trusting nature, I checked virtually all of the references. None of them is in any way similar to the provisions I am discussing. All they do is require one to give information or access to an inspector whose job it is to see that things are safe or that records are kept. None of them requires one to take action to do the job itself by rounding up animals, holding them or indeed doing the slaughtering oneself. The real answer is that these powers are unprecedented and, unfortunately for the Minister, his department has not got away with pretending that they are not. TOP

Baroness Gibson of Market Rasen:

My Lords, I support the Bill and the principles behind it. I do not why but I get the feeling that I may be one of the few to do so. But as a woman who came to your Lordships' House from the male dominated trade union movement, I am used to being in a minority. Overall, I believe the Bill worthy of support. I particularly welcome the section on deliberate infection of animals.

Further, by acting swiftly and decisively, the Government hope to allay the public's natural concerns about foot and mouth--those concerns have not gone away--and bring back confidence to the British meat and dairy industry. That is a responsible attitude that any government should take and which has been called for time and again in this Chamber in our debates on foot and mouth. It is a good job that herrings are not able to catch foot and mouth disease because there have already been plenty of red herrings swimming around the Bill. Some newspapers went so far as to suggest that following the Bill's implementation even pet goldfish would be under threat. Sometimes one wonders about the mental state of some journalists. Others have made wild claims about the culling of animals. They have talked about indiscriminate culling, including the culling of dogs, horses and pets. Anyone who has studied the disease knows that animals such as dogs and horses are not susceptible to foot and mouth, and the suggestion, obviously, is idiocy. TOP

Earl Ferrers

...but I am bound to say that I find the Bill most unacceptable. I view it with concern and horror. ...One looks after those animals all one's life and then finds them with their feet, in a state of rigor mortis, up in the air on one's own land. All one's life work has been destroyed and it is a most terrible thing. It is devastating financially, emotionally and as a reflection of one's life's work. It is not surprising that farmers do not take too kindly to Elliot Morley when he says, "I sometimes think that farmers are a pretty ungrateful lot". ...We all know of examples such as the occasion when the Army, the vets and all the killers, for want of a better word, were gathered ready with their bulldozers and diggers. Suddenly a health and safety inspector arrived and said, "Stop, stop". Why? "Because you do not have enough portaloos". As a result, the whole operation had to stop and the animals were left in a distressed state. That was no way to carry on.
....Why are the Government giving huge powers to Ministers based on unproven science? Such action should be based on proven science. Faced with no evidence because they could not wait for it, why are the Government allowing inspectors to enter premises and enabling them to contact JPs to ask for a piece of paper to be signed so that they may enter a farm? The noble Viscount, Lord Bledisloe, said that a person could be told to hold a cat while another person killed it.

...The Bill gives inspectors--civil servants--more power than almost anyone else has ever had. The powers to act against farmers are almost Hitlerite. The inspectors can enter a farm's premises and, if necessary, use force. They have simply to go not to a magistrates' court but to a justice of the peace and obtain a signed piece of paper. In other words, an inspector could go to a justice of the peace who was washing up after her breakfast and ask, "Would you mind signing this paper because we want to go on to someone's farm and slaughter all the animals?" The chances are that the justice of the peace would agree to do so. That is fairly awful.

the Bill enables the Government to kill any animal, be it pet, dog or horse. The noble Lord, Lord Whitty, might say that the Government have no intention of doing that. However, that is what the Bill allows. That is a terrible power to give to people.

The noble Baroness, Lady Gibson, said that that will not happen to pets. Your Lordships may remember the person who had a goat which used to sit on the hearth in her sitting room. The goat was killed because it was supposed to be liable to infection.

A farmer may be involved with an appeal on biosecurity, on evaluation of the animals and on what is a fair proportion for compensation. There are three separate appeals which all have to be made within a fortnight. If a farmer makes an appeal, he is capped on it; he is made to pay for it. That is monstrous. The whole idea of British justice is that one can appeal against a matter. An illegal immigrant can appeal against being told to go away, but if a farmer appeals because he thinks that the Government are not giving him his just desserts, he has to pay, which is monstrous.

The Bill shows that the Government are the boss, the state rules and the state decides. Let us look back to the 1950s and the 1960s and to what happened in Russia with totalitarianism and communism. We used to say how terrible it was because there, the Government, the state, ordered the people to do everything. The state told them what to do and the state ran their lives. That is happening here and now, not just over this Bill but over a number of other matters. The only difference is that we do not call it communism. We say that it is a new modern way of life. The state is running things. The Bill is an example of how the state is controlling what happens to farmers and on farmers' land. this is a rotten Bill. It is a dictatorial Bill. TOP

Lord Palmer:

It is extraordinary that a similar measure to the Bill is not currently before the Scottish Parliament or the Northern Ireland Assembly, especially if it really is as important and urgent as the Government would like us to believe. What would the cross-border arrangements be for a farmer who has land on both sides of the border? Indeed, I have friends who are in exactly that situation. They have a farm in England which runs into Scotland. there is no reference in the Bill to cross-border animal trade. That is a major flaw. ..... TOP

The Earl of Selborne

...Therefore, because the veterinary profession had been sidelined, not just on the ground but in the ministry itself, there was a total and utter suspension of belief that DEFRA would do any better than MAFF. That is why the Bill is the wrong Bill at the wrong time. One cannot simply say as part of a social contract that, "Yes, the Government got it wrong" and "Yes, there are a lot of lessons to learn" but there is only one lesson that we are going to learn at this moment; that is, that you cannot resort to law even if we are doing a bad job. That, on the face of it, appears to everyone to be a totally unreasonable bargain. That is why this is a bad Bill. The Secretary of State has not understood her obligation to demonstrate to farmers and, indeed, her responsibility to the veterinary profession. Its members have been badly let down by no longer being required to do what they were able to do in 1967, which is to put an uncertain case through a laboratory test--meanwhile ensuring that animals were properly isolated--and return with a professionally justified diagnosis. TOP

The Earl of Shrewsbury:

There has been a chapter of disasters and massive errors. However, the Government owe a serious debt of gratitude to the local employees of MAFF and DEFRA, the Army and the local veterinarians, slaughtermen and many others who have been involved at the frontline of the battle. Theirs has been an horrific task, and they have done their best. Ministers have not been helpful, and nor has the hierarchy at MAFF--now DEFRA. The story at higher levels is not encouraging, and the Government should accept blame where necessary and learn the lessons, rather than continue to blame the farming community in a scattergun approach to polish political halos.

Finally, I understand from the farming press that the Government may intend to introduce a licensing system for farmers, whereby a farmer has to submit his farming plan to DEFRA for approval before being allowed to farm his land under licence. If DEFRA should disapprove, the farmer would be denied a licence. Who is more qualified to judge how a farmer should farm the land--a civil servant behind a desk in London or the farmer whose family have farmed that land and the stock on it for generations and who has hands-on knowledge of good husbandry practices? Quite frankly, that proposal is absurd. Such a system would be intolerable and I sincerely hope that what I have read is pure rumour. Perhaps the Minister will be able to assure your Lordships that that will not be the case.

British agriculture is in urgent need of strong encouragement, support, good sound advice and action, not knee-jerk legislation. Those of us who were involved in the two knee-jerk Acts regarding hand guns--I must say from two different Governments--know that knee-jerk reaction legislation achieves absolutely nothing. The Bill will achieve little except to drive a further wedge between the agricultural community and the Government.

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Baroness Mallalieu

As the Minister sits in some isolation on the Front Bench during the debate--feeling rather lonely, no doubt--can he begin to imagine how increasingly lonely some of us on the Back Benches have felt in the past year when we had to look the farming community in the eye and try to tell farmers that the Government were not anti-farming? The provisions in the Bill will make that task even more difficult. ......If the Bill is to be based on good science, surely we must hear from the scientists first. If it really is so urgent to provide additional powers for contiguous culling in the event--heaven forfend--of a further foot and mouth outbreak in the near future, let the Bill be narrowed to foot and mouth susceptible animals. Let it be restricted to circumstances in which such a cull is judged to be clearly necessary by the best possible veterinary and scientific advice, when those who are on the receiving end are given proper notice of what is to be done, are enabled to have a proper hearing and to challenge, albeit speedily, the reason for what is proposed. TOP

Earl Peel:

The noble Lord, Lord Palmer, rightly referred to Scotland. I read in another news release issued recently by the department in connection with the Bill that in its wisdom the Scottish Executive has decided not to legislate until it has consulted fully. If the Scottish Executive can decide that, why cannot the Government of Westminster do the same?

TOP Lord Moran: My Lords, first, I should declare an interest in that my wife has a small herd of pedigree Welsh black cattle. We live in Wales where in the early part of last year foot and mouth disease swirled around us, but miraculously they survived untouched.

We have before us another rushed piece of legislation which, despite the many critical voices raised against it in the Commons, has been sent to this House without any amendment. It has been subjected to quite inadequate scrutiny, as was pointed out by the noble Baroness, Lady Mallalieu, in her contribution. As so many other noble Lords have observed in some notable speeches, the legislation appears deeply flawed. In particular I thought that the remarks of the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Hereford and the speech of the noble Baroness, Lady Mallalieu, pointed out those flaws in the clearest terms. The noble Earl, Lord Ferrers, questioned the Title of the Bill. I thought it should be called the "Animal Slaughter Facilitation Bill" because that seemed far more accurate.

Until now, no formal consultation has been carried out, at any rate on Part 1, while at least a dozen veterinary, livestock and farming organisations have expressed their serious concerns. Only the NFU rather inexplicably welcomed the Bill. A notable expression of concern was contained in a letter from Roger Green, the president of the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons TOP

Lord Kimball:

My Lords, I declare an interest as an honorary associate of the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons, as chairman of the Cambridge University Veterinary Trust, as deputy president of the Countryside Alliance and as a small sheep farmer.

The Countryside Alliance is concerned that the Government have introduced the Bill before receiving any benefit from the three independent inquiries into foot and mouth. I echo the concern expressed by the president of the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons, who said in a letter to the Daily Telegraph that it is a hasty and ill-conceived measure. I also agree with my noble friend Lord Selborne about it being necessary to take into account the local conditions, locations, topography, local climate and the siting of farm buildings in relation to roads.

It is important that we should make much more use of the people employed within the government veterinary service who have local knowledge. In that way, at least the farmers will give a high level of compliance because they know that these are the kind of people they can trust.

I agree with my noble friend Lord Palmer about the problem of Scotland. We should think what would again happen if there were to be another cross-border situation, as happened with Cumberland and Dumfries. TOP

The Earl of Caithness:

My Lords, when one is dealing with a pernicious little Bill at this stage of its proceedings, there is very little new to say. We have heard some extraordinarily good speeches. The contribution of the noble Baroness, Lady Mallalieu, was especially good, and that from my noble friend Lord Jopling was excellent. It contradicted much of what the Secretary of State in another place claimed to be fact. But perhaps the greatest speech was that made by the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Hereford. I do not believe that I have heard such an acute, surgical dissection of government policy--and, indeed, condemnation of it--from the Bishops' Benches. I remember being criticised often by those Benches when serving as a Minister, but today's effort was rather better than anything that was directed at me.

I am very sad that DEFRA has followed the worst habits of MAFF. We are faced with a knee-jerk reaction and the need to over-legislate. We can compound that with the blaming of farmers for foot and mouth disease, and the bringing forward of a piece of legislation that is neither scientifically proven nor scientifically properly based. I find it most surprising that DEFRA now enjoys worse relations with the farming and rural community than MAFF managed to achieve. TOP

Baroness Thornton

: My Lords, I rise to contribute to this Second Reading debate with some trepidation--growing up in inner-city Bradford and living in inner-city Islington as I do. Although a lifelong walker and sometime camper, I confess to being essentially an urban animal. It is because of this that I should like to make some comments........There are also the inquiries that are taking place and which will report later. They will add to our knowledge and will propose the long-term strategies and changes that will be required. The Bill is a beginning, not an end.

I have not heard a word in this debate which adequately answers the points made by the Minister in his introduction about Thirsk, in North Yorkshire, and the difficulties that were faced there in bringing foot and mouth under control.

I fear that ordinary people will not understand why so many Members of this House are so opposed to taking decisions which might allow a disease such as foot and mouth to be brought more rapidly under control, and thereby prevent more animals being slaughtered. TOP

Lord Willoughby de Broke:

My Lords, the Bill is so wrong, both in principle and in detail, that it astonishes me that the Government have persisted in bringing it forward. It seems to be completely friendless. It is not supported by any farmer I have spoken to or read about, the veterinary profession opposes it, as we have heard from many speakers, and none of the organisations whose submissions or comments I have read seems to support it either.

In a speech the other day on the future of this House, the noble Baroness, Lady Williams, quoted the phrase of Lord Hailsham, "an elective dictatorship". She said:

"I fear that for many of us that frightening phrase echoes with growing validity as we perceive what has happened to our Parliament".--[Official Report, 9/1/02, col. 572.]

The powers that the Government seek for themselves in the Bill are the dream of those in all dictatorships: the power to slaughter any animal, at any time, whether or not it is infected with foot and mouth or any other disease; whether or not it has been in contact with infected animals; and whether or not it has even been exposed to foot and mouth disease. The slaughter may include not only cattle, sheep and pigs, but cats, dogs, horses, hamsters and parrots.

Furthermore, the Minister does not have to give any reason or provide any scientific or veterinary explanation or justification for his decision. The Bill provides the ministry with so-called "inspectors". My noble friend Lord Ferrers queried who they may be, where they will come from and how they will be empowered. It gives the inspectors unfettered power of entry to premises. Who are they to be? So far as I can make out, they can be hauled off the streets, given ministry authority and a small amount of training,

fitted with a regulation pair of jackboots and can proceed to use the enormous power given to them under Part 3; namely, forcible entry into private property, with as many other jackboots as necessary, with the power to require the hapless farmer or agent to co-operate or be criminalised. There is no appeal against this "jackbootery", except post facto--after healthy animals have been slaughtered--and any opposition will constitute a criminal offence.
It goes without saying that the warrant authorising such gross abuses of governmental powers will be issued without the victim being able to put his case to a magistrate. I thought that we had gone beyond the old Communist powers of "first, the verdict, then the trial"; but it seems not. Under these provisions, instead of being able to present his case to a judge at a fair and public hearing, when an inspector calls, a farmer's premises will be entered forcibly and his animals will be destroyed utterly needlessly. Unless he offers his full help and co-operation, he will become a criminal. Into the bargain, he will lose 25 per cent of the purchase price of his stock.

The noble Baroness, Lady Gibson, said on the question of animals other than cattle, sheep and pigs that the Bill will not affect dogs, cats, hamsters, parrots or any other animals, but as the Bill stands it could do so. Am I alone in thinking that if some farmer is deemed to be obstreperous--an "awkward customer"--one of the inspectors, with a little brief authority, may say, "I'm sorry you've been so difficult about this cull. Your horse, dog or cat may be a carrier of the disease and I am afraid that we are going to have to slaughter that too"? That power is still in the Bill. I am sure that the Minister may bring forward government amendments to remove that uncertainty, but at present it is a distinct possibility.

We should not even contemplate giving the Government these kinds of powers. They already have a number of powers under the Animal Health Act 1981 which allow the ministry to slaughter, first, any animal affected by foot and mouth disease and, secondly, any animals which appear to it to have been exposed in any way to foot and mouth infection. It seems to me, with respect to my noble friend Lord Selborne, that that Act already provides the Minister with adequate powers to deal with any outbreak. If he has those powers, why is he asking for any more?

The noble Baroness, Lady Mallalieu, asked a question to which I, too, should like an answer. Is the reason, or part of the reason, for the Bill that the contiguous cull as practised was not lawful? I can think of no other reason at the moment for bringing the Bill forward. Either DEFRA had the power to carry out the contiguous cull--in which case it does not need this Bill--or, if it did not have the power to carry out the cull, it was illegal, with all the consequences that flow from that. I hope that we shall get an answer to that question when the Minister winds up.

In any event, there is no scientific reason for the so-called contiguous or firebreak culls. There is no evidence that those culls made any difference to the outbreak. As the noble Lord, Lord Palmer, pointed out, the contiguous cull policy meant that perfectly healthy animals were slaughtered for no good reason. The contiguous or firebreak cull was a novel concept that seemed to be invented by computer modellers with no veterinary training and no specialist knowledge of foot and mouth disease.
I remind your Lordships of the scale of the contiguous cull, in which so many healthy animals were slaughtered. Of the 6 million animals slaughtered during the outbreak, 5 million were not infected or incubating the disease at the time of slaughter. Approximately 85 per cent of the animals slaughtered were perfectly healthy.

Further, the contiguous cull policy led to cruelty and abuse of power by DEFRA and the police. Can it be right for the police to break down the door of a remote farmhouse so that soldiers can move in and shoot pet animals in a bedroom? Can it be right for a young girl's pet goat to be slaughtered and left lying in the family drive? Can it be right for a land agent acting on behalf of elderly and sick clients, one of whom has since died, to be assaulted and arrested by the police? The gentleman has since been told that there is no case against him and his arrest was unlawful. He is considering suing the relevant police authority.

Those are but a few examples. There are many more, some of which we have heard this evening. What are those people doing, cloaked in a little brief authority, visiting fear, stress and humiliation on law-abiding citizens of this country? Is this the country that we are told is a beacon to the world--the country that the Prime Minister so recently boasted of as a power for good in the world?

What is the purpose of that senseless slaughter and abuse of power? Is it to protect the meat and export market sector of the agricultural economy? I cannot believe that that is so. As the noble Viscount, Lord Bledisloe, pointed out, it is no longer tenable to consider the control of foot and mouth disease in the light of a cost benefit to agriculture, particularly in the crude and primitive way in which that was carried out last year. Who can forget the pictures of medieval pyres and of animals, tongues lolling, being lowered by chains into the flames or pushed by bulldozers into pits? Who can forget the massive cost to the national economy, as tourists cancelled in their millions, appalled that a country that they had hitherto regarded as civilised should sink to such depths?

The financial and social cost of the epidemic was horrendous and its effects are still with us. Theatres, youth hostels, restaurants, bed and breakfasts and hotels were all devastated because their supply of visitors was wrecked. The Cheltenham festival was cancelled, Rugby Union internationals were cancelled, the Royal Show was cancelled, Badminton was cancelled and point-to-pointing, racing and hunting were all cancelled.

The financial cost to the nation has been estimated at the low end at #2 billion and at the high end, by the Institute of Directors, at #20 billion. Yet the Government are asking us to authorise more of the same. There is no thought of another way as far as I can see. There is no thought of vaccination--merely a bullet-headed demand to give more powers to the same people who made such a mess of things previously. The Government want us to give more powers to the same department that was on the point of ordering the wholesale cull of sheep in Britain, based on an experiment that used the wrong sort of brains.
Why are we being asked to approve a Bill to allow such people to go blundering on, slaughtering and criminalising at will? Is that the sort of thing that we want to do in this country? I have seen a legal opinion from a learned counsel who says that the Bill would breach the Human Rights Act and the European Convention on Human Rights, in spite of the Minister's assertion on the face of the Bill that it is compatible with the Act. Do we really need the Human Rights Act to tell us how to behave in this country? Do we have to rely on it? Whatever happened to our own standards of decency, common sense and what is right and of how to legislate for our own citizens?

The Minister would do himself, the country and the Government a great favour if he would withdraw this deeply offensive Bill this evening and agree to come back with something reasonable and proportionate after the Government's committee of inquiry has reported. If he will not do so, the country will be looking to this House to stop the Bill. As the noble Baroness, Lady Williams, pointed out last week:

"the House of Commons is no longer able to discharge its duty of scrutiny".--[Official Report, 9/1/02; col. 572.]

The noble Baroness, Lady Mallalieu, made the same point. If the Minister will not withdraw the Bill, I am afraid that this House has a duty to be difficult. TOP

The Countess of Mar:

To put it mildly, the Bill is widely disliked. It follows in the wake of what will probably go down in history as an appalling and unnecessary massacre of our farm stock. History shows that the foot and mouth disease research station at Pirbright was set up in 1924 as a result of criticism of the Ministry of Agriculture's "primitive slaughter policy". Nothing much seems to have changed in the intervening period.

Despite the development of vaccines on the Continent in the 1930s and 1940s, the ministry refused to allow their use, preferring instead to slaughter thousands of animals in the major outbreaks that occurred in 1952 and 1967.

From the beginning of the recent outbreak it was clear that no one had learnt any lessons from the past when they embarked on the mass slaughter of so many animals, the majority of which, it seems, were healthy. It was not the largest outbreak in the world, but it was the one in which the most animals were killed.

The Explanatory Notes tell us that the Bill supplements existing powers,

"wherever this is necessary for disease control reasons".

Schedule 3 to the 1981 Act already gives Ministers powers to slaughter animals,

"which appear to the Minister to have been in any way exposed"

to foot and mouth disease.

It sounds as though the Bill might prove a very convenient means by which to exercise population control. Some of us have been aware for several years that officials have been concerned that our hill and mountain sheep do not conform to EU standards and that they are surplus to requirement. There have been a lot of discussions with the National Sheep Association about how we can get rid of the hill sheep. Officials have shown a singular ignorance of the way in which the British sheep raising system works.

Many of the more recent problems that have arisen in the market place are the result of the operation of the common agricultural policy. Now is not the appropriate time to digress into those realms--no doubt the Minister will be pleased to hear that--but one cannot help but observe the wonderful opportunity that foot and mouth disease has given to those so eager to reduce the hill sheep population. Similarly, the Minister's right honourable friend, Mr Jack Cunningham, told us in 1997, when he was Minister of Agriculture, that there was a surplus of beef supply in Europe.

The wording of the Explanatory Notes, when read in conjunction with the Bill and the responses to frequently asked questions published on the DEFRA website, makes one wonder whether those who drafted it really know what they are doing. For example, Clause 1 gives the Minister powers to kill any animal whether or not it is sick, not only during an outbreak of foot and mouth disease but, by order, during any disease. The Explanatory Notes make perfectly clear the intentions that a straightforward reading of the Bill convey. The spin on the DEFRA website skates hurriedly over that fact--it merely states that the farming and wider community will benefit from quick, effective action against foot and mouth disease.

We have also had various statements put out as facts to the effect that farmers refusing to have their stock killed caused foot and mouth disease to spread. Was not the Minister just as disingenuous tonight? The facts speak for themselves. Of nearly 350 cases handled by two solicitors, only three eventually proved positive. Figures from the animal virus research institute at

Pirbright for June 2001, at the height of the outbreak, show that fewer than 10 per cent of their samples proved positive. That is only one example, but other noble Lords have furnished the Minister with more. We are governed by consent. In order for a law to be obeyed it must appear reasonable to most of those who will be expected to obey it. The implementation of the poll tax by the Tory government is an example of what happens when there is a breakdown of consent. I would venture to say that there is ample evidence that this Bill, in its entirety, is unreasonable. Others have spoken about human rights and ethical aspects, but I would strongly recommend to the Minister that he read the paper entitled "Legal and ethical issues arising from the recent foot and mouth disease outbreak", by Mr A. Richardson and published in the Veterinary Times, volume 32, number 1, of today's date.

Noble Lords who have known me for a long time will be aware of my struggle to obtain recognition for the many individuals whose health has been damaged by organophosphate chemicals. I have repeatedly been told that there is no scientific evidence that those chemicals, which are extremely toxic to all kinds of living organisms, can be toxic to humans. I was told that, in order to prove my case, I would have to provide incontrovertible scientific evidence. In this case, however, we have the Minister expecting to be given very wide-ranging powers to kill animals of any species for reasons that have no scientific basis.

I cannot begin to express my dismay at the quality of the scientific advice currently in vogue. Here I speak particularly about the advice taken by the departments responsible for human and animal health. In June 1997, shortly after this Government first came into power, I quoted the words of Sybil Marshall. She said:

"I fell to thinking why the experts so often get it wrong. Because they are experts, they no longer ask questions. They simply take the nearest ready made answer from the shelf and use it".

I have no hesitation in repeating that lady's wise observation today. It has always been my understanding that scientists should have inquiring minds. My experience with the organophosphate saga and subsequently with a number of other subjects has worried me profoundly. The "experts"--those who shoulder the enormous responsibility for giving their considered advice to Ministers--have shown an almost callous lack of concern for human and animal suffering and an extraordinary lack of curiosity. It is almost as though they have no need to do any more for they have reached the top of their tree.

Significantly, it has nearly always been the scientists who have direct contact with their subjects who have produced the most important results. The current vogue for computer modelling is leading to weekly food and health scares of an unprecedented scale. Whenever I see the word "epidemiology" my heart sinks. Epidemiology has its uses, but it must be used in conjunction with clinical studies; otherwise it is virtually useless. Why is there no virologist at Page Street?

There has been a huge waste of physical and financial resources brought about by academics, rather than veterinary surgeons or scientists, making assumptions devoid of any scientific principles in order to enable Ministers to determine the action to be taken to defeat the disease. They ignored the state of the art science for diagnosis in foot and mouth disease. Ministers failed to grasp the perfect opportunity for data gathering and yet, with no more information, they are asking for more powers to control the disease. There persists a lack of understanding of the disease process, evidenced by the destruction of flocks continuing when antibodies are found in few, if any, individuals.

The opportunity has been lost to use the state of the art methodology to study and extend our knowledge of the natural history of foot and mouth disease and, dare I say it, of the prevalence of scrapie with any other TSE that the academics would care to dream up in the vast numbers of uninfected sheep that were destroyed during the outbreak. Nevertheless, the Government are prepared to legislate without that information. Are Ministers willingly caught up in a time warp? Can they not see the torpor, arrogance and reluctance to accept that others may be able to do things better than they can that has restricted the vision of the State Veterinary Service for decades? This draconian legislation is no substitute for reliable information and credible scientific data.

Conversely, the authors of the Bill choose to assumea known science about scrapie and the genetics of spongiform encephalopathies in sheep. In fact, the science is far from clear, and the significance of any genetics in terms of transmissibility is quite unknown and purely speculative. Currently, we are being fed a weekly dose of food and health scares. Last week, there was an interesting coincidence. Professor Anderson's team's paper on the theoretical risk of BSE in sheep was published in Nature. Headlines proclaimed that:

"Scientists estimate that up to 150,000 people could die from Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease if BSE is discovered in sheep".

On the same day, the Chief Medical Officer announced that 30 tropical diseases, for which there is no treatment, are being introduced to the UK by British holidaymakers and foreign tourists. Surely, what is good for the goose is good for the gander. Why are the Government not proposing to prevent all those potential carriers from entering the UK, or, if they do manage to come in, to euthanise them on the basis that they may or may not be dangerous contacts? Some of the diseases mentioned by the CMO are just as nasty as CJD.

Dr Neil Ferguson was approached by Mr Jon Dobson, research director for the FMD Forum, in order to draw his attention to the effects that papers such as his have on both producers and consumers. Dr Ferguson gave the usual "the press does not understand me" response. In addition, he told Mr Dobson that he was commissioned by the Food Standards Agency,

"to look into the risks that might be posed if BSE had entered the sheep flock, not to make judgements about the likelihood that BSE has infected sheep".

Dr Ferguson went on to say that,

"there remains much uncertainty in performing this type of analysis, but that one definite conclusion we could draw was that even if BSE had infected risk"--

I think that he probably meant sheep--

"the overall scale of the risk posed by this up to the current time would have been a fraction (<1%) of that posed by BSE in cattle".

So there we have it. To date, there has been no sound scientific evidence that either sheep scrapie or meat and bone meal in the rations of cattle was the cause of BSE. We have no sound scientific evidence that prions are the infectious agents. We have no sound scientific evidence that variant CJD is caused by eating beef.

We have plenty of scientific evidence that scrapie has been endemic in our sheep for at least 250 years. We have plenty of evidence that scrapie is not transmitted to humans. I ate dozens of sheep brains in my youth--they are delicious fried in black butter and served on toast. While friends and colleagues might doubt my sanity, I do not think that the brains were the cause.

There is not a shred of evidence that sheep get BSE. Dr Ferguson pleaded that,

"it is no longer acceptable to portray the absence of evidence as evidence of absence, particularly when it may be probable that the reason we haven't found something is because we haven't really looked for it".

My goodness me, how many times have I expressed that thought in relation to organophosphates? However, in the face of the total failure by government and science to examine causation for numerous other life threatening and high-morbidity diseases in humans, that remark in these circumstances takes the biscuit.

On the basis of a mad double hypothesis, the Anderson team produced a paper which is endorsed by Professor Sir John Krebs, Fellow of the Royal Society and head of the Food Standards Agency, and Professor Robert May, Fellow of the Royal Society and Mr Blair's former chief scientist. It was May who recommended as his successor Professor David King, Fellow of the Royal Society, who in turn, on Krebs's recommendation, appointed Professor Anderson, Fellow of the Royal Society, as chief policy adviser on foot and mouth. Krebs, May and Anderson all worked together at the Oxford University zoology department, which also employs Professor Sir Brian Follett, Fellow of the Royal Society, who also just happens to have been picked by the Royal Society to chair Mr Blair's inquiry into the scientific handling of foot and mouth. Put all those connections together and it may be seen why we are never going to get an independent public inquiry into last year's foot and mouth disease.

In recent months, I have been reminded frequently of the story of the emperor's new clothes. I now recognise why it was written; and if noble Lords think about it, perhaps they will recognise why it was written.

My husband is a member of the sheep scrapie scheme. We also have goats, which do not seem to be mentioned in the Bill. However, I would be interested to know what the position is on goats, as I understand that they can contract scrapie.

I question the haste that lies behind Part 2 of the Bill, and believe that we shall be taking a huge risk if we agree to it. We do not yet know about all the interactions between genes. If, as the Bill proposes, we wipe out a whole section of the sheep population, we may well lay the sheep and ourselves open to all kinds of problems. We need to work with nature rather than against her. She has a nasty little way of getting her own back, as we have seen, but may not have recognised, in recent years.

8 p.m. My Lords, I declare an interest in that, with my husband, I share the keeping of sheep, goats and cattle. I hope that I can disabuse the noble Baroness, Lady Thornton, and her noble friend Lady Gibson about the attitudes of those in the House whose interest is in farming and the countryside and who have a direct interest. We are not out to serve our own purposes. We are concerned about what consumers think about our products. We want foot and mouth to be eradicated quickly, but we are not happy about the way in which it is being done. .... TOP

The Earl of Arran:

My Lords, such has been the exceptional ferocity of criticism against the Bill that I hope very much that your Lordships will forgive me if I repeat, albeit briefly, a few of the arguments so as to send a message to the farming community of just how strongly many of us in your Lordships' House share their severe misgivings. Indeed, they probably regard your Lordships' House as their last hope for sense and reason.

In my part of Devon, in the north, where my wife farms, people refer to this Bill as "DEFRA's revenge"--the Government's way of spitefully getting their own back for the repeated humiliations inflicted upon them during their brutal and incompetent efforts to deal with the foot and mouth outbreak. That was certainly the impression created by the shameful spin which the Minister responsible in another place, Elliot Morley, applied to the legislation when he said that farmers who had resisted the contiguous cull had allowed disease to spread and so prolonged the epidemic. There is not a shred of evidence to support such an allegation. In Devon, of the 150 or so farmers who successfully resisted the contiguous cull, only one subsequently had the disease in his animals and he took no other herds or flocks down with him as all of his neighbours' farms had already been slaughtered out.

As speaker after speaker has said, this is a vindictive, badly drafted and, above all, premature Bill. Why, oh why, do not the Government wait until the outcome of their inquiries, particularly the "lessons learnt" and scientific inquiries, before legislating? They have the existing powers at their disposal. Why this extraordinary rush to judgment? It is nothing but pure panic.

Compare and contrast the unseemly haste with which this Bill is being introduced with the Government's abject failure to do anything in almost a year now to close off the route by which the disease almost certainly arrived in this country last February and by which it could return at any time; namely, illegal meat imports. Why do we not take the same stringent precautions against imported disease as, for example, the Australians, the Americans and New Zealanders? Why are such precautions not provided in the Bill--a point so strongly brought out by the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Hereford, the noble Baroness, Lady Mallalieu, and many other noble Lords?

If we look at what is in the Bill, we see that the Minister is granted--I use the phrase that I believe my noble friend Lord Ferrers used--Hitlerian powers to order the slaughter of any animal anywhere which he or she "thinks" might need to be killed in the cause of controlling disease. There is no appeal. Just consider the utter wretchedness of a farmer in those circumstances. Indeed, the Bill will allow DEFRA officials to knock up a magistrate at dead of night to sign a slaughter warrant without the farmer or his representative being present, or his view being taken into account, as if they were dealing with some highly dangerous criminal in a police state. That is virtually rural dictatorship.

Government Ministers have talked about developing a "protocol" to govern how those powers would be used. But what guarantee is there that such a protocol would be heeded when it came to the crunch? We know from the experience of last spring the lengths to which government Ministers and their tame scientists will go in order to stamp out politically inconvenient disease. If they have done it once, they can do it again. If the protocol is to be the guiding light, let it be given the force of law by inclusion in the Bill. Failing that, farmers must be allowed a right of appeal before, rather than after, their animals are killed. As it stands, the clause is an affront to basic human rights.

Then there is the issue of compensation. The Government want to reduce a farmer's entitlement to 75 per cent of the value of an animal unless the farmer can prove that his biosecurity was satisfactory. Again, we know from the experience of last year that whenever DEFRA officials were unable to account for a particular outbreak, or felt that its occurrence might reflect unfavourably on them, they instantly blamed poor biosecurity on the part of the farmer, usually without the slightest justification for so doing. The clause simply provides them with an even more powerful financial incentive to blame someone else. If the provision is to survive at all, it must be turned on its head. Just as under English law a person is innocent until proven guilty, so the presumption should be that a farmer's biosecurity is adequate unless DEFRA can prove otherwise.

Of course, we need to learn the lessons of last year's tragic foot and mouth epidemic and provide a legal basis for whatever policies may need to be adopted to deal with any future outbreaks. But the time to do that will be after the various inquiries have reported and it should be done behind the most secure defences we can possibly construct against the importation of disease.

The Bill does nothing to strengthen our defences. But it will provide the Government with unfettered powers to inflict on farmers and their animals the consequences of their own Ministers' failings. As it stands, this is a disastrous piece of legislation created by the ignorant against the innocent. We must set to it; we must oppose the Bill in its present form with all the force we can muster. TOP

Lord Plumb:

My Lords, as the 22nd speaker in the debate I could just say that I support many of the comments that have been made, many of the strong opinions that have been expressed in reference to the so-called "reform" of the Animal Health Act 1981 and those who have expressed their concern that the Government seem to be pushing ahead in indecent haste. Although the Minister is not present, I know that he is getting the extremely clear message that is being expressed.

The Minister opened the debate. On our side, the debate was led by my noble friend Lady Byford, supported by the fine speech of the noble Baroness, Lady Miller. Nearly every speaker has mentioned the great and forceful speech of the right reverend Prelate. I could not help remembering that when I spoke at a large memorial service the other day I apologised for making a political statement from the pulpit. The right reverend Prelate made a good speech today with the freedom of the bishops to speak as would a farmer or citizen of this country.

I could simply wish my noble friend Lady Byford a happy birthday and sit down. As it is her birthday I think that it is fair to say just that. However, I must start from the beginning. The Minister spoke of the lessons that had been learnt from the epidemic. Of course, it is necessary to be prepared at all times to take action that is needed. The Minister spoke of the inadequacy of the existing powers. As the Minister returns to the Chamber I suggest to him in all modesty that the powers proposed in 1969 would have stood the test of time had they been implemented immediately this outbreak started. That might indeed have prevented its spread and, therefore, the slaughter of animals that have inevitably been slaughtered during the drastic outbreak. That, however, is, of course, always a matter of speculation.

I declare an interest as a livestock farmer and President of the National Sheep Association. I also have a few other agricultural interests. I speak from experience--I spent hours on Friday morning filling out forms to qualify for the movement of 300 lambs for slaughter and export. I suggest to the Minister that when he starts the consultation process to which he referred, he should simplify some of the movement regulations without weakening the risk of traceability. That can be done without more red tape and bureaucracy. My noble friend Lord Shrewsbury made a fine point when he referred to the 21-day period and concerns about the movement of sheep.

The public consultation paper has been launched and I understand that it will go to all concerned stakeholders. It will be about how the new disease control powers in the Bill will work in practice.

I tell the Minister that I read both documents--the Bill and the consultation paper--very carefully last night. That prevented me from watching "Who wants to be a Millionaire?". I found that there was little relationship between the two documents, but perhaps that is me being too simple. I could not determine the relationship between them. For example, the consultation paper states that the Bill will not advocate any one approach to disease control and that it will strengthen the four elements of culling, vaccination, blood testing and biosecurity. Fine; but I do not find that in the Bill, which is more specific and more direct. It states, "This is what you are going to do".

The Government appear to accept that farmers and livestock owners must have confidence in the way in which the powers will be exercised and, where necessary, an opportunity for a reasonable hearing. We all say, "Hear, hear" to that. That is welcome news and I hope that it will remove some of the fears of the many who read into the Bill the draconian measures that were proposed in the original draft--they involve the powers to slaughter stock on affected farms and, presumably, on farms that are contiguous to an outbreak.

I find it extremely difficult to understand why the Government propose measures for action in the event of an outbreak of foot and mouth disease before the committees of inquiry have hardly started, especially in relation to science and the lessons learnt. Is there not a possibility of conflict? If I were a member of one of those committees, I should find it pretty awful that the Minister was coming up with proposals that could well undermine the determinations that we on the committees might come to. Does the Minister accept that there is logic in waiting for the reports before introducing further legislation? Does he also accept that if the urgency procedure is to be adopted, the important point about preventing animal disease is to stop it coming into the country? Should not that be the priority? However, there is no mention of that--or very little--in the Bill.

Will the Minister tell the House what quantity of meat is being imported into this country from countries in which foot and mouth exists or where it is endemic? Over the past two years, I know that that has continued and that it is continuing. We are sitting on a time bomb waiting for the next outbreak, but we are discussing how we should handle it rather than how we should prevent it.

What action is being taken at airports? We all know when we travel through airports that the answer is absolutely none. There is plenty of checking as we go out but no checking when people come in. In terms of taking preventive action, there should be far more vigour and commitment than is currently evident. As has already been said, Australia, New Zealand and the United States are fine examples, and their animal health record speaks for itself.

Another matter of concern, which could be a recipe for huge confusion and divisiveness, involves the geographic extent of the Bill, which will apply to England and Wales unless corresponding legislation is introduced at the same time in Scotland. That is a matter of great concern to those who live, farm and work in the Border country. Perhaps the Minister will clarify that point. He is aware of the difficulties in those areas.

All changes have to be assessed against the tests of reasonableness and practicality. I cannot accept--many noble Lords have already said this--that it is reasonable to pay compensation at less than 100 per cent of the actual value of an animal. Paying less than that is extremely unfair, particularly against the background that the onus of proof for the last 25 per cent of the value is put at the door of the producer. Many noble Lords have already said that that affects a minority, who are already under pressure and stress and in difficulty as a result of what they went through last year. That could create a lawyer's paradise, but it could also exacerbate a further breakdown in relations between farmers and DEFRA at a time when they should be improving.

It is suggested that compensation for slaughter and vaccinated stock should be put in the hands of Ministers. I ask you! It is surely not realistic to expect Ministers to know the value of stock; that is the responsibility of professional valuers.

I can but applaud other parts of the Bill, which are not related to foot and mouth disease. I refer in particular to the provisions about the creation of a sheep flock that will, in breeding terms, become resistant to all spongiform encephalopathies. That word is pronounced with a soft "c" in my part of the world, but I take note of the comments of the right reverend Prelate.

On the other proposals, persuasion, not coercion, needs to be the byword. The Bill needs many changes. I know that the Minister is well aware of the importance of consultation. If he was not previously aware of it, he certainly is now, after listening to this debate for the past five hours.

I welcome the wind of change--at least a consultative document has been produced; it will allow people to consider the proposals. However, the Bill's whole approach is misdirected and tends to apportion blame on the farming fraternity. Following the difficult year that they have faced, that is totally unfair.

The trend to reduce the scale, influence and authority of the State Veterinary Service needs to be reversed. The numbers need to return to levels that will allow them to do their job not as policemen but as part of the livestock business. Many private vets have left the large-animal practice recently but they and the state vets need to be on a par with practices in the rest of the world. I inform the Minister that the Bill should reflect all of those facts.

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Lord Berkeley:

My Lords, I am in a minority because although I want to speak in this debate I am not a farmer. However, I am a consumer of meat and I have an interest in continuity of supply, quality, price health and diversity.

I have watched farming and the foot and mouth disease from the outside. I saw farmers protest 18 or so months ago against the low prices and the consequences of BSE, and I see that the campaign against the supermarkets is continuing. I also see the supermarkets abusing their monopoly buying power with some 80 per cent of the market, leading to lower and lower prices for farmers. Therefore, I am not surprised that the farmers are upset.

As we have heard today, for many, foot and mouth disease was the last straw. I do not believe that DEFRA--with a new name and new responsibility--has yet grasped the nettle of the conflict between the role of farmers as guardians of the countryside and their role as producers of cheap food. It has not incentivised farmers separately for those two functions.

In the context of FMD, to which I shall confine my remarks, I see the farming industry as part of the meat-producing industry. As I said, it is led by the supermarkets, which require certainty of supply from wherever they choose, be it here, the EU or the rest of the world. Like many foods, meat is subject to scares and fads, which can bring great profits and great losses. I believe that that was illustrated in a comment made by my noble friend Lord Whitty about the West Yorkshire pig producers. As I understand it, if those pigs had caught FMD, the losses would have been huge. Pig farming is a big factory operation. Therefore, we have industrialised farming with big businesses at one end and small farmers, about whom we have heard today, at the other.

As noted by many speakers, the other great change to have come about is the much longer distance over which meat is transported, whether it is dead or alive. There appears to be clear evidence that that contributed to the spread of the disease, and, of course, it includes imports. But I have also heard many farmers talk about the importance of exports. I believe that, for the export market to work, the quality of the meat and the legislation, and so on, must be preserved, even though many governments--perhaps including this one; perhaps not--use the fear of infection as an excuse to prevent the import of competing products.

Therefore, whatever the benefits, or lack of benefits, of vaccination, it is clear to me that at present the Government believe there to be little alternative to the culls until and unless scientific evidence, export demands and all supermarkets accept an alternative. I have not heard alternatives to culling suggested in the debate. I have heard only how badly the culling was done and I believe that arguments can be made in that respect. Therefore, in relation to outbreaks, it appears that, if we are to cull, time must be of the essence in order to preserve what people believe to be necessary--that is, a disease-free market. If we cull, it must be done quickly and comprehensively and must create what I call "firebreaks". Again, my noble friend the Minister illustrated that. One must have a 100 per cent firebreak in order to be effective.

We have heard about the severe problems that arose during the last crisis. Many lessons are to be learnt: the culling did not take place in time; it was not done quickly enough; the incineration was bad; and there were severe animal welfare problems. There is also evidence that a few people put at risk a much greater number of animals--sometimes, in their view, successfully; sometimes not. I believe that it is unrealistic to expect to be able to control the movement of animals around the country in trucks. One cannot stop every truck on the motorway. Therefore, the ability to cull and to dispose quickly and humanely of animals is obviously a necessity. Although I am concerned about the lack of the possibility of a challenge to such a decision in the Bill as it stands at present, I believe that the need to do so quickly requires legislation. Today we have heard again about the human rights aspects and whether or not a criminal activity is involved.

I recall that a similar debate took place about importing illegal immigrants in trucks. We have debated that issue in your Lordships' House more than once. Many noble Lords said that the fining--or "charging", as the Government called it--of the truck drivers by #2,000 per illegal immigrant was against human rights legislation because there was no appeal as the Government had decided that it was to be a charge and not a criminal activity. The first truck driver to appeal won his case. The judge in the High Court said that such charging contravened human rights legislation. Therefore, I believe that we have work to do in your Lordships' House when considering this matter in respect of the culling of animals. We need to see exactly what lessons can be learnt and whether the Government's advice on human rights legislation is still correct.

I turn now to the subject of compensation. Personally I do not understand why obtaining 75 per cent compensation when the cull takes place and 25 per cent subject to compliance with legal disease control requirements is all that wrong. My noble friend Lord Whitty said that similar compensation in relation to pigs gave 50 per cent on cull and 50 per cent later if compliance had been demonstrated. My noble friend Lady Thornton reminded your Lordships that many of the others affected by the disease--the businesses, the countryside hotels, tourism and so on--received nothing. Those who it is demonstrated have not complied might be encouraged to adopt a more compliant disease control requirement. Again, the vast majority have no fear of not receiving the full payment.

Farmers have suffered. As I said, much of the FMD process was inept, and I hope that lessons have been learnt. But farmers have also suffered from the action of supermarkets, from the lack of exports and from cheap imports. It is clear that improved import controls and checks are necessary. However, as was said by the noble Countess, Lady Mar, as with so-called "illegal immigrants" or the new type of flu or worse diseases affecting humans, and with international transport and trade developed as it is now, I do not believe that anyone can say that, whatever the checks, foot and mouth or any other disease will not enter the country. There is always a chance of that happening. Therefore, I believe that we must be prepared. No security can keep everything out.

I believe that the provisions as described in the Bill are a proper precaution with which to start the process of learning from the last outbreak. I believe that we have more to learn, but I am persuaded that such provisions would help in that regard. New infections could enter the country at any time. If they did, culling appears to remain the only solution. Then responsible farmers would surely welcome more certainty that their neighbours were not intentionally or unintentionally spreading the disease and putting their own flocks at risk.

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Lord Beaumont of Whitley:

My Lords, the muddle between myself and the Government Whips' Office, which led to my not being included in the List of Speakers but having to speak in the gap, has robbed noble Lords of a trenchant, brilliant and very important speech. But it has not robbed noble Lords of it for long because, on behalf of myself and the Green Party, I shall be tabling amendments in Committee and supporting amendments tabled by others, and I shall be able to produce all the gems then.

In my 35 years' experience in this House, emergency Bills are almost always disastrous, and this one is no exception. But the subjects of such Bills are rarely great emergencies, as is the case in relation to this one, as the noble Lord, Lord Kimball, said. They do harm, but not that much harm, and they are more acceptable when a major emergency arises. The noble Lord, Lord Kimball, talked about the conscription of horses in 1939. I remember the conscription of horses at that time, as will one or two other noble Lords. The Bill that implemented such a measure was badly drafted and was not of much use. The noble Lord said that at least it related to a real emergency. But which noble Lord remembers the great cavalry charges of the last war in which the horses took part and which led to the defeat of the Germans and the Japanese?

These Bills, of which we have had a number over a period of time, almost invariably in their haste trample civil rights into the ground. As has been proved in speech after speech in this debate, this one is no exception. When the Minister says that in his view the provisions of the Animal Health Bill are compatible with convention rights, one can say only that either his view is wrong or that convention rights are useless and should not ever have been embarked upon.

This is a nasty Bill in which, at one stage or another, a great many things need to be put right. It would be best for the whole Bill to go out of the window. However, if that cannot be done, and if we cannot achieve a delay for reports so that we can legislate firmly and competently, we must summon all our forces and amend the Bill drastically, root and branch.

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Lord Greaves:

My Lords, this has been a long and stimulating debate. One of the problems of winding up is that one has nothing left to say about sheep that has not been said at least 10 times previously, often by people who are much more knowledgeable that oneself. Perhaps I should declare an interest. I am somewhat "freaky" in your Lordships' House. I do not own any sheep and have never done so. The closest encounters I have had with them were on a couple of occasions when involved in rescuing them from a rock ledge when they were crag-fast. One learns a lot about sheep when doing that.

It may be that the Government are tempted to say that they have had a bit of a battering in this Second Reading--I do not think they had one in the Commons--but that the House of Lords is not representative of the country and that Members of this House with interests in and connections with farming are not representative of farmers in this country. I would say to the Government, "Come with me and talk to Pennine sheep farmers or Lake District shepherds". One will find that they are just as eloquent in their thoughts on the Bill, the only difference being that they would be a great deal ruder than it has been possible for Members of your Lordships' House to have been today. The sentiments expressed from all sides of the House and from most speakers reflect the thoughts of the livestock farmers in this country, particularly in the uplands and in places which were badly hit by foot and mouth.

At the beginning of the debate my noble friend set out comprehensively the views on the Bill from these Benches. She set out what should happen to the Bill and the attitude we shall take to many of its provisions should it reach Committee stage. In many ways, her views were paralleled by the noble Baroness, Lady Byford, from the Opposition Front Bench. The range and quality of speeches that we have heard today has been exceptional. On the occasions when the right reverend Prelate was out of the Chamber, his ears must have been burning. The tributes to his contribution have been fulsome. There were many such contributions. I refer to that of the noble Baroness, Lady Mallalieu, the noble Countess, Lady Mar, the noble Viscount, Lord Bledisloe, the noble Baroness, Lady Masham, and many others. In particular, I remember the speech at the beginning of the debate by the noble Lord, Lord Jopling. He set out the case against the Bill with a clarity unmatched by many of the other speakers.

If the Government are not prepared to listen, and the Minister is not prepared to go away and say, "What can be done to find a consensus even at this stage on these important matters?" that will not just make life difficult for the Government--it will do so, and make much work in this House--it will be bad for the countryside and the livestock farming community. That is important; what it does to us is less important.

I should like to put the Bill into context. I refer not to the state of livestock farming in this country, which has been battered in many places in the past year, but to the state of mind of sheep farmers, cattle farmers and livestock farmers generally, particularly where foot and mouth disease has hit, or where it has come close to hitting. It came within five miles of the village where I live. As many noble Lords have said, the trauma experienced in the places in which it hit had to be witnessed to be believed.

The traumatic effect on families, farmers and communities has been desperate. I refer not just to the mass slaughter and its effects; in many cases the farms which were not hit by foot and mouth or were not taken out by it were in a worse situation than those that were because of the acute animal welfare problems and acute financial problems suffered by many such small businesses. In our part of the world many farms are, indeed, small businesses. Someone referred to bureaucratic bungling and mismanagement by DEFRA and MAFF. The Minister referred to "poor organisation". That is an interesting admission by him that all has not gone well in the foot and mouth outbreak and that that was not all down to bad, careless or malicious farmers. "Poor organisation" is the biggest euphemism I have heard in this House for a long time. In many cases, it was a shambles.

Those farmers are now faced with a wholly uncertain future. In many cases that uncertainty is not over whether to restock or rebuild their businesses and their economic futures. Every time they open a farming newspaper or listen to a farming programme they are being told by a Government Minister that farming must change; that nothing can be the same again; that subsidies will be abolished and in future things will have to be different. That may be true. In many cases that may be inevitable. But the way in which it is done is seen as the farmers being lectured to from on high by politicians, when the people on the ground are struggling with their problems.

The future of farming in this country is not clear. The Government may set up this study, that commission or that working party. Sooner or later decisions must be made. Nowadays, everyone talks of partnerships. However, such decisions must be made in a genuine partnership with farmers and the farming community. If they are not, and there continues to be a series of lectures by the Secretary of State and other politicians, we shall not get anywhere. Unfortunately, whatever the rights and wrongs of the Bill--my noble friend and the noble Baroness, Lady Byford, both said that we believe this to be a bad Bill--it is seen by livestock farmers as part of a process. It is seen as, "The Government know best. You will do what the Government tell you. If you do not like it, and try to struggle against it, we will pass new laws to make it impossible for you to do so". That is the context in which the Bill is seen. The noble Baroness, Lady Byford, called the Bill the "Animal Death Bill". The noble Baroness, Lady Masham, called it the "Animal Extermination Bill". Those are strong words. However, they are mild compared to what one would be told if one spoke to my neighbours who keep sheep on the Pennines.

For many noble Lords an interesting aspect of the debate is that it is not just about farming or how to cope with a particular disease; nor, indeed, is it about every possible disease in farming. Other vital issues are involved, which are issues of human rights and civil liberties. Some of us are told by leading Members of the Government that we are airy-fairy civil libertarians. That is often said in the context of the rights of prisoners, of those accused of offences, asylum seekers and so forth. However, just because people are farmers and keep sheep does not mean that they do not have the same civil liberties and the same human rights as those in the more obviously disadvantaged sections of the community. Essentially, human rights are indivisible. If we want human rights for one group of people, we have to have them for other groups of people. Whether or not DEFRA and the Minister like it, that includes farmers.

Some of the Bill's proposals are outrageous. The noble Viscount, Lord Bledisloe, talked about the requirement regarding anyone who happens to be on the farm at the time a visit is made. Goodness knows how far this provision extends. It may extend to a rambler walking across a footpath or someone just visiting for Sunday tea. There is the possibility of his being dragooned into assisting with whatever the man from the ministry wants him to do.

The right reverend Prelate talked eloquently about the need to reverse the burden of proof in relation to biosecurity issues. Therefore, people do not start off under the assumption that they are guilty and have to prove their innocence. A whole series of other issues have arisen.

The question of Scotland has been raised. We, on these Benches, are quite clear about the position in Scotland because the Minister for Environment and Rural Development in Scotland is a Liberal Democrat--Ross Finnie. When the Scottish Parliament discussed the matter in November, as the noble Earl, Lord Peel, said, Ross Finnie stood up and said, yes, he thought that there would have to be new legislation, but, yes, they were going to wait until the three English inquiries and the one Scottish inquiry reported before they decided what legislation was needed. That is a sensible way to go about the matter. This is an occasion when matching what happens in England with what happens in Scotland can sensibly be done by the Minister deferring the Bill until that information is known.

There has been some technical discussion, much of which most of us will never understand, about the scrapie provisions and Part 2 of the Bill which refers to TSE in sheep. The noble Baroness, Lady Masham of Ilton, spoke eloquently about that matter.

There is a real concern about the effect that the provisions will have on rare and traditional breeds and on the diversity of the gene stock within this country. In Committee the Government and the Minister will have to tackle that matter head on and provide satisfactory answers. The concept of trying to get rid of scrapie is obviously desirable but the question is how it is done and what knock-on effects there may be and its effects on the rare and traditional breeds. Answers must be produced.

The crunch of this whole argument is that this Bill is being brought forward totally out of context with how a future outbreak of FMD will be dealt with. Many people, including Ministers, go around saying, "It must never happen like this again. We must never close the countryside down like this again. The knock-on effects on the countryside service industries and particularly the tourist industry must never be allowed to happen again". Certainly, if they happen again in the near future it would be absolutely disastrous.

The noble Viscount asked whether the public would allow the funeral pyres and the mass slaughter and all the rest to happen again. I agree with him; I do not think that they would. But the Government do not have a strategy. They do not have one because the whole process of inquiries and information finding is not far enough along the line. Yet, we are told that we must legislate now on one narrow section of it. It is premature; there was no proper consultation; the inquiries have not had time to come up with their proposals; and we have no clear idea whatever of what the strategy for a future outbreak will be. It is not proportionate. It narrowly focuses on livestock farmers as though their sins and crimes are at the heart of the problem. I ask: if this new legislation had been in place last year, what real difference would it have made to the course of the outbreak? The answer is: not very much at all. It is one-sided, as the right reverend Prelate said; it is draconian; and if it comes to Committee, it will get a considerable degree of sceptical scrutiny.

If the Government are sensible, they will look and say, "Do we really want compromise or confrontation in the countryside and in the farming community?" If they want compromise and consensus, they will defer the Committee stage until the inquiries have reported. They will start to build bridges with the people who the Government will call their stakeholders in the countryside--although I would never use such a Blairite word--and they will say, "Let's draw back a bit. Let's talk to people. Let's try and build bridges. Let's get away from the present situation in which farming and the farming community generally believe that the present government do not have any interest in their future and do not care about them".

There is a widespread view that the Bill is just part and parcel, as some noble Lords have said, of getting rid of the sheep from the uplands in this country. I do not say that that is the case. There is time for the Government to draw back and to start building bridges and partnerships. But if they rush ahead with the Bill now, they will not just ferment a confrontation in this House but they will cause a great deal of damage in the countryside.

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The Duke of Montrose:

My Lords, like what some may regard as too many of your Lordships, I declare an interest in managing a herd of cattle and a flock of sheep. In the last months I have been through all the permutations and combinations of forms, permits, licences and papers that farmers are getting used to.

After all that has been said, there is no need for me to go back over what, with all the wisdom of hindsight, appears to have been lacking in the operation to clear up foot and mouth. We wait anxiously to see the reports that should emanate from the many inquiries that are being carried on at the moment. But considering all the evidence of how out of touch with the situation those with responsibilities, at even the most basic levels, appear to have been when the outbreak started, one can see why the Farmers' Weekly and its members will not be satisfied with anything less than a full public inquiry.

On Friday, the Minister kindly sent me an advance copy of the consultation document which lays out the proposal on the operation of powers contained in the Bill. I had the weekend to look at it. This, he hopes, will allay a great many of the fears and horrors which most noble Lords who have spoken today have expressed after reading the Bill.

I ask the Minister: if this document is so vital for the understanding of the Government's intention, what does this tell us about their attitude to another place? As the noble Baroness, Lady Mallalieu, stated, the Bill has been through all its stages there--being both timetabled and subject to no revision--without a chance for those at the other end to examine the method by which the Bill would be implemented. One wonders whether that is a further example of the Government's wish to downsize the other place.

My noble friend Lady Byford wanted to call this an animal death Bill. I know that my noble friend Lord Plumb had some problems in bringing the two documents together. In putting these two documents together one can see that once again we are in the Government's rather favoured territory of the skeleton Bill.

The major concern of anyone who is liable to be covered by this legislation lies in the way that it will be carried out. There in the consultation document is the Government's plan, without any guarantee that it is the last word on the matter. Only a statement from the Government that they are,

"committed to implementing the provisions openly and transparently, in the light of an effective dialogue with stakeholders".

Coming from the mouth of the Minister, we know what he means. But given another Minister in another Government how much will that be worth? If we must have the Bill, we must take the advice of my noble friend Lord Joplin and have the code of conduct included in the Bill.

I am glad to see that the first reason given for the consultation is that tackling FMD must be what the Government express as a "partnership exercise"; and the Ministry expects

"to work with those affected to increase understanding of their purpose and application".

I hope that that constitutes a new understanding, as that does not appear to have been the approach taken at the start of the present crisis. The cries of farmers and farmers' unions asking for more urgent action were at first met with denial and treated with disbelief. The Government then began to abandon persuasion as their approach by accusing farmers of illegal practices. I am not talking of the issue of taking the Ministry to court but, apparently, just because a number of markets had taken place while the Government were trying to decide what to do and because farmers had been carrying out trading individually between buyer and seller in the time-honoured fashion in which I expect that most business is done today. To my way of thinking, that accusation could stick only if it were found that farmers' personal movement records, when inspected, were not up to date. The fact that the authorities could not trace what was going on is an entirely separate issue. Perhaps that should be brought to the attention of the noble Lord, Lord Haskins, who graced our debate at least during the speeches of six speakers, but who is no longer in his place.

On the art of persuasion, I was more than intrigued in December to be invited to one of the series of "witness seminars" being held by the Wellcome Institute on the history of medicine in the 20th century. The witnesses were those who took part in the eradication of the last foot and mouth outbreak in 1967. They ranged from senior Government officials of the time down to those who were then just starting on their veterinary career. They had a lot to say about how the whole episode had been handled on a much more local basis.

Towards the end, as questions were being asked, I asked if they had received a lot of objections to the cull at that time, to which the answer was yes. So I then asked how many cases had gone to court, and the answer was practically none. They explained that that was because in a difficult case they would enlist the local policeman, who was well known to the farmer but was also at that time the official livestock inspector. He was perfectly pleased to have a reason to visit the farm in his official capacity, and was also well placed to explain the situation to the farmer and get his co-operation.

My noble friend Lord Plumb talked about the need for persuasion and something to be drawn from the different approach of the Scottish Ministers and the situation in which the Government find themselves down here. Scottish Ministers do not appear to be in such a rush to legislate, because throughout the outbreak the community showed greater solidarity and persuasion seemed to have a greater effect.

We are certainly now a different generation of farmers. Farming is now all about training and qualifications as well as practical experience. We now have the Government pressing all farmers to become computer literate. The Government may not have liked the relationship that at one time existed between MAFF and the farmers, but an attitude of confrontation is likely to prove very damaging to both parties. Surely, the situation calls for an individual if not just a higher level of communication from the Government if they want to persuade farmers to follow their proposed lead. My noble friend Lord Ferrars spoke of the similarity with Communist or Hitlerite regimes. Simply to resort to the old jackboot approach belongs to the last century. I agree with the noble Baroness Lady Gibson of Market Rasen that it is an exaggeration to say that the Bill will affect goldfish. However, perhaps the Minister will clarify whether the mention of "animals" in the Bill is purely that defined in the 1981 Act. Two diseases listed in the Bill--African horse sickness and vesicular stomatitis--affect horses and as such will affect pets.

The noble Baroness, Lady Miller of Chilthorne Domer, spoke out strongly--as have many other noble Lords--on the powers of entry that the Government seek both for slaughter and vaccination. On a slightly smaller issue, I should like to ask the Minister about the biosecurity inspections included in the Bill. The question arises from Schedule 3A. 1 understand that paragraph 2 applies only to premises that have been designated an infected place. The Minister is required to carry out a disease risk assessment only if paragraph 2 applies. But under paragraph 3(7), the inspector is expected to carry out inspections up to 21 days before that event is likely to happen. Can the Minister give the House an assurance that any inspections that take place before the designation of an infected place will only be on the periphery of the holding or with the full assent of the owner?

I want to deal with the question of biosecurity. A farmer's priority must be to protect the health of his animals. The compensation that the Government offer is, at most, only for the value of the animal on the day of slaughter. There is no compensation for loss of production or income, let alone the continuity of a breeding programme in the case of those with pedigree or dairy herds. From the farmer's point of view, the danger of infection comes at three levels. The first level is those who have already been involved in the eradication of the disease. That includes most veterinarians. The second level is other farmers and farm workers from other holdings, because it is not possible to tell where the disease will next break out. The final level is people and livestock straying across his land, for a similar reason.

Given the powers that the Government seek for entry to premises, there must be an undertaking that there will be no attempt to enter premises unless that is genuinely required as the next immediate part of the eradication process. The broad powers in the Bill seem to go well beyond that. Even a penalty of 25 per cent will not persuade farmers that people who appear unnecessary to them should enter their premises. Some sort of altercation is likely to ensue, even before anyone has attempted to involve a magistrate. One even wonders what chance there is for farmers or others with livestock to supervise the disinfection process of those about to enter their grounds.

The implications of the Bill will have to be readily understood by everyone involved with animals. It used to be said that instructions had to be clear enough for a man running for a bus. In this case, it might be more appropriate to say "A man who has to calve a cow in 10 minutes". That is where the approach of the Government in offering 75 per cent compensation in the first instance is at fault--the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Hereford raised that point. One must ask whether they have learned nothing since the BSE crisis.

At that time, the offer was for only 50 per cent compensation, but that meant that a great deal of infection was hidden at the start of the outbreak and never recorded. The object, especially with this disease, is to get farmers to report when they have the least suspicion that their animals are infected, not for them to wait to see whether true symptoms develop because they know that they will then be in a kind of lottery as to whether they will receive the remaining 25 per cent. Penalties for lack of compliance can be thought about and included afterwards. Around the House, we have seen something of the passion that the Bill arouses. I should like to echo the words of the noble Viscount, Lord Bledisloe, and the noble Baroness, Lady Mallalieu. The Bill contains powers too frightening to entrust to an organisation that has to such a large extent lost the confidence of the people.

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Lord Neill of Bladen:

My Lords, I thank the noble Lord for taking an interruption. I have not spoken so I must declare an interest. My wife and I have a small farming unit in which we keep cattle and sheep.

I wish to ask the Minister a further question on his comments on the Human Rights Act and the convention. The Bill bears on its face a statement from the Minister, no doubt written on advice, that none of the provisions conflicts with the rights granted by the European Convention on Human Rights. Can the Minister reflect on that and, before the Bill returns for further consideration, share with the House any further details with regard to that advice?

In particular, does that advice concentrate on the scenario which has been discussed several times in the course of the debate; that is, of an order being obtained by DEFRA behind the back of a farmer, who does not need to be told that an application has been made to a magistrate? That order confers a right of entry, pursuant to which is an intention to destroy the flock or herd. The official carrying out the order may then require the farmer to assist in that destruction. Under pain of criminal penalty, the farmer is obliged to lend his assistance, whatever the circumstances and possibly at personal risk. We have been told of cases of herds being driven in terror across roads.

Has the Minister's advice focused on the combination of those features: an order is obtained in secret behind a farmer's back, and he is then required to be a party to the cull of his own herd. Is all that said in no way to constitute a violation of any of the provisions of the convention?

Lord Whitty:

My Lords, I have to be careful because, as the noble Lord rightly pointed out, I act on advice. However, noble Lords will know that it is the convention that the nature of advice from law officers is not disclosed for obvious reasons. No doubt we shall return to this subject at later stages in our deliberations, when perhaps we shall exchange views on the various points raised by noble Lords relating to human rights and other equity provisions. However, I am not able to give the noble Lord the undertaking he seeks.