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Mr. Morley: I have not put that on record. I said that I would not want culling on the scale witnessed in this outbreak, and we must consider measures to prevent that. On vaccination, one outcome of the conference I attended yesterday is realistic proposals for greater use of vaccination, but that would take place alongside some culling. That would be reduced culling, but we still come back to this issue: if we are to cull, we must do so quickly and efficiently.
Mr. Simpson: I am grateful to the Minister for that intervention, which probably reinforces what I am about to say. There are few lawyers in the Chamber, but, as we are aware, it is always best to know the answer to any
The Minister's objections were based on the scale of the epidemic and the logistical problems, including manpower, equipment and vehicular movement:
Mr. John Gummer (Suffolk, Coastal): My hon. Friend mentions a series of matters, including inquiries. Would it not help support the Minister's point of view if all those matters, instead of being kept behind closed doors, were subject to an inquiry in public, so that we would all know precisely what happened? If only we all knew what happened, that would help the Minister enormously in putting his case.
Mr. Simpson: My right hon. Friend is absolutely correct. That point has been made from these Benches and, indeed, from the Government Benches on numerous occasions. In a sense, we are groping in the dark as we consider the Bill, but my line of argument in support of the new clause uses the evidence as provided by the Minister himself.
The problem is organisational and logistical, which is where MAFF-DEFRA so demonstrably failed during the recent outbreak. That is not only the conclusion of the Devon county council report, but what the public observed over several months, and farming communities in such areas had direct experience of it.
The organisational and logistical failure of MAFF-DEFRA was highlighted when the Prime Minister ordered the use of Army personnel, under the command of a solid but inspirational brigadier, to get a grip on the slaughter and disposal of carcases in Cumbria. The Minister will forgive me for saying that my party had recommended that to Ministers over previous weeks, but it was dismissed as largely irrelevant.
The Army provided leadership, organisation and planning, although it went in cold, and worked closely with local vets and MAFF officials, getting the problem under control, dealing with the carcase backlog and, as those events came to an end, disposing of slaughtered animals almost within the 48-hour time frame.
My colleagues and I have tabled the new clause because we believe that, for reasons of science, health and public sentiment, it is right and proper that the Minister should have a duty to ensure that the carcase of any animal slaughtered under the provisions of the Bill be disposed of within 48 hours of slaughter. He agrees that that is
The Minister can square the circle only by lobbying the Treasury and the Prime Minister to point out that, as the Minister said today, it is likely that there will be further outbreaks of foot and mouth or some other animal disease in the near future, possibly on the scale of the recent foot and mouth outbreak. Unfortunately we did not learn the lessons of the swine fever outbreak, which affected my constituency. If we do not learn the lessons of this outbreakif, again, we do not allocate the necessary resources, establish the necessary organisation and set targetswe will, I am afraid, witness a repeat performance.
I urge the Minister to accept that our proposal is not just desirable, but achievable in practice.
Mr. Gummer: I commend the new clause to the Minister for, dare I say, his own good.
I know exactly what the conversation will have been in the Department when the Minister was preparing to defend his side. His officials will have said "This is a difficult point, Minister, and of course you will be sympathetic, but we should advise you that, all things being taken together and in the round, there may be trouble. It would be much better if you said no. Of course we will try our best. We will do all that we can, and perhaps we will even achieve what we want to achievebut it would be much better if you gave us the necessary elbow room. You can trust us. It will be absolutely OK." I know that the Minister does not want to rest on that; I am sure that he wants to move a stage further.
The point of placing a duty on the Minister is that it enables him to galvanise all at his command into achieving the desired end. It gives him a strength without which he clearly has serious difficulties, as we have seen during the past few years.
Mr. Breed: Would it also give the Minister a lever in respect of the Treasury, and the costs that might be involved in achieving that aim?
Mr. Gummer: I will come to the Treasury in a moment. I think it needs a paragraph or two to itself.
Mr. Jack: Is not my right hon. Friend's argument entirely compatible with the Government's approach in introducing performance indicators into every area of their activityhealth, education and many other areasand measuring objectively what they hope will be done?
Mr. Gummer: Absolutelybut my right hon. Friend will have noted that the Government are less keen on such indicators when they would indicate the performance of Ministers.
I always want to help this Minister, as he knows. The proposed measure would help him to deal with the difficulty he has encountered with the Government machine in securing the full, fair public inquiry that I know he wants. The Minister has nothing to hide, and I am sure he has no intention of hiding anything; but it is extremely difficult for Conservative Members, or indeed
If the Minister accepted the new clause, he would be able to say to his colleagues, "If we had been more open about the whole affair, I would have been able to convince the House of the need for a different time limit and a different procedure, because Members would have had all the information they needed at their fingertips. Indeed, if we had not completed the inquiry, I could have promised that they would have the information."
I cannot speak for my hon. Friends on the Front Bench, but I think that the new clause might have been withdrawn on the basis that further and better particulars might well lead them to take a different view; but they cannot do that in circumstances in which those further and better particulars will not emerge, because there is no mechanism whereby they should emerge. That means that we are bound to take only the evidence that we have ourselves, and seek to act on it. As I have said, giving way would grant the Minister greater power in his continuing argument with the rest of the Government, and a few notable colleagues, in favour of a comprehensive inquiry.
Another reason for my view that accepting the new clause would help the Minister was foreshadowed by the hon. Member for South-East Cornwall (Mr. Breed). I am thinking of the Treasury. The Treasury has a job to do: it is not a nice job or an easy job, but it must be done. The difficulty with the Treasury and DEFRA, as with the Treasury and MAFF, is that the area of choice is very limited.
Quite properly, we are part of the European Union; quite properly, we have a common agricultural policy. The common agricultural policy could be greatly improved, and as part of the arrangements we will be able to improve it. The fact is, however, that the decisionsagain, quite properlyare made jointly with us around a table. There is only a bit left for the Treasury to get its fingers on. Thank God there is only a bit left; otherwise, the farmers would have lost a lot more.
I think that some of my friends who are not as happy about the CAP as I am should explain to the farmers whether they would get anything at all if it were all decided by the British. That is one of the facts of life. Happily, however, most of the decisions are made by people around a table. We are part of that, but many of the others are more concerned with the interests of farmers.
Anyway, the bit left over is constantly under the eagle eye of the Treasury. The Treasury loves to look at that bit. That is why it has cut back on our flood defences. That is why the poor Minister had to admit to me the other day that less was being spent. He said that spending went up and down, but we were in the "down" phase at the moment, so things were rather difficult. Why did he have to explain that to me, at a time when my constituencywhich contains 74 miles of coastlineis experiencing its worst-ever circumstances? Because the Treasury can only get its fingers on to the bit that is thereand those fingers creep out to grab whatever is around.
I want to help the Minister in this regard. If the House of Commons decides that there is a performance targeta duty or a requirementthe Treasury can huff and puff as much as it likes, but it must provide the means. I am keen for the House to get its fingers around the throat of the Treasury, because if it does not we have no hope of controlling the Executive.