Examination of Witnesses (Questions 60-79)|
TUESDAY 6 NOVEMBER 2001
MORLEY, MP AND
60. The magistrate has to apply a test of reasonableness.
(Mr Morley) Yes and there is guidance in the Bill.
61. And the reasonableness is whether there
is a reasonable case for entry which is apparently a judgment
on the case for slaughter. It is no good saying that it is about
whether it is reasonable to enter, it is to enter for one purpose
only so he is bound to make a judgment on that. If he says "yes",
presumably you have someone outside in a fast four-wheel drive
waiting who will telephone the vet to say, "Go and get on
with it, we have our warrant."
(Mr Morley) Yes.
62. How do you then go to judicial review in
(Mr Morley) I want to make that point because there
has been some speculation in some press articles that the right
of judicial review is taken away by this Bill and that is not
the case. In fact, I think Christopher Booker suggested it would
be a legal offence to refuse to make a cup of tea for DEFRA officials,
which I can assure you is not within the Bill either. It is fair
to say that, under that procedure, the whole point of this is
to move quickly and to cull quickly to stop the spread of disease,
so the animals will be dead, that is true, but the right of judicial
appeal as to whether or not the decision was taken properly can
still be carried out.
63. So you cannot appeal against the cull?
(Mr Morley) No.
64. But you can subsequently appeal
(Mr Morley) Whether it was done right and whether
it was justified, yes.
65. You are going to get the same amount of
compensation, provided that you have not helped infect, as it
(Mr Morley) Yes.
66. So it is going to be a very retrospective
satisfaction, is it not?
(Mr Morley) Yes.
67. I just wanted you to clarify that.
(Mr Morley) As it is at the moment as my legal adviser
68. I just want to come back to the question
of the extent of expertise that the magistrates have. I would
not normally have a problem with that but I would see it as the
job of the DEFRA official to put a sufficiently strong case to
convince the magistrate and explain to the magistrate in lay terms
what the issue was but, if I read the Bill correctly, the only
information that would be fed to the magistrate is from the DEFRA
official and there is no opportunity for that to be challenged
by the farmer. I have considerable years' experience in situations
where disputes are settled by lay people, but they are settled
by lay people who have heard evidence both from the government
department and from the individual citizen and I find it extraordinary
that we are advocating here on a very technical issue to have
input only from the Government official with no opportunity for
the citizen to question or counteract any of the evidence from
(Mr Morley) But there is the issue, as I repeat, that
the farmer can appeal to the DVM if he disagrees with the decision
on the cull. The whole point of this Bill is because the present
situation is that the court appeal process is a very, very lengthy
one and the risks of delay are very great and I would like to
draw to the Committee's attention, because we also have to think
of the future as well as the present time, that I have here a
pack which was sent to every farm in Thirsk. I do not know who
was responsible for this particular pack but this encourages farmers
to block their drives and to not allow officials on and it gives
a whole range of advice basically to resist a contiguous cull.
You have the risk here of widespread non-cooperation on people
being given misguided information and therefore causing catastrophic
delays to a programme designed to deal with disease and, in the
end, I come back to the point that these are national issues.
This is an outbreak that is going to cost the state, the taxpayer,
at least £2 billion with all the damage that goes with it
and we really do have to deal with these outbreaks as quickly
as possible and that does mean taking measures like this in order
that we do get a swift outcome and, I must emphasise, reduce the
amount of culling because we want to reduce spread and reduce
the disease and bring it under control as quickly as possible.
That is the whole point of these measures.
69. I will come onto vaccination in a moment
because there would not have been the need for this Bill if we
had a policy on vaccination. If we come to Cumbria, we did have
a fire-break in Cumbria with regards to sheep in the north of
the county. Are you really saying that you did not really have
the powers and did not really have the legal powers to carry out
that fire breakI was involved in a number of the meetingsand
that really it was a question of goodwill and bluff that allowed
that fire break to take place? The Bill that we are getting today
is based on the problems that were encountered during this last
(Mr Morley) The wording of the current 1981 Animal
Health Act is absolutely crucial because of course this is where
the legal disputes have come about. We are absolutely confident
that the culling that has been carried out in the course of the
epidemic has been absolutely legal and we have not had a court
ruling that has challenged that throughout it, but what this Bill
does, because the crucial wording is animals affected with foot
and mouth or suspected of being so affected or exposed to infection
and it gives you permission to actually pay compensation for the
animals being slaughtered, so it is the wording that has led to
the legal challenges and the idea of this Bill is to make the
wording absolutely clear so that there is no doubt. That is what
makes the difference in relation to fire break culls.
70. You have mentioned it briefly but I would
like to come back to the question of animal sanctuaries and pets.
I think some of the most disturbing high profile cases are people's
pet sheep or goat or animal sanctuaries being infected. Is there
any protection in this Bill to stop that situation?
(Mr Morley) There is provision under the DVM procedures
to make exemptions for pets and special cases. I must point out
in all fairness that pet sheep can get the disease, so you cannot
say that in no circumstances could you exempt pets no matter what,
you cannot do that, but I do accept that you do have to apply
this with some sensitivity. Pets tend to be kept in lower densities
and they tend to be kept away from other animals generally, but
there are always exceptions to all this and it does depend on
the situation. I would expect that divisional veterinary managers
would make every effort to exempt the culling of pets in special
cases wherever it was possible to do so.
71. If we can come onto the finances, surely
a fairer system would be for those farmers or whatever who objected
and did not allow their animals to be culled to forfeit the right
to compensation and then that would be a judgment they made and,
if the animals did become infected, then it would be their fault
that they did not agree to the cull. Do you think we could work
that into the Bill?
(Mr Morley) I think that is something for the lessons
learned report to look at whether that is an alternative in relation
to dealing with the disease. I think that is fair point but the
only problem is that it does not stop the disease spread with
all the consequences that go with it.
72. I will come onto vaccination and I think
the Minister is well aware of my views on vaccination. I think
we have heard from the chief vet who said there was a time when
the decision was taken to vaccinate the cattle in Cumbria; I think
that was actually when they were coming onto the grass after the
winter. Why did the Government not go ahead with it?
(Mr Morley) They did not go ahead with it because
there was majority farmer opposition, there were also severe concerns
expressed by the food industry at the time. I think that the real
issue is that there is not a history in this country for using
vaccination in controlling outbreak of this kind. There were clearly
strong views both for and against, I have to say, and I think
that it is very difficult to try and reassure people and to try
and deal with some of these issues at the height of an epidemic.
I think that what we need to do is to have some calm reflection,
now that the epidemic is hopefully or certainly coming to an end,
where we can try and deal with these objections. The Government
were persuaded that there was a case for vaccination of cattle
in Cumbria and probably Devon and I was certainly persuaded myself
73. What research is going on to find out what
the effect would have been on the course of the disease if we
(Mr Morley) There will be examinations of the role
of vaccination. The work that I have seen so far in relation to
predicting whether or not vaccinations would have worked in this
disease suggest that it would have had a minimal impact on controlling
disease spread, primarily because the disease was so scattered
all over the country and it was difficult to predict where it
was and also that the nature of its spread as well. In fact, there
would have been some benefits in vaccinating cattle in Cumbria
as a dampening down effect, but the primary benefits of vaccinating
in Cumbria, and we were advocating a `vaccinate and live' policy,
would have been saving the large numbers of cattle from being
culled and also the expense of problems of disposing of them.
I actually think that there is a case for vaccination for that
74. You almost come onto my next point which
is that we are pushing this Bill throughand I do not disagree
with that, I think it would be better if we had it on the statute
well before the outbreakbut how urgent is the question
of vaccination being considered because this is obviously being
put in place for the next outbreakhopefully this one is
over? We need to have a government decision on vaccination before
that outbreak happens. We cannot go again through what can only
be described as dither.
(Mr Morley) I do not accept that it was dither. The
recommendation to us was taken by our chief vets and our chief
scientists with the advice of the chief scientist's advisory group.
I understand that it was unanimous advice. We therefore recommended
the vaccinisation but it was clear that, to do this, you did need
majority support and you did need consensus within the farming
and the food industry. That consensus was not there at that time.
There has been an ongoing debate in the course of that vaccination.
I think these are very important issues for the lessons learned
report and also the Royal Society investigation to look at. The
British Government are sponsoring a major conference next month
in Brussels to look at the whole issue of foot and mouth disease
and the vaccination issue. My Rt Hon friend the Secretary of State
will be speaking at that and I am hoping to participate in that
conference as well. If we take this very seriously, I think it
will address some of the scientific points. Our research institutions
are doing a lot of work at the present time on some key issues
of vaccinations such as a test that will be able to distinguish
the antibodies between antibodies from disease and antibodies
from vaccines. It is a very important thing to have in relation
to a vaccination policy. So there is a great deal of technical
work that is being done being supported by government and a lot
of consideration in relation to the whole issue of vaccination,
but there is a `hearts and minds' campaign in relation to vaccination
within the farming community and some nervousness in the food
industry as well which needs to be resolved.
75. Finally, are you satisfied that the Bill
as it is presented to us and will be presented to the House next
week will give you all the power you need to vaccinate if that
is the decision of government?
(Mr Morley) I am absolutely satisfied that the Bill
gives us the powers we need to vaccinate. I emphasise again that
this a bill which extends our options. You need a wider range
of options with any disease outbreak. This is a bill which is
not tying us down to any one option. Because it speeds up culls
does not necessarily mean that we believe that culling is the
only solution to disease control but it does speed up our options
and, in terms of vaccination, it does give us powers to enter
land to vaccinate should there be resistance. In any situation,
there is always a minority of people who will not co-operate for
76. I am sure that the members of the Select
Committee would welcome any information as to whether it would
be possible for colleagues to attend.
(Mr Morley) I understand that it is very heavily subscribed
but I will certainly inquire on your behalf to see whether that
can be done.
77. I think if you were to conclude that it
was too heavily subscribed for the members of the Select Committee
to go, I think the Select Committee would get rather brassed off!
(Mr Morley) Chairman, what you have to bear in mind
is that we do not control all the places in the conference. It
is jointly sponsored and financed by the Dutch Government, the
British Government and the Belgian Government, so therefore we
do not control all the places. However, I will give you an undertaking
that I will take this away and see what I can do about it.
78. I think this is where a little tact would
be enormously beneficial.
(Mr Morley) I want to be honest with you Chairman:
we only have an allocation of 12 places to DEFRA. There may well
be other places allocated
79. It is a very small conference then.
(Mr Morley) Yes, that is right, but there are different
categories of places. There is an enormous interest in this conference
as you would expect.