Examination of Witnesses (Questions 120-139)|
TUESDAY 6 NOVEMBER 2001
MORLEY, MP AND
120. So everyone gets only 75 per cent initially,
(Mr Morley) No. I am sorry. The assessment is made
right away and I think they can get 100 per cent right away, if
they pass the assessment. It only applies to infected premises
for a start. Therefore, if you are a contiguous premises you get
100 per cent.
121. I am not quite clear as to how long it
takes for someone to make a decision as to whether you are entitled
to the 25 per cent or not.
(Mr Morley) I think in practice, bearing in mind that
the assessment is made as soon as our people go on to the premises,
as soon as they go on they will make the assessment immediately.
122. They will tick a box straight away and
say "It looks like he is okay, give him the money".
(Mr Morley) Yes, absolutely. That is how I would interpret
123. Are you saying that for every infected
farm the early payment will only be 75 per cent?
(Mr Morley) My understanding of thisand I am
going to be corrected at any moment if I am wrongis that
the assessment is made by our people who go on to the farms. That
assessment is immediate. If the assessment is that everything
is fine, there is not a problem, then you are within exactly the
same timescale for paying the compensation, so therefore the 100
per cent compensation should go ahead. If the person concerned
fails the assessment, the 75 per cent payment goes ahead and then
there will be a decision on how much to withhold, up to a maximum
of 25 per cent.
124. The logic, Minister, is that there will
be some delay on the present system by the fact that somebody
will be making a judgment.
(Mr Morley) I do not accept that, actually. What we
want to do is to have this assessment, which is made by our people
going on to the farm, on the first visit. They are going on anyway
as part of the inspections, or, indeed, to check the animals or
because the vet has gone to see whether they have been reported
as having suspicious symptoms. Therefore, that is done right away.
I really do not see, myself, why there should be a delay.
125. Why should there be a 21-day window on
that initial assessment? I do not see how you can turn up on the
day and say "It looks okay now so we will pay him" when
one of the determinants is what they have been doing during the
previous 21 days. That must require some questioning. I cannot
believe it does not.
(Mr Morley) If there is a suspicion that there has
been a breach of bio-security. I would have thought that those
assessments could be made fairly quickly.
126. Let us just be clear: normally, a farmer
who you have no reason to suspect has breached any bio-security
is culled out and your people will say straightaway "Full
compensation paid". The question then is, let us say there
is some doubt as to whether or not he has been lax. Are you saying
that in those circumstances 75 per cent is paid pending an assessment
of how much of the remainder he may or may not be paid, or are
you saying that there is an immediate decision to pay something
between 75 per cent and 100 per cent?
(Mr Morley) No, if there is some doubt about the bio-security
and if there is an investigation, the 75 per cent can go out straightawaythat
is not a problem. There is also an issue that, of course, if there
is money withheld in relation to whatever it is of the 25 per
cent, there is likely to be a delay in that to give the farmers
a 14-day period to appeal, if they want to.
127. So the initial payment will always be either
100 percent or 75 per cent.
(Mr Morley) That is my interpretation, yes.
128. Just following that on a point of detail:
let us imagine a situation where a farmer had no bio-security
and the disease gets on to this holding. Then he thinks "Hang
on a minute. I had better do something about this." He does
not know the disease is there yet because it has not shown in
the animal, but it incubates.
(Mr Morley) How does he know it is there then?
Mr Jack: You are in the middle of a disease,
it is happening around you. He does not know the problem has come
on to his farm because he had poor bio-security. Then he thinks
"I had better do something about this just in case it arrives".
So when the inspector arrives it all looks wonderful because he
has got his disinfectant there, but the actual admission of the
disease to his premises in the first instance came because he
did not have good bio-security. So he stillif I understood
you correctlygets his 100 per cent because the inspector
walks on and says "Wonderful bio-security, Mr Smith, it looks
fantastic" but, in actual fact, it was lousy because he got
the disease in the first place.
129. That is the 21 days point.
(Mr Morley) That is correct. Yes, theoretically, that
is possible if people do something wrong and then try and cover
it up. That is always a possibility and I do not dispute that,
because no systemwhatever it isis going to be perfect.
What I would say in practice is that if you have disease running
in an area then there are regular visits to adjacent farms by
our own staff, control visits and veterinary visits, so therefore
they will be getting visits quite quickly as soon as the disease
is in the area.
130. Do you think, given what has happened,
bio-security should be a built-in part of every farmer's operation
365 days a year every year?
(Mr Morley) Ideally, yes, Chairman, but again I think
we have to be realistic, in that for many people who try to maintain
good bio-security it is quite a burden on them: steam-cleaning
vehicles all the time, making sure that people are careful. I
am just talking about the practicalities of this. There are different
levels of bio-security and different levels of risk. There is
a serious point you are making and I think it is quite significant
that this disease did not really get into the pig pens in this
country. The bio-security in pig units is traditionally very good,
and the pig sector have long applied quite high standards of bio-security.
So there is a serious point to make, in that there ought to be
regular routine application of bio-security, but you have to be
reasonable about this.
131. The Bill creates an offence of deliberately
infecting an animal. I smile because I remember all the sheep
jokes that we used to crack. How does that offence of deliberately
infecting differ from the current provisions?
(Mr Morley) There are no procedures for taking action
against someone who deliberately infects an animal with foot and
mouth. There are some measures for certain pathogens. One of them
is anthrax, Chairman, in that you can take action against people
who deliberately infect animals with anthrax. However, it is limited
to certain pathogens at the present time and there are no measures
that cover foot and mouth. You will be aware, Chairman, as I am
sure you all are, that there have been all sorts of stories and
allegations about deliberate infections. We have investigated
cases that have been brought to our attention, but we have not
yet been able to prove that there has been deliberate infection.
However, if we had been able to prove it there was nothing we
could have done about it. The Bill gives us measures to take action
132. Will this give you a greater ability to
(Mr Morley) It does not really give us a greater ability
to prove it, Chairman, but it does do something about it. Hopefully,
now we have these measures it acts as a deterrent to people who
might be thinking about it.
133. Given the very low level of proof that
deliberate infection has actually occurred, is a new offence really
(Mr Morley) This does not put any burdens on anybody,
it does not make any allegations about anybody, all it does do,
Chairman, is that if it ever was proved it would allow us to do
something about it. I think it is a bit pointless investigating
these allegations if there is nothing we can do about it if we
actually prove it.
134. The investigation proved futile, did it
(Mr Morley) We have not been able to prove deliberate
infection, but that does not get away from the point that if it
ever happened at the moment there is no penalty for that. That
is something I was not aware of myself, and now there is a penalty
for it if it was ever proved.
135. What will the criteria be for assessing
whether or not a farmer has acted deliberately to bring disease
to his farm?
(Mr Morley) There were all sorts of allegations, and
Section 11 does give the detail of this. Basically it says "A
person commits an offence if without lawful authority or excuse
(proof of which shall lie on him) he knowingly does anything which
causes or is intended to cause an animal to be infected with a
disease specified in Schedule 2A." It is crystal clear to
my legal friends, of course, what that actually means. Basically,
we have had allegations of people throwing infected samples into
fieldsyou will all have heard them. In fact, we have found
animal body parts lying around and they have been tested, but
the ones that have been brought to our attention have tested negative.
136. Are you really saying that (and we accept
there is no evidence of this) if a farmer deliberately infected
his animals, not only would he not have been prosecuted but, under
the current law, he would have got 100 per cent compensation?
(Mr Morley) Yes.
137. So he could have actually deliberately
done it and we would have paid him 100 per cent compensation on
what was, probably, generous compensation anyhow, and the law
of this country would not have been able to stop him?
(Mr Morley) That is absolutely right, Chairman, which
I think makes a very good case for having this in the Bill.
138. The second point isand obviously
we will not talk about anthraxwhat will the law be for
other people who are out to cause problems, who are not going
to directly benefit from it but who would just, for the hell of
it, spread infection? What sort of sentences will we have for
(Mr Morley) This covers anybody, it is not just farmers.
139. What is the maximum sentence?
(Mr Morley) On summary conviction, to imprisonment
for a term not exceeding six months or a fine not exceeding the
statutory maximum or both. On conviction on indictment, to imprisonment
for a term not exceeding two years or a fine or both. Basically,
it is a maximum of two years for anyone who is convicted.