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Lord Addington: My Lords, does the Minister agree that a case of such legal complexity provides an example of where a more vigorous campaigning legal body might have been beneficially introduced under the Disability Discrimination Act as opposed to the rather weaker body which was introduced?

Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish: My Lords, no matter how vigorous a body is it cannot act other than inside the law. I believe that the noble Lord's question invites me to suggest that organisations should be empowered to act outwith the law and I do not agree with that. The law in the Disability Discrimination Act is quite clear. As I said, ultimately, this matter may be for the courts to test.

Lord Skelmersdale: My Lords, within Parliament we have rules of hybridity which deal with those in the

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same class being treated differently. Does my noble friend agree that this is not a matter of disability discrimination but of general discrimination?

Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish: My Lords, the matter is good deal more complicated. One of the principles of mutuality, which is the basis on which many building societies were founded, is that the rights are conferred on members on the basis of one member one vote and not on the basis of the number of accounts held. That is perhaps why the position is that no matter how many accounts are held and for whatever reason--that is perhaps why I answered in the way I did--a person can be considered only once as a member, once as a vote and, as the building societies have developed their schemes, once with regard to any distribution.

Lord Dubs: My Lords, does the Minister agree that there is a tremendous sense of unfairness on the part of second-named account holders which runs through the whole of this business? It is difficult for people to understand why, when we have tight regulation in the financial services generally, the Government should adopt such a laissez-faire attitude towards building societies, allowing them to treat people in a way which is not just.

Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish: My Lords, I believed that I answered that question with regard to the principle of mutuality. If the noble Lord is inviting government to interfere in private sector companies and to change the laws of mutuality, I shall resist that invitation.

Lady Kinloss: My Lords, is there a provision in the Building Societies Act which prevents a building society from making a bonus payment to account holders who are not members of the society?

Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish: My Lords, as I indicated in an earlier answer, it is up to the building societies to decide which scheme is most appropriate.

BSE: Selective Cull

3.13 p.m.

Lord Carter asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What is the latest assessment of the number of cattle required to be slaughtered for a BSE selective slaughter scheme to be successful.

Lord Lucas: My Lords, the estimate given at Florence for the maximum number of animals to be slaughtered under a selective slaughter scheme was 128,000. No more recent estimate is available. Whether such a scheme might be regarded by the noble Lord as successful would depend on, among other things, his definition of success.

Lord Carter: My Lords, is the Minister aware that on 4th July his right honourable friend the Prime

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Minister, in reply to a question from the Leader of the Opposition, Mr. Tony Blair, said of a slaughter scheme that there are:

    "two fundamental reasons why the policy is necessary. The first is to ensure public health".--[Official Report, Commons, 4/7/96; col.1049.]?
At the end of that reply he also referred to the need to deal with the matter in the interests of public health. If, according to the Prime Minister, there was a fundamental public health requirement to introduce this scheme why have the Government done nothing since April when they first announced it?

Lord Lucas: My Lords, I do not have with me the particular quotation with which the noble Lord has enlivened the House. However, from all that has been said of the selective slaughter scheme it is clear that it has no public health implications. We in this country are dealing with a situation in which no possibly infected material does or can reach the consumers. Slaughtering animals early may have the advantage of allowing the European Union to relax its restrictions, but as far as I am aware the procedure has no other possible advantage.

Lord Peyton of Yeovil: My Lords, does my noble friend agree that British beef is now at least as safe as any other beef in Europe? That being the case, if neither the Commission nor the member states have yet been able to produce a definite number or a date by which the ban can be suspended, does he also agree that to continue the cull would be both pointless and cruel?

Lord Lucas: My Lords, I entirely agree with what my noble friend said at the beginning of his question. British beef is safe and certainly as safe as beef from any other country in Europe. However, whether or not to undertake the selective cull is a matter of fine judgment. If we undertake it we shall be putting our partners on the spot; we shall have complied with all the five points agreed at Florence and it will be up to them to carry out their part of the bargain. If my noble friend has doubts about whether our partners will do that, so do I.

The Countess of Mar: My Lords, does the Minister agree that the selective cull, together with the newly introduced scheme for killing dairy cross-beef cows, will in a very short time lead to a dearth of beef in this country? What is to happen about imported beef, upon which we must rely if we continue to eat beef, in order to ensure that it meets the health standards of this country?

Lord Lucas: My Lords, there is very little that we can do that we do not do already to make sure that beef coming into this country meets the proper health standards.

Lord Hylton: My Lords, can the Minister tell the House how many cattle have so far been slaughtered under the various schemes? Does he agree that the eradication of BSE is the objective?

Lord Lucas: My Lords, I entirely agree with the noble Lord's second point. Under the over 30 months

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scheme we have slaughtered about 1 million cattle. All the predictions are that following that course we will see the end of the disease for all practical purposes by about the year 2001.

Lord Carter: My Lords, in reply to my first supplementary question, the Minister said that there is no public health implication. I quoted the Prime Minister saying on 4th July that the fundamental reason was to ensure public health. Whom do we believe, the Prime Minister or the noble Lord?

Lord Lucas: My Lords, one would always believe the Prime Minister. I do not have the particular quotation that the noble Lord gave and therefore I do not have its context. I can give the noble Lord only my understanding, which is certainly junior to that of the Prime Minister.


3.18 p.m.

Lord Strathclyde: My Lords, at a convenient moment after 3.30 p.m. my noble friend Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish will, with the leave of the House, repeat a Statement that is to be made in another place on ECOFIN.

Sea Fisheries (Shellfish) (Amendment) Bill [H.L.]

Baroness Wilcox: My Lords, I beg to introduce a Bill to make provision for fisheries for lobsters and other crustaceans. I beg to move that the Bill be now read a first time.

Moved, That the Bill be now read a first time.--(Baroness Wilcox.)

On Question, Bill read a first time, and ordered to be printed.

Town and Country Planning

(Scotland) Bill

The Lord Advocate (Lord Mackay of Drumadoon): My Lords, I beg to move that this Bill be now read a second time. This Bill is the first of a package of four Bills standing on the Order Paper in my name. With the leave of the House, I shall speak briefly to all four together and then remove the remaining Bills formally.

The purpose of the four Bills is to consolidate legislation on town and country planning in Scotland. The legislation was last consolidated in 1972. Each of the Bills incorporates amendments to give effect to recommendations of the Scottish Law Commission which are intended to remove certain minor anomalies in the existing law.

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The Town and Country Planning (Scotland) Bill is the largest of the four measures. In consolidating enactments relating to town and country planning in Scotland, it seeks to restructure and clarify existing legislation. The Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas)(Scotland) Bill consolidates enactments relating to special controls in respect of buildings and areas of special architectural or historic interest. The Planning (Hazardous Substances)(Scotland) Bill consolidates enactments relating to special controls in respect of hazardous substances. Finally, the Planning (Consequential Provisions) (Scotland) Bill deals with the repeals, consequential amendments, transitional matters and savings which are consequential on the consolidation package.

This consolidation package runs in total to some 407 sections and 25 schedules. It is a considerable testimony to the industry, painstaking application and skill of the draftsman. His considerable efforts have not just brought together the Scottish legislation and town and country planning and related topics. They have added a much needed restructuring and coherence to the Scottish planning code. I am sure that the whole House will welcome the efforts that he has made which will also be welcomed by all those involved in planning in Scotland--those who seek planning permission, local authority officials, planning experts and lawyers and reporters within the Scottish Office Inquiry Reporters Unit.

It is also notable that no fewer than 43 separate recommendations by the Scottish Law Commission for the resolution of inconsistencies and anomalies were initiated by this process of consolidation. The Scottish Law Commission is to be commended for its efforts in assisting with this important piece of consolidation.

In my submission, these legislative measures are worthy and extremely beneficial. I commend the Bills to your Lordships. If your Lordships are content to give all four Bills a Second Reading, they will be referred in the usual way to the Joint Committee on Consolidation Bills. In the case of the fourth Bill, the Planning (Consequential Provisions)(Scotland) Bill, which is not itself a consolidation Bill but which contains sweeping-up provisions consequential on the other three Bills, there is a Motion in my name on the Order Paper that this Bill should also be reserved to the Joint Committee. I commend the Bills to your Lordships.

Moved, That the Bill be now read a second time--(Lord Mackay of Drumadoon.)

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