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Baroness Blatch: Before the Minister replies and before the noble Earl comes back on the amendment, there are two issues here. They are equally important. One is a technical one. It relates to the technical legitimacy of what the Government want to do and from where they are taking their powers. I was interested in part of the Minister's explanation. I agree with her that it would be helpful if not only did she read what we have said but that we read more carefully what she has put on the record. The other point is the moral one. It is equally important.
Every student in the land had a real understanding that in the middle of an election that is what the Government meant: what Mr. Blair said, Mr. Blair meant. Therefore it came as something of a shock to every student that such a proposal was brought before Parliament but was not included in the Bill--that links in with the technical argument--because there is already in the system power to charge fees. We understand that the power is with the higher education institutions and not with the Government. We understand that it is not in Clauses 16 or 17 but is in Clause 18, where the sting is in the tail. As I have already argued, that represents a serious move by the Government.
It is difficult for us properly to understand the technical arguments and to ensure that there is a legal base not just for the 1998-99 old system students and their transitional arrangements. I disagree with the noble Lord, Lord Whitty, who said that we do not need to worry about this year's students because, in a sense, it is just a matter of uprating. It is important that the Committee is secure in the knowledge that all students who are still in the old system, and will be for some time, are properly catered for. We shall insist that those regulations come before this place under the affirmative procedure. The transitional arrangements for the new system should begin their life under the affirmative resolution procedure. Thereafter it will be for the Government to make up their own mind as to whether any changes brought before this place in the form of regulations are matters of substance or just minor matters that require the negative procedure only. It is an important point.
I shall set aside the technical argument because we all need to go away to do some reading and to take more advice. There is a great deal of disquiet in the legal community about what the Government are doing. It is not enough to say that it has always been possible to charge fees; everyone knows that; the power has always been within the system. There was an understanding by students in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland that, if any Conservative, Liberal or Labour government had taken the move to break with tradition and charge home students tuition fees, there would at least be a policy debate in both Chambers.
There has not been a policy debate. There is no opportunity under the Bill because there is no measure in the Bill which allows us to discuss a policy issue. It is being dismissed constantly as a technical issue. I argue that it is a moral issue. I hope, for the technical reasons and the moral arguments, that we shall be given an opportunity to discuss the matter on recommittal.
I repeat the point made powerfully by the noble Earl, Lord Russell, that it is important to have the freedom in Committee to have a discursive debate. It is important to do so at the beginning of a Bill. The whole point of having a Committee stage, followed by a more restrictive Report stage, followed by an even more restrictive Third Reading, is so that as we go through the Bill we are secure in the knowledge that we have had the type of discursive debate that we need to have at the beginning of a Bill. We have not had a discursive debate on this issue, and so the argument for recommittal is a powerful one.
Timing is of the essence here. We are due to come back for Report stage on 17th February. If there is to be any recommittal, and we are allowed a second opportunity to discuss these matters, that has to be done well before 17th February so as to allow a proper discussion on Report of all the issues contained in the Bill. So any letters, any advice and any reconsideration of the matter need to take place literally within the next week.
Earl Russell: I am sorry to want one more piece of information. I shall not ask the Minister to make a second speech. If she has the information, I will happily give way to her. If not, I look forward to receiving it when she has it. I understand that there is a cap over the fee. I should like to be clear as to whether there is also a floor. I shall give way if that information is available, because it is important to me.
Earl Russell: I thank the noble Baroness for that answer. It was my understanding and it clears up the position considerably. I agree with the noble Baroness, Lady Blatch, about the importance of a general debate on the principles of the main proposals in the Bill. Looking back to the Education (Student Loans) Bill 1990, it is my experience that a framework Bill always leads to an
I am grateful for the Minister's exposition of paragraph 22(f). That paragraph is a Whitehall classic. There is nothing in it which is in any way incorrect, yet it does not have a high degree of transparency. That is exactly how the trick is worked. It does not convey the correct impression to me. While I am prepared to take part of the responsibility for that, I am not prepared to take the whole of it. Therefore, if we can agree on an amicable basis to share the responsibility, we shall proceed a great deal faster. If we cannot, a certain amount of time might be taken up. In the meantime, and in hope, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment and give way to the next business.
I wish to pay tribute to Mr. Chris Mullin, who moved an almost identical Bill under the Ten Minute Rule in another place, where it is still before Parliament. That is why this is a No. 2 Bill. I also pay tribute to those who joined him in ordering the Bill to be "brought in", Sir Richard Body, Mr. Mike Hancock and Mr. Nigel Jones.
My motives for introducing the Bill are the same as those for introducing the Welfare of Broiler Chickens Bill in the previous Session. In neither case is there, or was there, a likelihood of the Bill being passed into law in the near future. However, it is doing a service to ask your Lordships to pass the Bill through all its stages so that there is on record a Bill that has been properly argued through, which will be available during the Session when there is some hope of introducing it into another place with some hope of success.
This is a good month for pigs. We have all been following the adventures of the gallant Tamworth Two and if your Lordships give this Bill a Second Reading it will be an important blow for the welfare of these particularly attractive farm animals. That was why I was saddened last Thursday, when I was seeking out the noble Lord, Lord Stanley of Alderley, to congratulate him on his
I do not want to embark on a lengthy debate as to when it is within the traditions of your Lordships' House to strangle a Private Member's Bill at birth, but I would submit that there are really only three reasons which would make it justifiable. The first of those reasons would be that it was a frivolous Bill which it was not worth your Lordships' while considering. I think the list of distinguished speakers which this debate has attracted proves that it does not fall into that category. I particularly welcome the participation of the noble Lord, Lord Runcie, one-time chaplain and vice-principal at my theological college. We never thought we would end up in the House of Lords debating pigs.
The second reason would be that the objective of the Bill was unacceptable. This, too, does not apply since I doubt whether there is a single Member of your Lordships' House who is opposed to "the health and welfare of pigs", which is the objective spelt out in the Long Title.
The third reason would be that the Bill was unamendable and this, too, does not apply since I am most anxious that it should be amended as a result of the expertise which your Lordships will bring to it. Therefore, I would ask the noble Lord, Lord Stanley of Alderley, to consider whether he should not allow this Bill to reach at least Third Reading before deciding that it should be killed off and, if he does not agree, I would ask noble Lords on all sides of the House to save it, like the Tamworth Two, from a premature death.
Perhaps I may say a few words about the sources and justification of this Bill. Before Mr. Chris Mullin introduced it, it was the product of Compassion in World Farming, a body which, while taking immensely seriously the welfare of farm animals, as should we all, is highly respectable and well-thought of, is ably and responsibly led by Mr. Peter Stevenson and in no way belongs to that extreme range of animal activist bodies which may well be heartily distrusted by many of your Lordships.
Although he is in no way responsible for the genesis of this Bill, I am relying, and will continue to rely heavily, on the scientific expertise of Professor Broom, the Colleen Macleod Professor of Animal Welfare at Cambridge University and Head of the Animal Welfare and Human-Animal Interactions Group in the Department of Clinical Veterinary Medicine at that University. Professor Broom was also Chairman of the Scientific Veterinary Committee (animal welfare section) which at the request of the European Commission established an expert working group (of which he was a member) to produce a report on the welfare of intensively kept pigs (Doc XXIV/B3/ScVC/0005/1097 adopted 30/09/97).
An important step has been taken recently in Europe. At the Amsterdam IGC animals were given a new status in EU law as sentient beings as opposed to merely agricultural products. All credit to Mr. Elliot Morley, the Minister responsible for animal welfare within the Ministry of Agriculture, for his work on that and for his speeches on this topic which lead me to hope that the Government will give this Bill a fair wind.
A major reform for breeding sows will be introduced on 1st January 1999--the abolition of sow stall and tethers. I am delighted by that development and the industry is to be congratulated on accepting this reform, which it is to be hoped will lead to a further reform in the outlawing of the cruelty of the farrowing crate.
But this Bill focuses on the 13 million young pigs slaughtered each year at the age of four to six months for bacon, pork and ham. And let me make it clear that I am not a vegetarian and I enjoy almost all pig products, buying as I do, delicious bacon every month from Emmett's Stores in Peasenhall in Suffolk where your Lordships can find a small village general stores surmounted by a large sign designating it "By Appointment supplier of hams to Her Majesty the Queen Mother", to whom I should add that we all, I know, wish a speedy recovery from her operation.
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