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Baroness Thomas of Walliswood: My Lords, I wonder whether the noble Lord will confirm that the French, with years of levels of investment in rail superior to those obtaining in this country, are still investing more than twice as much as we are on an annual basis? Secondly, is he satisfied with the proportion of our investment in rail which goes into capital projects intended for that purpose--projects with a life span of at least 20 years--rather than routine maintenance or the improvement of rail stations?
Lord Macdonald of Tradeston: My Lords, we have set up a strategic rail authority which also envisages, as part of its objective, the enhancement of our railway networks. The authority will promote rail use and plan the strategic development of that network. As I have said, we anticipate that the investment in rail will be the greatest wave of investment that we have seen, perhaps for the past century. Therefore, we hope that under the guidance of the strategic rail authority we shall see a considerable development in the scope, safety and service of the railways.
Lord Faulkner of Worcester: My Lords, will my noble friend agree that one of the most regrettable consequences of the fragmentation of the railway in recent years has been the abandonment of the network approach to railway electrification; and had the railway industry's proposals been accepted by the previous administration, we would now have electrified main lines to the Midlands, to the west of England and to South Wales?
Lord Macdonald of Tradeston: My Lords, I repeat again that the question raised by my noble friend is exactly the kind of question that will be addressed by the strategic rail authority. We hope to empower the authority--at present in its shadow form--to promote rail use, to plan the strategic development of the network and to ensure that the railway is properly integrated with other forms of transport. With the legislation that is in prospect, I look forward to seeing the strategic rail authority address such questions.
The Minister of State, Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (Baroness Hayman): My Lords, there are no plans to control the growth of badger numbers. However, there is a culling trial in operation which is designed to establish the extent to which badgers contribute to the problem of bovine TB in cattle.
Baroness Sharples: My Lords, I thank the noble Baroness for that reply. I have in my 23 acres of woodland 10 badger sets, which means at least five badgers per set. I also have 20 acres of grazing which have been really ruined by the badgers. What can I do about that problem? The land is let to organic farmers and I do not believe that they will return next year.
Baroness Hayman: My Lords, because of the protection which has been afforded to badgers, in order to disturb sets or to remove badgers a landowner needs to obtain a licence from the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food or the appropriate conservancy council. I suggest that the noble Baroness contacts the regional service centre of the ministry which will assess whether the damage being caused is such as to justify the issue of a licence.
Lord Hardy of Wath: My Lords, will my noble friend confirm that in by far the greater part of the United Kingdom badgers present no problem whatever, and that where bovine tuberculosis is a problem, that is being dealt with? Will my noble friend confirm also that the reported rapid increase in the population of badgers may be much greater in appearance than in reality, largely because of the high death toll of badgers on the roads and motorways of the United Kingdom? Does she agree that by and large the animal is beneficial rather than harmful?
Baroness Hayman: Well, my Lords, there are differences of view in this area. Certainly we should not underestimate the problem of bovine TB and the fact that last year it cost the lives of 6,000 cows. I believe that my noble friend is right to say that no one has any interest in attacking the badger population for the sake of it. However, there is considerable concern
The Earl of Onslow: My Lords, will the noble Baroness tell me, first, where the hairs for my shaving brush come from? Secondly, is she aware that the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders' sporran has a badger's head on it? When stationed in Ulster, they went to the South of Ireland to kill badgers to ensure that they had proper badgers' heads on their sporrans. Will the Minister explain how this arose?
Viscount Simon: My Lords, is my noble friend aware of the fairly recent press reports which drew attention to the fact that one gentleman sought to avoid the misuse of his land by feeding the badgers excessive amounts of food so that they went somewhere else?
Baroness Hayman: No, my Lords. I am not aware of those press reports. However, I say in all seriousness to the House that I am aware of the concern and the damage done by bovine TB to farmers' livelihoods and to their cattle. I believe that it is in everyone's interests that the scientific trials currently being undertaken are allowed to be completed so that, once and for all, we can have a sound basis for policies in this area.
Baroness Trumpington: My Lords, is the Minister aware that I applaud totally what she has just said with regard to TB? However, is she aware that horses and badgers do not go together, and that many horse owners are unable to graze their animals because of the large holes and tunnels very near to the surface which are caused by badgers and which may cause serious leg injury or death to horses?
Baroness Hayman: My Lords, badger sets can damage property; for example, waterworks and railway embankments. As I said earlier, that is why it is possible to apply for a licence to disturb or remove a set. That, I believe, is not in dispute. The area in which there is not agreement relates to the potential or possible link between badgers and bovine TB. That is why we believe it is important that the trials are allowed to continue.
Baroness Strange: My Lords, is the Minister aware that, although badgers are terribly sweet and one does not want anyone to do anything about them, they are very addicted to strawberries? I have a friend in Dorset whose strawberries are constantly being eaten by badgers.
Baroness Hayman: My Lords, on the second part of the question raised by the noble Lord, Lord Luke, he is right to direct our attention to the possibility of a vaccine being a way forward. I understand that current research is directed at a vaccine for cattle; but a vaccine for other wildlife, including badgers, is not outwith that research. It is a long-scale programme that does not offer an immediate response.
On the Wiltshire issue, we have now enrolled in the Krebs trial to which I referred five of the 10 areas recommended by Sir John Bourne and the Independent Scientific Group. Concern is expressed that we are seeing bovine TB in areas of the country that have not experienced it before. However, there is no unanimity about the cause of badger infection or the role that infected badgers play in this matter. For that reason we need to get our facts straight.
First, a large number of government amendments were handed in very late. Last week about 250 government amendments were tabled and well over half were tabled for Thursday's or Friday's Order Paper. This morning I saw many more on the supplementary list.
I say about 250 because some amendments that were handed in last week have already been withdrawn and replaced by other government amendments. Such a situation causes noble Lords--and those outside the House--great difficulty in looking properly at the government amendments.
I realise that some of the amendments reflect the Government's response, in whole or in part, to points raised in Committee from all parts of the House. We shall have to see whether the amendments respond in whole or in part to the points that were raised in Committee, and that will require careful study.
These amendments include the removal of three clauses that were previously in the Bill, and the inclusion of nine totally new clauses and one new schedule. The result is that in response several late amendments have been tabled by me and other
My second point is that these new amendments contain at least 16 new powers to make orders or regulations to give the Secretary of State powers. None of those has been examined--as always happens when Bills first appear in this House--by the Select Committee on Delegated Powers and Deregulation. Therefore, I have written to the Chairman of that committee, drawing his attention to those powers and to the number and the importance of them--as will become apparent when we consider the detail on Report. I suggested that his committee may want to consider the amendments that have been tabled since the 22nd Report, which dealt with the Bill, was produced and to see whether it has any points that it wants to draw to our attention.
Of course, the committee could not consider the amendments--no one would expect it to--in time for the Report stage today, or when the Report stage is continued on Wednesday. I do not know whether the Report stage will be completed on Wednesday. There may be time for additional work, but much of what the committee may want to say to us cannot be considered except in time for Third Reading.
All that has made it extremely difficult to consider this Bill. The lateness in tabling these amendments demonstrates that the Government cannot have worked hard in the early part of the Recess to prepare them, otherwise they would all have been tabled on Monday, when no one would have complained. This matter also demonstrates that the Bill was not well drafted in the first place. I believe that point will emerge from our debates during the course of today and in subsequent proceedings.
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