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Lord Livsey of Talgarth: My Lords, of the estimated 3.9 million animals slaughtered as a result of suspected foot and mouth disease, how many were of the contiguous cull type and how many of those actually tested negative? That has a big bearing on the forthcoming Animal Health Bill.

Lord Whitty: My Lords, with respect, it does not. The whole point about contiguous cull is that disease is prevented from spreading to neighbouring premises before it becomes apparent in the animals. In other words, a cull is supposed to take place as rapidly as possible; there are 21 days up to which the disease can incubate. It would therefore be extremely surprising, where a cull was carried out rapidly, if there had been a large level of positive results. Therefore, people are drawing entirely the wrong conclusions from the fact that a relatively small number of contiguous cull premises showed positive results on immediate testing. If that is the basis for the criticism of the Government's strategy, it is seriously misplaced. I shall let the noble Lord have the precise figures in relation to contiguous cull premises and initial premises.

Baroness Gibson of Market Rasen: My Lords, does my noble friend agree that one of the lessons of the foot and mouth outbreak is that we need a European-level strategy to deal with it, possibly including the use of vaccination?

Lord Whitty: Indeed, my Lords, we have needed to keep in touch with our European partners throughout this epidemic. That closeness and, if I dare say it, candour as to how the disease was developing have paid off in terms of the relaxation in the past two months of the export bans on cattle and pigs, and now on sheep. So far as concerns future strategies, the Government, together with the Dutch Government, took the initiative in establishing the conference that

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will take place next month in Brussels, which will examine all aspects of disease control, including various forms of vaccination.

Lord Monro of Langholm: My Lords, I declare an interest as one who lost his stock. As the Minister will be aware, foot and mouth is no respecter of national boundaries. The new Animal Health Bill applies to England and Wales only. Why is there no equivalent Scottish Bill? Or do the Scots think that the England and Wales Bill is unnecessary?

Lord Whitty: My Lords, the provisions in devolved responsibilities are a matter for the Scottish Executive. What became clear in England, particularly in the latter stages of the disease, was that failure to carry out the cull in contiguous premises was slowing down the way in which we could contain the disease. Therefore, a more adequate procedure would have been appropriate. That is what the Bill provides. Other lessons may well emerge from the inquiries which both the Scottish and the England and Wales authorities will have to learn. But we have already learnt that particular lesson. That is the reason behind some of the Bill's provisions.

The Countess of Mar: My Lords, in how many cases in which legal action was taken by farmers or animal owners to prevent ministry officials killing our animals was foot and mouth disease subsequently spread?

Lord Whitty: My Lords, if I may say so, that is not the appropriate question, for the reasons that I have already explained. The number of cases in which any delay in the contiguous cull led to the final testing proving positive is relatively small—I think that the figure usually quoted is eight within one of the epidemic areas. The point is that had that cull not been carried out in hundreds of other cases, the spread of the disease would have been dramatically worse. That is the point of the cull and, to a large extent, the success of the strategy.

The Duke of Montrose: My Lords, I welcome the Question asked by my noble friend Lord Peyton of Yeovil. I declare an interest as someone who has been subject to the regulations under the current foot and mouth regime. I expect that the Minister is aware of the ex-Home Office veterinary inspector who has written a report on his experiences in Cumbria. The report was referred to in another place just a week ago. Does the Minister agree that, from the evidence presented, it would have required three times the number of vets to handle the current outbreak as would have been required under the protocol that was in force in 1967? Will the Government concede that the ministry's contingency plan had not taken that into account? Without a thorough review of the protocol and its implementation, the public are left with the impression, as my noble friend suggested, that there is something to hide.

Lord Whitty: My Lords, on the noble Duke's last point, noble Lords should stop suggesting that the

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Government have something to hide in this process. The number of times that my predecessor, the noble Baroness, Lady Hayman, and I have reported to the House in all candour on the developments throughout the outbreak can leave your Lordships in no doubt that we have throughout dealt openly and honestly with the House and others who inquired.

I have seen the report to which the noble Duke referred. There are many opinions on how the disease was handled and there may well be lessons to be learnt on the number and deployment of people from the State Veterinary Service. That is a matter for the inquiry. The Government look forward to its findings.

Learning and Skills Council: Sixth-form Funding

2.52 p.m.

Baroness Walmsley asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they consider the funding of sixth-form places by the Learning and Skills Council to be adequate.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Education and Skills (Baroness Ashton of Upholland): Yes, my Lords. The total amount for the funding of school sixth forms by the Learning and Skills Council from April 2002 has already been agreed. The Learning and Skills Council will announce initial allocations in December.

Baroness Walmsley: My Lords, I thank the Minister for that Answer. Does she accept that the predictions are that sixth-form places in schools will be funded at a level £900 below the average in the past? Will she give the House an absolute assurance that no school will be penalised for having a successful, thriving and growing sixth form by having to dig into the rest of its budget to support the sixth form under the new regime?

Baroness Ashton of Upholland: My Lords, I am more than happy to give that commitment to the noble Baroness. I want to take a moment to explain the funding regime, because there has been some misunderstanding about how the formula was to be worked out, based on very preliminary information that we sent out. No sixth form will be funded below the 2000-01 rates, which we are describing as the baseline year. In addition, the Learning and Skills Council will take account of any significant cash injections to sixth forms made by LEAs in the last financial year and will make appropriate adjustments. The £2,600 that is being quoted will be the determining figure if numbers change, not the figure on which the figures are based.

Baroness Blatch: My Lords, does the guarantee extend to a growing sixth form—in other words, one that will have more pupils? Also, will the decision for

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discontinuing a sixth form lie with the organisational committee and adjudicator or the Learning and Skills Council and how will one read across to the other?

Baroness Ashton of Upholland: My Lords, I shall answer the noble Baroness's second question first, but I shall remember to answer her first question as well. The Learning and Skills Council has the power to propose the closure of a sixth form on any site only if it has been deemed inadequate following two consecutive Ofsted inspections. That will be the trigger. For growing sixth forms, the real-terms guarantee is reviewed each year and numbers are taken into account at that point in order to put the guarantee back in place. It is the purpose of the Learning and Skills Council to help thriving and growing sixth forms wherever possible.

Lord Lucas: My Lords, what do the Government expect the trend in funding per pupil in sixth forms to be? Do they expect it to rise in line with average education expenditure over the next three years, or will it drop below that?

Baroness Ashton of Upholland: My Lords, the funding available for 2002-03 is £1.356 billion. Already, the allocation for 2003-04 is set at £1.428 billion. That is a rising trend. It is our aspiration to support and help sixth forms across the country.

Baroness Sharp of Guildford: My Lords, will the Minister confirm that the rate of inflation implicit in the figures put forward by the Learning and Skills Council is 3 per cent a year? How is it proposed to fund the settlement through the Learning and Skills Council should teachers' salaries rise by more than 3 per cent a year?

Baroness Ashton of Upholland: My Lords, I can confirm that the figure is 3 per cent a year. We are looking at the new formulas for the Learning and Skills Council for the future. I am sure that this is not the answer that the noble Baroness is looking for, but we are allowing schools to vire money across. The sixth-form money does not have to be put in a separate pot. Pre-sixth-form and sixth-form money can be vired into the general school budget. We shall have to look at the salaries of school teachers in the general spending review.

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