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Lord Lea of Crondall: My Lords, is the noble Lord aware that I am a member of the Joint Committee on Statutory Instruments. Everything that has been referred to is quite normal procedure for the Joint

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Committee. On a typical meeting half a dozen matters are referred to for defective drafting of a minor character and they are typically dealt with at the next meeting by the fact that corrections are made.

On the question of the use of abbreviations, it is a wider matter and it is generally understood now that, in the first instance, abbreviations will be used only in conjunction with some explanation of the full wording. Unless the noble Lord is filibustering, this lengthy procedure is not necessary.

Lord Willoughby de Broke: My Lords, I totally reject the insinuation by the noble Lord, Lord Lea, that I am filibustering; I am simply quoting from the report of his committee. I shall filibuster a second longer by repeating that it is said it was defectively drafted. I cannot see that drawing attention to that can remotely be called filibustering. But if he thinks it is filibustering he is entitled to his opinion. I cannot think that his intervention added anything at all to the debate.

For the reasons I stated before I took the intervention, I believe that regulations of this kind are losing the trust of the rural community in DEFRA. I received a number of letters and e-mails—I shall not quote them because I shall be accused again of filibustering—to the effect that people no longer trust DEFRA or the regulations it is producing. These regulations are clearly an example of why. So if later this evening the noble Countess, Lady Mar, decides to divide the House, I shall join her in the Lobby.

Baroness Masham of Ilton: My Lords, in declaring an interest I ask the Minister two very short questions. How efficient are the tests for TSE? What is the prospect of a vaccine for spongiform encephalopathy? It is a serious matter when there is no right of appeal and mistakes may be made.

10.8 p.m.

Baroness Byford: My Lords, I rise to support many of the comments made by the noble Countess, Lady Mar. If this matter were not so serious, I would not pass this remark: that it is pleasing to see so many Members on the Labour Benches tonight, who never normally attend the agricultural discussions we have in this House. I am afraid they will have to bear with us a little longer. We are not filibustering. In fact I think that comment was most unfortunate. In the real world, outside Parliament, the farming community has been through some desperate times. If people on the opposite Benches think that in some way we are filibustering, they are wrong.

Baroness Thornton: My Lords, I thank the noble Baroness for giving way. If we are to play this game, I can say that I have sat in this House with the Benches opposite completely empty while we discuss child poverty and urban deprivation. So I ask the noble Baroness not to patronise us in that way.

Baroness Byford: My Lords, the noble Baroness may say that if she wishes. But one of her colleagues in a recent housing debate, the noble Lord, Lord

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Graham—I do not know if he is in his place—apologised to the House that he was the only spokesman from the Labour Benches. He said, "I never thought I would see a Labour debate on social housing and we have only one speaker". So I am not casting aspersions. But it is true that tonight the Benches opposite are fuller than they normally are for agriculture debates, and we should record that fact.

As I say, I rise to support the noble Countess, Lady Mar. As the noble Countess stated, regulations do not need separate legislation. G Dymond, who as many noble Lords will know is the House Research and Legal Information Librarian, stated in a letter to me on 15th April:

    "Regulations do not require national implementing legislation".

Perhaps the Minister will clarify the situation because there seems to be some confusion.

So why are we sitting here? I am sure that noble Lords on the Labour Benches would say, "Why indeed?". We are surely considering any gold-plating. I cannot believe that in the statutory instrument we are gold-plating after the Prime Minister promised the electorate only last year that there would be no more of it. Even the noble Lord, Lord Whitty, has acknowledged that there are three extra bits—

Lord Whitty: One, my Lords.

Baroness Byford: All right, my Lords, one bit extra, but there is a little gold-plating. I must ask why.

Other noble Lords have referred to the science and I shall also take up that issue. There is no real scientific proof of the link between BSE and CJD or BSE and scrapie.

Baroness Howarth of Breckland: My Lords, I am a social scientist, not a general scientist, but empirical evidence that shows that BSE is declining with the measures that we have in hand is surely a good piece of evidence.

Baroness Byford: My Lords, I am delighted that the numbers are declining, but that does not necessarily—

The Countess of Mar: My Lords, I apologise for interrupting the noble Baroness. BSE is also declining because we no longer pour organophosphates on cattle.

Baroness Byford: My Lords, that just shows how difficult is the science. I do not wish to pit one against another, but there is still a question. The noble Countess herself said that she hoped that science would soon move on and be able to prove that.

I ask the Government what proof there is. Could it be that all sheep are susceptible? If so, would they all have to be slaughtered? Do we face the possibility of becoming a sheep-free zone, having two years ago been the developed world's largest sheep producer? That scenario is decidedly scary, but I am sure that the Minister will have the correct version. Apparently, Mr

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Meacher, in evidence to the House of Commons Select Committee on the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, stated that the Government have always known and appreciated the full extent of all implications of European Union legislation. But we do not have to legislate to incorporate the EU regulations. Presumably the Minister can enlighten us on all the implications of what we are about tonight.

I should be particularly interested to know about cost. Many noble Lords will be aware that the Government intend to force farmers to insure against future outbreaks of infectious diseases. I wonder how many insurance companies will be willing to insure against the possibility that animals may be slaughtered not because they have the disease but because they are susceptible, not because they are next-door to a farm that has the disease but because they have been declared susceptible to the disease. The Minister must surely clarify the distinction between "susceptible" and "suspect" before we come to a vote—or not—later, because there are important differences between them.

I have heard that, if the Government cannot agree insurance with farmers, they are considering imposing a levy on all sheep producers. Presumably they would use the proceeds of that to pay the costs of five things, to name but a few. Those are, first, the cost of science; secondly, the cost of a monitoring system; thirdly, the cost of a slaughtering system; fourthly, the cost of a disposal system; and, fifthly, the cost of a compensation system. Perhaps the Minister will reflect on that. I also ask him whether, should levy money come into being but prove to be inadequate to cover those various costs, the Government envisage paying for them themselves. If so, how much have they already reserved for that purpose?

I am intrigued to know how the monitoring system will operate. As the law stands, farmers have a duty to report any notifiable disease that strikes their livestock. How will they know that an animal in their herd is susceptible? Will they be safe so long as no inspector comes to call?

Much work has been done and is being done on genotyping in humans and the likelihood that some members of a family may inherit some ailments. I understand that it is rare to find that every member of a family has inherited the same suspect trait. In the past couple of weeks the EU voted a large amount of money for 15 research projects to find out more about inherited characteristics in animals. We welcome that and the Minister may wish to comment on it. It suggests to me that more powerful brains than mine will consider the possibility that not all animals in a flock will have the same susceptibility. Given the Government's lack of success in studying sheep's brains—they were examining cows' brains—I recommend that we persuade them to postpone this piece of legislation.

That is not all. Noble Lords have heard me use the word "susceptible" several times. I know what I mean, but I wonder if it is exactly the same as what the Government mean. The regulations contain several

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words whose meaning can vary according to circumstance. Do the Government really mean "livestock" to include any creature, apart from a dog, that has a function in farming, including all types of horse? In Europe horses are considered as livestock animals; in this country they are not. That is on page 7. The continentals include horses in livestock because they eat them; in this country, on the whole, we do not. Horses have never been part of the British definition, and I want to know whether the Government will use the EU or the UK version.

My noble friend Lord Caithness spoke eloquently about the contradictions in the definitions of compensation in the regulations, which apparently will apply to all animals except dogs. He particularly mentioned valuable breeding stock. Will the Minister say what science has excepted dogs from such draconian measures? Why include cats and not dogs? There must be some reason; there must be some science. I do not have the Minister's attention; perhaps I have someone else's.

What methods will be employed to slaughter the cat, the goldfish in the pond or the children's pony? Where will it take place? Under which rules will the carcasses be treated? How will compensation be calculated? The mind boggles at how we will calculate the value of a goldfish. Will it be legal to employ a sheep levy to compensate someone for the compulsory death of a pet, albeit one living on the farm? What will the exceptions be? Will there be a Prime Ministerial override? Will there be another Phoenix rising from the ashes? Will there be the right of appeal that we have discussed tonight?

Paragraph (7) of the regulations specifies that representations may be made to the Secretary of State where slaughter of a TSE-susceptible animal at premises other than a slaughterhouse is intended. Does that imply that there is a right of appeal only against the site of slaughter? Do the Government accept the theoretical possibility that a susceptibility to a family of diseases justifies the inclusion of our rare breeds under the regulations? Such an inclusion would cover the possibility of a disease that has not so far been shown to have any relationship to BSE, which is itself not a proven cause of new variant CJD. Many rare breeds would fall under the edict in the statutory instrument, and we have had many representations about that.

There is a saying about throwing the baby out with the bath water. As noble Lords have said, rare breeds have other genes. Some are known to be important, and many of their characteristics—good or bad—have not yet been identified. I should hate these TSE regulations to be applied so stringently that we lost material whose value outweighed the risks which we removed.

The Leader of another place said when challenged last week that the regulations apply only to carcasses. I would refer your Lordships to page 4 of the statutory instrument, where paragraph 4(2)(e) states,

    "any TSE susceptible animal, or the carcases of such an animal".

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I presume from that that the regulations cover living creatures, not just dead creatures.

Finally, I cannot resume my seat without referring to the powers of the inspectors. They can corral, examine, test, mark and restrict movement. They can seize meat, processed animal protein or TSE-susceptible animals. They can slaughter, examine records, check computers and decide whether the regulations are contravened. Will the TSE rules which we are debating today apply in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland? I understand that they will not. If they do not, what rules are governing Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland? If for any reason today the prayer to annul tabled by the noble Countess, Lady Mar, were carried, would that make a difference? Presumably, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland must have regulations in place. I do not understand where we are. Furthermore, what would happen to the people who keep stock on the borders between England and Wales and Scotland?

I find tonight a very unsatisfactory affair—that we should be placed by the Government in a situation in which we either annul a large number of existing controls or we agree to extend them considerably. The noble Baroness, Lady Howarth, who spoke most compellingly—and I welcome her contribution—spelt out the difficulty of annulling existing controls. Although it would be for only a brief period, we would all assist the Government to remedy the deficiency, but the difficulty we are faced with tonight is not of our doing; it is of the Government's doing.

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