Previous Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page

Baroness Dean of Thornton-le-Fylde: My Lords, I declare an interest as chair of the Housing Corporation. I welcome the Statement. Some of the points raised after the Minister sat down surprise me. An almost pessimistic view was expressed 9in response to what was very good news. It was a most wide-ranging Statement. It may have been brief but a long statement is not always good news. There was a lot of good news in today's brief Statement.

The Statement recognises, as I do as chairman of the corporation, many points. Part of our remit is to advise the Government about the issues concerning the northern counties, in relation to which market failure is addressed in the Statement. Market failure has not occurred in each of the counties, but there is market failure in some of the towns, as the noble Lord, Lord Greaves, said.

18 Jul 2002 : Column 1417

We welcome the Statement, but we know that the pressure pot is in London and the South East. The Thames Gateway, for example, covers three regional areas—not just one county or one region. The Housing Corporation welcomes the requirement for parties to come together to talk about investment and it welcomes being involved in that. It is one of two inspectorates, so it also welcomes the idea of entering into sensible talks with the Government about merging two jobs into one, which will streamline the position. We welcome the Statement and look forward to the detail. It is good news and we should not walk away from it.

My noble friend Lord Clarke of Hampstead wanted to be present for the Statement but had to attend a Select Committee. He asked me whether I would say on his behalf, as a chairman who looked after the inner city problems in Burnley, that in his view the people of Burnley would regard this Statement about the northern counties as optimistic.

Lord Rooker: My Lords, I am grateful to my noble friend. She chairs what is by any stretch of the imagination and by any Whitehall measure a first-class organisation. It has been wholly positive, supportive and incredibly helpful to the new department in the past few weeks as we have been preparing for the effects of the Comprehensive Spending Review and preparing this Statement. I look forward to the discussions about how we shall combine the two inspectorates with their good operations and differences in their ways.

The noble Baroness made a valuable point about the Thames Gateway. It is a huge operation. Fourteen zones have already been identified and there will not be a single delivery mechanism in the area. She is right to say that there are three regional development agencies and several counties, including the London boroughs. Of course, the Greater London Council and the Mayor also have a crucial role to play.

The point about the North is well made. This Statement is not just about the hot-spots of London and the South East. We are responsible for the whole of England. The pressures and problems are different in each area. It is not that the North is full of collapsed economies and communities and it is not the case that the South does not have any empty housing. There is a mixture of problems which we have to address.

Lord Brooke of Sutton Mandeville: My Lords, I congratulate the Government on having reached their 60 per cent target for brownfield sites for new homes as early as they have. If the achievement for new housing had been greater, as the Government may wish it to have been, would that still have been the case? Will postmen be regarded as key workers? Can the Minister contemplate a simplified version of the government response to the consultation on planning because the language at the moment is fairly opaque?

Lord Rooker: My Lords, we can always improve the quality of our communications. I accept what the

18 Jul 2002 : Column 1418

noble Lord, Lord Brooke, has said. If a simplified version of what is quite a short document is possible I shall see whether I can provide him with it.

In terms of key workers, if public services are not delivered one wonders why. One recognises a key worker when the service is not delivered. We talk about nurses and teachers and since the Government came to power the pressure has been on education and health, but if the post is not delivered postmen become key workers. That is the same issue. He makes a fair point which I do not seek to deny.

The figure is different in different regions, but overall we have reached the target of 60 per cent brownfield development of new housing eight years ahead of time with a low house building total. I do not know what the result would have been if there had been a higher house build level. Because we know the amount of brownfield land around, although there is no register of it. English Partnerships are working on that so that we can parcel it up and check it out. I do not know whether we would have met the target or not. However, we are hell-bent on keeping to the target and stepping up the housing output. Therefore, the pressure is on to find more brownfield land.

Animal Health Bill

4.35 p.m.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Lord Whitty): My Lords, I beg to move the Motion standing on the Order Paper. It relates to the order in which the House will take the Animal Health Bill in Committee. I have a few words of explanation.

This Motion is moved in order to proceed to the Committee stage of the Animal Health Bill, which was delayed by an amendment to the Motion carried by your Lordships on 26th March. The conditions of that amendment have now all been fulfilled. That amendment stipulated that debate could not proceed further until three steps had been taken by the Government. Those related to the consideration and publication of the findings of two of the independent inquiries into last year's foot and mouth outbreak and to the publication of our response to consultation on the implementation of powers contained in the Bill.

Your Lordships will wish to note that I have arranged for a copy of the government response to consultation to be placed in the Library of the House and, following the publication of the reports of the two inquiries, that completes the remaining steps specified in the amendment.

We are of course mindful of the needs on the part of the interested parties to have sufficient time to absorb the findings and lessons of the inquiries, not only of those that have been published, as referred to in the amendment—the Royal Society and the National Audit Office—but also Dr Anderson's report, which is expected to be published this coming Monday.

18 Jul 2002 : Column 1419

For that reason we propose effectively to reverse the order in which the Bill is debated in Committee, starting with the provisions that deal with scrapie, which are Clause 5 and Schedule 2. They are not part of the subject matter of the reports or the consultation process. Under that arrangement we would not proceed to the areas that deal with foot and mouth disease and related matters until after the Summer Recess, by which time Members of the House will have had a chance to absorb the recommendations of the reports. I hope your Lordships will agree that that will be an acceptable order in which to debate the Bill during the course of the Committee stage. I beg to move.

Moved, That it be an instruction to the Committee of the Whole House to whom the Animal Health Bill has been committed that they consider the Bill in the following order:

Clause 5,

Schedule 2,

Clause 14,

Clauses 1 to 3,

Schedule 1,

Clause 4,

Clauses 6 to 13,

Clauses 15 to 18.—(Lord Whitty.)

The Countess of Mar: My Lords, I declare my interest in farming, although I deny the interest in "specialist goat disease making" as published in the Register of Lords' Interests. Perhaps that was a Freudian slip on the part of the registrar. I am in fact a goats' cheese maker.

When this Bill was last before the House on 26th March, my noble friend Lord Moran moved the amendment mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Whitty. In the absence of my noble friend, he has asked me to convey to the House the following message. I would be grateful for noble Lords' indulgence. The message reads:

    "I am very surprised that the Government has decided to resume the Committee stage of the Animal Health Bill. The amendment I introduced on March 26 was passed by 130 votes to 124. By this vote the House declined to consider the Bill any further until the various reports on the Foot and Mouth Disease had been received, considered and published by Her Majesty's Government. The National Audit Office's Report was published on June 21 but the Government has not yet responded to it".

I gather that the Minister has now said that the response is in the Printed Paper Office.

    "The Royal Society's report was published on July 16. Neither the Government nor the House will have time to consider it and respond adequately before July 25. We are still awaiting the conclusions of the Lessons Learned enquiry, not due till next week, a couple of days before the scheduled Committee stage.

    I am astonished that the Government has not considered it necessary to communicate with me prior to putting the Bill back on the Order Paper. The House authorities told me that they expected the Government to speak or write to me. They have not done so.

    I have heard suggestions that the Government may have it in mind to propose that only Part II of the Bill, on scrapie, may be dealt with on the two days on the grounds that it is 'non-controversial'. If they think so, they are wrong. The proposals on

18 Jul 2002 : Column 1420

    scrapie are highly controversial. As I pointed out in January at Second Reading, the President of the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons said that in this part of the Bill 'many unsupported scientific judgements are made'.

    In any case, it is hard to see how the Government intends to proceed with a Bill that legalizes further mass slaughter when the Royal Society's report recommends that only 'diseased animals, and all those that are known, or very likely, to have been infected by them' be slaughtered. It does not recommend contiguous culling. On the contrary, its view is that 'emergency vaccination should be seen as a major tool of first resort, along with culling of infected premises and known dangerous contacts, for controlling FMD outbreaks'. It seems likely from early reports that the Lessons Learned enquiry will come to a similar conclusion. The Government will be faced with the alternative of ignoring the conclusions of the most eminent scientific body in the country or of abandoning or entirely rewriting the existing animal health Bill. Why, then, press ahead with a Committee stage now?

    The Government has so far ignored all the criticisms made of the Bill in both Houses and by many organisations in the country. Their attitude is not unlike that of Edward Lear's Jumblies who sang:

    'We don't care a button, we don't care a fig

In our sieve we will sail to sea'.

    Clearly, it would be much more sensible for the government to hold over further consideration of these problems until after the summer recess, when they and we will have been able to study and reflect on all three of the relevant enquiry reports (all commissioned by the Government itself) and decide on the best way forward".

That is the end of the remarks of my noble friend Lord Moran. In my opinion, my noble friend makes an eminently sensible proposal. The Minister's Motion asks us to deal first with the scrapie measures. What is the point of us dealing with what amounts to about a third of the Bill before the Summer Recess when it seems likely that the remaining two-thirds will have to be substantially rewritten in the light of various reports?

I would go further than my noble friend. I suggest to the Minister that he dumps this Bill and drafts a completely new one during the Summer Recess—one that takes into account the many recommendations contained in the reports commissioned by Her Majesty's Government following the recent epidemic of foot and mouth disease, and also takes into account the many valid objections to Schedule 2 to the Bill.

I am confident that both the Minister and all noble Lords must see the sense in our having placed before us a Bill that has been carefully drafted and which, with a little luck, will need little amendment, rather than struggle on trying to put some sense into this current defective Bill. The Minister already has more powers than he needs to deal with transmissible spongiform encephalopathies in our livestock. There is therefore no urgency for Schedule 2 to be enacted. I fully recognise the need for strong measures to control animal diseases. However, I want to see good, sound law that is both reasonable and enforceable.

Finally, I am very disturbed by the Minister's apparent discourtesy to my noble friend Lord Moran and to the House. Why did he not consider it necessary to communicate to my noble friend before this Motion was put on the Order Paper? In the light of their importance, why has he not allowed us more time to

18 Jul 2002 : Column 1421

consider the contents of the relevant reports? As noble Lords will have gathered, I wish to oppose this Motion.

Next Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page