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The Countess of Mar: The Minister already knows of my objections to the TSE regulations because I made my position very clear a couple of months ago. I agree with the noble Baroness, Lady Byford. First, however, I should declare my interests as the wife of a small farmer and as a specialist cheese maker rather than as a specialist "goats disease maker".
The noble Baroness, Lady Byford, made it very clear that she is susceptible to heart disease but that she is not suspected of having heart disease. We really need some clarification from the Minister on this point. I support the noble Baroness as regards the other amendments that she has tabled under this grouping.
Lord Livsey of Talgarth: I also support what the noble Baroness, Lady Byford, said in relation to the description that clearly ought to relate to the word "scrapie". It is far clearer; indeed, the farming community knows precisely what is meant by "scrapie". In the interests of clarity, it is well worth supporting the need for changing the wording.
I agree with the remarks just made by the noble Countess, Lady Mar, about the use of the word "suspect" instead of "susceptibility". I am sure that that is the correct way to proceed. The noble Baroness, Lady Byford, quoted and prayed in aid EU legislation, which refers to suspect cases.
I should like to refer to a few of the other amendments in this group, particularly Amendment No. 5. During the foot and mouth outbreak, it was certainly my impression that one of the Minister's right honourable friends in the other place said that meat and bonemeal would be banned in relation to the feeding of certain types of livestock, especially meat and bonemeal that originated from sheep. Can the noble Lord give the Committee a clear statement as regards the feeding of meat and bonemeal to ruminant animals?
Certain points have been made about computers and the information they provide, which does not actually relate to livestock matters and other farming issues. Surely it must be correct that none of that other information should be removed, especially now that there is terrific diversification of activities on farms through necessity as a means of earning income other than through farming. At present, many farms earn more than 50 per cent of their income from other sources and use information technology a good deal in order to do so. I do not propose to make a "meal" of all these amendments. I merely wished to make those points.
The Earl of Erroll: On the issue of the use of the word "susceptible" or "suspect", I notice that new Section 36A to the 1981 Act, as set out under Schedule 2 to the Bill, refers to the power of the Minister to "specify sheep genotypes", and says:
It seems to me that the use of English is rather like my experience with my English teacher, who hated my saying "nearly unique" or "almost unique". Because it is a matter of degree and because there can be nothing that is not to some degree susceptible under certain conditions, I suspect that you cannot possibly use the word in a case like this where we are dealing with legal language.
Being an IT man, I should like to make a quick comment on the removal of computers. I have not read the provision in this respect, but it is very dangerous to remove people's computers along with the data. Nowadays one is reliant on e-mails and on the Internet for marketing data, and so on. It is very easy to take an image of a disk drive and remove the data on the computer, and thereby leave the user with the computer and the other information. There are programmes like Drive Image that will do that quite simply and easily. I do not see why modern technology cannot be used to solve the problem.
Lord Whitty: Not for the first time this afternoon I rather wish that this Chamber had slightly tighter rules of order. I believe that the amendments that have been tabled in the name of the noble Baroness, Lady Byford, relate to a matter that is not before the Committee. The amendments relate to the TSE regulations, which have been passed by this place subject to an amendment proposed by the noble Lord, Lord Livsey. That amendment may lead to our producing further statutory instruments, but the matter is not before the Committee today.
Those regulations, which are not before the Committee, have two purposes. It is not as if there is overlap between the two arrangements. First, the TSE regulations tackle the actual occurrence of a disease in individual animalsa "suspect" animal in that senseand, secondly, they provide for a major, active surveillance programme in line with our EU obligations in order to generate important epidemiological information on the disease. That entails dealing with "susceptible" animals. But those two processes are contained within the TSE regulations; they are not in the part of the Bill now before us.
The Countess of Mar: Perhaps I may make the point that neither the Animal Health Act 1981 nor the Magistrates' Courts Act 1980 are before the Committee this afternoon, yet this Bill contains references to both Acts. There is no reason why we should not amend other legislation through this Bill.
If we are talking about the TSE regulations, I should remind the Committee that we had a pretty lengthy debate on the subject a week or so ago. Those regulations deal with something different from the
The Bill deals with something quite different: it deals with genotyping sheep and developing resistance to disease, which is not covered in the TSE regulations. There is no reference in those regulations to the national scrapie plan, which is the basis of this part of the Bill
Lord Lucas: Surely we have a process in this Chamber whereby amendments are approved by the Clerks. Therefore, if an amendment has been accepted by the Clerks, it ought to be dealt with in Committee. I am sure that the former Chief Whip, who is more of an expert on such matters than I am, will contradict me if I am wrong. However, if an amendment has been allowed, surely it should be debated.
To pass these amendments, or anything like them, would completely skew this part of the Bill and lead us away from what is a very focused topic; namely, the accelerated delivery of the national scrapie plan. That is the objective of this part of the Bill, and it has the support of the bulk of the industry. There may be differences in detail, or about time-scale, and so on, but the need to eradicate scrapie from the national sheep flock is acknowledged throughout the industry.
I turn to the surveillance required by the EU regulations, which is dealt with under the TSE regulations. If we were to pass some of the amendments in this group, we would not be complying with those regulations. However, as I said, they are not the focus of this part of the Bill. Therefore, I hope that the noble Baroness will not pursue her amendments in that context.
As to the amendments in this group relating to feed that the noble Baroness feels might be taking us a little further than is applicable under this part of the Bill, again, these fall under the TSE regulations. Indeed, if we were to alter the latter in this somewhat tangential way, we would also find ourselves in some difficulty as regards being in compliance with the EU regulations. However, I understand that the noble Baroness recognises that fact. I trust that these amendments will not be pursued because they would exceed the Bill's purpose and lead us into other difficulties in terms of transposition of EU regulations.
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