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The Duke of Montrose: I believe that the Minister is talking about scrapie-susceptible genotypes rather than scrapie genotypes.

Lord Whitty: The noble Duke is clearly correct. This approach is based on a quite wide range of science. Although publication of all the science would be difficult, a substantial volume of it has been published in both the UK and worldwide. I refer particularly to SEAC's own 1999 report which dealt with research into and surveillance of TSEs in sheep. The WHO and the OIE—the world animal health organisation—produced a summary of the scientific evidence following a consultation in February 2000. There are also other relevant publications. So there is a substantial range of scientific information. If it would be helpful, I can place in the Library a bibliography of the relevant research.

One of the clear implications of the research is that we may find that some breeds and some areas have a higher proportion of scrapie susceptible sheep than others. That is what has increased the anxiety among some of the rare breed societies and others with sheep with particular features. However, the Bill does not take a uni-dimensional approach. Not only is the overall plan to be developed in conjunction and consultation with all parts of the industry, but the Bill explicitly recognises the possibility of exemption from restrictions that we might have to impose on breeding in certain circumstances. However, one does not have to be too prescriptive at this stage, and orders will follow under this legislation.

We certainly intend to work with the individual breed societies to agree with them realistic timetables for breeding in resistance to TSEs and how their own breed improvement plans relate to the TSE elimination plan. The fact that a breed is rare does not mean that it is incapable of increasing its resistance to TSEs; many breeds are capable. However, if there turn out to be cases in which the survival of the breed is

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threatened and total resistance to scrapie is shown to be wholly impracticable, that would seem to us to constitute an exceptional circumstance. We would need to deal with such cases in conjunction with the breed societies and the industry as a whole. Regardless, we would continue to consult with them and the pedigree groups, and to consult the scientific advice to try to ensure that our approach preserves flocks to which special conditions apply. The principle of a joint approach with the industry runs through both the voluntary plan and the plan which will be strengthened by the provisions in this clause.

I believe that I have dealt at least generally with most of the points. The main point is that this clause is the means of enabling us to deliver the national scrapie plan. It gives teeth to the national scrapie plan and accelerates it. However, not only does it do that in consultation and conjunction with the industry; it takes account of the special circumstances presented by particular breeds, particular areas or particular terrain.

I therefore oppose the contention of the noble Lord, Lord Greaves, that Clause 5 should not stand part of the Bill. However, I thank him for the opportunity of this more general discussion.

The Countess of Mar: If the noble Lord is going to write to us, I would be very grateful if he will do me one more little favour. I have taken off the DEFRA website the incidence of scrapie in Great Britain for January, February, March and April 2002. The numbers are only very small. Perhaps he can let us know where those cases occurred and which breeds of sheep were involved. There were only 113 positive cases in the whole of the United Kingdom. Perhaps the information for England would be sufficient; although the Welsh Members of the Committee might like to see the relevant figures. That information might be interesting and help us to form in our own minds how matters are progressing.

Baroness Byford: I thank the Minister for his comments. He said that 120 million has been put aside, but he did not say how much of that has already been spent or what timeframe it is meant to cover. I appreciate that he may not be able to answer today. If he cannot, I would be grateful if he will write to me and place a copy in the Library.

Lord Whitty: I am happy to undertake to write to the noble Baroness and to place the information in the Library. However, the exact speed and profile of the spend is subject to the speed with which we can introduce the genotyping, particularly during the voluntary stage of the plan. Nevertheless, I confirm that I shall provide what detail I can.

I am happy to see whether it is possible to provide the noble Countess, Lady Mar, with the information that she requested. One of the problems in this whole issue is that the information available suggests that scrapie is a greatly under-reported disease. On one estimate, only one in eight cases is reported. Therefore, given the geographical and breed profiles, information

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on the cases reported might be misleading in terms of actual incidence of the disease. Nevertheless, I shall do what I can to provide that information.

Lord Greaves: I thank the Minister for replying in considerable detail to most of the points that have been raised. I return briefly to two very specific ones. I mentioned the national genotyping scheme for rare breeds, and I asked him how the scheme would fit in with his proposals on future testing and the move towards making the national scrapie plan compulsory rather than voluntary. I should be grateful for a reply on that point.

Secondly, the Minister's response to a request for the science on which all of this is based was to refer us to a series of deeply academic papers, a list of which he will place in the Library. I wonder whether, at the least, he could also tell us what emphasis the Government place on each of those papers. It is a series of academic papers, and they are bound to differ in some respects.

Finally, I refer to a broad question which I do not think that the Minister answered. Why should the same kind of legal framework of compulsion apply to a disease such as scrapie as would apply to a very different disease such as FMD?

Lord Whitty: I apologise for not addressing that point. I believe that the provisions to which the noble Lord refers are those relating to entry and powers of slaughter. The compulsory implementation of the scrapie plan would require powers of slaughter and, were there resistance to those powers, powers of entry. When one is dealing with a disease such as BSE, which is covered by the TSE regulations, or FMD, the powers do not have the same purpose. However, one would still require powers of access and of execution. Therefore, the relevant powers are similar but they have a different purpose.

Lord Greaves: I accept that but in the situation to which I refer the powers would not necessarily require the same speedy timescale. It would be possible to provide a longer period for appeals and discussion in particular cases.

Lord Whitty: That might be the case. However, allowing livestock to breed on a substantial scale in certain circumstances could be detrimental to the achievement of the targets in the national scrapie plan and therefore a degree of speed may be required.

As regards the national genotyping scheme of individual breeds, I thought I had indicated that a genotype identification operation run by the rare breed societies or others would need to be compatible with the national genotyping scheme. The genotyping scheme and the national scrapie plan would also need to be compatible. We should like to discuss that matter with the rare breed societies and with other representative groups.

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I am a little wary of Ministers oversimplifying science. That could get us into serious trouble. However, I shall see whether I can help the noble Lord on that point but I cannot promise to provide the information in the form he has requested.

Clause 5 agreed to.

Schedule 2 [Scrapie]:

Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton moved Amendment No. 11:


    Page 14, line 37, leave out "Minister" and insert "Secretary of State"

The noble Baroness said: In moving Amendment No. 11, I wish to speak also to Amendments Nos. 20, 28, 32, 36, 39, 40, 46, 48, 56, 61, 62, 64, 66 and 91. These are technical amendments reflecting the recent transfer of functions order whereby functions previously carried out by the Minister will be carried out by the Secretary of State. As a result, we need to amend the provisions in the Bill relating to scrapie as well as the foot and mouth disease and other provisions so that powers are now given to the Secretary of State. I beg to move.

6.15 p.m.

Lord Jopling: The old Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food has disappeared before our eyes with relatively little of a whimper. I believe that the Committee will agree that it has as a department been vilified, particularly recently, as being in need of being done away with and amalgamated into the thing that is now called DEFRA. I believe that this is an appropriate moment to make a plea to the noble Baroness to refer a point to the Secretary of State.

I believe that the defamation of MAFF, as I shall call it, is not fair. It ignores the huge contribution MAFF made to Britain's food supplies in the years during and after the war. It does not take account of great Ministers such as Tom Williams, Fred Peart, Tommy Dugdale and others who played a massive part in creating the prosperous state of agriculture that existed only a few years ago.

In the old days there was always a Minister of Agriculture. He was the only member of the Cabinet who did not hold the rank of Secretary of State. In 1983 I became Minister of Agriculture. Lord Peart—our much missed old friend—said to me at that time, "Michael, you won't allow yourself to become a Secretary of State, will you"? I replied, "I am not of a mind to". But, lo and behold, shortly afterwards a note was sent to me from the Cabinet Office stating that it would be much neater and more convenient if the Minister would allow himself to be upgraded to the rank of Secretary of State. It amounted to the Cabinet Office bowing the knee to the great God of uniformity.

I told my officials that we had always historically had a Minister of Agriculture rather than a Secretary of State for Agriculture. They replied that it would be to my advantage to accept the title as I would rise in the rank of precedence. I asked, "What on earth is that"? I cannot remember exactly what they replied, but I say illustratively, "It will put you one peg up after the third

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son of a Marquess". I said that I could think of nothing more irrelevant and stupid than to rise in a rank of precedence of which I had never heard. I also said that the title of Minister of Agriculture had been good enough for everyone in the past.

I hope that the Committee will not consider me too nostalgic when I ask whether it is not too late to return to that historic role. The noble Baroness may say that the Secretary of State now has other duties besides those that were embraced by MAFF. However, it was a fine department. Many of us who served in it were extremely proud of it. I realise that to revert to that title is a case of turning back the clock but I hope that the noble Baroness will be prepared to say to the Secretary of State that it would be a good public relations move if he would allow himself to be demoted with regard to the crazy order of precedence and go back to being Minister of Agriculture. I believe that I am right in saying that a Minister holding such a title would be the only member of the Cabinet not holding the rank of Secretary of State. I believe that such a move would be greatly appreciated by the farming industry. I believe that that industry would prefer to have someone with the title of Minister in charge of their affairs. I understand the purpose of the amendments. The noble Baroness may consider that I am being over sentimental. I apologise if that is the case. However, as I say, such a move would go down well.


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