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Lord Jopling: To return to the previous point, I, too, intended to rise to ask the Minister the implication of paragraph (b) at the top of page 15:

The noble Lord, Lord Greaves, rose as I did to ask what I had wanted to ask. I do not really understand that paragraph.

I am now trying to give the Minister time to find in his brief what I know from my experience of those with whom I used to work in my department will be there somewhere. I well know Ministers' problem when they are asked something and cannot immediately find it. I am trying to talk until he is ready and indicates to me that he has found in his brief the reference to carriers. I was entirely unaware that it was possible for animals to carry the disease without showing any clinical symptoms. I am surprised that it is possible to identify individual animals that are carriers although they do not show any clinical symptoms. I am beginning to run out of things to say.

Lord Whitty: I am grateful to the noble Lord. Although I can give him some sort of answer, despite his efforts, I am not sure that it will be entirely satisfactory.

One reason for the provision is that, although we may have limited experience of identification of potential carriers, research is at present being carried out in that area. Indeed, I understand that we are

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currently funding a total of 14 projects on the whole dimension of carriers. Inevitably, that is a long-term process. On present knowledge, it appears that infectivity by carriers is low, but we need the results of that research. Should the results of that research point to a particular susceptibility to produce carriers, we clearly want the powers to do something about that. That is what it relates to. It does not relate to specific immediate knowledge, but to the potential outcome if there were latent carriers in the flock.

Lord Jopling: I am grateful to the Minister, and I have no doubt that the noble Lord, Lord Greaves, will have more to say. Our discussion underlines the value of having a document before we return in October that lays out some of the scientific facts, as the noble Lord, Lord Greaves, proposed some time ago. It would be extremely helpful if we knew more about this sort of thing. I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Greaves, will agree with me that it is the sort of thing that ought to go into the document that he proposed.

Lord Greaves: I am sure that I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Jopling; he has been agreeing with me. It is a circular process.

I am still intrigued by the notion of carriers of the disease. Will the Minister tell us how the disease is transmitted from one animal to another? That information is crucial if we are to discuss carriers.

Lord Whitty: With regard to carriers, we reckon that there is a low level of infectivity at the moment. We are trying to establish whether there is a substantial problem with carriers. Until we have completed that research, we will not be able to identify the exact means of transmission. There could be several means of transmission, if carriers are not showing infectivity themselves but have, nevertheless, transmitted the disease in some way. At this point, not only do I not know the answer to that question, but the scientists do not know it.

Lord Greaves: Do they know the answer to the question how the disease is transmitted from an animal that has scrapie and shows all the clinical symptoms to an animal that has not yet got scrapie but might get it?

Lord Whitty: There are several different theories about whether there is spread via horizontal infectivity or via maternal transmission. The exact method of transmission has not been finally proven, as we found with BSE.

The Countess of Mar: Is it not the case that even the infectivity has not yet been proven? The Minister told us about 14 research projects that are trying to prove infectivity. How many research projects are looking into the possibility that the spread might be of environmental origin?

Lord Whitty: I cannot remember how many TSE projects there are, but it is a large number. They are carried out by DEFRA and by Biotechnology and

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Biological Sciences Research Council institutions. Some deal with the environmental dimension, as well as the medical dimension.

The Countess of Mar: I should be delighted if the noble Lord would write to me.

The Duke of Montrose: I thank the Minister for expressing his views on the amendments. I cannot say that I agree with his worry about time delay. In Amendment No. 16, we ask the Government to take out the reference to "more susceptible" elements. That would mean that the Minister could come back, at fairly short notice, with the next most susceptible, if it were a particular worry for him.

I may not be fully up to speed on parliamentary procedure, but I think that the Minister could introduce a statutory instrument that included six or eight levels of susceptibility. We would have the option only of rejecting the whole thing, rather than being able to distinguish between the different levels and the risks involved. In the mean time, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendments Nos. 16 and 17 not moved.]

Lord Livsey of Talgarth moved Amendment No. 18:

    Page 15, line 4, at end insert—

"(c) subject to the guidelines outlined in a national scrapie plan, which shall be drafted by the Minister in consultation with relevant individuals and organisations, and which shall not be made unless laid in draft before, and approved by a resolution of, both Houses of Parliament."

The noble Lord said: I intend to ask the Minister some questions about the national scrapie plan, but, before I do, I shall tell the Committee that I come from a family both sides of which have been involved in sheep farming. I was brought up on a small farm with a sheep flock; I have managed flocks in Wales—flocks of my own—and in Scotland, where I managed flocks of Blackface sheep. So, I know something about the industry. I did not see scrapie until the mid-1950s. It had not been present in our district of Wales, but the methods of sheep breeding changed radically. Scrapie was a horrible thing to observe. It was particularly daunting to have seen it for the first time as a relatively young person. The aim of eradicating scrapie is good and honourable.

I shall ask a question that ought to have been at the forefront of our debate: what status has the national scrapie plan? Should it not be in a Bill concerned with scrapie? We need a strategy for the eventual elimination of scrapie, and a national scrapie plan should, perhaps, be put into statute, given some of the clauses in the Bill and the proposed amendments. Later, I shall speak to Amendment No. 34, which contains ideas that ought to be in a national scrapie plan. I shall not speak on that now.

Should the existing scrapie plan followed by the National Sheep Association and other bodies remain voluntary or should it be mandatory? What is the Minister's view about that? What is the present status

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of the national scrapie plan? After all, we can look back on the elimination of other diseases—notably tuberculosis and contagious abortion—in cattle. Some of those schemes started as voluntary schemes, before going onto statute and helping to eliminate those diseases. However, that took a long time, and it will take us considerable time to get to a scrapie- free national flock. I would like to know the Minister's views.

I have discussed the matter with the secretary of the National Sheep Association, Mr John Thorley. He was anxious that the question be discussed, so that we could see whether the Minister wished to push the scheme further forward.

Baroness Byford: I understand the reasons why the noble Lord, Lord Livsey of Talgarth, has tabled the amendment. However, as I understand it—I may be missing something—the Bill is before the Committee tonight so that we can put in on a mandatory footing. If I misunderstand the reasons behind the noble Lord's amendment, I apologise.

Lord Livsey of Talgarth: I bring it up because the Bill does not state the position clearly. It is implicit that we are discussing the national scrapie plan, but it is not laid down.

Baroness Byford: I thank the noble Lord for that interjection. I understood that the voluntary scheme would continue; I hope that it will. The Government are concerned at the speed of success that the scheme might have.

I shall add a further question to those asked by the noble Lord, Lord Livsey of Talgarth. I accept that the Government wish to make the scheme mandatory and take it forward that way, but I want to know at what point it will become a mandatory scheme. Will the Government leave the voluntary scheme in place for another six months or a year? Do they envisage that the mandatory scheme will kick in straight after the Bill becomes law?

7 p.m.

Lord Carter: I apologise for the fact that I was not in my place for a few moments. Do the words, "and which shall not be made" refer to the scrapie plan or to the order that specifies the genotypes? The drafting is very ambiguous.

Lord Livsey of Talgarth: I would need to consider that. I cannot give an immediate answer.

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