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Lord Jopling: If the Minister says that he wants to be flexible, surely, in practice, he wants to be able to cover a relatively small number, perhaps a larger number, the entire flock of sheep or a whole range of breeds of sheep. If he wants to be flexible, surely it would be better—I shall not try to draft on my feet—to change the Bill so that it recorded the genotypes of individual

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or specific numbers or total flocks of sheep. Surely it would be far more sensible to write that into the Bill so that it was clear that the Bill could refer to an individual, a limited number or the entire flock or breed, or whatever was required. I do not believe that anyone would argue with the Government's desire to be flexible over this matter. But surely it would be better to write that on to the face of the Bill.

The Countess of Mar: Surely the sheep in a flock will not all be of the same genotype. There will be different sheep with different genotypes. Each sheep will be identified by its bolus and we shall need to know what its genotype is. Perhaps there could be one certificate with the individual sheep on it. That may be the way to deal with the matter.

The Duke of Montrose: I want to return to this matter. My understanding of the way in which the Bill is developing is that the Government may well find that they have to apply a bolus to every sheep in the country. Perhaps the Minister can tell us whether he intends that, if a flock has, say, a highly susceptible resistance level of more than 50 per cent, the remainder will not be tested. We should like to think that all the sheep will be tested and, as such, they will all be given a bolus.

I wonder whether the Minister has given thought as to the cost of the testing. Compared with that, the cost of giving each sheep a certificate will be minimal. It could be arranged in the way that my noble friend Lord Jopling suggested, whereby sheep of a similar genotype could perhaps all be itemised on one certificate but the flock might have several certificates because they might have several genotypes. However, I believe that we need to consider how the testing will be carried out. We need to ensure that the Bill provides for the ability for sheep to be treated individually. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Baroness Byford moved Amendment No. 24:

    Page 15, line 23, at end insert—

"(e) require the Minister to defray any costs of the keeper in respect of the identification and testing of any sheep"

The noble Baroness said: In moving Amendment No. 24, I shall speak also to Amendment No. 25. Here, we return to the question of covering costs. Whatever plans the Government have—obviously we support the eradication of scrapie—it adds a cost either to the Government or to the individual owner of the sheep.

Surely not many people in this country are unaware of how little the average sheep farmer receives for his lambs. Few are ignorant of the frighteningly low incomes of those whose main activity is sheep rearing. Approximately 300 to 500 scrapie cases are reported each year. Some will be missed, and perhaps some animals die of other things before an outbreak of scrapie becomes obvious. Perhaps some sheep with the disease will be dispersed and therefore will not be identified.

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Nevertheless, if one was being over-ambitious, let us say that it is unlikely that there would be more than 5,000 cases in a year. Whether the number is 500, which is still high, or even 5,000, that is not a huge proportion of the total flock of adult sheep of between 24 million and 40 million. I believe that the cost of the testing and identification programme beyond that already called for by the order implementing EC directive 92/102 should be met by the Government.

That is even more important when one considers the work of the Institute of Rural Studies, University of Wales, which I quoted earlier. That body has warned that it estimates that the electronic tagging of sheep will cost in the region of 6,000 to 7,000 for a flock of 1,000 ewes. In addition, it believes that the cost of tagging small flocks will be proportionately more to the point where it may be cheaper to slaughter than to continue farming the animals.

Because of a theoretical risk of scrapie or BSE—perhaps I should say "OSE", ovine spongiform encephalopathy—it would be appalling and the height of nonsense if wholesale slaughter were to result from the specification of yet another identification system paid for by the farmer. In Amendment No. 25, we are trying to ensure that the Minister will defray the costs of the keeper in respect of those expenses. Again, the Welsh Institute of Rural Studies has calculated the cost of electronic tagging, to which I have already referred.

It has been pointed out that smaller farmers will be disproportionately affected. Rather than see some of our small sheep farmers go out of business—they are hugely important, particularly in hostile areas of the countryside where the wind, the rain and the general welfare of the climate is not conducive to anything else—we believe that the Government should meet the costs above a set amount. Amendments Nos. 24 and 25 seek to do two different things. Amendment No. 24 asks the Government to defray all costs. Failing that, the Government should pay the costs above a set amount. I beg to move.

9 p.m.

The Countess of Mar: Did I not hear the noble Baroness, Lady Farrington, confirm that the Government would accept the costs for identifying the sheep? If that is the case, these amendments are unnecessary.

Lord Livsey of Talgarth: I support the amendment of the noble Baroness, Lady Byford. I believe that, in particular, electronic tagging will be expensive, as indeed my former employer, the Welsh Institute, has concluded. It is important that these costs are defrayed. They impose a considerable additional cost on sheep farmers. It is in the Government's interests to ensure that these sheep are tagged.

Lord Whitty: The noble Countess, Lady Mar, correctly heard my noble friend Lady Farrington. The initial sampling, the identification of the animal by the inspectors, to the insertion of the bolus device will be paid for by the Government. That is under the

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voluntary plan. Those costs will be met. I am not sure whether there were other costs implied by the amendment; for example, records and providing assistance to inspectors and so on. Those are fairly minimal costs. It is reasonable that the keepers should meet them. The big costs will be met by the Government under the scheme.

Baroness Byford: I am grateful to the Minister. I am grateful also to the noble Countess, Lady Mar, for raising the fact that the noble Baroness, Lady Farrington, had earlier indicated that the Government would pick up the costs.

I return to two matters. First, we have just had a debate on the amendment about sheep in the singular and sheep in the plural. I shall give the Minister a chance to say again whether this will happen to every sheep. The cost of every sheep rather than certain sheep out of flocks would have huge implications.

Secondly, the scheme refers just to the voluntary scheme. If it becomes mandatory that the Government find out this information, they will need to take samples from individual sheep within the whole flock. The cost would be very different from that which is currently being borne by the voluntary scheme. Perhaps the Minister can clarify that issue for me.

Lord Whitty: The cost of testing and inserting the bolus relates to every individual sheep which is genotyped. That cost will be met by the Government. At what point it becomes universal for all sheep is some way down the line. But the cost is for every sheep that is genotyped. It is not a certificate or a provision that can be shifted from being a flock to the individual sheep. So far as concerns meeting the costs, there is no difference between the voluntary scheme and the mandatory scheme.

Baroness Byford: I must be getting a little confused. Currently, the noble Countess, Lady Mar, is involved in the system dealing with scrapie in the national sheep flock. The Minister gave us the figures for the number of sheep farmers involved in that, which is small. If that is, say, 10 per cent of all the sheep in the UK and the Government are meeting the cost, if it becomes mandatory will the Government be carrying the cost for the 20 million sheep?

Lord Whitty: The plan depends on the selection of genotyping. For every sheep that is genotyped, the Government will meet the cost.

Baroness Byford: I am grateful for that answer. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendment No. 25 not moved.]

The Duke of Montrose moved Amendment No. 26:

    Page 15, line 25, leave out "it appears to the Minister" and insert "genotype testing has established"

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The noble Duke said: In moving Amendment No. 26, I shall speak also to Amendments Nos. 37 and 38. First, I apologise that there is a typographical error in Amendment No. 26. Where it says,

    "has been established",

it should read,

    "has established".

"Has been" does not make sense.

I have been unhappy with the wording in the clause. The Minister's actions under the clause are based on what we hope—and what the Minister has told us—is accurate, not to mention complex, scientific research. To juxtapose that with the phrase,

    "it appears to the Minister",

is inappropriate. The amendment ensures that decisions are made on the basis of scientific evidence rather than how the facts "appear" to the Minister. I beg to move.

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