|Previous Section||Back to Table of Contents||Lords Hansard Home Page|
The Countess of Mar: The noble Lord's amendment does not cut out the 21-day period; it remains in place. The amendment says only where the appeal should be brought. Nor do the two other amendments alter the time within which an appeal can be brought. I cannot understandperhaps the noble Lord does not understandwhat the amendment is about.
Lord Jopling: I agree with what the noble Countess, Lady Mar, has just said and with what the noble Lord, Lord Greaves, said, although that is not really what I rose to say. I think it was the noble Lord, Lord Greaves, who asked the Minister to say who the assessor is likely to be. I am a little uncertain as to who would best be qualified to act as an assessor. These are very technical matters that are not suitable to be dealt with by an agricultural valuer. My father was an agricultural valuer and knew a good deal about agricultural law and other matters. However, with great respect to him, his training was not greatly suited to deal with matters of this kind. Would it be a vetI suppose one might say that a vet would be the most appropriate personor would some kind of academic be the professional assessor? I cannot believe that that point is not dealt with in the Minister's brief.
As we are now moving to new Section 36D of the Bill, dealing with appeals, we should first identify in our own minds for our subsequent debates exactly who the assessor will be. A good deal will depend on the training and expertise of the people who Ministers would appoint as assessors. I do not believe that members of the panel of agricultural arbitrators, who generally are valuers or land agents, are the most suitable people to act as assessors. I hope that the Minister can help us about that. It will be very difficult to continue to debate how appeals will be organised if we do not know what kind of person is to be the assessor.
Lord Whitty: The assessor could be anyone with experience of tribunals. This is not a question of veterinary knowledge. It is a question of fact, one way or another, on the basis of objective tests and on the basis of whether the requirements of notices have been complied with.
I have already made an offer to the noble Lord, Lord Plumb, to set out in writing how we intend that the appeals process should operate. In that context, it may also be helpful to include some sentences about how the assessors will be appointed and the range of people who may be considered as assessors.
So far as the timetable is concerned, depending on which amendments are taken, it leaves a requirement to serve a notice of appeal, but not the grounds of the appeal, and the details that we would expect the assessor to consider. That can be an open-ended process.
The Countess of Mar: Will the Minister consider changing the word "assessor"? He mentioned tribunals. In other contexts, we are used to hearing the word "adjudicator" rather than "assessor". Assessors are slightly different. I believe that "adjudicator" would be a better word to use, and it is well understood in the appeals system.
Lord Jopling: The Minister's reply was helpful in that it begins to take us forward. The noble Lord said that he will prepare notes. Perhaps I may put on record the thought that very few of the people who are used to working as assessors or arbitrators in tribunals would not necessarily have the expertise to deal with cases such as these, which in many instances will need an assessor with some rudimentary experience and knowledge of genetics.
The system of making orders under the Bill demands a knowledge of genetics and genetic testing. Most people I have come across in arbitrations and tribunals do not have the foggiest idea about genetics. It would be totally absurd to appoint an assessor who had no training whatever in genetics and did not understand what a genotype was.
The Countess of Mar: Perhaps I can put the noble Lord's mind at rest. Wearing another hat, I am a member of the Immigration Appeals Tribunal. I have been trained in my work as a member of that body and I am sure that the Minister would not appoint someone who did not know what he was talking about. I am sure that the Minister will reassure us.
Baroness Byford: The word "assessor" needs careful consideration. I am surprised that having reached this stage of the Bill after many months not a great deal of thought has been given to this section of it.
Amendments Nos. 54 and 55 are consequential to changing "require" to "specify that". They propose leaving out the word "to" in the following two lines. Communication can take place in many ways and the fact that it has been received can be ascertained. Either someone delivers the item in person or the post will record that the item has been delivered and received. Simply being "given" is not satisfactory. I beg to move.
Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton: I am afraid that we cannot accept these amendments. They appear to add transparency to the appeals procedure but in fact they have the opposite effect. They would weaken the appeals mechanism by removing the assessor's ability to require that further sampling is undertaken, or that a different testing laboratory should undertake further genotype testing.
The Duke of Montrose: I thank the noble Baroness for her explanation. I had thought that a legal meaning might be involved. We do not wish to weaken the approach. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
I seek to make the provision more robust. The amendment changes "may" to "shall". We believe that the Minister must make regulations governing the procedure to be used for appeal. It follows, therefore, that he shall supplement the provisions of this section and shall make provisions as to the procedure. From earlier debates, I begin to wonder whether the Government have taken that on board. As it will not always be necessary to extend the period, the word "may" is still appropriate for paragraph (b) and, unless I can persuade noble Lords opposite to leave them out, subsection (8)(c) and (d).
On Amendment No. 60, in general I am opposed to charging farmers for taking samples and running tests where the need to do so is in response to a theoretical risk. We are back to where we started some hours ago. As Members of the Committee have said many times, farmers want to eradicate scrapie if that can be done to a reasonable time-scale and at reasonable cost. In other words, I believe that they will co-operate. It is not unreasonable, therefore, for them to pay for a further test if necessary. The proof is that the test proves positive. Other noble Lords may not agree. I observe that the taking of samples and the running of tests is not always error free. It is not fair that the farming community should bear the total cost.
The amendments change "may" to "shall" because we believe that the matter should not be left to a judgment. It should be the responsibility of the Government. On Amendment No. 60, the appellant would not have to accept further costs where the tests were negative. I beg to move.
On Amendment No. 57, as currently drafted the Bill already provides for the application of regulations to supplement the appeals procedure. An obligation to enshrine the whole appeals process in regulation at this point in time would remove our flexibility to set out appropriate procedures in regulations when and if the scrapie provisions are implemented. Therefore, we believe that the amendment is unnecessary.
On Amendment No. 58, as currently drafted the Bill provides for the discretionary application of regulations to supplement the appeals procedure. To include the provisions at subsection (8)(a) to (d) in regulations would be too restrictive. It would also mean having to include provisions requiring the applicants to meet reasonable costs of further sampling following an appeal which under the present wording is discretionary. Therefore, we would not wish to accept the amendment.
With regard to Amendment No. 60, the Bill allows us to recover costs related to re-sampling and testing but we would decide on this, depending on the circumstances. I should explain that we envisage invoking this only where further sampling and testing confirm the validity of the original sample and test. I think that that answers the point raised by the noble Countess, Lady Mar. The department will be responsible for bearing the costs of re-sampling as part of the appeals process in the first instance. This amendment is therefore unnecessary as the appellant would not incur costs if the re-sample was negative; that is to say, was different from the original test.
I hope that that explanation has helped to clarify the position for the noble Countess. If, on reflection, she feels that she needs further information on the specific point raised, I shall be delighted to write to her.
Back to Table of Contents
Lords Hansard Home Page