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Lord Livsey of Talgarth: My Lords, I have great sympathy with the noble Baroness, Lady Byford, and the noble Lord, Lord Moran, who spoke with a great deal of wisdom and raised a number of important points. I thank the Minister for accepting our amendment on imports, for which we are most grateful.

It has been extremely difficult, if not impossible, to discuss the issues so I welcome the opportunity provided by the Statement to make a few comments. I cannot see how we can address a contingency plan adequately with no amendment before us. Nor is there any amendment on a new preventive slaughter policy, when the policy adopted in 2001 was so controversial.

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Indeed, we await a disease slaughter control. Vaccination is a crucial aspect and one that caused frenetic debate at all levels during the 2001 outbreak. I echo the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Moran, that the EU will tackle many of the issues within one month. There is also a report from the European Parliament on the British Government's conduct in 2001.

All those factors could contribute greatly to a far better Bill. I have reluctantly reached the conclusion that the department requires additional legislation in case of another outbreak before a new Act is in place. I view the Bill as interim legislation to cope with that situation but down the line much more comprehensive legislation will be required to ensure that our law is contiguous with that of the European Union. The points made by the noble Baroness and the noble Lord could be taken into account to produce eventually a good Bill and Act. If the Minister's intention is that the Bill should serve as an interim measure, he should make that clearer than he has done.

Lord Carter: My Lords, we should remember that the Marshalled List contains 320 amendments. Every subject that noble Lords, quite correctly, want to discuss in Committee is there. We can debate the contingency plan in dealing with Amendment No. 99. We can debate strategy in relation to Amendment No. 103A, vaccination in relation to Amendment No. 268, and the European Union report in relation to Amendment No. 316. The House is not being denied the chance to debate these matters in full and hear the Government's response.

The Government—unusually—have already said what they intend to do. The discussion in Committee will inform the drafting which the Government now say they will bring forward on Report. The situation has been extremely unusual. As a result of the way in which the Bill has been handled in this House the Government have already had the chance, before the House goes into Committee, to indicate their thinking on the various issues. We have seen the letter that has been sent out and some amendments have been proposed. So the Government have indicated their thinking. We can debate all the various issues in Committee, hear the Government's response and possibly improve the Government's thinking. Then, in the normal way, the Government will bring forward amendments at a later stage. That is entirely normal.

Earl Peel: My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Carter, is right. That is the normal way to proceed. But the Minister has in effect just delivered a Second Reading speech at Committee stage, so we do not find ourselves, as it were, in the normal mode of procedure. The Minister wrote to many of us who are involved with the Bill, and I was grateful to receive his letter. But the noble Lord has raised important issues. Some clarity is required. Before we can proceed, we need to know what is happening.

On the question of vaccination, has new information come to light during the course of the summer which will have a bearing on the way in which

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this House will determine the outcome of the Bill? With the leave of the House, I should like to raise two specific questions on vaccination.

First, is it the Government's intention that compensation will be payable for animals which are vaccinated and not slaughtered? As matters stand, such animals may not necessarily be allowed to enter the food chain. It seems a gross injustice if an animal can be vaccinated, not be allowed into the food chain and not be compensated for. I should be grateful if the Minister would give the House a clear indication of what would happen in that case.

Secondly, in the letter that the Minister kindly circulated to us, he refers to the most appropriate strategy in any future outbreak. It is perfectly clear to me that the most appropriate strategy will be to try to find a system of accurately testing suspected livestock within as short a period as possible, thus ensuring that hundreds of thousands of animals are not slaughtered unnecessarily and that farmers' livelihoods are protected. Before the Summer Recess, it was my knowledge that such a system was not in place. But do I gather from the remarks of the noble Lord, Lord Moran, that matters have changed? If that is the case, the situation is very different and there should be incorporated within legislation a clause that makes effective testing mandatory before any culling can take place. If that is done, the farmer concerned can be satisfied that his stock have in fact contracted a particular disease, matters will be above board and everyone will be clear as to what is going on. Will the Minister be kind enough to tell the House whether that is now the situation? If so, it is very different from what it was when we discussed the Bill previously.

4.15 p.m.

The Countess of Mar: My Lords, I support the remarks of my noble friend Lord Moran. His wisdom, as always, should be listened to. The situation is fluid, as he and other speakers have made clear. I am concerned that we shall be discussing legislation that will be out of date in six months' time.

I recognise the Minister's need to be able to deal quickly with an outbreak of disease. He can probably have the assurance of most people in the farming industry who have been involved with the recent foot and mouth outbreak that they will have the support of the farmers whose animals are involved. I do not think that there is any doubt about that. However, the Minister needs to reassure us that the measures to be taken are not over the top.

The Minister may have heard a programme on Radio 4 on Friday or Saturday on which a Mrs Morris from my locality, Worcester, spoke about the numbers of animals that were killed unnecessarily because they were regarded as contiguous to animals that were not infected at all. We need to bring into legislation the new rapid diagnostic tests and all the differences in terms of vaccination—whether the vaccinated animals will be killed or whether they will live and possibly enter the food chain. There needs to be an exercise in

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public education. People need to understand that most of the animals that they eat now have already been vaccinated against a number of diseases and that we suffer no problems as a result.

So I have all kinds of concerns about the Bill. My own preference is to wait and see what the EU comes up with, then to introduce a Bill dealing with all those matters in one go, properly, at our leisure. The noble Lord should trust the farmers. Incidentally, he made a blanket reference to farmers. Most of the severe problems arose in relation to dealers. There is a need to distinguish in legislation between what I call proper farmers, and dealers. I should be grateful if the Minister would give that some thought.

The Lord Bishop of Hereford: My Lords, notwithstanding what the noble Lord, Lord Carter, said, we are in an unusual position in debating these matters at Committee stage. I agree with the remarks of the noble Countess and the noble Earl, Lord Peel.

It is appropriate that we should consider in general terms why we are where we are in relation to the Bill at this stage. Most of us hoped that we should not be at this stage. At Second Reading in January, most of us criticised the Bill sharply. A great deal of time has elapsed since then and there has been a great deal of change, not least in the science of vaccination. Major reports have been published and others are pending. The European Union report is to be published shortly, and there is the Government's definitive response to their own inquiry reports. It seems extraordinary that we should be pursuing detailed Committee points on parts of the Bill when we still do not know what amendments the Government propose to bring forward on some critical and important matters.

We have just had an extended debate on the Nationality, Immigration and Asylum Bill and on the extraordinary procedural difficulties that we are in as a result of having substantive amendments moved on Report when the issues involved ought to have been discussed at Second Reading or at the very least in Committee. It places the House in an extraordinary position in trying to tackle important issues.

Because so many criticisms were levelled at this Bill at Second Reading, I believe that most noble Lords expected far more radical changes to be made by the Government. I echo what has been said in gratitude to the noble Lord, Lord Whitty, for his kindness in writing to me and in sending in advance a copy of the essence of his Statement. I want to express gratitude for some of the government amendments which have met some of the criticisms that were made in the course of the Second Reading debate and the debate in March. However, I still feel that this is a deeply defective Bill.

Were I a theologian—I hesitate to claim that title—I would say that this is a sinful Bill, giving the word "sin" its proper root meaning. Every student of elementary New Testament Greek is told that the word "sin" comes from a word in classical Greek which does not mean "doing a bad thing"—that is the wide misunderstanding of sin—but which means "missing

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the mark". Thucydides refers to people throwing a spear or shooting an arrow and missing the target. There is reference to someone who takes the wrong turning on a journey. That is "sin". It is making a mistake of that kind, falling short of what you should be aiming at. In Plato and Aristotle the word has come to mean "an error of judgment". By any standard, this Bill misses the mark, falls short of where it should have gone, takes many wrong turns and fails to address a great many of the issues which were extremely pressing at the end of the foot and mouth outbreak this time last year.

One can imagine what was going on in DEFRA this time last year: an attitude of despair, total bewilderment and perplexity. The outbreak had been a disaster and its handling had been a catastrophe. There were various targets which could have been addressed by new legislation, in particular illegal meat imports. We still await action on that. If we simply debate the amendments we shall not have a serious debate about how we control illegal meat imports.

I returned twice to an airport in this country during the summer Recess. I had absolutely no indication that anyone minded what I brought with me. There was no notice, no questions, no sniffer dogs—nothing. The NFU survey of 10,000 people returning to this country produced exactly the same result. Ninety-nine per cent of those people did not know about it. I looked for it. It is not in this Bill. It may be that we shall have the promise of further amendments at Report stage, but is that good enough?

Are proper information systems in place? There was such confusion over this matter during the outbreak. Have we the opportunity to debate that during the course of this Committee stage? The State Veterinary Service was dismantled by the previous Conservative government in the 1980s. That service needs to be rebuilt. There should be adequate contingency plans which are rehearsed and practised regularly.

We may have the chance to touch on some of these matters as we debate the amendments. But the fact of the matter is that, as several noble Lords have said, we need comprehensive, new legislation which goes to the root of all these issues and not simply to look at one aspect of one part of the solution to the problem, which is how we deal with an outbreak through culling or vaccination. I welcome the references to vaccination which have crept into these amendments, but I hope that there will be vaccination to live and only in exceptional cases would there be vaccination to slaughter.

We really do need new legislation. We need to go back to the drawing board and to produce a comprehensive Bill which will win the enthusiastic support of the farming and livestock industry. I am very worried that if we pursue this debate at this stage of the Committee proceedings on a limited number of amendments, we do so knowing that the farming community is deeply hostile to what is going on and still does not believe that the Government understand the position and the problems which farmers face and the despair which affects so many of them. The 407,000

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people who took part in the march cannot have been wrong. Many agendas were running on that particular day. I fervently wish that we could be addressing more of those questions than simply the small number which will arise during this Committee stage.

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