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The Earl of Onslow: The quotation about the "sinner that repenteth" springs immediately to mind. I must congratulate the Government on coming round to the concept of vaccination. I wish only that they had listened to someone who took five O-levelsI failed historyin 1954 and learnt a fraction of science, which he did not even bother to take at O-level. The money spent on selling Mrs Messenger's cottage so that I could be sent to Eton was almost totally wasted. If I was able to come to the conclusion that I did, which was no great intellectual achievement, surely the clever-clogs in the department and the Government should have been able to reach it too. Other people, much cleverer than I, advocated vaccination. Vaccination was being practised, but, to go back to biblical analogy, there was a certain amount of passing by on the other side.
I shall continue the biblical analogy by saying that we must forgive sinners who repent, and I shall go on to a slightly more difficult problem. The European Commission demanded that a contingency plan should be drawn up to deal with foot and mouth disease: it would appear that that was not done. The Government were warned that type O was rampaging all over the place and that that was likely to happen here too. However many plans we produce, however many strategies we contrive, however many plots we
Every report on foot and mouth disease has been preceded by the words "If only we had paid attention". The report of the noble Lord, Lord Plumb, and the Duke of Northumberland is, I believe, preceded by such a statement. If we do not keep our eye on the ball, it will not matter what is on the statute book. Unless people pay attention to what is happening, things will go on getting worse. Thank goodness we are now considering vaccination. We will never again slaughter God knows how many animals in a blind, ignorant, witchcraft-driven policy.
The more I see of the amendments to the Bill, the more I want to say to the Minister that he should take the Bill away and come back with a proper one next time. I see that he is looking uncomfortable: so he should. He is now grinning because he does not want to admit that he is uncomfortable. We want a proper Bill. I say that to help the Government, not to cause them difficulties. We want the things that my noble friend Lady Byford said were necessary. We want some of the things that the noble Lord, Lord Livsey of Talgarth, mentioned. The Government admit that we want them, but they are all over the place. The changes will come in on Report and at Third Reading but, because the Bill will have been half-chewed in this House, it will have to go back to another place, where they will not have time to do what is needed. That is a crazy way to legislate.
The Countess of Mar: I listened to the noble Baroness, Lady Byford, explaining why she wanted the amendment. As she went through each point, I thought, "I do that already". As a food producer, I am required to have a system of hazard assessment and critical control points. I must account for everything that I do in my cheese making. That is precisely what the noble Baroness is asking the Government to do. It is a good idea. If the Minister will not accept the amendment, he should seriously consider tabling a more refined one. The noble Baroness is to be congratulated on tabling her amendment.
While I, from this Bench, welcome repentant sinners, I am not sure that the noble Earl is right in believing that this particular repentance could have taken place in 1954. I suspect that only this summer has it become clear that it is possible to distinguish between vaccinated and infected animals. That is the critical difference, so it is a last-minute repentance and we cannot blame the Government for not having repented sooner.
Lord Livsey of Talgarth: This is a well-informed debate and I agree with the right reverend Prelate the Lord Bishop of Hereford that the provision requires more force. I congratulate the noble Baroness, Lady Byford, on a well-researched amendment. It is very detailed and it needs to be in order to be effective. Emergency vaccination is important and where possible the animals should live.
I commend in particular the noble Baroness's remarks about local knowledge. It is vital. In 2001, I was greatly distressed by the fact that local knowledge was completely overridden. People who knew a great deal about their localityabout how much livestock were here, there and everywhere elsewere not consulted. That included myself and I forced myself on to the scene at one point because I was so distressed about what was happening. Local knowledge is vital and the proposals in the amendment and the strategy are to be commended. If the amendment is not acceptable to the Minister, it has provided a great deal of food for thought. If necessary, perhaps he can produce an equally detailed amendment covering the same points but drafted differently.
Lord Carter: I want to make two brief points. I do not have the Anderson report in front of me, but I am sure that it mentioned vaccination and that the science is still uncertain and unclear. Perhaps the Minister can tell the Committee about the latest state of the scientific play as regards vaccination. I am sure that all Members of the Committee will agree that to embark on a vaccination policy before the science is clear might be as dangerous as the previous situation
The Earl of Onslow: I believe that the Anderson report refers to the situation in Uruguay where there was a similar outbreak. They vaccinated and slaughtered only 10,000 cattle. It started earlier and ended earlier and they vaccinated to slaughter. The science of vaccination is sound and has been applied
Lord Jopling: I share the implied view of the noble Lord, Lord Carter, and would be reluctant to accept the vaccination strategy until the science is clear. I have always been dissuaded from embracing the concept of vaccination until I am sure that it is clear and my recollection is similar to that of the noble Lord's.
For the second time today, I was struck by the remarks of the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Hereford, who was not in his place when I spoke earlier. Previously today he dazzled us with his scholastic knowledge of Greek and he has dazzled us again with his infinite good sense. As I said to the Chamber previously, it is a pity that he did not become the Archbishop of Canterbury.
I turn to the points in the proposed new clause which deal with contingency plans for the stated diseases. Perhaps I may detain the Committee for a few moments by speaking of contingency plans through the eyes of one who between 15 and 19 years ago had the honour of being responsible for them. I want to repeat what I said to the House about 18 months ago.
When I was responsible for such plans, there were three or more scaresI forget preciselythat an outbreak of foot and mouth disease was suspected in the country. Happily, on each occasion it was a false alarm. However, I remember asking officials on each occasion whether they were absolutely sure that in the event of a scare becoming a reality the department was utterly prepared with a contingency plan which followed in close terms the report of the Northumberland committee of 1967. On each occasion, I asked officials to review whether the plan was ready to go if the worst happened. On each occasion, I was told, "Yes, we have looked into it and the contingency plan is ready to move into action". I am sure that that was right and I have no reason to suppose that it was not.
However, there is no doubt that in the intervening 16 years eyes went off the ball. The proposed new clause suggests that the contingency plan for each disease should be identified; that the plan should be published; and that there should be annual testing of the plan. Looking back, 15 to 19 years ago, I must tell the Committee that I wish I had insisted on something similar. I asked the question which needed to be asked
Like other Members of the Committee, I hope that if the Minister is unable to accept the new clausemy noble friend suggested that she would not be surprised if that were sohe will try to write into the Bill provisions which in the same terms will deal with contingency plans. The old phrase that time spent on reconnaissance is rarely wasted is extremely appropriate in this case.
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