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Lord Whitty: The noble Baroness recognised that the amendment is wide and touches on many aspects of disease control, prevention and intelligence, many of which are not really appropriate for legislation but are clearly appropriate in the consideration of the reports and the outcome of the way in which the disease was handled last time.
I am proposing that we put within the Billthis is the amendment I shall bring forward on Reporta commitment to contingency planning. However, contingency planning is not as wide as the clause. Contingency planning concerns how we should deal with a disease if it were it to break out. As the noble Lord, Lord Jopling, said, my predecessor departments had contingency plans; indeed, there was a contingency plan for foot and mouth and other diseases. However, it is clear from our experience of foot and mouth disease that we need to upgrade them very significantly and to broaden the range of possible outbreaks from a relatively small number, which was covered by a quite detailed contingency plan, to a situation whereas actually happened60 or so cases occur before we discover the disease. The foot and mouth disease contingency plan we shall produce, and which I wish to see reflected in the Bill, would be a template for contingency plans for other diseases of the kinds referred to by the noble Baroness. So the contingency planning part of that, in process terms at least, would be in the Bill under my amendment.
It would not, however, deal with all the issues of substance referred to by the noble Baroness and many other Members of the Committee. The issue of vaccination is not appropriate for legislation in terms of it being absolutely definitive that we would adopt a vaccination strategy rather than a culling strategy. That proposition is not in any of the reports or in the expected report from Europe. Clearly a very substantial amount of culling will be involved. I do not think that anyone is indicating that we should not cull diseased animals. Very few are suggesting that we do not cull obvious direct contacts with those animals. Where vaccination comes in is as a pre-emptive fire-break or control mechanism whereby we control the spread of the disease beyond those animals identified as diseased or subjected to the disease.
Lord Whitty: I do not disagree with that. The Uruguayan vaccination campaign to control foot and mouth was confined to cattle. The disease that we experienced in the UK was spread almost entirely by sheep and sheep movements. Obviously there are sheep in Uruguay, but the Uruguayans did not include the vaccination of sheepwhich is, of course, much more difficult, particularly with our topographyin their campaign. They were successful in dealing with the outbreak by vaccinating cattle because the disease at that point was still only in cattle and therefore only a relatively small number of diseased animals and those close to them had to be destroyed.
However, we cannot immediately transfer that experience to the British outbreak or any potential future European outbreak. The vaccination science and vaccination operations are not as clear cut as some of the comments made in the debate would suggest. Indeed, as Anderson said, in moving more substantially to vaccination there are hurdles to overcome and the science is not clear, as my noble friend Lord Carter said. Quite apart from that, many farmers and other operators have extreme doubts about adopting the vaccination strategy.
However, we accept the view of the Royal Society and Anderson, and the putative view of the European committee, that we should be prepared to consider vaccination as part of the immediate strategy rather than as a last resort strategy. However, there is no analogue of any control of the disease which is exactly equivalent, or anywhere close to equivalent, of the sheep-carried disease which we dealt with in this country.
There are also the operational difficulties to which I referred in my remarks to the noble Earl, Lord Peel, during a previous intervention. There are issues as to whether vaccinated meat would be acceptable to the trade, both domestically and internationally.
The Earl of Onslow: Can the Minister confirm that at the moment we are importing vaccinated meat into this country and that it is being sold? If that is the case, the scare as to whether people will eat vaccinated meat vanishes in a puff of wind. The Minister is being briefed, so he had better listen.
Lord Whitty: Vaccinated meat which is legally imported into this country has to be subjected to heat treatment. Therefore, that is not the same as saying that all meat can go into the food chain on the same terms. It is not quite the equivalent, although it is certainly true that vaccinated meat is being eaten by British consumers. Vaccination of poultry and other animals is quite frequent. I do not believe British
I make this diversion because some of the issues are too complex and strategic to be reflected in a fairly narrow Bill. If my suggested amendment on Report is accepted, there will be a requirement on the Government to take these matters into consideration in their contingency plan and to lay that contingency plan before Parliament.
That is as far as I can go on this amendment. I cannot accept it as it stands. I understand what the noble Baroness is driving at but I do not think that it is appropriate for this legislation. I hope that the assurances I have given on the issues that have been raised will be accepted by the noble Baroness. As the issue of vaccination will no doubt be returned to at subsequent stages of the debate, I hope that people will understand exactly what is being said and how the Government are dealing with the recommendations of the various inquiries in relation to vaccination.
Lord Peyton of Yeovil: I find that answer slightly disappointing. In moving the amendment my noble friend made it clear that she did not think there was the slightest chance of the Government accepting the amendment. Even with her persuasiveness and charm she was unable to move the immovable object opposite her. I had hopedI do not think it is unreasonablethat in the circumstances that the government amendments are not ready now, the Minister should take advantage of the situation by saying that at least some of the points raised by my noble friend would be incorporated in those amendments. Clearly in their state of unreadiness there is home in them for such good sense.
I particularly mention two points to which the Minister did not referthat is, the three-yearly review of the world-wide incidence of each of the diseases mentioned in Schedule 2A and the resultant recommendation of steps to be taken in the United Kingdom to prevent the incidence of each disease. Both points are important and I should like to hear something about the Government's intentions in regard to them.
I was rather surprised that the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Hereford should allow his optimism to overleap his good nature and say that the Bill had some prospects of ever being made user friendly. That is going far too far beyond the boundaries of reality. I hope that the right reverend Prelate, whose opinions I greatly respect and to a large extent share, will not be so unrealistic in the future.
Before I sit down I should like to say a word about my noble friend Lord Jopling, whom I have known for many years. When I had the misfortune of being the shadow agriculture Minister, he had the misfortune of helping me to avoid mistakes. One does not often see former Ministers going out of their way to express regret and sorrow at not taking a certain sensible course of action. Tonight, my noble friend clearly said how sorry he was that even though he had the good
The Lord Bishop of Hereford: I live in hope, perhaps unrealistically, that the Bill will be ever be user friendly. I detect a degree of convergence. I wonder whether we can lean on the Minister. If there is no prospect in the immediate future of a broader Bill offering many of the provisions that the Committee would like to see, I suggest that it should include a preamble that includes some kind of strategy. The amendment of the noble Baroness, Lady Byford, is headed "Strategy". A strategic prospect is needed, so that people know what the Bill is attempting to do in the context of an overall strategy that is reasonably convincing. Then we can spell out in detail how we shall deal with disease, if and when it breaks out.
I suspect that the Minister is not quite right. I believe that the indications are that the European Union report will be more positive about vaccination than the noble Lord allowed. It may even be the case that science has moved on since Anderson was doing his work. I press the point that if there is time for a further amendment on Report, it could include an element of strategic description. That would be enormously helpful.
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