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Lord Peyton of Yeovil: Although I normally support my noble friend with enthusiasm and salute the charm with which she speaks to amendments, on this occasion I think she has got things a little wrong. It is surely unreasonable of her, on this day of all days, with the experience of the past three or four hours to guide her, to expect that the Minister will clarify the Government's intentions. That would be asking him to exercise miraculous powers, which he does not have. The Bill has proved beyond all shadow of doubt that

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the Government's intentions are immune to clarification, even by such a genius as the Minister on the Front Bench.

My Amendment No. 116 is distressingly simple and for that reason is bound to fail. No one would dispute that the fact that animals are affected with foot and mouth disease or are suspected of being so affected is a material fact. Nor would anybody doubt that the fact that animals have been in contact with others so affected is also a material fact. The same applies to those that have been exposed to infection or treated with vaccine against foot and mouth disease. These are all clearly relevant material facts. The Bill says that it does not matter whether they are material.

That heightens my concern about the level and quality of the Minister's thinking, which is referred to in paragraph (c) inserted by subsection (2). I hope that the Minister will attempt to clarify this extraordinary situation in which the Government are suggesting that, at the stroke of a pen, Parliament can make material facts immaterial, or at least can decide that it does not matter whether they are material.

7.15 p.m.

Lord Livsey of Talgarth: Subsection (2) inserts:

    "any animals the Minister thinks should be slaughtered with a view to preventing the spread of foot-and-mouth disease".

That raises some key issues. Amendment No. 111 is particularly important, because it exposes the vexatious issue of the contiguous cull, which caused enormous problems in 2001. I spent a fortnight trying to protect a herd of British Friesians, which are becoming increasingly rare. They were inside a property, not out on the farm, and there was a contiguous cull on the neighbouring farm. We can all quote examples of that. After a fortnight the herd was slaughtered. That was a loss of a considerable gene pool, because, as most of us know, the Canadian Holstein has become the main black and white cow in this country now. The issue caused no end of angst in my former constituency, where people could not understand clearly why they were being told that their flocks or herds had to be slaughtered. I have to concede that in the Brecon Beacons, where animals were on the open hill and 18,500 were slaughtered, there was perhaps a case for doing such a thing, although it caused a great deal of distress at the time.

It is extremely important to have accurate assessment. I know the problems. There is very little time in which to make the assessments and come to material conclusions. The amendments begin to clarify the circumstances in which we could perhaps avoid the unnecessary slaughter of animals without contributing to the spread of the disease. I do not underestimate the difficulty of achieving that. We have the possibility of ring vaccination coming up. That will help to overcome some of the acute difficulties and may help to solve the problem in the future. I shall not talk about general vaccination, because that raises a lot of difficulties relating to consumption and exports, but in the longer term—and perhaps even in the shorter term—ring vaccination will help to overcome the problem.

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The issue that we are confronting is very important. Psychologically, the farming community in the areas affected is still suffering from it. People have still not come to terms with having to have their animals slaughtered. We are talking about the reasons and what we can do to improve matters. I therefore support the amendments.

Lord Monro of Langholm: As one who was involved in the contiguous cull, I think it important to clarify the procedures when a cull is likely to take place. The amendments would help to do that. With a foot and mouth epidemic all around, one could contemplate that a contiguous cull within the three kilometre limit was a possibility, but when it comes it comes swiftly. On the Friday the veterinary officer and my vet came to see the stock and agreed that they were all healthy, but were within the mileage limit. On Saturday there was the valuation and the setting up of the pens for slaughter and on Easter Sunday came the slaughter. One does not have much breathing space to consider whether there is a reason to object to the cull. In any case, when there is a huge epidemic in the area it would be very wrong for any farmers to try to stand out against the cull if it was in the interests of the majority to get on with it.

However, a number of cases, particularly in the hefted hill flocks, ended up in court cases in Edinburgh. They needed clarification, because the chance of a hill ewe crossing a boundary, which never really happens with a hefted flock, was so remote that most people thought that the hefted hill flock cull was going a step too far.

What my noble friend has suggested would clarify how and when the cull should take place—and whether it should take place at all. That will help the farming industry if we have another outbreak of foot and mouth, although I hope we do not.

The Lord Bishop of Hereford: I think that it is generally recognised by everyone who has reflected on what happened last year that we could never again contemplate culling on the scale that took place. It is just intolerable and unacceptable that we could consider such things. I believe that the following phrase in line 12 of the Bill goes to the heart of what is found most objectionable about the Bill in its original form. The Bill states that,

    "it is immaterial whether or not".

Such phraseology has a kind of indiscriminate arrogance about it which I believe is extremely offensive.

It is preposterous to suggest that paragraph (d) can stand in relation to that phraseology, so that it would be immaterial whether or not animals have been vaccinated. It cannot possibly be immaterial whether or not they have been vaccinated, particularly as all noble Lords are agreed, I think, that we are moving towards a much wider and much more intelligent use of vaccination.

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This particular phrase must be changed. I do not mind by which method it is changed or by whose amendment it is changed. To say that "it is immaterial" is not something that can remain in the Bill. I urge the Minister to accept that this must be changed in some way.

Lord Carter: The use of the phrase is intended in law to restrict the particular meaning and to ensure that if there are animals outside these four categories—for example, in a firebreak cull—they could still be slaughtered. I am not sure that the phrase has all the meaning that the right reverend Prelate and the noble Lord, Lord Peyton, have given it. I believe that it is there for legal reasons which I am sure that the Minister will explain.

I have two very brief points on Amendment No. 114, which is this business about,

    "animals . . . which have been kept indoors constantly since the day before the first announcement by any government department of an outbreak".

We should remind ourselves that the outbreak was in the country for about a month, we think, before it was recognised and announced. Animals that were outside during the time that the disease was in the country, although we did not know it, and moved indoors on the day before the outbreak would still have been susceptible. I therefore think that there is a fatal weakness in the drafting.

The one redeeming feature of the FMD outbreak, as bad as it was, was that it did not spread to any extent to the pig population. If it had done, the results would have been very serious indeed. Almost all pigs are kept indoors.

The Countess of Mar: What these amendments indicate is the need for rapid testing, which I gather is now well on the way. I hope that the Minister will agree that once we have rapid testing, we will not need this clause in the Bill either. This is another reason for delaying the Bill until we know exactly what is happening. Rapid testing was well on the way when Fred Brown was here; it just had not been audited and authenticated by various departments in either this country or the EU. I ask the Minister to consider whether a government amendment would be appropriate in this case.

Baroness Strange: I support Amendment No. 111 because, as the noble Baroness, Lady Byford, pointed out, the provision might cover dogs and horses which could never get foot and mouth because they do not have cloven hooves. Will the Minister table an amendment to clarify the position, so that no dogs and no horses are killed in this way?

Lord Whitty: I think that this debate is driven by two misunderstandings, one of which relates to the terms of the current legislation, in relation to which I think I can provide some comfort to noble Lords. The other misunderstanding relates to the intent of the Bill. Given some of the more recent remarks, I think that I will not be able to provide such comfort on that point.

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As the Bill stands, the new powers of slaughter could not be used to slaughter non-susceptible animals. The reference to "animals" in the Bill is dependent on the definition in the Animal Health Act 1981, which states that only ruminants and swine can be slaughtered for the purposes of the control of foot and mouth disease. Consequently, all these scares about the susceptibility to slaughter of dogs, horses and even budgerigars and canaries—which have not been mentioned today—

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