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Lord Livsey of Talgarth: I also support this amendment. One of the sadder impacts of the economic situation in the countryside is that many farmhouses have now been sold off and do not have anything to do with the farm itself. Their occupiers are non-agricultural and very often they have some of the farm buildings as well. I believe that this amendment defines those kinds of situations. I fully support it.
Lord Whitty: I understand what is said in this amendment. I have a piece of paper which tells me that this matter has already been covered, but I have temporarily lost it. It indicates that there is a definition of "premises" in the Bill. The premises in this context are those which are relevant to the purposes of the warrant. Therefore, it would not be appropriate to use powers to enter premises which do not house animals or which it was not necessary to enter in order to carry out the purposes of the warrant, be it for vaccination or slaughter.
Obviously, there may be some complications to that in that private houses may house animals, but access to them would have to be reasonable and proportionate. Any houses which were not concerned with animals and therefore with the purposes of the warrant, would not come within the definition in Clause 7 of the Bill, which is the closest we come to a definition of "premises" for the purposes of this Bill.
Lord Plumb: Perhaps I may express my support for the remarks just made by the noble Countess, Lady Mar, and add the following suggestion for the Minister's consideration. In an effort to be helpful, I should point out to the noble Lord that Amendment No. 242 states:
As I am on my feet, I hope that it is in order for me to speak also to the other amendments under this grouping which are tabled in my name and that of my noble friend. Perhaps I may begin with Amendment No. 250, which seeks to insert in new Section 62B(4)(c) of the 1981 Act the words,
Amendment No. 253 seeks to substitute the word "week" for the word "month" in relation to the length of time that a warrant can remain in force. We have already debated this issue in a different context and stated that that is the period we wish to see in the legislation. I stand aside as regards Amendment No. 256, because it has been jointly tabled with the Conservative Opposition. I am sure that the noble Baroness and the noble Lord will wish to be involved in the moving of that amendment.
Amendment No. 277 contains the same wording as Amendment No. 243. It addresses the power of a warrant to authorise a veterinary inspector to enter premises, if necessary with reasonable force, in order to take tests and samples. The amendment seeks to ensure that the owners of the premises must be given a chance to make representations. We believe that they have a fundamental right to do so.
I apologise to the Committee if I seem to have jumped the gun as regards the amendments to which I have just referred. However, they all fall within the group headed by Amendment No. 243, which is the main amendment. I beg to move.
Lord Whitty: I have no objection to the noble Lord speaking to all these amendments at this time. They were grouped with Amendment No. 243, and many of them follow a progressive theme. However, most of them have already been mentioned in earlier debates. In relation to Amendment No. 243, we are dealing with representation to magistrates. I do not wish to rehearse that ground at great length, but I believe that the provision of rights to representation could undermine the whole disease control approach and that the other built-in safeguards are preferable.
Amendment No. 250 returns us to the question of whether inserting words like "due effort", "mitigating circumstances", or whatever, would improve the general requirement of the inspector and the officers to act reasonably. Before they determine that the owner is uncontactable, they must have acted reasonably in order to ascertain whether or not the owner could be contacted or when he or she would return. If the matter ever reached the courts, that would be taken into account. All that seems to me to be subsumed under the general duty to act reasonably.
I believe that we have debated the issue of whether the duration of the warrant should be one week or one month. Although I understand the argument, I do not see an overriding need to alter the general warrant procedure that calls for a period of one month. Indeed, one can conceive of circumstances in a really bad epidemic where we would not be able to carry out all the necessary action within the period of one week.
Amendment No. 277 also deals with representation, although it relates to slightly different circumstances. Again, I have outlined why I do not believe the right of representation is appropriate in the context of controlling an epidemic. As regards Amendment No. 288, we made clear in an earlier amendment that the requirement for assistance should be reasonable and limited to the keeper of stock. Therefore, the possibility of asking someone extraneous to co-operate with officials will not arise. Indeed, if we limited it solely to the owner of the livestock, we would be confining the provision even more tightly than is the case with the subsection that we adopted earlier. I do not believe that the proposed wording would improve the words that we adopted under Amendment No. 233.
On the phrase, "without good reason", since officers are required to act reasonably and to take account of other people's reasonable behaviour, the phrase is superfluous. If it were inserted in the proposed place, one would have to put it in all sorts of other legislation and other parts of the Bill. The lawyers and those