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Baroness Byford: My Lords, I thank the Minister for bringing the code before the House today. Indeed, we had an opportunity to consider this matter but did not go into it in great detail because there was a fault with the code at the time.

Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton: My Lords, I thank the noble Baroness for giving way. My recollection is that it was agreed in debate whether it was proper to agree a code with wrong wording. From memory, I believe it was the noble Lord, Lord Skelmersdale, who pointed out that we had had a full debate on the issues but that it would be improper to press the code for acceptance.

Baroness Byford: My Lords, I hear the Minister's comments, but the code is now before the House today and we are debating it. The Minister will know that we support the code. As I said previously, UK farmers have set and observe high standards of animal welfare, which I think the noble Baroness would be happy to support. It is in their own interests that cattle are well looked after. I am grateful to the noble Baroness for having corrected the feeding issue which was raised in debate.

We all believe in the five freedoms. They are freedom from hunger and thirst; from discomfort; from pain, injury or disease; an ability to express normal behaviour; and freedom from fears and distress. We all totally accept those. Stock skillmanship is the key to ensuring the well-being of farm animals. Having been in the poultry industry myself—rearing day-old chicks through to parent stock, producing their own chicks for Thornbers—I sometimes question why nowadays we need so many rules and regulations. I suspect that that is a sign of the times.

Biosecurity is also mentioned in the code. It is of huge importance. It is helpful in order to reduce the spread of disease. Paragraph 28 of section 1 of the code refers to,

That is a matter about which we have spoken in the House. The Minister will therefore not be surprised that I again urge the Government—indeed, I was glad to receive a copy of their recent suggestions on import controls—about the need to tighten up and dramatically reduce the illegal imports of meats into this country.

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Page 14 of the code refers to the disposal of fallen stock. The noble Baroness may say that I am perhaps out of order, but I would refer her to paragraph 48 because today we shall be approving a code which states that—if she looks to the fourth point down—

    "in certain circumstances, burial in such a way that carnivorous animals cannot gain access to carcass, or burning",

will actually be ruled out of order totally in four weeks' time. It is under those circumstances that I raise the very difficult issue of fallen stock. We have fewer than four weeks to get the matter put right.

I believe that we have a problem. From 1st May 2003 farmers will not be permitted to bury fallen stock. The regulation has been known about for a long time. The NFU first met the Government on the issue back on 7th December 2001. What disturbs me—I think it would also disturb the Minister—is that there seems to be an impasse and only four weeks to put mattters right. The industry does not have the freedom that we have, as Members of your Lordships' House, to raise these issues directly with the Government. It can do so only by going to the department. So I find the comments made by Ministers "unfortunate"—if I may put the matter that way—when they suggest that the industry is dragging its feet.

The list supplied by the National Farmers Union shows that 17 meetings have been held since that first meeting on 7th December 2001. There was also one on 17th December. The following year there were meetings on 3rd April, 14th May, 8th and 17th July, 22nd and 28th August, 18th September and 3rd and 19th December. I move to this year. This year meetings have been held on 20th January, 19th, 26th and 28th February, and 7th, 17th and 27th March.

I shall not repeat what the meetings were about and who attended which, but they all concerned the question of fallen stock and how we are going to move forward on the matter. My real concern is that we have only four weeks in which to put things right. For the Government to be blaming the industry is very unhelpful, to put it mildly.

I hope that by having the opportunity formally to raise the issue today within the code—because the code refers in particular to the burial—it might encourage the Government to move forward with the industry in order to address the situation as it stands.

I have also asked what happens with regard to fallen stock in member states. The Government say that there is no way they will bear the full costs. I do not think that the industry is asking for that. I gather that in Austria, for example, the Lander pays the collection costs; in Belgium the Flemish Government covers costs for small farms but larger farms have a subscription service; in Finland farmers contribute 25 per cent of the costs; and in Ireland fallen stock may be collected by licensed collectors or buried under licence. Disposal costs are shared between state and farmer, but the cost of the disposal for the carcass is met by the Exchequer. In Germany, fallen stock must be rendered. Local authorities are responsible for enforcing that. Their costs and responsibility vary from Land to Land. In most Lander the cost is shared

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between government and the farmer. That is carried out by an animal disease fund, a compulsory fixed levy that meets expenses for each livestock species.

In Spain, two-thirds of the costs for removal and disposal of fallen stock are subsidised by public funds. The rest is paid for by the farmer. In the Netherlands, from 2002 the farmer will pay full cost. In Luxembourg, stock is destroyed and incinerated. There is a national collection service which is subsidised by the government. In Portugal, proposals are being put to Ministers with regard to a national collection service. Currently, there are no controls whatever and most fallen stock is buried.

Your Lordships will realise from that list that a multiplicity of systems are used in other national states. My real concern is that we need to move the matter forward. We have a problem, which I do not think has been addressed sufficiently. When the issue was discussed in the Commons on 17th March, Mr Morley said that it is not unreasonable that the industry should contribute to dealing with one of its by-products. The Government are prepared to make a contribution. They currently contribute about 30 million to the over 30-month scheme collections and to fallen stock collections to monitor bovine BSE in animals over 20 months.

I have a question for the Minister. I understand that the cost of implementing this new animal by-product regulation will be 50 million. It is not included in the 30 million. So there is 20 million that must be found. Perhaps the Minister can clarify where the impasse arises between what the Government have offered or what the industry has agreed to. At the moment it is not clear.

I have also received briefing from the National Pig Association. The noble Baroness may say that we are considering cattle, but I hope that this is a helpful suggestion. In its discussions with DEFRA on the same topic it said that,

    "Defra add that, 'the basic principle is that burial and burning should only be permitted where the carcass is more than 100 km away from the collection centre and the stocking density is very low'. The Regulation allows Member States to permit the burial of pet animals. Defra has not responded to NPA pressure that small-scale producers should also be exempt".

If there is a suggestion that a derogation can be made in respect of pigs, my question is: has one been made as regards cattle? As we are so close to the imposition of this new regulation, has any derogation been asked for in order to give us longer to try and sort out this very great problem with which we shall have to cope in four weeks' time?

I should like to raise many other issues, but I do not want to take any more time. In outlining my concerns, I have been trying to be helpful by suggesting that the Government need urgently to address that impasse and by putting on record that the industry is trying to meet the Government's concerns. As I said, Mr Morley has had various meetings at which those issues have been raised.

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I should like to touch on two other issues. I understand that the knackering—what a dreadful expression to use in your Lordships' House—and rendering industry has suggested that it has capacity to cope with the need once fallen stock cannot be buried. But is there a comprehensive geographical spread? That is obviously hugely important. Secondly, will any transitional measures be made in the form of a derogation to allow the new regulations to be coped with? If not, what will happen in the meantime? Will farmers still be allowed to bury? We need greater clarification of the position.

I apologise to the House for taking 15 minutes, but this is a huge, complex and important situation in which we are running out of time.

Baroness Miller of Chilthorne Domer: My Lords, we are under the impression that we debated the code the last time it was raised in the House. For that reason, I shall not repeat the remarks that I made then. If I do not comment on the issue of fallen stock, that is not because we on these Benches do not believe that it is extremely important. Indeed, my honourable friends Andrew George and Roger Williams have pursued it with great vigour in another place, but I shall not take up the House's time with that now.

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