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Baroness Byford: My Lords, I thank the noble Baroness for giving way. I raised that issue, not the noble Countess, Lady Mar, although I am not trying to point-score. My question was: if the reference was not to the National Sheep Association, which is the key player in the industry, who did it refer to?
Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton: My Lords, obviously a variety of organisations are involved and we were referring to the whole area of work on the National Scrapie Plan, including that of the NSA. We accept that people in the industry have expressed very strong concerns.
I was asked about the approach of the Government. We supported the underlying principle of the EU regulations. Obviously, as I said, we expressed concern about some of the details of implementation of the policy and we have sought and obtained a degree of derogation.
The final question asked by the noble Baroness, Lady Byford, was how many flocks are estimated to be affected. The Government estimate that the prevalence of infection in Great Britain as a whole is about 0.3 per cent.
I hope that I have satisfied the noble Baroness, Lady Byford, as well as I am able. I shall read through all the detailed questions that I have been asked tonight and shall write with answers to all noble Lords who have taken part in the debate. I hope that the noble Baroness will not pursue her prayer against the regulations.
Baroness Byford: My Lords, I thank the Minister and join all Members in wishing the noble Lord, Lord Whitty, a speedy recovery because we miss him. We are pleased to see the noble Baroness in her place but we do miss the noble Lord.
I find these occasions slightly difficult because there are obviously questions that the Minister cannot answer. I know that there is a convention that one should not keep asking the same questions but we have to clarify some of these matters. So far as I am concerned, the most crucial point that the Minister has not answered is how many research programmes carried out since 1999 have been totally ignored and whether any of them has found even one connection between scrapie and BSE. My answer to thatthe noble Countess, Lady Mar, is shaking her head; I am sure that she is rightis none. If the answer is "none", the Government should at least be honest.
Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton: My Lords, I apologise. I thought I had made it clear that it remains a theoretical risk. In answer to the noble Countess, Lady Mar, I made it plain that the Food Standards
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Agency believes that the theoretical risk is strong enough for the Government not only to take it seriously but to act on it.
Baroness Byford: My Lords, I thank the Minister for that. Indeed, they are right to take it seriously, but 1999 was some five years ago and I ask how long one can keep working on a theoretical risk. Earlier, I was trying to say that the longer a theoretical risk keeps going and no evidence is found, ultimately, surely one has to question whether there is a risk at all.
We have covered many points tonight. I do not wish to detain the House further but I think that there is unfinished business. I know that the Minister is always very courteous and perhaps she would be kind enough to look carefully at the comments made by noble Lords from all sides of the House. There are real areas of concern and also some practical issues. At this stage, I beg leave to withdraw the Motion.
"PROHIBITION OF LOADING AND UNLOADING AT LARGE SHOPS BEFORE 9 A.M. ON CHRISTMAS DAY
(1) Where a shop which is prohibited by section 1 from opening on Christmas Day is located in a loading control area, the occupier of the shop must not load or unload, or permit any other person to load or unload, goods from a vehicle at the shop before 9 a.m. on Christmas Day in connection with the trade or business carried on in the shop, unless the loading or unloading is carried on
(a) with the consent of the local authority for the area in which the shop is situated, granted in accordance with this section, and
(b) in accordance with any conditions subject to which that consent is granted.
(2) The provisions of paragraphs 3 to 8 of Schedule 3 to the 1994 Act shall apply in relation to consent under subsection (1) as they apply in relation to consent under that Schedule, but as if
(a) the reference in paragraph 6(1) to Sunday were a reference to Christmas Day, and
(b) the reference in paragraph 7(a) to an offence under paragraph 9 of that Schedule were a reference to an offence under subsection (3).
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(3) A person who contravenes subsection (1) is liable on summary conviction to a fine not exceeding level 3 on the standard scale.
(4) In this section, "loading control area" means any area designated by a local authority as a loading control area in accordance with section 2 of the 1994 Act."
Those who were present during the Second Reading of this Bill may recall that I signalled the Government's intention to table an amendment relating to loading and unloading before nine o'clock at the premises of large shops on Christmas Day. This undertaking was made by the Minister in charge of the Bill in another place and was the result of concurrence between the Bill's sponsor, the Government and the Opposition on the merit of the proposed amendment.
The amendment would simply prohibit loading and unloading before 9 a.m. on Christmas Day in areas designated loading control areas by the local authority. This is for the principal purpose of ensuring that Christmas morning does not become a noisy affair for residents in the locality. Those areas designated as such will be the same as on a Sunday (under Section 2 of the Sunday (Trading) Act 1994).
In the last reading of this Bill my noble friend Lord Davies of Coity expressed some reservation as to the need for such an amendment and it was clear that part of this unease about the proposal was a genuine fear that the Bill might not be successful. On this latter point I am thankful that we have been able to arrive at an agreement with all parties in this House to enable this amendment to be made, while ensuring that the Bill is not endangered through lack of parliamentary time. I think this is a further reflection of the popularity and desirability of the Bill and a shared wish to have it in place for this Christmas.
On the former point, I recall that my noble friend had made some limited inquiries about the extent of the use of the current provision under Section 2 of the Sunday (Trading) Act, the main finding being that a minority of local authorities used this power in practice. The Department of Trade and Industry has also made inquiries about how extensively this provision in the 1994 Act is used, and the research produced some interesting findings. Whereas these inquiries endorsed those of my noble friend Lord Davies of Coity, they also confirmed that all of the respondents believed that inclusion of such a measure in this Bill is a good and sensible idea. There are two points that should be made here which give weight to the argument for the adoption of the proposed amendment and these are as follows.
First, it has been established in both this House and in another place that this Bill is largely pre-emptive in the sense that it puts in place a prohibition which, given the nature of market forces, is necessary to avert what could otherwise be a foregone conclusionthe en masse opening of large shops. Similarly, while it
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may be true that most large shops do not currently load or unload on Christmas Day before nine o'clock (or on Sunday), this does not preclude the possibility of that practice changing.
Secondly, the differences between Sunday and Christmas Day are important to emphasise here for the reason that such a power to prohibit loading and unloading may be more appropriate in the context of Christmas Day than in the context of a Sunday. Whereas Sunday is followed by Mondayan ordinary consumer shopping dayChristmas Day is followed by Boxing Day on which only a minimal observation would reveal the ubiquity of signs advertising sales. It is clear to see that the preparation for the busy sales period starting on Boxing Day would be more extensive than that of preparing for a Monday.
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