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Baroness David: My Lords, why are the Government so obstinate in this matter? The UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, the European Committee of Social Rights, all the experts on children and, indeed, all the children's associations are against smacking children. Who are the Government trying to please?

Lord Adonis: My Lords, we are trying to please Parliament, if that is any consolation to my noble friend. The House voted by an overwhelming margin in favour of the legislation as it stands. I stress that the other place voted by an even larger margin—424 votes to 75 votes—in favour of that position. So we are in accord with the will of Parliament in the matter.

Baroness Morris of Bolton: My Lords, I have huge admiration for the English Children's Commissioner, Professor Al Aynsley-Green, but it is wrong to confuse the imposition of discipline with violence inflicted on children. Even the Joint Committee on Human Rights stated in 2003 that if it were thought that,

Does the Minister not agree that over the years we have seen a gradual shift away from parents using physical punishment and that a move to criminalise parents for disciplining their children would be counter-productive?

Lord Adonis: My Lords, I agree with everything that the noble Baroness said. I note that the parliamentary Joint Committee on Human Rights concluded that,

Lord Roberts of Llandudno: My Lords, in what circumstances can the Children's Commissioner for any of the countries involved enter a private home to see whether a child is being ill treated? What permission does the Children's Commissioner need?

Lord Adonis: My Lords, I am not aware that the Children's Commissioner has any right to enter a private home, but if I am incorrect in that belief I shall let the noble Lord know.

Baroness Whitaker: My Lords, does my noble friend and the Government advocate or condone the physical punishment of children?
 
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Lord Adonis: No, my Lords.

Lord Davies of Coity: My Lords, does my noble friend agree that, although opinions may be expressed by experts—certainly Parliament has expressed its view—British families recognise the difference between brutality and smacking for discipline purposes and that the vast majority of parents smack but do not brutalise their children?

Lord Adonis: My Lords, views of that kind were precisely those that led the House to reach the judgment that it did only 18 months ago.

Lord Laming: My Lords, might the Children's Commissioners be encouraged to use their important posts to promote positive parenting rather than to promote the idea of putting parents in danger of being criminalised?

Lord Adonis: My Lords, Professor Aynsley-Green and his colleagues are well aware of the importance of promoting positive parenting. A good deal of their work is geared to that end, in conjunction with the Government, and we are investing heavily in programmes to support and help parents.

Baroness Walmsley: My Lords, in an earlier answer, the noble Lord mentioned the JCHR. Is he aware that its comments referred to a particular case? Is he also aware that it said in its report that it was likely that in any future case the court would find that anything less than equal protection for children was in breach of the European convention?

Lord Adonis: My Lords, as I said earlier, it found that the present law was compatible with the convention.

Sheep: Traceability

2.50 pm

The Countess of Mar asked Her Majesty's Government:

Whether, in the event that sheep undergoing a post mortem in an abattoir are found to have a notifiable disease, the premises from which those animals originated are immediately traceable.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Lord Bach): My Lords, the identification and movement control rules currently in place enable sheep to be traced back to the premises from which they last moved. In addition to inspection post mortem, all sheep arriving at an abattoir are required to undergo an ante-mortem inspection by an official vet.

The Countess of Mar: My Lords, I thank the noble Lord for that reply. In doing so, I declare my interest as a partner in a farming business. When a lorry load of sheep that have been collected either from different
 
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farms or from a market where sheep from different farms are sold, arrives at an abattoir, the sheep are killed, and the first thing that happens is that the sheep's heads are chopped off and put in a bin. On those heads are the ear tags marking the sheep. Once those heads are chopped off and the sheep are hanging on a hook, how can the meat hygiene inspectors tell where those sheep come from?

Lord Bach: My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Countess, and I pay tribute to her knowledge of these matters. The vast majority of notifiable diseases that are detected are detected ante mortem rather than post mortem. The tragic foot and mouth outbreak was detected ante mortem. As for post-mortem examinations, the noble Countess is right: ear tags are no use at all, because they have been got rid of with the heads of the sheep. There is a package of identification and tracing measures through the documentation. All sheep arriving at an abattoir must be accompanied by movement documents that provide details of the holding that the animals came from. That is required by legislation and actively enforced. The documentation that accompanies each animal means that, if a notifiable disease is suspected post mortem, the animal can be traced back to the consignment in which it arrived at the abattoir through the abattoir's internal tracing mechanisms.

Lord Mackie of Benshie: My Lords, the Minister said that the animal could be traced back to the place that it came from to the abattoir. That is not enough. Surely there is a need to trace the animal back to the herd that it came from.

Lord Bach: My Lords, the noble Lord is right. The animal is first traced back to where it came from, and from there, because of the documentation that has to be held by law by the original holding place, it can be traced even further back to where it originated, and action can be taken very quickly.

The Duke of Montrose: My Lords, I declare an interest as a sheep farmer. All that the Minister has said is true of notifiable diseases, but is he aware that sheep are also susceptible to TB? I do not know whether any cases have been identified in sheep, but the problem is that it would not be diagnosed until after the head had been removed. Should there not be some process whereby the carcass is marked before the head is removed?

Lord Bach: My Lords, the noble Duke is right: TB is not a notifiable disease for sheep at the moment, largely because the cases are extraordinarily rare—there are very few. It is to become a notifiable disease from 20 February 2006.

Lord Skelmersdale: My Lords, if we cannot identify the headless body of a sheep through the ear tag, how on earth can the particular venue from which it came be identified through the documentation, which, surely, is not tied to the individual carcass?

Lord Bach: My Lords, you do it through batches. When a batch of sheep comes to an abattoir, as the sheep are slaughtered, close note is taken of which batch each sheep
 
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comes from. So if, post mortem, a carcass or a part of a sheep was examined by the Meat Hygiene Service and a potentially notifiable disease was discovered, you would find out from which batch it came, and from that you could find out where it was last held.

Lord Clark of Windermere: My Lords, will my noble friend investigate whether the movement books for sheep are actually adhered to? They are critical to tracing the animals.

Lord Bach: My Lords, my noble friend is right in that sometimes the records are not as good as they should be. I am delighted to say that from 1 January this year, if a sheep cannot be traced back because the documentation has not been properly kept, it is taken out of the food chain straight away.


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