HL Deb 18 February 1980 vol 405 cc529-58

5.5 p.m.


My Lords, I beg to move that the House do now resolve itself into Committee on this Bill.

Moved, that the House do now resolve itself into Committee.—(Earl Ferrers.)

On Question, Motion agreed to.

House in Committee accordingly.

[The LORD AIREDALE in the Chair].

Clause 1 [Control of pests and diseases affecting bees]:

Lord HIVES moved Amendment No. 1.

Page 1, line 9, at end insert— ("Provided that before any such order is made they shall consult the National Beekeeping Adviser and National Beekeeping Association.")

The noble Lord said: I beg leave to move the amendment in my name. The reasons for this Amendment are that I think it is unrealistic to expect the Ministry to be up to date with beekeeping developments. I think it is the duty of the associations to see that they are. In the past we have had valuable meetings, and I hope that by putting in these words they will continue and perhaps take place more frequently.

Besides disease there are other matters affecting beekeepers which provide grounds for discussion. For example, honey is imported into this country, usually in large containers, and when empty they are sometimes left lying around. The bees in the area find this honey and clean the surface off the drums. Foul brood disease is transmitted to bees by infected honey, and it was in making routine inspections of hives that this source of infection was discovered. May I make it plain that foul brood only affects bees and not human beings. When approached the importers immediately recognised the problem but, with the best will in the world, it is another job, and I think it would be better that we had an agreed method of removing this source as an infection to our home bees, either by a bee-proof pan or some other method.

Discussion could also take place on whether it is desirable for us to import bees at all; or perhaps we might have a bee policy with an agreed amount of imports. There are 250,000 queens reared annually in this country, and of that number 6,000 are imported. It is not a large proportion. I believe as a beekeeper that British bees are the best for Britain, and for these reasons I think these words should be in the Bill. I beg to move.


I am grateful to my noble friend Lord Hives for explaining the purpose of his amendment. I am bound to say that, when I saw that my noble friend was going to seek to amend this Bill I could not restrain a slight smile from crossing my face, in that my noble friend Lord Hives was in fact seeking to amend the Bees Bill. I thought it was highly appropriate not only from a nomenclature point of view but also because, as my noble friend said, he is himself a beekeeper.

The purpose of this amendment is to ensure that we should carry out proper consultations with the experts in the beekeeping industry before making an order. However, there are some problems in this connection because the only individual of whom I am aware who could be described as a national beekeeping adviser is in fact an officer of the Ministry of Agriculture, and there is therefore no need for the Bill to specify that he should be consulted.

As regards the trade associations, it is our intention to continue the well-established practice, which we carry out now, of consulting the national beekeeping associations before making orders. At present these associations are represented by the Bee Farmers Association, the Council of the National Beekeepers Associations, which represents the British Beekeepers Association, the Scottish Beekeepers Association, the Welsh Beekeepers Association, the Ulster Beekeepers Association, as well as the Association of Bee Appliance Manufacturers. We would also consult the National Farmers Union. Therefore, I think that it might be inappropriate as well as unnecessary to make a special provision specifying the consultation which we would seek to make. I am not aware that any truly representative body of beekeeping interests has been ignored in past consultations.

While I understand, therefore, that my noble friend's desire is to ensure that the industry as a whole is consulted, it is only right for me to point out to him that we have every intention of doing this, but our intention is even more fulsome than that proposed by my noble friend because we intend to consult more people than he would oblige us to consult under the amendment, which would be limiting because we may wish to consult others. There is the further problem that although there is a beekeepers association, as far as I can understand there is no such thing as a beekeeping association, which is what is specified in the amendment, and therefore his amendment would oblige us to consult a body which does not exist, which might be described as a "ghost bee body", so I hope my noble friend will realise that we make the appropriate consultations.

He referred to the problem which can be caused by honey being imported and the containers being left around and he said, quite rightly, that the main danger is from foul brood. Honey itself is not a carrier of the varroa, which is the disease about which the Bill is not wholly but largely concerned. It is not carried by honey. American foul brood is the disease which is carried by honey and there have been in past years occasional instances of appliances being left around unwashed and uncleaned. We have sought the co-operation of the honey packers in this to ensure that full containers are kept where bees cannot gain access to them. The system has worked well, but the Bees Bill would allow us in the general powers of Clause 1 and in paragraph 7 of the Schedule to include measures for the cleaning and disinfection of these articles, should that prove to be necessary.

Our experience in the past has been that the normal process of consultation has brought a reasonable degree of adherence to basic hygiene. But my noble friend can remain content that if it should transpire that this is not enough, there would be under the Bill powers to enable an order to be made affecting the cleansing of articles which could give rise to infection. I hope, therefore, that on consideration my noble friend will agree that his amendment is covered by what we are already doing.


Like the noble Earl, Lord Ferrers, I was delighted when I noticed that the noble Lord, Lord Hives, had capped the Bill in the appropriate way, and it is pleasant to find further interest being taken in it. It is common when the Government are given powers to deal with a subject like this to ask that they should consult with certain authorities, but usually—I think I am right in saying this—these authorities are established research authorities or authorities recognised as being the best people to advise in the matter; this comes into a number of conservation measures, for example. From what the Minister said, I gather there is no such clearly defined person as a national beekeeping adviser and that the only other relevant body is the Bee Farmers Association, which seems to be more concerned with the actual marketing of products and with looking after bees than with being a scientific body. If there is no such scientific body, I would agree with the Minister that it would be wiser not to have any further addition in the Bill of the type suggested by the noble Lord, Lord Hives. I do not know whether Lord Hives can help us in the matter and whether he has any specific scientific body in mind which could be brought in to advise.


I am afraid I do not have an answer to that question asked by the noble Lord, Lord Wynne-Jones. I must apologise to the Committee for the loose way in which my amendment has been phrased; drafting amendments is new to me and I must ask noble Lords to accept it as a beginner's mistake. In view of the reply of my noble friend Lord Ferrers and in view of the opportunity we have had to air the point, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

5.18 p.m.

Lord HIVES moved Amendment No. 2: Page 2, line 10, leave out from ("means") to end of line 11 and insert ("as may be specified in any order made under this Bill. Provided that the Minister or the Secretary of State may, if it appears to him that the circumstances justify his so doing, direct that the bees, hives and appliances shall be treated in such a manner as may be specified by order").

The noble Lord said: As the wording of this provision stands, any beekeeper could be faced with the total destruction of healthy bees suspected of contact with diseased colonies, and I believe the words "as he thinks fit" are too loose and far-reaching and that it would be better to specify methods in an order, as has been done in the past, and leave the Bill uncluttered. It would also give an opportunity for the application to specific colonies of any treatments discovered by future research.

To give an example of the work which is being done now, on varroa in particular, it is possible to monitor hives by inserting a tray into the bottom of the hive. The tray is made up of nylon mesh attached over a wooden frame with white paper underneath. These trays are put in the hive in the autumn when the bees arc in cluster and bees that die fall on to this mesh. The varroa, if there are any on the bees, drop through on to the paper. If you monitor this regularly and take the tray out and look inside, you will see whether there are any varroa present; and if you see one, there will be 200 in the hive. It is possible that you can remove the queen and treat her individually with formic acid—you have to get it right, so as to be sure not to kill her, which you could do—and the varroa will drop off.

By fastening the queen in a special carboard box made for the job, and moving the hive out of the way, you can collect all the worker bees in a box and treat them in the same way. So there you are; you have a queen and you have workers. You are then left with the combs and the brood. Undoubtedly, they will be infected. The varroa gets into the brood, and it also sucks the blood out of the grubs in the comb. You can treat them with acetic acid, which of course is much stronger and a little more difficult to use.

Having saved the queen and the workers, you can burn the rest. You have achieved your purpose of saving a strain of bees which over many years have been carefully bred to fixed good qualities, and it would be a disaster for us to lose too many of these marvellous strains. That is an example of the reason why I think the amendment should be accepted. I beg to move.


I found my noble friend's explanation quite fascinating. It is perfectly true that whatever the subject, when it comes to your Lordships' Chamber, there is always an expert on it, and I was delighted to hear my noble friend describe how he has seen varroa dealt with. In his amendment he was concerned virtually with two matters. First, he said that as it stands the Bill is too loose and, secondly, that treatment should be allowed, instead of just destroying the bees.

On the first part of the amendment, I think that it would be unnecessarily restrictive to have to lay down by order the method of destruction which should be used. Under my noble friend's amendment the words which would be left out of the clause are: as he thinks fit, or cause them to be so destroyed. Instead my noble friend would wish the clause to read: any authorised person may destroy them by such means as may be specified in any order made under this Bill. I would suggest that to lay down by order the method of destruction to be used would be too restrictive. The authorised people under the Bill will be people who are competent and who are trained to judge how best to do this, and they will in any case be operating under standing instructions, as they do now.

The amendment would also mean that no bees could be destroyed unless a method for their destruction was actually included in the order. This could be awkward if, for example, there was discovered a new disease which required fairly prompt action. It may well be that an order under the Bill will contain the method of destruction, as indeed the foul brood order makes it obligatory that bees be destroyed by fire. But I would suggest that it would be unnecessarily restrictive to specify by Act of Parliament, rather than by order, the method of destruction.

With regard to the second part of the amendment, which refers to any subsequent treatment, particularly for varroa, this is a matter which is in fact already provided for in the Bill. I understand my noble friend's very reasonable request regarding this, but Ministers may by order make provision [in particular] with respect to any of the matters specified in the Schedule …". If my noble friend were to turn to the schedule and look at paragraph 6, he would see that this includes provision for the treatment of bees and for cleansing and disinfection. It is by no means the intention that the powers of destruction shall be used against every diseased, or suspect, bee. The action taken will depend upon the disease in question, and it will be in accordance with expert opinion and in the light of developments in the control of bee diseases. Therefore I think my noble friend will find that the very reasonable permission which he wishes to see included in the Bill is in fact already included.


I feel a little less happy with the noble Earl's reply on this amendment than with his reply on the previous one. I am not clear as to why he is not prepared to have the method inserted in the order, because it seems to me that to leave the method entirely to the individual who goes round to deal with a particular case, without there being any defined method, will mean that the position will be vague and uncertain. I should like to ask the noble Earl, for example, how many inspectors his department has who would be competent to deal with this matter, and who, on their own initiative, without any clear instructions laid down, would be able to cope with every situation?

It seems to be me that if at any time there were a large number of cases breaking out over the country it might be very difficult to get a sufficient number of highly qualified inspectors to go round and deal with each individual case. If, on the other hand, they were given clearly defined instructions, it would be much easier to send round people who were perhaps not quite so highly qualified. In other words, the situation depends very much on the staffing of the department; how many people there would be to cope with the situation if there was a wide-scale infestation.


I think that the noble Lord, Lord Wynne-Jones, may be under a misapprehension. What I said was that there is permission to include the method of destruction in an order, but we think it right not to include such a method of destruction in an Act, nor provide for it to be forced into an order, for the simple reason that there may arise different circumstances or different diseases requiring different treatment. When that happens it is possible to make a new order in which the method of destruction can be included.

It so happens that in the example I gave of the American foulbrood order, the method of destruction is included in that order, and in that case the bees have to be destroyed by fire. But on some other occasions it might not be desirable to include the method of destruction in an order, and that is why we should prefer to keep the position open. The noble Lord, Lord Wynne-Jones, asked how many inspectors we have who are qualified to go round doing this work; the answer is that we have 60.


In view of my noble friend's kind explanation and of the other contributions we have had, I beg leave to withdraw my amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.


I must point out to the Committee that, if the next amendment is agreed to, I shall not be able to call Amendment No. 4.

5.31 p.m.

Lord HIVES moved Amendment No. 3: Page 2, line 18, leave out subsection (6).

The noble Lord said: I feel rather strongly about this amendment. It is a new introduction into legislation which I believe is unnecessarily restrictive. Again this is where I come back to making orders rather than putting it in the Bill. I think that non-payment in the case of compulsory destruction is better dealt with in orders made, thus leaving more flexibility in the future. That is my main reason for this amendment. I beg to move.


I gather the other two amendments which are to follow this are based on the assumption that my noble friend's amendment is not pressed. On the assumption that he does not press his amendment, I think it would probably be better to leave the arguments as to compensation, for what they are, to one of the later amendments, if that is agreeable to the Committee.

All I would say to my noble friend on this particular amendment is that, by it, he would seek to permit compensation to be paid for the various classes of bee which are covered by the Bill, and he said that he would prefer to see that in an order rather than in the Bill. One reason why this provision was put into the Bill is because there has lately been a practice that where destruction of an animal or a person's property is undertaken and there is to be no compensation, then the Bill must say so. Having considered it quite carefully, it is the Government's intention and view that there should not be compensation paid in this case. Therefore, because compensation is not paid, it is necessary to include that fact in the Bill. That is why this provision was put into the Bill.


I fully understand what the noble Earl has said, but when I look at the suggestion that he has made, that we might discuss compensation under Amendment No. 6, it appears to me that Amendment No. 6 could hardly be moved as long as the subsection which it is now proposed we should omit still stands. The Bill says: No compensation shall be payable in respect of any exercise of the powers conferred by subsections (3) to (5) above". That being so, can we then put into the Schedule, if we wish to, a provision saying that payment of compensation is one of the matters to be considered? Am I wrong about that?


I hesitate to say that the noble Baroness is wrong, but I think that she is, and the reason why is because she has looked at Amendment No. 6 and has omitted to look at Amendment No. 4 as well, which is the paving amendment to Amendment No. 6. If she takes Amendment No. 4, she will see that it will run: No compensation shall be payable in respect of any exercise of the powers conferred by subsections (3) and (5) above". Then Amendment No. 6 goes on to say that in fact it can be paid in the circumstances contained in subsection (4). The noble Baroness does not look at all convinced.


I am quite sure the noble Earl is right, but it is very confusing.


All I can say is that I did not put the amendments down, but I think the noble Baroness will find that Amendments Nos. 4 and 6 go together, which in fact permit payments to be made under subsection (4) but not under sub-sections (3) and (5).


I think I have it.


I apologise for confusing everybody so much. I withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

5.35 p.m.

Lord LUCAS of CHILWORTH moved Amendment No. 4: Page 2, line 19, leave out ("to") and insert ("and").

The noble Lord said: In moving Amendment No. 4 it may perhaps be to the convenience of the Committee if we discussed at the same time Amendment No. 6, because, as my noble friend on the Front Bench has explained, Amendment No. 4 is the paving amendment to Amendment No. 6, which is the amendment which is going to deal with compensation. Perhaps I may just explain that Amendment No. 4 removes the word "to" in line 19 of subsection (6), so that the "no compensation" clause, subsection (4), would therefore apply to subsections (3) and (5). It is not the intention of my noble friends who support me (in particular, my noble friend Lord Malmesbury) that we should ask for compensation in respect of any bees that may be taken away from a hive for sampling or for testing. We feel that. here, any testing or inspection c sts should be borne by the beekeeper.

Similarly, we feel that there can be no justification for asking for compensation to be paid at the time of import if, at that time, the bees are found to be infected and then have to be destroyed. We feel there may be other ways in which the buyer or the importer can seek redress. We are therefore left with Amendment No. 6, which seeks to allow for compensation to be paid under the circumstances described in Clause 1 (4).

We feel that this matter has not been entirely fairly dealt with. On 25th October, on the Second Reading of the Bill in the other place, the matter was mentioned and at that time the Minister said that the beekeepers had just raised the question of compensation" clauses should be included. known, it was not raised until the beekeepers understood the Bill completely; and the noble Earl has explained the requirement, now current, that "no compensation" clauses should be included It is my understanding that hitherto the beekeepers felt that they had some protection under the Diseases of Animals Act 1950, which has been modified by subsequent Agriculture (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bills.

On 4th December, when this matter was raised in Committee in the other place—and, incidentally, that Committee spent only 28 minutes in dealing with the whole matter —it was there dismissed by the Parliamentary Secretary, who said —and I quote from col. 10 of the report of the Standing Committee proceedings: There has never been compensation for the destruction of bees, and the beekeeping associations could not reasonably have expected a new principle in the Bill". When we come to our own debate on 28th January—and may I remind the Committee that the beekeepers had raised this point prior to 25th October—my noble friend Lord Ferrers said, at col. 634: There has never been any Government compensation for the compulsory destruction of bees and we do not think it appropriate to start it now".

The argument is not the same at all. The argument is that here is a new and very virulent disease. It is the beekeepers' wish and the Government's wish that this disease should not spread into this country.

It seems to me that, if we are to take the measures as proposed (and nobody has argued that these measures are not right and appropriate) for something which is not controllable by the beekeeper—that is, one can have a perfectly healthy colony which can be working quite well; and, due to some totally unforeseen circumstance brought in from outside, a colony may have to be destroyed, although it may not be diseased, because it may be thought to be within an infected area —it seems reasonable, in the light of what the bee industry does for the farming industry generally, that there should be some measure of protection.

We are not talking about small amounts of money so far as the beekeeper is concerned. If he loses his entire colony, then he loses a very fair share of his income. If he is a professional—


If I may intervene, as a layman and completely ignorant of all the facts, I am thrilled to learn as much as I am learning. When we are talking about compensation, can we be given some idea of the cost of a colony which may be destroyed through this disease?


You can buy a colony of bees for about £40.


I think that one must understand what a colony is. My noble friend will correct me if I am wrong, but I understand that a colony is a working hive; so that if one has 50 hives all populated with bees, then one has 50 colonies. At £40 a time, that is quite a lot of money. It is my understanding that many amateurs, many hobbyists, as well as commercial beekeepers, would not exist on one colony or on two. The number of hives is probably something between 16 and 50; and the very big ones might go up to 120. If I am wrong, no doubt my noble friend Lord Malmesbury will correct me. We are not talking about small amounts of money which today could reasonably be expected to be borne by the beekeepers. Hitherto, American foulbrood and English foulbrood diseases have been borne by the beekeeper. At that time, the amount of money involved was considerably less.

I cannot understand why the general provision for compensation cannot be included; because if we say, as the Bill presently says, that no compensation shall be paid then the door has been slammed tight. I know that it will not be the Government's wish in the unhappy event of an outbreak of varroa that whole colonies should be destroyed, with there being no probability (let alone possibility) of their being replaced—and replacement, I understand, takes about two years.

Your Lordships raised this matter on Second Reading and the seven noble Lords who spoke specifically about matters within the Bill (excluding the noble Lord, Lord Shepherd, who spoke about the medical research organisation and the noble Lord, Lord Clifford of Chudleigh, who, I believe, spoke on something of a different topic) suggested that compensation might be more fair and reasonable. Since that time, since 25th October until we talked about it on 28th January, the National Farmers Union have given much greater consideration to this matter. They have said that they now feel that it is not only a question of livelihood but that farmers do depend to a significant extent on beekeeping to earn their living and cannot get adequate insurance to continue their livelihood in the event of the disease coming into this country.

That is the background to Amendment No. 6. As I have explained, it is necessary to make way for this so that, in moving Amendment No. 4, I stress to your Lordships that this is a very serious amendment although only a one-word amendment. The whole matter that we are about to discuss is extremely serious and, while one always appreciates the jocularity and humour that is present in this Chamber, I urge your Lordships to consider this with the seriousness I think it deserves. I beg to move.


I should like to take this amendment and Amendment No. 6 together. To go back to the value of a colony, it is between £40 and £50, as my noble friend has said; but, in addition to the colony that is going to be destroyed, there is the hive with its frames, brood frames and so on, and they probably would cost up to £100; so that if you are going to destroy a hive you would also have to destroy the equipment, I understand, and you will be dealing with nothing less than £150 per hive per colony.

But in these amendments we are only asking for compensation against the parasitic mite varroa jacobsoni. As was mentioned at Second Reading, this disease has spread to Europe. It is now in France and there is alarm in every country it goes to. I think I am right in saying that in Germany they have appreciated the dangers of this disease and are providing compensation. I think that what must be one of the ways in helping to eradicate the disease—and one hopes it will never arise—is that one must have the full co-operation of all beekeepers. If there is no compensation, I would think that there would be a great temptation to hope that you have not got the disease. The disease can exist in a hive for several years. In the first two years, unless the beekeeper was pretty careful and employed the method that my noble friend Lord Hives mentioned, it could go unnoticed. The beekeeper (because some of them are in pretty remote places) might never have heard of that method or he might suspect if the colony became a little weak that he had got something else. He might put it down to the weather or to the spraying of crops or to a lot of other things. But I am serious in saying that I think the beekeeper must be given every form of help (and that that would include compensation) if this disease ever arrived.

Honey, of course, is a well-known product of the bees that we all enjoy. The most valuable work of a bee is in its pollination. I should like to emphasise this. I believe that the fruit industry is worth something like £100 million. The fruit set requirement is about 5 per cent. for top fruit, and an ideal set is 10 per Ćent. Without bees—which is the weakest link in the crucial flowering period—one could be affected by sprays, by weather, by fertilisers, and the pollination is the one thing which can help survive those other troubles. That is done by the bee.

I believe there are from between 5,000 to 10,000 colonies of bees which are moved to the fruit growing areas. So valuable is this that the fruit growers will pay for a colony. There are not nearly enough colonies at this moment. In fact, the fruit growers are competing for stocks of bees. It was mentioned in both Houses—and recommended—that the beekeepers should insure. I am not certain whether I am in order in saying this, but Bee Diseases Insurance Limited was mentioned. I have their latest balance sheet and the balance there is only £20,000. It is nothing; it could not start. I also have another letter from an insurance broker who is a member of the Insurance Brokers' Association, a Lloyd's broker. It is a long letter but it ends: We feel that although the underwriters have stated that they are prepared to consider the matter, there is not a very great chance of arranging cover under competitive terms. I just wanted to emphasise that the hope of insuring is pretty remote, unless my noble friend sitting on the Front Bench has more recent news.

5.52 p.m.


I hope that I do not have to declare an interest. I am a beekeeper, but an involuntary one because a colony of bees have established themselves for many years under the eaves of my house. They are a great nuisance and nobody will take them away. They prevent me from having the windows cleaned, and they cause me to be isolated indoors from time to time when they choose to swarm.

It seems to me that it would be reasonable to accept Amendment 6, when we get to it, and to accept the amendment under discussion now that paves the way, for this reason: neither of these makes payment of compensation obligatory; they merely make it possible. Surely they make compensation one of the matters under which provision may be made by order under Section 1. Do we really want to rule it out for ever in all circumstances? I should have thought it was sensible to have a provision that said that compensation may be made under certain circumstances and the order may arrive eventually. We surely do not want to leave it as it is now; that one may never in any circumstances—even if all the bees in the country were destroyed because there was yet another disease which was even more contagious—be able to get compensation for people whose whole livelihoods depend on bees.


As another beekeeper I should like to raise one point. The noble Earl, Lord Malmesbury, said that they were only asking for compensation in the case of bees that were lost due to a specific new parasitic disease being introduced. But I do not see anything in the Bill to that effect. I wonder what the position would be of beekeepers who lose colonies owing to the ravages of some of the ordinary indigenous diseases such as acarine disease and why it is that in one case a beekeeper would receive compensation but not in another.


I should like to speak briefly in support of this amendment and to follow on from what the noble Earl, Lord Malmesbury, has said. It is of great importance not only to the beekeeper but also to the fruit grower. It has been established that of all the insects pollinating fruit blossom, approximately 90 per cent. are honey bees. I also understand that experiments have been carried out at Rothamsted to ascertain the efficacy of bees in pollination. Trees were covered and bees were excluded from them. In these cases, I understand that absolutely no fruit set. In other trees where bees were introduced the fruit set was some-where in the region of 38 per cent. I think that commercial fruit growers are quite happy, as the noble Earl, Lord Malmesbury, said, with somewhere between 10 per cent. and—if they are lucky—15 per cent. fruit set.

If we consider for a moment dessert apple growing, in 1978 there were some 18,800 hectares of dessert apples grown. This produced a gross income of some £58 million. Even a 1 per cent. drop in fruit set would decrease that figure quite substantially, possibly in the region of £1 million or £2 million. It could well make a difference between profit and loss. This illustrates the tremendous importance of bees to the fruit grower, for as yet I do not think that science has devised any alternative viable means of pollination.

If the worst happens and the measures proposed in this Bill do not prevent the spread of varroa to this country, the fullest co-operation of all the beekeepers would be vital to eliminate and eradicate this disease as it is so difficult to detect. Obviously, if the worst happens, compulsory destruction of infected bees and other bees which are likely to have been in contact with them is probably the only means of controlling and eradicating the disease, although as my noble friend Lord Hives has said, there may be possibilities of certain cures.

If whole colonies of bees have to be destroyed, surely in the interests of the fruit growers it is imperative that the area be restocked as soon as is expedient. Without compensation, this might well not be possible. Insurance companies might not insure against the disease. If they do, then in all probability the cost of premiums would be prohibitive. The unfortunate bee farmer who had lost his all could well be financially unable to restock and reequip. In my opinion, this would be a disastrous situation not only for the bee farmer but for all the other people dependent upon the bees for their livelihood.

That is why I strongly support this amendment. It is not seeking a compensation scheme for diseased bees at the moment; it is seeking to enable the Government to consider compensation should the need arise at any time in the future. Hopefully, this will never happen. With respect, I consider the amendment reasonable and indeed very necessary. I hope that my noble friend the Minister will agree to its inclusion in the Bill.

6 p.m.


I think that the noble Earl, Lord Malmesbury, hit one of the main things on the head: we have to combine together as beekeepers and to approach this sensibly. I am not in favour of this compensation. I have talked to my friends in my association. They were not in favour of it, either.

The point is this: the only way you are going to get varroa into this country is to find somebody bringing in an infected bee. The only person who is going to bring in an infected bee is someone who wants to bring in bees. Therefore I think it would be our own fault. For instance, I can go to East Midlands Airport and travel to Germany; I can pick up a queen bee and bring her back with me in my pocket within three hours. Whether she is infected or not I do not know, but I would be a fool to do such a thing. I should have to be more careful. If we are all more careful there is no reason why we should have it.


I should like to put a question which has just occurred to me. I have known things being carried by aeroplanes unintentionally. Cannot bees get into aeroplanes? A German bee could get into an aeroplane and land here without anybody knowing that it was infected.


The point is that somebody would have to help the bee when it got here, because unless a bee can find congenial surroundings when it gets here it will die.


The chances are not very great!


I rather fancy that if it was a queen bee which got into the aeroplane, followed by all the others, the occupants of the aeroplane, including the noble Lord, Lord Davies of Leek, would get off fairly sharply! I am grateful to my noble friends Lord Lucas of Chilworth and Lord Malmesbury for putting down these amendments. I recognise that this is a point about which people feel very strongly and it is a point to which, as my noble friend Lord Lucas said at Second Reading, everyone, apart from one person, had referred.

It is important, and I understand that people may feel a sense of grievance where circumstances arise in which their stock could be destroyed and they are not compensated. As my noble friend Lord Wise said, it would be very difficult for some people to have their hives destroyed and then to be obliged to start up again, which would be an intolerable expense for them. I agree with my noble friend Lord Malmesbury, who knows far more than I do, when he said that the cost of a colony of bees is about £50. I think he was also right when he said that the cost of a hive was £100 to £150, though I daresay that my noble friend Lord Hives might rate them a little higher than that.

The point about compensation for destruction is that it would be the colony of bees that would be destroyed, and the combs, but not the hives themselves. I understand this particular mite can live only on the bee and if the bees themselves have been destroyed the mite cannot live. A period of about a week or so without any bees being in the hive should itself render the hives uninfected. However, there have been a number of arguments put forward in favour of paying compensation. It has been claimed, quite correctly, that animals which are destroyed—for example, because of foot and mouth disease or swine fever—attract compensation. My noble friend Lord Malmesbury suggested that beekeepers might hide their disease if no compensation was available. Again, I think it was my noble friend Lord Malmesbury who said that at present only diseased bees are destroyed, but if varroa got into the United Kingdom, clean bees would be destroyed too.

If one takes these points one at a time, it is true that animals attract compensation when they are slaughtered but, on the other hand, plants which are destroyed do not generally attract compensation. In other words, it is not a general principle that destruction of an article necessarily invites compensation. I do not believe that beekeepers themselves would deliberately hide the presence of a disease because that would be a very shortsighted and selfish attitude. It is a fact that bees are exposed to infection although ostensibly healthy; a hive may look healthy even though it is in the early stages of disease, and therefore it may be necessary to destroy some hives which are apparently healthy but which in due course would possibly show signs of the disease.

The destruction of apparently healthy material without compensation does happen in the plant health field. I could give the example of white rust in chrysanthemums, where it is possible to destroy vast quantities of chrysanthemums with this disease and there is no obligation to pay compensation for that. We have considered this very carefully and I would put the position to your Lordships in this way. This is a Bill which was asked for by the Beekeepers' Association—I mean by that not one particular facet but by beekeepers as a whole—because they were urgently concerned about the possibility of bringing this disease into the country. They wanted legislation to stop that. So we had discussions with the beekeepers and decided to bring in the Bill in order to meet their request. At that time there was no obligation suggested that the Government or the Exchequer should underwrite the possible charge that this might bring. I really think it would not be right at this stage to say: "Yes, the Government will, or might, change a policy which has been that bees, like plants, should not carry compensation, and that we should change this because of this particular Bill."

I do not believe it is right at this juncture for the Exchequer and public funds to carry this liability, I think it is inevitably something which the industry itself must carry. Whether it does that by insurance or by providing its own funds must be a matter for the industry. I think it is perfectly possible to arrange for disease insurance. My noble friend Lord Malmesbury has referred to the fact that this is being considered by the beekeepers. What the beekeepers will do is, of course, up to them, but I do not think it would be right at this stage to impose a liability on public funds for this. However meritorious the argument is—and I see it has a great deal of persuasion in it—I think it ought to remain the responsibility of the industry.

6.9 p.m.


The noble Earl has put the case against the amendment on the grounds, first of all, that bees on destruction have never been protected in this way by any form of compensation and, furthermore, that plants are not protected. But plants belong to an entirely different part of the whole of our life cycle and they are dealt with in quite a different way from animals. The bee, after all, is an animal, and consequently one must compare it with other animals and not with plants. There may be an argument for looking at plants as well, and I have no doubt that the noble Lord, Lord Skelmersdale, would be able to give us some persuasive arguments about plants. But we are not at the moment discussing plants; we are discussing bees.

I think the noble Earl really is being a little disingenuous when he says that this is a Bill introduced by the beekeepers. It is a Government Bill. It is not a private Bill. It does not come before us as a private Bill. It would be dealt with in an entirely different way if it were a private Bill. It has come directly to us from the other House, where it was introduced and supported by the Government. It comes to us now as a Government Bill and, that being so, we surely have to ask ourselves whether we should agree with a Bill which breaks what seems to most of us a manifest condition of equity and justice, which is that where, by Government action—not by the individual action of the beekeeper—colonies are destroyed there should be compensation. It seems an ordinary principle of equity that this should be done. It is not being done by the beekeepers of their own choice. It is being done because the Government Bill tells them that that is what will happen, and therefore there should be compensation.

The noble Earl, Lord Malmesbury, has also pointed out that it is prudent for us to give compensation, because it makes it much more likely that the beekeeper will watch matters and will let it be known when there is infestation. We realise, as we have been realising very clearly throughout this dicussion, that it is not just a matter of bees and honey; it is also a matter of the pollination of fruit. In other words, it is something of great importance for the whole country, for our fruit growing and for many other things. Therefore, I should have thought it was reasonable, sensible and just that compensation should be paid. So I hope that your Lordships will pay attention to this amendment and agree that it improves the Bill and makes it better, more workable and more just.


Before the noble Lord sits down, may I ask a question? If he describes the bee as an animal, may I ask whether compensation is paid by the Government if there is foot and mouth disease in other animals?


I understand that in the case of foot and mouth disease compensation is always paid. I think it is reasonable that it should be paid. I should have thought there was little doubt that paying compensation helps to keep down foot and mouth disease, to keep it under control and to prevent it from spreading throughout the country—it is not endemic in this country as it is in many other parts of Europe—and, in addition, it is a just and fair thing to do.


I must agree with the noble Lord, Lord Wynne-Jones, when he attacks my noble friend on the Front Bench for comparing bees with plants. Perhaps my noble friend is trying to pull the cotton grass over our eyes, because the two things cannot possibly be comparable. We seem to be getting from the general to the particular in the last few speeches on these amendments. But were I in any position of responsibility, I would not give compensation to anybody, for the simple reason that I support my party's policies in trying to control what one pays out from Government funds in such a way. However, this amendment has nothing to do with that. This amendment is to the effect that the Government "may" pay at some time in the future, for some unspecified period in the future. I do not believe that the sorry state that we are now in will continue for ever.

I do not know who it was who said that it was better to live in hope than to arrive. But I, as a very small businessman, am permanently living in hope and I do not suppose that I ever shall arrive, until my dying day. However, that does not stop me from being an optimist and I cannot help feeling very strongly, as my noble friend Lord Lucas has said, that not only to slam the door but to bolt it with heavy gauge padlocks is a great mistake at any time. It would not be unreasonable to ask my noble friend on the Front Bench to say that he will think further about this amendment, which, after all, is purely and simply an enabling amendment, the like of which Governments of all complexions have accepted on very frequent occasions over a great many years.


In view of the over-whelming weight of argument in favour of the amendment, I wonder whether the Government might simply think of accepting it. As the noble Lord, Lord Skelmersdale, has said, it is purely permissive and it seems to me that everybody in the Committee favours the power being there.


Before my noble friend on the Front Bench replies, I should like to take him up on one point. He said it is up to us in the bee industry to insure ourselves and to look after our own financial arrangements. I took the precaution of ringing up a main Lloyd's broker, like the noble Earl, about insurance. He said to me that unless there was a Ministry compensation scheme, he would be most loath to do any form of insurance. As those who have been unfortunate enough to have TB in cattle—as happened to me—will know, you can insure against that very easily, because there is a quantifiable risk. I shall not go on with this subject, but the snag is that we cannot insure until my noble friend has first done something. He may not like it but, unfortunately, that is the position.


Are the diseases that are threatened in this country so infectious that if they appeared in one colony it would be prudent and advisable to destroy all the colonies in a particular apiary, or might it be the case that only one colony in an apiary would be destroyed?


If I may first reply to the question of the noble Lord, Lord Kilbracken, the answer is that the order would specify that colonies of bees within a certain area of an outbreak would be destroyed, and there would be discussion with the industry as to the terms of the order. Your Lordships have made it perfectly clear that you are very keen that some form of compensation should be put into the Bill—


Not actually compensation, but that it should be made permissive.


I take that point. The noble Lord, Lord Wynne-Jones, said that I was disingenuous. He said that I had said that this is a Bill introduced by the beekeepers. I never said anything of the sort. He said that it is not a private Bill. I never said it was. He knows perfectly well that it is a Government Bill and that the Government have introduced it at the behest of the beekeepers. We went along and discussed it with them and they said, "We want to keep the diseases out", and we said, "Yes, we, too, want to keep the diseases out". There was discussion of the terms of the Bill and the Government said "Yes, we will give Government time to this Bill," for one reason—because there is not going to be an Exchequer involvement. That is the reason why the Government were prepared to give time to what might otherwise have been a private Bill. The noble Lord, Lord Wynne-Jones, now comes along with everybody else and says "Because you have introduced the Bill, let us slide a compensation provision into it". This puts a very different complexion on the Bill. If at the outset there had been a Government liability to underwrite the Bill, the Government would not have undertaken this. I am bound to make this point perfectly clear.

Your Lordships know full well that we are going through a fearful financial crisis, with the Government having to cut down on all forms of public expenditure. If we were to go along to our friends at the Treasury and say, "Come on, will you underwrite the beekeepers?", I imagine that the answer would be fairly spicy. It was because there was no Exchequer involvement and no public liability that the Government were prepared to undertake this. At that time, the beekeepers did not say, "If you do this, will you, the Government, under-write it?" This has come out since the Bill has been introduced, for reasons which we know because they are specified in the Bill. I do not blame them for mentioning this.

All I would say to your Lordships is that we have a liability to protect public funds. Of course there is always an argument why public funds should be better expended and why it should be fairer and more just. I accept those arguments and understand the reasons why people think that if bees are destroyed there should be compensation, but I just do not think that it is right at the moment to suggest that we should do this—nor, indeed, that it is fair to put this onus upon the Government when they have introduced a Bill specifically to help the beekeepers in what they want. My noble friend Lord Skelmersdale said—and I thought that this was fairly tough stuff—that the Government have slammed and bolted the door. We have not slammed and bolted any door. All we have done is to introduce a Bill which the beekeepers wanted. I should have thought that that was opening the door.

I would say this to your Lordships: I can see the arguments which are put forward, but if your Lordships were to impose upon the Government a need and an obligation, even at some unspecified time in the future to underwrite this, I fear the Government would lose interest in the Bill. I am bound to tell your Lordships that.

When my noble friend Lord Skelmersdale said at the very beginning that this was a bit absurd because plants and bees just are not the same thing, all I would say to him is that I quite agree. I would say also that plants, bees and cows are not the same thing, either. If you are going to use the argument that because cattle are slaughtered and compensated therefore bees should be slaughtered and compensated, I am perfectly entitled to say that because plants are not compensated when they are destroyed then neither would we think it right for bees to be.

I hope that your Lordships will not press me too hard on this amendment. I do understand the arguments and I appreciate the reasons which your Lordships have given but I hope that on balance your Lordships will feel it might be more prudent to leave the Bill as it is —in the way that it was when it was first discussed and arranged with the industry concerned.


We have had a rather unprecedented session on this Bill which belies its smallness and certainly emphasises its importance. Until my noble friend Lord Ferrers made his last few remarks I was thinking that perhaps it might be as well, having aired it, to leave it be. However, he himself has rather determined my attitude, because I think it is totally and absolutely and grossly unfair that he should stand here and say that because of a variety of reasons, notably the Exchequer, your Lordships in Committee may not do the job they think they should be doing. I would challenge him right now: what do Her Majesty's Government think the Exchequer liability might be? Have they no faith in the measures which are set out in this Bill and which are going to be implemented by order at some time? Do they fear that the disease may slip through? If so, perhaps we might look to them for not having provided adequate measures for which there is power in this Bill, as a result of which healthy stock has been destroyed and a great amount of farming industry has also been lost.

We have spent a lot of time upon the matter and we have brought forward arguments which the noble Earl the Minister accepts as arguments but which he cannot agree to, for his particular reasons. I think this is the opportunity to offer the other place a second look at this matter of compensation—its liability —in the light of what some experts have said.


Just before my noble friend presses his Amendment, I wonder whether he will permit me to say this? I never said that your Lordships were not entitled to move this Amendment. Of course I did not. Your Lordships are entirely entitled to move it. What I said was that I did not think it would be very easy for the Government to continue a Bill which had this kind of thing attached to it. If your Lordships wish to include it, then of course your Lordships are entitled to do so. The last thing I would do would be to say to my noble friend Lord Lucas of Chilworth, "No, you mustn't do this." Of course it is up to your Lordships what to do. However, if I may respectfully say so, I think that your Lordships would be ill advised, with the interests of the beekeepers in mind, to do this.

I accept the strength of the argument which has been put forward and I accept also the strength of the argument of the noble Baroness, Lady Wootton of Abinger, who said that if you put this in it does not oblige the Government to pay; maybe they never will pay but it just gives a Government the ability to consider it at some time in the future, and what I shall do, if I have the agreement of your Lordships, is to look again at that point. I cannot give an undertaking that we would necessarily accept it. I realise the strength of feeling that there is and I will certainly look again at the point if my noble friend Lord Lucas of Chilworth would care to leave it like that.


I beg to move the Amendment.

6.27 p.m.

On Question, Whether the said Amendment (No. 4) shall be agreed to?

Their Lordships divided: Contents, 33; Not-Contents, 25.

Beaumont of Whitley, L. Kilbracken, L. Skelmersdale, L.
Blease, L. Killearn, L. Stanley of Alderley, L.
Brockway, L. Kinnoull, E. Stewart of Alvechurch, B.
Brooks of Tremorfa, L. Llewelyn-Davies of Hastoe, B. Stewart of Fulham, L.
Bruce of Donington, L. Lovell-Davis, L. Stone, L.
David, B. Lucas of Chilworth, L.[Teller.] Taylor of Mansfield, L.
Davies of Leek, L. Malmesbury, E. [Teller.] Wallace of Coslany, L.
Feversham, L. Moyne, L. Wigoder, L.
Grey, E. Northfield, L. Wise, L.
Hale, L. Ponsonby of Shulbrede, L. Wootton of Abinger, B.
Houghton of Sowerby, L. St. Davids, V. Wynne-Jones, L.
Auckland, L. Hives, L. St. Aldwyn, E.
Bessborough, E. Holderness, L. Sandys, L. [Teller.]
Denham, L. [Teller.] Hornsby-Smith, B. Strathclyde, L.
Derwent, L. Hylton-Foster, B. Suffield, L.
Drumalbyn, L. Lauderdale, E. Tranmire, L.
Faithfull, B. Long, V. Trefgarne, L.
Ferrers, E. Lyell, L. Tweedsmuir, L.
Greenwood of Rossendale, L. Mottistone, L. Vickers, B.
Hailsham of Saint Marylebone, L. (L. Chancellor.)

Resolved in the affirmative, and Amendment agreed to accordingly.

6.35 p.m.

Lord HIVES moved Amendment No. 5:

Page 2, line 29, at end insert— ("( ) The Minister or the Secretary of State or any order made by them under this section may grant exemption from the operation of this Act for bees kept for research purposes and for the preservation of a gene pool.").

The noble Lord said: This amendment is about the provision for research. If the requirements of this Bill are carried out, no provision will have been made for research into diseases and the probable preservation of genetic material. As I have said before there are many developments going on into the treatment of bee diseases, but in order to further the work and to be ready for any other disease which may arise it is necessary that this should be inserted into the Bill, so that research work may be done on infected material without it being affected by these provisions. I beg to move.


Surprise, surprise! This does not seem to provoke quite so much interest or controversy as the last amendment, but I can tell my noble friend that if we were in fact to accept this amendment it would make quite a difference to the Bill. There may well be circumstances in which bees kept for research purposes or for their genetic characteristics should be dealt with somewhat differently from other bees. It is not our intention to stop very desirable research and development work from being carried out. I am glad to tell my noble friend that this situation can be dealt with by order under the Bill as it now stands.

One needs to look at Clause 1(2)(c). Your Lordships will see that there it is provided that orders may make different provision for different cases. As an example, the exemption from the provisions of the Foulbrood Disease of Bees Order 1967, which will in fact continue in force under the Bill, is given at present in the Orders Article 12 to persons keeping bees for research subject to the issue of a licence", and there will be no problem in making similar exemptions for other necessary research into genetic work on bees.

My noble friend's amendment would remove bees for research purposes totally from the Bill. We would prefer to remove them under an order, which can be far more precise in stating what bees and what areas and for what purposes they can be exempted. To exempt under the Bill would be a blanket countrywide exemption, whatever the circumstances. For instance, it would remove the right of entry and the right of examination; and if the amendment were to be accepted—and I wonder whether it will be accepted in the light of your Lordships' last decision—and an exemption were made, anyone carrying out research could im- port bees from countries infected with Varroa and the Bill just simply would not apply to them. I cannot believe that that is the wish of my noble friend. The wish that I think he has in mind is in fact covered under the Bill, because an order can be made exempting those bees used for research purposes; and I hope that will satisfy my noble friend and the noble Lord, Lord Wynne-Jones, as well.


I am sure that the noble Earl will be glad to know that in compensation I would not wish at all to support this amendment. It seems to me that the Bill, which started as quite a good Bill, is now being made into an excellent Bill. Therefore, it would be quite wrong for me to remove the compensation which he would wish to have.


Perhaps I may say to my noble friend that in future when I propose amendments I will be a little more careful and read things a little more carefully before I write them down. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 1, as amended, agreed to.

Clauses 2 to 4 agreed to.

Clause 5 [Short title, commencement, repeals, transitional provisions and extent]:

On Question, Whether Clause 5 shall stand part of the Bill?


Since I have this opportunity, perhaps I may ask a question about Clause 5, which has to do with enactments repealed. I think it was on 25th March this year—I have not checked my facts so they may be a little hazy as to the date; we were all rather otherwise engaged—that an order was laid before Parliament which I think was passed. It was the Bees Import Order, which was laid under Section 10 of the Agriculture (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1954. This order currently has the force of law, as I understand it. I also understand that, under subsection (3) of Clause 5, Section 10 of the 1954 Agriculture (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act ceases to have effect. Therefore, I have two questions. One is, what is the validity then of the order? Secondly, since so far as I can see the order has exactly the same effect as many parts of this particular Bill, would it therefore not be appropriate to withdraw the order?


I think my noble friend will find that when this Bill becomes an Act it will in fact subsume the order which has gone before.

Claues 5 agreed to.

Schedule [Specific matters with respect to which provision may be made by orders under Section 1]:

Lord LUCAS of CHILWORTH moved Amendment No. 6:

Page 5, line 35, at end insert— ("9A. Payment of compensation for bees or other things subject to control destroyed in accordance with section 1(4).").

The noble Lord said: Since your Lordships have accepted Amendment No. 4 and we have discussed the substance of Amendment No. 6 at quite sufficient length, it leaves me only to beg to move the amendment standing in my name.


In view of the decision your Lordships took on Amendment No. 4 I would not object to this.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Schedule, as amended, agreed to.

Title agreed to.

House resumed: Bill reported with the amendments.