HL Deb 19 April 1994 vol 554 cc171-84

8.8 p.m.

The Countess of Mar rose to move to resolve, That this House calls on Her Majesty's Government to delay the implementation of the Medicines (Veterinary Drugs) (Pharmacy and Merchants' List) (Amendment) Order 1994 (S.I. 1994 No. 599) for two months whilst they consult with the industry.

The noble Countess said: My Lords, I am moving this Motion tonight because I believe that the Government, upon the advice of the Veterinary Products Committee, have acted in haste and that they are approaching the sheep dip problem from the wrong end. In the case of organophosphate sheep dips, farmers are being blamed for causing their own ill health by misusing the chemicals. We need to bear in mind that when OPs were first introduced they were widely advertised as being safer than the organochlorates which they replaced. In fact when Boots introduced its "New Diazinon Dip" in 1965 it was advertised as completely safe except of course for the ectoparasites it was designed to kill. Farmers had been accustomed to using poisons such as arsenic in sheep dips and were aware of the precautions which should be taken. It stands to reason that a normal person would believe that if a product is promoted as safe, not so many precautions need to be taken.

We must also bear in mind that it is only as cases of ill health caused by exposure to OPs in sheep dips have occurred that the labelling on containers has become more explicit. Early containers carried very little if any warning on the health hazards to users, and if a person has used the same product regularly he is unlikely to change his working practices unless hazard warnings are clearly highlighted. I do not read the instructions on a soap powder packet each time I use it because, having studied them at the time I first made my purchase, I believe that I know how to use it. I know that bleach and limescale remover are dangerous if misused. Although I can no longer use them I would take the necessary precautions because there are clear hazard warnings on their containers. Until last year there were no such cautions on OP sheep dip containers.

The noble Earl the Minister will tell me that before the Government enacted this order they consulted all interested parties. I have seen the responses to the consultation paper. It is interesting that the responses of those who actually represent the men and women who dip sheep have all expressed deep reservations about the order. They fear that, rather than spend time, effort and expense, many farmers will prefer not to dip their sheep in OPs and that the incidence of sheep scab will increase rapidly.

We must first understand that, with one exception, OPs are at present the only chemicals available to farmers to prevent rather than treat sheep scab. OPs are especially effective because they offer long-lasting protection against the sheep scab mite—so much so that the fleeces of sheep dipped in the autumn retain the chemicals in their lanolin until shearing time in the following May or June. Other ectoparasites can be controlled by alternative products on the market.

Until very early in this century sheep scab was endemic in the United Kingdom. Shepherds treated affected animals with a variety of salves and potions, none of which was effective. In 1870 the disease was made notifiable, but this had no effect on the number of outbreaks, which varied between 1,200 and 3,500 over the next 30 years. Infected imported sheep added to the problem.

Between 1901 and 1905, as a result of pressures from agricultural organisations, the feasibility of eradicating sheep scab was assessed. In 1905 a single dip was enforced before sheep could be moved from one locality to another, under police supervision. This was followed by compulsory annual dipping in 1907. From then until 1910 there was little reduction in the number of outbreaks. Further research revealed that a single dip did not eradicate the scab mite eggs, so in 1920 double dipping within an eight-day period was enforced. The number of outbreaks fell by about two thirds.

Local authorities had been empowered to make their own regulations for dipping. This arrangement generated a great deal of friction between them and farmers. There were problems with ensuring that all the sheep in hill areas were gathered for dipping. This, combined with the apathy of some farmers, created additional difficulties.

A new phase in the campaign opened in 1933 when Ministry staff supervised gathering, particularly in the uplands, and dipping. They also inspected flocks regularly. In 1938 the local authority functions were transferred to Ministry veterinary staff. Until 1946 all approved dips were based on arsenic, tar acids, nicotine or lime and sulphur. In that year benzene-hexachloride was introduced. By 1952 all sheep scab had been eradicated from the United Kingdom.

Early in 1973 there was an outbreak of scab on the Yorkshire/Lancashire border, believed to have been caused by sheep imported from Ireland. Rumour has it that Ministry inspectors supervised the dipping with non-scab dips. If that is true today's story might be very different.

In 1976 compulsory dipping with MAFF approved organochlorine products was reintroduced. These chemicals were abandoned when residues were found in the food chain. They were replaced by organophosphates, of which 17 were approved, and pyrethroids, of which one was approved. The pyrethroid dip was very much more expensive than its OP counterparts. As I said, they were promoted on the basis of their safety. We are only just beginning to discover how unsafe these chemicals really are. Despite 16 years of compulsory dipping, the campaign was not a success. In 1992 MAFF decided that greater reliance should be placed on self-regulation by the sheep industry. The national dipping and sheep scab orders were repealed in July of that year.

Since then there has been a serious and worrying spread of sheep scab from the upland areas to flocks in all parts of the country. Many noble Lords will have seen the disturbing pictures of affected sheep after the recent successful prosecution of a farmer in the North of England.

I am as concerned as anyone about the effect this disease has upon the welfare of the animals. Prevention is part of good stockmanship. Would that all sheepkeepers were good stockmen and women. Profit margins in the sheep industry have always been tight and for some this will inevitably lead to cutting corners and reducing dipping.

There have always been feral sheep in the uplands and moorlands of the UK. It is known that these animals have been missed during the gathering for dipping. Unfortunately, they are a reservoir for sheep scab. This was known in the 1930s. Sadly, the vigilance of those appointed to police dipping procedures from 1976 was not what it was during the earlier decades.

I believe that the MAFF Minister made a serious mistake when he rescinded the orders which made sheep scab a notifiable disease and compelled farmers to dip their sheep. Had he had the will of some of his predecessors he would have ensured that scab was eradicated from the national flock before the measures were repealed. Those involved with the industry, from shepherds to skin processors, are eager to see scab eradicated. Those of us who believe that their health has been affected by OPs, wish the same, for it would reduce considerably the need to use these chemicals.

All those in the industry have plenty of very constructive ideas as to how that should be done. They are fearful of the consequences of the requirement for purchasers of organophosphate sheep dips to have enrolled for a certificate of competence during the 1994 season and to hold such a certificate after January 1995, as I have already explained. Self-regulation is not working. The irresponsible minority stick the proverbial two fingers up at their concerned neighbours when asked to deal with affected animals. The fear is that the disease will once again become endemic.

When the Minister announced the recommendations of the Veterinary Products Committee at a press conference late last year she was asked repeatedly whether she could guarantee that the health of no more humans would be adversely affected as a result of dipping if they hold a certificate of competence. I am not surprised that she would not answer the question, for I know that she cannot give such a guarantee. My own response at the time was that anyone who believes that a certificate will protect their health needs to be certified.

There is no indication in the order as to how suppliers of organophosphate dips are to be monitored. I believe that it is unreasonable to expect them to be responsible for ensuring that every purchaser is certificated.

I said at the beginning of my speech that I am convinced that the Government are using the wrong approach. I ask the noble Earl the Minister to consider seriously what I have said and to ask his right honourable friend the Minister in another place to suspend the order for two months to enable her and her advisers to confer face-to-face with those in the industry who represent individuals responsible for dipping and otherwise handling sheep. Asking for written submissions is not satisfactory.

I am very conscious of the cost of eradication, but this must be weighed against other costs. I am sure that a balance can be struck between the need to protect the national flock from an extremely unpleasant disease and condemning an increasing number of individuals to chronic ill health and total disruption of their lives. It may well be that the need for certificates of competence will be overcome in the discussions. I beg to move.

Moved to resolve, That this House calls on Her Majesty's Government to delay the implementation of the Medicines (Veterinary Drugs) (Pharmacy and Merchants' List) (Amendment) Order 1994 (S.I. 1994 No. 599) for two months whilst they consult with the industry.—(The Countess of Mar.)

8.18 p.m.

Lord Beaumont of Whitley

My Lords, when I was President of the Oxford University Plough Club sonic 42 years ago I invited two guests of honour to the annual dinner. One was a professor of agriculture who also happened to own a small agricultural chemical factory. In those days one could own a small agricultural chemical factory. The other guest was the then Earl of Portsmouth, who was an organic farmer. I seated them either side of me. Lord Portsmouth leant across me to the professor and said, "So you are one of those persons who are poisoning us, are you?". It was a very enjoyable occasion.

That was a rather light-hearted introduction to this very difficult and painful problem. I early came to the conclusion that I was on the side of those who fought for what we have now come to call the precautionary principle. If ever there was an unanswerable case for the precautionary principle it is in dealing with OP sheep dips. There is overwhelming evidence to show that these substances are intensely dangerous and that a great many people have suffered from their use. They are dangerous to use and they are dangerous to dispose of. That has been either known or suspected for a very long time and much more action is needed from the Government than has been so far forthcoming or promised. What we need is, if not quite the Government falling down before the noble Countess like the emperor at Canossa before the Pope in penitential ashes, at least an acknowledgement that mistakes have been made, combined with what we clergy call a firm intention of amendment.

On these Benches, like our colleagues in another place, we support the noble Countess in her action. The least that we can do is to support the call for a short delay while the matter is considered again. I hope that your Lordships will agree with the noble Countess.

8.20 p.m.

Lord Carter

My Lords, the House will be extremely grateful to the noble Countess, Lady Mar, for putting down the Motion. We know that she has wide-ranging interests. However, recently she has concentrated on the problems of the OP sheep dip and the dangers to human health. I am not sure that the Ministry of Agriculture has met her efforts with unadulterated enthusiasm but she has fought hard to bring the problem before us. She has certainly succeeded. I believe that the Government and the department have a difficult balancing act to perform between the danger to human health and the awful effects that we know of scab and fly strike on sheep.

The Government are approaching the matter, on the recommendation of the VPC, through the order with training and certification, with enrolment in the first year and proficiency after 1st April 1995. That is perhaps the only way to deal with the problem. It is a sensible approach. Is that the thin end of the wedge? Is that the approach that will be adopted with products other than those covered by this order?

Perhaps I may say a few words on the order. How will it work in practice? It contains curious phraseology which refers to: a person whom the seller knows, or has reasonable cause to believe, to be a person who has animals under his control for the purposes of, and in the course of carrying on, a business". How is the seller supposed to establish that? How does the seller establish "reasonable cause to believe" the person to be the holder or employer of someone with the relevant certificate? How will the issue be policed?

Comparison has been made between the regulations regarding the control of agricultural pesticides and the application of sheep dip. Before the debate I told the Minister that I would ask whether the department had any idea of the number of dippers. I do not refer to sheep farmers but the number of people who are likely to be caught by the order. I also wish to confirm—I believe I am correct—that the order does not cover all sheep dips with active ingredients but only those with an organophosphorus component.

I have another question on the terminology in the order. The order refers to, a person who has animals under his control for the purposes of, and in the course of carrying on, a business". Having looked at the results of many sheep flocks over a number of years one might wonder whether most of the owners of sheep flocks in the country could be regarded as carrying on a business. Would those owners be caught by the order? On a more serious note, will the Minister state what will be the effect on the small hobby flocks of sheep? Such owners are clearly not carrying on a business. Will they be caught by the order? The sheep flocks could, of course, be a source of infection.

The BVA has pointed out that it is essential that staff employed by agricultural merchants are fully trained to know the regulations and to be able to recognise the different classes of compounds contained in sheep dip preparations. We certainly hope that that will be the case. Does the department have any plans to ensure that that is so?

I turn now to the speech of the noble Countess. She gave some cogent reasons for delay of the introduction of the order. She asks for two months. She has referred to the deep reservations expressed during the consultation period. We do not discuss the efficacy of the OP products in the control of disease but the dangers to human health. The balance is between the protection of sheep and the dangers of OP poisoning.

When the Minister replies, I hope that he will be able to assure the noble Countess and the House that the consultation has been sufficient, that consultations are continuing and that therefore there is no reason for the delay that she seeks. If the answer is not satisfactory, and if the noble Countess divides the House, I shall have to consider carefully with my colleagues whether we support the noble Countess.

8.26 p.m.

The Parliamentary Secretary, Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (Earl Howe)

My Lords, I echo the noble Lord, Lord Carter, by saying that the noble Countess deserves the gratitude of the House for having so successfully and persistently drawn your Lordships' attention to an issue of genuine concern. Her efforts, perhaps more than anyone's, have ensured that the Government's actions have been subject to the closest scrutiny. That scrutiny has, I hope, demonstrated our overriding concern to protect human health through measures that are practicable and effective.

The noble Countess's Motion concerns legislation about new conditions attaching to the purchase of organophosphorus, or OP, sheep dips. From April of next year, anyone who wishes to buy such material will need to possess a certificate of competence in the safe use of sheep dips. In the meantime, they will need to show simply that they have registered for such a certificate.

The noble Countess advocates a period of consultation with the industry. Let me say to her that the Government wholeheartedly support that principle. In that area, as in all others, we are committed to meaningful consultations with all those likely to be affected by new proposals. Thus consultation with organisations in the sheep industry, and far beyond, began on 17th December. The order came into force on 1st April and the arrangements take full account of the comments that we have received. We wrote to all sheep farmers outlining the new measures as soon as the order had been laid before Parliament. Allowing a transitional year before purchases of OP dip become dependent on possession of a certificate will provide ample opportunity for the industry to seek any further clarification that it needs of how the new arrangements will work.

I hope therefore that noble Lords will agree that the Government have fully met the need for consultation with industry which is the subject of the noble Countess's Motion. It might, however, be helpful if I touch upon some of the wider issues that have been raised in the debate.

OP dips generate strong opinions. At one extreme it is argued that they are far too dangerous to have on the market and should be banned straight away. At the other, it is suggested that a small number of people are making a great deal of noise about risks to health when really that is a lot of fuss over nothing, and we should simply carry on in the same way as before.

The Government's approach falls between the two extremes. That is not because of a desire for compromise—it would be quite wrong to view our attitude in that light—but because we believe that we should look to objective scientific advice and form judgments accordingly. In October last year the independent Veterinary Products Committee, which advises agriculture and health Ministers on all matters concerning the licensing of animal medicines, held a special meeting to discuss the future of the OP dips. They were also joined for the day by various acknowledged expert consultants, neurologists, doctors and poisons experts. They concluded that a ban on the use of OP dips when used correctly could not be supported. But they also had before them evidence of cases of reported human ill health associated with dip exposure. It was clear to the committee that in only 10 per cent. of those cases, regardless of the age or experience of the person concerned, had the full recommended protective clothing been worn or properly used. The committee therefore went on to recommend that a certificate of competence for sheep dipping be introduced as soon as possible, so that sales of OP sheep dip would in future not be permissible unless supported by a certificate. The Government accepted that recommendation and noted the committee's wish to see urgent action taken.

In December, we set out full details of our plans to introduce a certificate of competence scheme in a letter consulting interested organisations. We explained tat we were planning to have a scheme in place by 1st April. In response, there was broad support for the principle of a certificate. But several organisations criticised the complexity and jargon-laden nature of the original first draft of material for certificate tests prepared by the National Proficiency Tests Council. As a result, we went back to the NPTC and hammered out a much improved format—one which they then subsequently ran past a sample of sheep farmers. We understand that the farmers found it to be a fair test—no push-over, yet easy to understand.

The noble Lord, Lord Carter, asked whether we planned to extend the certification scheme to any other veterinary medicines. There are no plans at the moment to extend the scheme to other veterinary medicines. We shall, however, in October review the non-OP dips to see whether they should be brought into the scheme, but no decision has yet been made. However, local agricultural colleges and the Agricultural Training Board offer training in the use of veterinary medicines, and certification through the National Proficiency Tests Council is available on a voluntary basis.

The noble Lord also asked how many dippers there are. I regret that we do not possess that piece of information. There are approximately 90,000 sheep farmers in England and Wales, not all of whom will use OP sheep dips, which are the only product subject to the certification scheme. Some will use alternative products or employ contractors.

Lord Carter

My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Earl for giving way. If he does not know the number of dippers, how has the department been able to carry out the compliance and cost assessment which I believe is attached to the order?

Earl Howe

My Lords, we have had to make some kind of an estimate, but we are not necessarily confident that it will turn out to be correct. There are a number of alternative products on the market and in the end it is up to the sheep farmer's individual choice as to what he or she may do to protect the health status of the flock.

The noble Lord, Lord Carter, also asked how the new controls will work in practice. The control mechanism on sale and supply of OP dips is simple and effective. From 1st April 1994 until 1st April 1995 agricultural distributors must have reasonable cause to believe that the person buying OP dip either has enrolled with the NPTC for taking a certificate of competence test or is the employer of, or acting on behalf of someone else who has enrolled. After 1st April next year the certificate of competence itself will be necessary to support purchases of OP dip. We have worked closely with the Animal Health Distributors Association in the run-up to the coming into force of these new controls. All agricultural distributors who sell the dips have as a result been sent an extensive question-and-answer brief to help them understand how to apply the new system.

Already some 2,500 sheep farmers have enrolled. We shall be mounting a publicity campaign to ensure that next April's deadline is kept clearly in view. Those who have not already done so continue to enrol. This one year phase-in should allow sufficient time for everyone who wants to do so to qualify.

The noble Lord also asked about hobby flocks. My understanding is that there are no exceptions at all to the controls for small flock owners, but I reserve the right to correct myself in writing. If I am wrong in what I have said, I shall write to the noble Lord straight away.

The question that is sometimes lost sight of is why sheep are dipped in the first place. The noble Countess rightly raised that point. Sheep dips are highly effective weapons in the armoury to combat sheep disease. Sheep scab is not nice. It is caused by parasitic mites scraping the skin. Left alone, these mites reproduce quickly and can soon cause great distress to the animal and can be fatal.

Ensuring that sheep flocks are free from scab is the responsibility of sheep owners. Yet it appears from a number of representations that we have received that some sectors of the sheep industry may be failing to exercise that responsibility. It is not as though this is difficult. Regular inspection of the animals will show whether there is a scab and it can be treated readily by the farmer. Failure to treat a scab outbreak is likely to lead to animal welfare problems. No one should be under any illusion, the Government attach great importance to all issues which concern farm animal welfare. Welfare legislation exists to protect our animals and we shall not hesitate to press for prosecution, wherever sheep are found to suffer through neglect.

There may be some farmers who have resisted treatment because of their anxieties over the safety of OP dips. I hope that they will now be encouraged by the steps we have taken to improve operator safety; or that they will find the non-OP products, such as the ivermectin injectable product licensed this year for sheep scab treatment, to be acceptable alternatives.

The noble Countess has mentioned the current incidence of sheep scab. We have received a number of requests for the Government to reverse their deregulation policy and re-introduce the notifiable status for the disease. We are looking into the reports of an increased incidence of sheep scab and when the information is available we will consider whether further steps might be necessary to encourage farmers to act in a responsible manner. This should not, however, be interpreted as signalling an inevitable return to a regulatory-based solution for controlling scab. The arguments upon which we based the policy of deregulating the sheep scab legislation in 1992 are still relevant today.

The purpose of compulsory national dipping was to control and eradicate sheep scab, particularly on premises where the existence of infestation had not been recognised. However, after 15 years it is an inescapable fact that the policy failed to meet those objectives and was unlikely ever to achieve them, particularly as the lack of EC controls meant that we could not request additional trade guarantees to protect our disease-free status, if that were ever to be achieved. The policy also failed to secure the co-operation of a significant minority within the industry and that was a problem.

Those who call for a return to regulation should therefore remember that the disease is, after all, one that can be quite effectively dealt with by the farmer by using a licensed medicinal product in accordance with the manufacturer's instructions. Those procedures, combined with care in the purchase of replacement animals and flock management to prevent re-infestation, should provide the industry with all it needs to control the spread of sheep scab.

The Veterinary Products Committee, at its special meeting last October, concluded that in spite of a lack of firm evidence to support the association of chronic health effects with exposure to OP sheep dips the knowledge of their potential toxicity should be enhanced. They recommended that a new medical and scientific panel be set up to look into this and the question of whether further research projects would be necessary. As noble Lords will know, the panel's chairmanship and composition have been announced and its first meeting held on 31st March. We await the findings of the panel with interest.

I have already mentioned publicity and not only will we be reminding sheep farmers about the need to qualify for certificates before next April, but we are also setting in train a programme to promote safer dipping practices. This will complement the new requirement for a certificate of competence. HSE have already made a useful training video explaining the control of substances hazardous to health regulations and illustrating good practice. HSE inspectors will continue to provide advice and, where necessary, enforcement on their routine visits to sheep farms.

A major part of the action programme will be a new leaflet published jointly by HSE, the Veterinary Medicines Directorate and the Department of the Environment setting out detailed guidance. That includes advice on using the less hazardous alternatives to OP dips where appropriate and what precautions farmers need to take when OP dips on welfare grounds are clearly the best choice. The guidance will be sent free in early May to all registered sheep farmers in time for the main 1994 sheep dipping season.

Another important safeguard, as the noble Countess will know, is the monitoring and investigation of suspected adverse reactions associated with the use of any particular licensed product—sometimes known as the "yellow form" scheme. Between January 1985 and April 1994, 520 reports relating to OP sheep dips had been received concerning 606 people. An appraisal panel comprising scientists and doctors from the Veterinary Medicines Directorate, the Department of Health and the HSE meets regularly to consider such reports. Their conclusions are reported to the VPC and are taken into account by the committee in formulating advice to Ministers.

The noble Lord, Lord Beaumont of Whitley, referred to the disposal of sheep dips and indicated that more government action was required. The Government have continually reviewed their advice on the safe disposal of sheep dip, taking into account the results of the latest research. The Government have borne in mind that the approach must both protect the environment and be practical to operate—hence the latest advice which is being issued in the form of a booklet by HSE, MAFF and DoE.

In the short time that we have had tonight to debate this subject I believe that we have covered the ground very well. But in the final analysis I also believe that we have no choice but to accept without further ado the certificate of competence scheme which the order introduces. I am convinced it will lead to a significant raising of awareness among sheep handlers of the precautions that they should take to protect their health when dipping. That is something which the noble Countess can only welcome. We are talking about an important safety measure and one which is soundly underpinned by objective scientific advice. I urge the House to accept that the Government's approach has been both responsible and balanced and that consequently the Motion should be rejected.

Lord Dormand of Easington

My Lords, before the Minister sits down, will he say a little more about the nature of the consultation that has taken place on the part of the Government? He said that the consultations started in mid-December, which means that they have covered a period of some four months. It strikes me as a layman in these matters that for a serious issue such as that raised by the noble Countess—she is obviously very knowledgeable; she has spoken on this subject on a number of occasions in this House—the request for another two months is reasonable. Indeed, I think that she is very generous in asking for only another two months.

What worries me to a very large extent is that this Government are governing by statutory instrument. Is the Minister aware (I am sure that he is) that last year there were no fewer than 3,300 statutory instruments? I hope that the Minister will not say to the House that the Government think that every one of those 3,300-plus statutory instruments was perfect in every way. Nevertheless, that is what happened. It seems to me that on the big and very serious issue that is being raised tonight, not only ought we to be given more information but the Minister, and therefore the Government, ought to be much more sympathetic.

Earl Howe

My Lords, I cannot accept that contention. I believe that MAFF's record on consultation is very good. We go out of our way to consult on virtually everything that we do. In this case we wrote to over 200 organisations and bodies. Among those that replied, there was, as I said, a broad acceptance of the principle of what we proposed to do. Where there was disagreement was on the detail and complexity of the detailed proposals. We addressed those issues. For example, the points raised by the National Association of Agricultural Contractors on the competence test were fully taken on board.

No statutory periods are laid down, of course, for consultation. It is a question of allowing a reasonable amount of time for the person consulted to research and then to produce a response. The normal time allowed for consultation on veterinary medicine matters is six weeks. But there is no hard and fast rule. On this issue a five-week period was given for responses.

The Government had accepted, in an announcement on 1st December, the advice of the Veterinary Products Committee to introduce a certificate of competence scheme as soon as possible and had indicated their intention to do so from 1st April. Indeed, a preliminary meeting with the industry had been held in early December prior to the issue of the formal consultation letter. The drafting of the statutory instrument which accompanied that letter took into account the views that were expressed at that meeting. Consequently the proposals, I have to say, came as no surprise to the industry. I am fully satisfied that an adequate period of consultation was allowed.

The Countess of Mar

My Lords, before the noble. Earl sits down, perhaps I may ask him whether he will very kindly give me an undertaking that he will ask his right honourable friend to call a conference of all the people who are concerned with this problem so that they can discuss it face to face and at length and we can really get to the bottom of it.

Earl Howe

My Lords, I must say that I do not see the need for such a conference. There is nothing in our scheme details that is immutable. The NPTC is perfectly ready in due course to introduce further modifications to the scope of the test in the light of experience. What we have to do is to let the scheme itself go ahead. The details of the scheme, as I said, are not immutable. We will review them in the light of experience. I do not really see that a conference will achieve very much beyond the kind of responses that we have already received under the consultation exercise.

The Countess of Mar

My Lords, I am very grateful to the noble Lords, Lord Beaumont of Whitley and Lord Carter, for the support that they have offered me. I am also very grateful to the noble Earl, Lord Howe, for his kind remarks at the beginning of his speech and for the full way in which he has dealt with the matter. He always does it very kindly and courteously.

I have thought a great deal about this problem. I am still not entirely happy that the consultation period, which was from 17th December to 21st January, was full enough, particularly if one also takes into account that during that period there was nearly a fortnight at Christmas. I am afraid that I must test the feeling of the House.

8.47 p.m.

On Question, Whether the Motion shall be agreed to?

Their Lordships divided: Contents, 34; Not-Contents, 58.

Division No. 1
Addington, L. Hollis of Heigham, B.
Airedale, L. Hylton, L.
Allenby of Megiddo, V. Kilbracken, L.
Beaumont of Whitley, L. Kinloss, Ly. [Teller.]
Belhaven and Stenton, L. Kitchener, E.
Blyth, L. Lawrence, L.
Carter, L. Mar, C. [Teller.]
Craigavon, V. McNair, L.
Darcy (de Knayth), B. Murray of Epping Forest, L.
Dormand of Easington, L. Nathan, L.
Graham of Edmonton, L. Norrie, L.
Gregson, L. Pearson of Rannoch, L.
Rea, L. Skelmersdale, L.
Robson of Kiddington, B. Stodart of Leaston, L.
Russell, E. Swinfen, L.
Selkirk, E. Thurlow, L.
Shepherd, L. Wise, L.
Annaly, L. Cumberlege, B.
Arran, E. Dean of Harptree, L.
Astor, V. Denton of Wakefield, B.
Barber, L. Dixon-Smith, L.
Blatch, B. Dormer, L.
Brookes, L. Eccles of Moulton, B.
Brougham and Vaux, L. Ferrers, E.
Butterworth, L. Fraser of Carmyllie, L.
Byron, L. Gisborough, L.
Campbell of Croy, L. Goschen, V.
Carnegy of Lour, B. Grimston of Westbury, L.
Chalker of Wallasey, B. Harvington, L.
Courtown, E. Haslam, L
Crathorne, L. Henley, L.
HolmPatrick, L. Seccombe, B.
Hooper, B. Selborne, E.
Howe, E. Sharples, B.
Lauderdale, E. St. Davids, V.
Leigh, L. Stockton, E.
Lindsay, E. Strathclyde, L.
Long, V. Strathcona and Mount Royal, L.
Lyell, L. Strathmore and Kinghorne, E.
Mackay of Ardbrecknish, L. [Teller.]
Masham of Ilton, B. Swinton, E.
Mersey, V. Teviot, L.
Platt of Writtle, B. Trumpington, B.
Reay, L. Ullswater, V. [Teller.]
Renton, L. Vivian, L.
Renwick, L. Zouche of Haryngworth, L.
Rodger of Earlsferry, L.

Resolved in the negative, and Motion disagreed to accordingly.

House adjourned at five minutes before nine o'clock.