HL Deb 07 October 2002 vol 639 cc107-32

House again in Committee on Clause 1.

[Amendment No. 118 not moved.]

The Deputy Chairman of Committees (Lord Ampthill)

I should tell the Committee that if Amendment No. 119 is agreed to, I cannot call Amendment No. 120 because of pre-emption.

Baroness Byford> moved Amendment No. 119:

Page 1, leave out lines 17 and 18.

The noble Baroness said: This amendment is linked with Amendments Nos. 122 and 123. The clause states in effect that, whenever the Minister "feels a slaughter movement coming on", he can go ahead without paying any attention to whether the animals he wants killed have been exposed to infection.

My reading of the three UK reports leads me to believe that the National Audit Office was less than impressed with the cost-effectiveness of the pre-emptive cull. Anderson and the Royal Society did not in any sense praise it. Anderson commented how much better the Scottish authorities were at implementing their control of the disease. The report from the EU is still awaited, but Commissioner Byrne, in his speech of 12th September, reported that the Commission feels, that emergency vaccination should be moved to the forefront of the response mechanism". He then added that stamping out, must also remain possible as a strategy for reducing the number of susceptible animals in the vicinity of an outbreak". None of this appears to me to be adequate justification for a clause which declares that it is immaterial whether animals have been exposed to foot and mouth.

I now turn to Amendment No. 120. It is obvious that I am in retreat before the weight of numbers of government representatives, particularly in another place. However, I am seriously concerned about the principles involved here. Given that the Government insist on slaughter policies which are totally unrelated to the Title and sub-Title of this part of the Bill, they must be made to exercise these powers reasonably and responsibly.

The cattle we are discussing have not got foot and mouth; they have not been in contact with infected animals nor with people whose lives take them onto infected farms; nor have they ever been exposed to infection under any government definition, but nevertheless the Secretary of State, who sees all things and who must be obeyed, decrees their demise. At the very least, we are asking that the post-killing action should be carried out expeditiously. A delay of more than 48 hours is cruel and inhumane and likely to cause extreme distress to both the owners and obviously the keepers of the livestock affected. I again refer the Minister to number 60 of the working party recommendations which states that emergency vaccination ought always to be used in cases which make it possible to avoid mass burial or burning on pyres. I beg to move.

Lord Livsey of Talgarth

I refer to Amendment No. 120. I believe that it is very important indeed that animals are buried within the 48-hour period. I am speaking from memory, but if one examines the Northumberland report I believe that the conclusion was that they should be buried very much quicker than that. I believe that it was 12 hours. Perhaps someone will correct me on that.

One matter which was apparent during the recent outbreak was that animals were not buried rapidly enough. I am sure that we all remember that Brigadier Birtwhistle was brought into Cumbria to sort out the problem. I know that it was a very bad outbreak and that there were many cases. Had the outbreak been controlled at the beginning; had the Army been involved at a much earlier stage and in sufficient numbers; and had local contractors also been involved at an earlier stage, I believe that we could have achieved a much better burial rate instead of having many thousands of carcasses lying around the countryside. We must never see such a situation again. I believe that a 48-hour rule is a good start. However, I think that it should be somewhat less than that; in fact, considerably less.

Lord Whitty

The noble Baroness has confused me slightly. As I understand it, she has spoken to Amendments Nos. 119 and 120.

Baroness Byford

I apologise to the Minister. This is my mistake. Some confusion arose because my two colleagues were not here at the restart of proceedings. Amendment No. 120 should be discussed with Amendment No. 121. Therefore, perhaps we can take Amendments Nos. 118 and 119 at this stage, and deal with the other amendments in due course.

Lord Whitty

Amendment No. 119 in part goes over some of the territory we were debating before the dinner break in relation to the word "immaterial" in that it seeks to delete part of subsection (3). The arguments put forward by the noble Baroness suggest that she was indeed thinking of not allowing an extension of the powers to provide for the pre-emptive cull. I simply repeat what I said before dinner; namely, that this does increase the scope. It also reflects a clear recommendation of Anderson that we should clarify and increase the scope in this regard.

If the objection is to the word "immaterial", I have already said that a more mellifluous form of words might be considered. However, the points of principle still apply, as does my commitment to bringing forward an amendment that would include a requirement to produce a slaughter protocol to deal with some of these points in terms of the anxieties expressed.

In relation to Amendment No. 120, which deals with the disposal of carcasses, clearly the objective must be supported. The difficulty about accepting a 48-hour deadline—or, indeed, any other deadline—unless supported by the contingency plan, is that at the height of an epidemic such as the one we witnessed last year, disposal is of a lower priority than slaughter, vaccination, or whatever strategy is adopted. If the logistics meant that we could not meet the disposal target but that was the only target specified in primary legislation, we would be in difficulty as regards deciding the priorities in terms of disease control.

Although I fully support the objective of this amendment—namely, to reduce the time taken to dispose of carcasses—I could not accept the proposal as an overriding commitment when compared with commitments that should be dealt with in the national contingency plan. Therefore, rather than place on the face of the Bill a provision stating that we would deal with it in the contingency plan—

Lord Livsey of Talgarth

I thank the Minister for giving way. The noble Lord has rightly addressed his response to those who are directly involved in tackling the disease. However, there are many capable machine operators in the countryside driving JCBs, and so on, who are not involved in that process. Likewise, Army personnel are not involved in that side of the matter. It seems to me that they could have been deployed at a much earlier stage to tackle that side of the problem—that is to say, the burial of carcasses—while the tackling of infection could have continued at the same time and been accomplished just as rapidly, if not more so, than was the case.

The Countess of Mar

Was it not the publication of pictures of bloated animals with their feet in the air that had such a disastrous effect on our tourism industry? Further, was it not the sight of these animals lying in fields near houses where children lived that had a disastrous effect on the psychology of children and of their parents?

Lord Whitty

The noble Countess is correct to highlight the pyres method of disposal. We have said quite clearly that we would not resort to the use of mass pyres in future. The interim contingency plan clearly states that aim—

The Countess of Mar

I was not talking about the mass pyres; I was talking about the delay in getting rid of the bodies of animals.

Lord Whitty

There are two aspects to the matter; first, how quickly we can dispose of bodies in the height of an epidemic, and, secondly, how rapidly we can gear the logistics to achieving that aim without undermining the efforts regarding disease control. The noble Lord, Lord Livsey, is partially right to say that different people would be carrying out such disposal. However, he is not entirely right. Clearly, some of the support logistics and the allocation of personnel could be very tight, especially in areas like, say, Cumbria, where the disease was so rife at any given time. In such circumstances, one would have to make a choice between disposal and eradication through slaughter, or prevention through vaccination or pre-emptive cull.

For those reasons, I would prefer not to see a target included in the primary legislation, even if we could come up with ones for this and other aspects of the disease eradication programme in the contingency plan. If targets were included, they might be given primacy over other possibly more important aspects of disease control logistics.

Baroness Byford

I am grateful for the Minister's response to the amendment. Obviously, we were anxious about the possibility of carcasses being left to rot or remaining visible as happened during the previous outbreak. The Bill is likely to be changed yet again if vaccination proposals come into being, so it is difficult to push the Government to accept some amendments, given that they may later be altered. On the other hand, tremendous damage was done not only to the farming community but to the entire rural community and the UK as a whole.

As the Minister knows, numerous people cancelled their holiday to Britain because they considered our country to be diseased and did not wish to come here. That had huge financial implications for businesses in the UK. I would have thought that the Government would welcome an amendment that requires them to get rid of carcasses within a 48-hour target. However, I have heard the Minister's comments, and I will give the matter due consideration. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendment No. 120 not moved.]

Baroness Byford moved Amendment No. 121:

Page 1, line 20, at end insert— ( ) In sub-paragraph (1A) above, where none of paragraphs (a) to (d) applies to the animals in question, the Minister shall serve on the owner of the animals (or in default of the owner being traceable, the keeper of the animals) a notice containing a reasoned justification for his decision to require the slaughter of animals, and no slaughter of animals shall take place until at least 24 hours have elapsed from the serving of the notice."

The noble Baroness said: I apologise for my confusion as regards the order of amendments. I will deal also with Amendments Nos. 131 and 268. In Amendment No. 121, we wish to delete from the start of the published amendment to "question, the Minister" and to insert where the Minister decides to apply sub-paragraph (1A), he".

Given that no diagnosis has been made of foot and mouth disease, and without reasonable cause to suspect that infection has been found, reasons for slaughter are required. Any Minister invoking paragraph (1A) in support of his discretion to slaughter must be required to give alternative reasons. The alternative must be in writing and served in a fashion that incorporates proof of delivery and of receipt. The recipient should have a minimum of 24 hours to assimilate the ministerial argument and to set in train any necessary appeal.

The public perception is that consultation is replacing decision-making at local and intermediate level. The media, the press and members of the Select Committee in another place complain of foregone conclusions and of questionnaires carefully worded to elicit desired responses. They complain of lack of responses from Cabinet members and Ministers. We must not worsen the situation by allowing open-ended powers that would, among other things, render legal personal animosity, group persecution, action as a result of flawed research or of advice from an irrelevant source, or action to cover up errors.

I turn now to Amendment No. 131. Page 108 of the Anderson report states: The issue of disposal and the inadequacy of provision for it had been noted in the Drummond Report in 1999 and further acknowledged by the State Veterinary Service in July 2000. The Dutch experience of disposing of nine million pig carcasses during the outbreak of classical swine fever in 1997 could have served as a warning for other countries to be prepared for a similar eventuality". Indeed, we had our own swine fever outbreak here. The fact is that nothing was done. We fear that unless the need to prepare is enshrined in law nothing will be done again until it is too late.

Even without the endorsement of the learned professor, we would wish to see something on the face of the Bill setting disposal standards for the Government. The people's horrified reaction to the layers of rotting carcasses has made it abundantly clear that this level of ineptitude must never be repeated. Not only did farmers suffer, because it was their livestock that were killed, but their families were on the receiving end at a highly critical moment. Other rural businesses, especially tourism, suffered dreadfully. The evident public revulsion kept visitors away from affected areas in particular, but also from the countryside in general. As someone said in a radio interview: who wants to come to eat lunch at a country pub half a mile up the road from a heap of manure and maggots? Those same country pubs and rural businesses had no compensation for DEFRA's failure to handle the corpses with alacrity.

Perhaps, from the Government's point of view, the strongest argument for tight standards in carcass disposal is their own recently published strategic review of diffuse water pollution from agriculture in England and the imminent EU draft directive on environmental liability. The Secretary of State explained in a Written Answer published in Hansard on 19th September that, the proposed Directive could have additional positive environmental benefits, by requiring higher standards of remediation and by encouraging operators to take additional precaution".—[Official Report, Commons, 19/9/02; col. 268W.] I should have thought that several hundred decomposing bodies lying in a field, especially when the weather is warm, would fall well within the remit of that directive.

Similarly, nutrients from the over-application of fertilisers cause diffuse pollution from agriculture. As we saw during the outbreak, the Environment Agency was greatly concerned over the leakage from burial sites and into streams. Above-ground decomposition is one thing. But equally, or perhaps more, alarming is the pollution that cannot be seen. The strategic review of water pollution incorporates a paper prepared to inform the Government's thinking around objectives. It concludes, among other things, that there is a need for co-ordination of models from the catchment to the national scale, predicting and monitoring the effects of any policy measures. A slaughter policy that does not set standards for burial, removal or treatment will undoubtedly be at odds with the Government's environmental targets.

The criterion for Amendment No. 268 is defined in the Northumberland report and in the disease contingency plan. However, as we have seen all too clearly, the system can become overwhelmed. It would be sensible to have a fallback position, as proposed in the amendments, from the point of view of the animals and of human psychology. Anderson writes on page 108 about the inadequacy of provision for disposal. Page 89 of the NAO report records huge sums spent on disposal. A sizeable proportion of that arose from having to make arrangements in a hurry with no preparation.

Our main concern is to avoid a repeat of what happened in 2001. I beg to move.

9.30 p.m.

Lord Livsey of Talgarth

This is a very important amendment. The Minister has started to address some of the problems with the identification of mass burial sites in 2001 and appeared to indicate that perhaps policy was changing on that. There were clearly problems with the preparation of objective geological analysis of sites and consideration of issues such as run-off into river basins. There was a mass burial site at Mynydd Epynt in my former constituency that was very unsuitable geologically. Work was stopped on that site as a result. The road that ran next to the site was opened only last week, having been closed for the past 10 months. That was very inconvenient because—for noble Lords who know the area—it cut off about 20 miles of the road across the Epynt. Although the site has been restored, pollution is still running into the River Towy, and there is evidence that it is running into the River Usk catchment.

I am not talking about the burning of carcasses so much as the burial of carcasses. As the Northumberland report indicated, where possible, carcasses can be buried on farm sites. However, it is difficult for the Environment Agency to find sites that are sufficiently good and do not result in pollution. The issue requires considerable and detailed examination, the result of which should be a procedure that ensures properly buried carcasses at suitable sites sanctioned by the Environment Agency. I am well aware that the recent outbreak was so great that the problem was particularly difficult to deal with. Consequently, the matter requires great forethought. Suitable sites have to be identified now and not during the middle of a huge outbreak. If that is done properly, I think that some of the problems can be overcome.

Lord Whitty

Amendment No. 121 would impose two requirements: a slaughter notice to be issued, and then no slaughter for 24 hours. On the first point, I agree that it is important that there is transparency in the decision. That is why we have stated our intention to introduce a new policy of issuing slaughter notices to farmers whose animals are to be culled. The whole purpose of the notices is to formalise the process of notifying of the need to slaughter, to provide documentary evidence, and to explain the justification for slaughter to the stockholder. Notices will be served whenever animals are to be slaughtered and not simply under these new powers, which is a distinct improvement on the requirement that existed last year.

I do not, however, think that a 24-hour delay would be appropriate. A fixed delay would be inappropriate even if the slaughter were to be done on preventative rather than exposure or disease grounds. We want to get on with this process as rapidly as possible and building in a 24-hour delay could jeopardise that process. There is, of course, always the possibility of asking for a review by the district veterinary manager. I would not, however, wish to see a 24-hour delay built in.

Amendment No. 131 takes us back to disposal. Although disposal should be carried out as rapidly as possible, it should also be carried out in the best possible way and, as I said, in a way that does not undermine other efforts. We are therefore not happy about including a 48-hour target or about specifying the priority to be given to disposal.

Under the new interim contingency plan, and according to the current policy, we have a disposal hierarchy that is substantially different from that which operated previously. The hierarchy is as follows. The best form of disposal is by rendering; the second by incineration; the third by landfill on approved sites—although this would require the permission of the landfill operator, we are setting up contracts to that effect—the fourth by burning; and the fifth by mass burial or farm burial. The problem with establishing a 48-hour target is that we run the danger of re-arranging the disposal hierarchy. Therefore rendering is best but if one cannot do that within 48 hours, one may resort to mass burial or on-farm burial. Pyres, of course, do not feature in that list; they are excluded.

Lord Livsey of Talgarth

What are the Government doing about creating more rendering capacity and siting that rendering capacity nearer to where livestock exists to speed up the whole process? What work has been done in that regard?

Lord Whitty

We are discussing with the rendering industry how capacity could be made available urgently and on what terms; likewise with landfill operators. Instead of having to negotiate contracts from scratch, as we were effectively doing during the previous epidemic—running to stand still—this arrangement would be in place as part of the contingency plan in advance of any future disease. The noble Lord was right to suggest that rendering capacity is finite. Nevertheless, we should have the ability to maximise capacity this time, which we did not have previously.

Baroness Byford

I thank the Minister for his response. He did not respond to Amendment No. 268, which involved the alternative of using a vaccine.

Lord Whitty

The requirement to vaccinate if disposal capacity was insufficient could compromise other efforts. Vaccination in general must be part of a planned priority list of where we would vaccinate, whereas this approach appears to envisage that we should give priority to vaccination when disposal capacity is inadequate to meet the 48-hour target. I know that that is covered by a separate amendment but the strategy appears to be: "If you cannot meet the 48-hour requirement, vaccinate to slow down the disposal rate". In fact, vaccination and the logistics of vaccination need to be directed at the priority areas in order to stop the disease spreading. That would imply a priority to help out in relation to the disposal side, which again is the wrong priority at the height of a disease.

Baroness Byford

I thank the Minister for that but I do not necessarily follow his argument. I shall come back on a couple of issues.

In relation to Amendment No. 121, I accept that notices are required to be and will be given. On the proposal that no slaughter should take place within 24 hours, I accept what the Minister says. However, there is a major concern about the question of a challenge, which, as the Minister knows, happened last time. There may be provisions in the Bill that I have missed that allow for the possibility of that challenge without slaughter having taken place first; in other words, if someone wanted to make a challenge, he could do so in relation to testing. That might overcome the issue. My understanding is that there is no such proposal in the Bill. I am not absolutely convinced in relation to Amendment No. 121.

On Amendment No. 131, I accept that there may be circumstances in which carcasses cannot be removed or buried or that disposal cannot take place within 48 hours. The noble Lord, Lord Livsey, touched on rendering. Have the Government set themselves any targets about how they would bring in or make available such a system and geographically where would it be? Will animals be trundled around, as they were last time, from pillar to post to reach rendering sites? I accept that the Government have decided that burning and burial are last resorts. They were first resorts last time. However, big questions remain. We still do not quite know how the system will cope if a large number of animals are killed next time. I am still concerned in that regard.

If animals have to wait for disposal for more than 48 hours and are going to rendering, is the idea still that they will be left on the farm where they have been destroyed and that they will not be moved off that farm to another place before going to rendering?

I believe that part of the cause of the problems and the great distress which occurred during the previous outbreak was the fact that families saw their animals lying dead for days and days. I was going to say "weeks"; that is perhaps a little unkind, but I believe that in one or two cases the animals may well have been left lying for a week. In responding to these amendments, I wonder whether the Government had considered moving the animals to a designated place if a delay were to occur before rendering could take place. Perhaps the Minister will answer that point.

Finally, I turn to the question of vaccination and the hope that vaccination rather than cull will be used as the first resort. Where a real outbreak of the disease is seen to occur, would it not be sensible for animals to be vaccinated in order to ease back on the pressures on the Government in disposing of the animals? Although the Minister did not agree with me, I cannot see a reason for not accepting the logic of that argument. He seemed to indicate that the vaccines might be needed elsewhere—perhaps in another attempt to control the cull. But I should hope that there would be sufficient vaccine to cope with any such emergency in the future. I do not see why the two should be in opposition; they could be used together. I wonder whether the Minister slightly misunderstood my argument in relation to Amendment No. 268 and thereby suggested that it was not necessary. Perhaps he will kindly clarify that point.

Lord Whitty

I shall attempt to do so. I was making the point that Amendment No. 268 would put on to the face of the Bill an area in which vaccine should be used but which would not necessarily be the priority area if one was engaged in a strategy which primarily relied on vaccination. It suggests that vaccination should be used where difficulties are experienced with disposal, whereas the disease control priorities might be in an entirely different part of the county or country. That is why I would not want vaccination to be prioritised in that sense. I am not saying that we should not use vaccination to slow down disposal requirements; I am saying that we should not give priority to it.

As to Amendment No. 131 concerning whether there would be an intermediate step between farm slaughter and rendering, I believe that the general answer to that would probably be "no". There is difficulty enough in creating burial and other mass sites. Ideally one would go straight from the farm to rendering as rapidly as possible. However, I was querying whether we could always do so within 48 hours. There is no built-in half-way house because of the lack of rendering capacity.

Of course, it must be borne in mind that during the last few months of the outbreak of the disease, even with the rather inadequate arrangements that were in place with rendering companies at that time, the rendering capacity was capable of dealing with the throughput. Only at the height of the disease was a problem experienced. If we consider the hierarchy, I do not believe that we are often left with significant problems on the farms. However, there may be particular areas where a temporary problem occurs.

The Countess of Mar

Before the noble Lord sits down, I am a little puzzled. There is an urgency behind the Bill. The Minister has stressed that since January, although we are now in October. Yet he says to the noble Lord, Lord Livsey, that the Government have still not sorted out the rendering capacity in case of another outbreak of foot and mouth disease. It is now 18 months or more since the last outbreak began. Yet we still do not have something as important as this in place when rendering is the prime means of disposing of the carcasses. Is it not time that someone pulled their socks up?

Lord Whitty

I do not believe that I said to the noble Lord, Lord Livsey, that we had nothing in place. I said that I could not say which plant would be the designated rendering plant at the time. However, we have discussed with the rendering and landfill industries the terms on which their premises would become available were an emergency to arise. They would become available immediately, and we would not have to engage in the often quite difficult contractual relationships experienced on the previous occasion. So there is an understanding with the industry. However, I cannot say which rendering plants would deal with a volume of carcasses from a given county. We have to play it by ear, but the understanding is there and the contractual arrangements can be triggered.

9.45 p.m.

The Earl of Onslow

On the Clonmel principle that we would not be starting from here if there is another outbreak due to the acceptance of vaccinations, and the principle thereof, I hope that we shall never have to slaughter that number of animals. The argument is about how we dealt with last year's outbreak as opposed to how we deal with an outbreak the next time around. No one in their right mind would do what happened last time. We shall vaccinate, vaccinate, vaccinate. Everyone will say that we knew that all along. We were in favour of the exchange rate mechanism until we came out of it; it is that syndrome. I suspect that the rendering argument is slightly arcane and slightly unnecessary simply on the grounds that it will not arise because we will vaccinate and will not have to slaughter however many millions of animals. That is probably not very helpful.

Baroness Byford

The intervention of my noble friend Lord Onslow, useful or not, brings us back to where we started today. We are dealing with a Bill that was out of date before we started to discuss it, which shows the nightmare that we are in. Over many weeks and months we have had to prepare our amendments on the assumption that the Bill is as it stands. We now find ourselves in a totally different scenario and it is difficult to argue the case for something that would be applicable to what we have in front of us when we should be talking about something to the side of us. I hope that I am not the only one who finds this experience very difficult. Having said that, I beg leave to withdraw Amendment No. 121.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendments Nos. 122 and 123 not moved.]

Clause 1, as amended, agreed to.

Clause 2 [Extension of power to slaughter]:

Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton moved Amendment No. 124:

Page 2, line 2, leave out "Minister" and insert "Secretary of State"

The noble Baroness said: I spoke to this amendment when speaking to Amendment No. 106. I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

The Deputy Chairman of Committees

With the leave of the Committee, this amendment occurs repeatedly, so I take it that I can invite the Minister to move such an amendment formally in future and that the Committee will be content therewith.

Baroness Byford moved Amendment No. 125:

Page 2, line 4, after "of" insert "infectious"

The noble Baroness said: In moving Amendment No. 125 I shall speak also to Amendments Nos. 126, 127 and 128. My noble friend Lord Peyton is no longer in the Chamber so I shall deal with just those four amendments.

This is a probing amendment. As far as we can see, with the possible exception of scrapie, this Bill is intended to deal with infectious animal diseases. However, under the current wording of the Bill, the powers could extend to animals that are genetically diseased or suffering from radiation or acute dehydration or any other manner of ailments that could be passed on from dam or sire. Perhaps the Minister will explain the extent of his intentions in the application of the Bill and ask the draftsman to consider the wording that will adequately describe its extent and not leave it open to endless interpretation. For that reason we suggest including the word "infectious".

On Amendment No. 126, the introduction of a three-kilometre cull showed how arbitrary such a policy could be. The amendment is intended to offer some protection to owners of animals that are regularly kept in isolation. The very fact that such a cull is to begin before the announcement of any outbreak means that it cannot be quickly wheeled into place once an announcement has been made.

The provision could also apply to newly purchased animals held in isolation under the 20-day rule. That rule has been introduced in an educated attempt to stop the spread of foot and mouth should it ever be imported again through the markets. If it is adequate for the purpose, the implication must be that animals kept indoors must be considered to be relatively safe from infections unless or until their own premises are affected. The noble Lord, Lord Carter, spoke to that when we had an earlier debate around the issue.

In relation to Amendment No. 127, although the Minister has already suggested that he would be paying full market value, I should still like to move the amendment, which is on page 2, line 6, after "compensation" insert "at full market value". If the BSE outbreak taught MAFF nothing else, it should have taught it that playing around with fractional values is the one guaranteed way to leave farmers—who are probably earning between 1 per cent to 2 per cent on their capital, which is, to a large extent, their livestock—manoeuvring around to find a way out. In Ireland, BSE earned the title of the "JCB disease", not to put the blame on Mr Bamford but because there were a few identified cases and a sense that there were a great many unexpected holes in the ground.

This is a direct implementation of Recommendation 61 of the Anderson report. Anderson's Recommendation 61, page 150, advises government and the livestock industry to explore how incentives might be used to raise standards. We believe that restricting compensation to three-quarters of market value is diametrically opposed to the professor's view. We suggest that the Minister should reinstate the full market value as a basis for all compensation and adjust it up or down as a particular circumstance dictates. I believe that the Minister earlier indicated that he appreciates that.

Amendment No. 128 is another approach to the question of the appropriate level of compensation. That is clearly laid down in the 1981 Act. The present Bill seems to be fixed on doing it differently. Section 36(3) provides for anything seized for the purpose of preventing the spread of foot and mouth or any other disease to be paid for at its value before seizure. Anything less than market value will open the door to temptation on the part of some farmers, perhaps, whose profit margins, as we all know, are desperately low so as to be incapable of absorbing the loss.

When one considers the items that are condemned along with the livestock, it is totally unreasonable to legislate for destroying them for anything below their value at that time. I beg to move.

Lord Livsey of Talgarth

I support the noble Baroness on the question of market value, which is extremely important so far as concerns Amendment No. 130. I am slightly concerned about Amendment No. 126, which refers to keeping animals indoors and totally isolated. The matter depends very much on the premises and whether or not they are downwind of an outbreak. That is particularly pertinent in the case of pigs and wind-borne transmission of foot and mouth disease. Although I should like to think that we could find some circumstances where some animals kept indoors in certain types of sheds might be insulated from an outbreak, if we are to consider such provisions the precise circumstances in which they would apply must be accurately defined.

The Earl of Onslow

On the valuation question, there has been reasonable criticism that can go both ways. In the most recent outbreak, people were waiting for valuers to go to see cattle before they were slaughtered. I am not sure that that is a good idea. Surely, it must be possible to take a list of people's herds if they must be slaughtered and to do so quickly as opposed to waiting for a valuation. It appears that the valuation process was over-complicated and, in some cases, was slightly over-generous. That brings the farming industry into disrepute and makes disease control that much more difficult. If we are to slaughter, we must slaughter jolly quickly. I hope that with the advent of vaccines, that will not arise, but the Government should address that question publicly.

The Countess of Mar

Can the Minister tell us what diseases he envisages falling under the clause? I can think only of infectious diseases to which it might apply. It might be well to make that distinction of infectious diseases. The noble Lord, Lord Carter, made clear the reason why the amendment concerning animals kept indoors should not be accepted.

I agree with noble Lords who have spoken about compensation at full market value. The noble Earl, Lord Onslow, said that there were problems with waiting for valuers. I agree, but on the other hand there is a difference in value between a cull cow and an in-calf heifer and I know of individuals who were claiming that they had in-calf heifers when in fact they had cull cows. Some valuers were unable to distinguish between the two. There are enormous difficulties. One animal can be worth twice the price of another. That is fraught with problems and we must rely on the honesty and integrity of those involved. Perhaps the animals should be seen before they are slaughtered.

Lord Greaves

First, I apologise to the Committee because I had to dash out and missed a small part of the debate. However, it may be for the benefit of the Committee if I say that we had requested a stand part debate on the clause that we are due to reach in two or three group's time. As the debate is spreading in that direction, we can ask the questions that we wanted to ask on that now and save a little time later.

I have been slightly confused by this debate. As I understand it, Clause 2 is all about diseases other than foot and mouth and extending the powers in the 1981 Act to other diseases, as the Secretary of State sees fit. In the light of that, the first question to ask is that asked by the noble Countess, Lady Mar: which other diseases do the Government envisage that encompassing? At present, they could be any disease, but the kind of slaughter or vaccination regime that is appropriate for the diseases set out in the schedule to the 1981 Act—cattle plague, pleural pneumonia, FMD, swine fever and poultry diseases—is not necessarily applicable to diseases that are not spread in an infectious manner and which can be dealt with in other ways.

There is concern that the schedule could be used to deal with transmissible spongiform encephalopathies. We discussed TSEs in Committee before the recess, but there is concern that the provision could be extended to cover TSEs when they are clearly an entirely different kind of disease that is not, so far as we know, infectious between animals and certainly does not spread rapidly in that way.

So the first question is: what other diseases will the provision cover and why should we not write into the Bill a requirement that they should be infectious diseases? If the Minister does not like the term "infectious", what term would he like to allay the fears of people who believe that, perhaps not under the present Secretary of State or the present Minister but in future, the Bill could be used in other ways?

The second broad question is about how the regime—the rules and regulations—envisaged might be covered by the new powers, which are very broad. As I read them, they allow the Secretary of State to create, by way of an instrument passed by affirmative resolution, any regime that he or she wants for any disease to which he or she decides it should apply. Have I read that right? Is it as broad as that? Or is it restricted in some way to the more detailed rules that we are discussing with regard to foot and mouth disease? Is it an extension of the foot and mouth disease rules and regulations, as set out in the Bill, to other diseases? Or does it, in effect, allow the Secretary of State to create, by means of an instrument, any kind of regime that he or she wants? That is fundamental.

The other question raised by the amendments relates to the detailed matters arising from those concerns. There are questions relating to compensation, indoor stock and so on. Those are a few of the questions that we are debating in the context of foot and mouth disease. Will the gamut of rules and regulations apply to the other diseases? If not, what will?

10 p.m.

Lord Jopling

At this stage of our consideration, I must ask the Minister for the Government's view of the susceptibility of animals that are kept indoors. This is the appropriate moment for such a question.

During the dreadful outbreak last year, I was astonished to find that the disease did not spread into the intensive pig herds in the north of England and down the east side of England. I live and have a farm in North Yorkshire, close to the A1. There were outbreaks of foot and mouth disease within 10 miles to the east, within 10 miles to the west and about 10 miles to the north. A large pig unit—about 700 pigs, I think—only a mile east was taken out because it was owned by someone who had had an outbreak further over. It was thought that there could be a dangerous connection. Mercifully, I did not get the disease on my farm, although—dare I say it—I would have been infinitely better off today if I had. Thank goodness, I did not.

I am surrounded, particularly to the south, by some highly intensive and efficient pig units. Given everything that I was taught about foot and mouth disease at university and elsewhere, I was astonished that the great intensive pig herds of north and east Yorkshire did not contract the disease and that it did not go through those areas like a prairie fire. I see that the noble Lord, Lord Carter, is nodding his head; I am grateful for that. He knows a great deal about such things. Ever since the outbreak, I have been puzzled as to why the disease did not spread into those highly intensive pig units. Could it have been that this type of virus was more likely to be contracted by sheep than by pigs and that pigs were not susceptible to it? Or could it have been that most pigs are kept in environmentally controlled units?

At this stage of our consideration, before we turn to the more pointed discussions at the Report stage, it is important for the Minister to give an answer, if he would be so kind. He may not be briefed on the issue—I realise that it is technical—and I do not want him to think that I am trying to blind him with science. However, it is important that before the Report stage we have an idea from the Government why pigs, which are always said to be more susceptible to foot and mouth disease, did not contract it. It was principally confined to sheep, which we always thought were less susceptible than pigs. If the Government's view was that pigs did not contract the disease because they were in enclosed, environmentally controlled units, that would be helpful to us in framing this legislation.

I know that in recent years the practice of keeping sows outside has grown. I have never owned pigs in my life, but I know that there is a growing belief that keeping sows outside is a good way of breeding pigs. If one drives up and down the A1 and the M1, as I do, one often sees pig units out in the fields. The pigs, with their small shelter, have a run of open fields. One would have thought that the pigs in those open-field units would have been more likely to contract foot and mouth disease last year. I was astonished that they did not.

If the Minister cannot give an answer now, I shall understand, but it would be helpful if he would be good enough to write to everyone concerned within the next week or so after his officials have had time to consider the points raised. We would like to know the Government's view of the susceptibility to disease of animals which are kept indoors and those kept outside.

I note what my noble friend has included in her amendment in trying to make an exception of those animals constantly kept indoors from the day before the announcement of an outbreak. However, in framing the regulations we must understand this important issue. I do not press the Minister to move into waters which are out of the depth of Ministers, but perhaps during the next two weeks he could inform us of the Government's view because that would be most helpful to all Members of the Committee.

The Countess of Mar

From my observation of what happened during the recent outbreak, animals appeared to be infected by direct animal-to-animal contact, as with sheep going to market. I also noticed that in Worcestershire—it may have occurred in other counties—a postman went from farm to farm carrying foot and mouth disease. He also kept animals of his own. A relief milker picked up the infection from the cattle he was milking and carried it to his own sheep. Various farmers also visited one another, thereby infecting the animals. In some cases, it was said to be done deliberately, but that is anecdotal evidence.

It is very interesting that nowhere in the Bill are there any controls to prevent humans from one farm visiting another farm. Under the original Act one is able to prevent people from coming onto one's premises or into one's buildings if one is afraid of infection, but there is no legislation to prevent people from infected premises going onto other premises. It is important that we should think about this factor because it concerns direct contact.

The noble Lord may be interested to know that Fred Brown tried to infect pigs with foot and mouth disease but, even when he had them in the same room with fans going between them, he did not infect them. The only time they became infected was when they had their noses in the same trough.

Earl Peel

I, too, have often asked myself why the particular strain of foot and mouth virus did not spread as quickly as it might have done through the pig units of Yorkshire and down the east coast. But surely it would be unwise to consider legislation based on one particular kind of foot and mouth virus because, as I understand it, there are several strains.

The Earl of Onslow

There are 26.

Earl Peel

My noble friend Lord Onslow tells me that there are 26. One has to be a little cautious when one looks at this particular virus, interesting though the facts are.

Lord Carter

This is not the occasion for an arcane discussion on pig husbandry. It is of course an irony that the whole outbreak was first identified in a sow on a production line. I said in relation to an earlier amendment that, knowing how infectious the disease can be if it gets into pigs, bad as the outbreak was, it was a godsend that it did not get into the pig herd, particularly in Humberside.

It is not a point for this Bill, but we should look at the incidence among outdoor herds and indoor herds. Was the pig unit that was taken out 10 miles south of the noble Lord's farm an indoors or outdoors unit?

Lord Jopling

It was an indoor unit about one mile to the east of my farm.

Lord Carter

If it was an indoor unit, that completely destroys Amendment No. 126. Animals that were kept constantly indoors were taken out as a contiguous cull.

The Earl of Onslow

I believe I wrongly advised my noble friend Lord Peel. I have been corrected by the noble Lord, Lord Plumb. There are 72 strains of foot and mouth.

It has arisen during the debate that the outbreak primarily involved sheep. The outbreak of 1965 or 1967 primarily involved cattle. Why is it that one bit of it seemed infectious to sheep and one bit infectious to cattle but it did not go into pigs? Do we have any information? I appeal to the noble Lord, Lord Whitty; I am a seeker of information. We do not know, and it would be helpful to have some information.

The Countess of Mar

It may also be of interest to know that 90,000 piglets were killed in Taiwan from the same strain. So pigs were affected there.

Perhaps we should congratulate the pig keepers in our country on the very high health status of their animals and for the extreme precautions they sometimes take to prevent their pigs becoming infected. We have a wonderful pig industry in this country. Those responsible are to be congratulated on the fact that foot and mouth did not sweep through it.

Lord Whitty

We have had a very constructive discussion on pig farming. Perhaps I may now deal with the original amendments. Amendment No. 125 seeks to limit the scope of any extension to other diseases to "infectious" diseases. As the noble Lord, Lord Greaves, implied, that would by implication rule out any genetically transferred diseases or, possibly, even contagious diseases.

The Phillips report states that we should be prepared to provide for systems to deal with diseases of which we are not yet aware. Having a restriction relating to infectious diseases only would restrict the ability to extend these powers to other forms of disease.

10.15 p.m.

The Countess of Mar

I am sorry but it is a ridiculous answer to say that precautions should be taken against diseases of which we are not even aware. How could that be done? That is grasping at the air. How could such precautions be taken unless we got rid of all the animals? I said to a noble Lord on the Liberal Benches the other day that if we got rid of all the animals there would be no animal diseases—then every precaution could be taken against diseases that we do not know about. That is a ridiculous argument. We must know the hazards before any precautions against risks can be taken.

Lord Whitty

I return to the Phillips inquiry, which advised the precautionary principle, so we had the framework of the regime in place. The way in which the powers are applied would be different for a genetically transferable disease from a infectious disease but some of the same powers—such as powers of entry—would be needed. The noble Countess says that could not be done for an unnamed disease but an affirmative resolution would be required. Once the disease became apparent, we would bring forward an affirmative resolution to extend the provisions to that disease—infectious or otherwise. Not only does that not apply in the abstract but there would be a parliamentary procedure before we defined the disease to which it applied. But we would need the same kind of powers in the case of a disease that was transmitted other than by infection.

Lord Greaves

After the noble Lord has taken further advice, perhaps he could say on Report what other means of transmitting diseases he is thinking of, other than infection. Contagious diseases are indeed infectious diseases. The noble Lord mentioned genetically transmitted diseases. The one genetically transmitted disease that the Bill covers in detail is covered in a separate section because the Government accept that it needs to be dealt with separately. If there is a need to extend powers similar to TSE powers to other genetically transmitted diseases, why is that not in the scrapie part rather than in this section? We need to understand other means of transmission that might require what are actually quite draconian powers.

Lord Whitty

It is in the scrapie section because that part deals with flock improvement, not an outbreak of disease. This section deals with an outbreak of disease that might turn out to be genetically transferred. As to contagion and infection, there are medical arguments about whether the two are equivalent. Inserting the word "infectious" could suggest that it limited the interpretation, although I would hope not.

I originally thought that Amendment No. 126 related to pets. As the noble Countess indicated, one of the main means of transmission is by individuals handling animals—be they pets or farmyard animals housed indoors. If they mix with other animals, there is no reason for animals housed indoors being less susceptible to disease than those kept outdoors.

I probably agree with the noble Lord, Lord Jopling, that I will write to him about pigs. Clearly pigs are susceptible to the disease, although apparently not as susceptible as the other species. The difference was probably because they were not moved around in the way that sheep and cattle were moved around. Where there was infection, it applied indoors and outdoors. As the noble Countess said, there were examples in other countries.

The Earl of Onslow

The noble Lord said something very interesting—that pigs are not susceptible to this strain. Is that what he said?

Lord Whitty


The Earl of Onslow

Do we have any information as to the susceptibility of different animals—be they goats, sheep, pigs or cattle—to the various strains of foot and mouth? If we do, that should alter our whole attitude to disease control.

Lord Whitty

I shall need to take advice as to the precise answer. Off the top of my head, it is that we have post facto statistical views of where an outbreak has taken place, but not a veterinary view as to why an animal is more susceptible to one strain than to another. We can only do this post facto; therefore, it is not much of a guide to future action.

The Earl of Onslow

The noble Lord said that pigs are less susceptible to this particular strain. I found his comment very interesting. I may be totally wrong, but if that is what he said, there must be more information on the matter. It cannot be based merely on outbreaks; it must be based on some scientific evidence.

Lord Whitty

No, it is entirely based on statistics. They appeared to be less susceptible. But, as the noble Countess said in relation to Taiwan, other countries have a different statistical experience. There may be medical and environmental reasons behind it, but we do not have that information. If I am wrong, I shall let the noble Earl know.

I turn to Amendments Nos. 127 and 128 dealing with compensation. As I indicated earlier, so far as concerns compensation for vaccinates which are slaughtered, I agree, and I shall be bringing forward a slightly differently worded amendment to ensure that compensation for vaccinates slaughtered for foot and mouth purposes will be 100 per cent of the market value. There are arguments about how the valuation is set, but they are for a later period.

These two amendments attempt to extend the compensation arrangements to other diseases. As I said at the start of our proceedings, compensation arrangements in relation to other diseases, are not necessarily for 100 per cent of the market value for slaughter of any kind. There are different arrangements for different diseases. Therefore, we shall try to have the equivalent for vaccinates to the normal compensation for slaughter in that disease, which will not in all cases be 100 per cent. I indicated also that some rationalisation of the system so that there is greater equivalence between diseases is probably desirable, but again that is for a longer term assessment of the compensation regime.

Section 36(3), referred to in Amendment No. 128, applies to compensation not for animals but for things seized. Therefore, the implication that this relates to animals is not correct.

Baroness Byford

I thank all noble Lords who have taken part in what has been a longer debate than I expected. Perhaps I may refer to the amendments in reverse order.

I take it from what the Minister said that he will not consider our Amendment No. 128. There is no way that the Government would pay compensation for objects seized rather for than animals taken.

In regard to Amendment No. 127, seeking compensation at full market value, we had this argument earlier. The Minister kindly indicated that the Government would pay the full market value. However, he went on to say that different arrangements may be in place for different diseases. I shall need to study his remarks carefully and may well wish to return to the matter. I do not understand why other diseases should be treated differently. We have all been coping with the aftermath of the foot and mouth outbreak, which was particularly difficult. Before that, there was the smaller outbreak of swine fever. When we are examining new legislation in the hope of introducing better provision, I wonder why we cannot manage to set the same level of compensation across the whole and why it has to be set at different standards for different diseases. Perhaps the Minister wishes to comment.

Lord Whitty

I am referring to an historic inheritance. Even the regulations covering swine fever are different from those covering foot and mouth. It is a two-tier system of compensation for diseased animals: 100 per cent in some cases and less than 100 per cent in others. Some of the other regimes for diseases which thankfully we have not had recently provide for either fixed sums or less than 100 per cent. That is one of the reasons why we need a complete review of the compensation system.

Baroness Byford

It is one of the many very good reasons why we need a completely different Bill, but that is another matter. The noble Lord has indicated that the Government are going to pay the full market value in compensation only as regards animals killed as a result of foot and mouth and that other infectious diseases will be dealt with according to the particular circumstances of the case. In a Bill concerned with animal health it seems odd that matters are left in limbo. One would have thought that we could have addressed the matter within this Bill. For something which has taken place before and which may have been good or bad, it seems illogical not to have drawn it into this Bill and tidied it up. But perhaps that is a subject for another day.

As regards Amendment No. 125, I am somewhat disappointed that the Minister does not accept our very small insertion of the word "infectious". I wish that I could tempt him further, but I believe that I cannot do that tonight. I suspect that we shall return to that quite frequently.

In referring to the broader and interesting debate about foot and mouth disease and pigs, perhaps I may say that we have the last little pigs going out this month because we are going out of pig production. I, too, have been very surprised that the pig industry managed to avoid being caught up in this particular outbreak of foot and mouth. It is true that many of us keep pigs indoors, but further along from us on the lighter land there are outdoor pigs. One would have thought that perhaps those pigs would pick up the disease sooner. Certainly those of us who keep pigs are very careful about who comes and what happens. Very tight regimes have been set up.

Perhaps I may digress a little. The same applies to the poultry industry. I do not believe that I have washed my hands and boots so many times as when visiting a poultry unit. These matters are hugely important. I am grateful to Members of the Committee for the very practical support they have given and the questions they have raised.

I ask the Minister to add to the list of things he is going to do. Has the department compiled any statistics on those animals which were "killed out" but which were kept indoors and were infected rather than being contiguous culls? I believe that is something we should know before the next stage of the Bill. There may be implications from which we can learn. I do not expect the Minister to have the figures to hand and it is certainly a late hour. I hope that the Minister will be able to produce the information for us next time.

Have the Government carried out statistical breakdowns as regards where, what and why the animals were killed? We agree that it was sheep which were predominantly affected this time whereas before it was cattle. How many of them have been looked at in the light of the progress of the disease from A to B? If the Minister has those facts to hand, it would be enormously helpful to those of us taking part in the debate to have them circulated to us in advance. That might save time on the discussion on the Floor of the House, which is likely to be more than two weeks away. Such information would be very helpful.

I know that we had an earlier debate and the noble Lord, Lord Carter, took part. One cannot argue that just because animals were kept indoors they did not develop the disease. However, it might be something which the local inspector would take into greater consideration in defining biosecurity rules.

Forgive me for being unable to give the name, but someone said that there were no biosecurity rules laid down. It may have been the noble Countess, Lady Mar. I refer her to our Amendment No. 311, which we shall certainly not reach tonight, but at some other stage. We were well aware that the Bill as it stands is very draconian for farmers and those who look after livestock. It puts no requirements on the department but keeps those who look after the animals at arm's length. We believe that there should be a provision on the face of the Bill that includes people who work for the department, vets, or whoever else might be involved in the same way. We have in mind the way that livestock are kept and cared for.

I hope that that consideration shows that we are equally concerned about the way that the disease was probably transferred—namely, that it was not purely from animal to animal. It was actually by human contact, which does not mean just the farming human contact. With those few comments, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendments Nos. 126 to 129 not moved.]

Baroness Byford moved Amendment No. 130:

Page 2, line 14, at end insert— ( ) The Minister shall, for animals slaughtered under this section, pay compensation which shall be the value of the animal immediately before it was slaughtered.

The noble Baroness said: This amendment seeks to ensure that the Minister shall, after the animals have been slaughtered, pay compensation to the full value and do so immediately. In sub-paragraph (2) of Schedule 1(2), provision is made for the Minister to adjust the compensation payable for animals slaughtered because of disease other than foot and mouth. The Bill should be unambiguous in the treatment of compensation for slaughter to prevent the spread of any disease.

As has already been mentioned, it is possible to argue—DEFRA has done so—that most animal infections are in some measure due to the action of farmers; for example, the farmer chose to attend a market on a certain day, or, he allowed a contractor on to his land without inquiring too closely into his precise movements over the previous two weeks. However, it is not possible to blame the farmer for having a farm that is next to, or downwind from, infected premises.

If the Minister decides to slaughter with no evidence of infection present for the reasons of contiguity or relative position, then he must pay 100 per cent compensation. Indeed, the Bill must ensure that he does so. In several of the amendments that we have already discussed we have asked for such valuations to be taken on the day when the animals are slaughtered. However, the Government might consider having the valuation from the start—that is, the first day of the outbreak—rather than on the day before that person had their animals killed out. I beg to move.

Lord Whitty

This takes us back to what we were discussing earlier. This amendment would require 100 per cent compensation to be given in all the diseases to which these provisions were extended. That is not the current situation as regards all other diseases. The noble Baroness may argue that, logically, it should be. However, that is not the case. We are considering the structure of compensation and the way in which it is administered; namely, disease by disease, which is a much longer-term process than we have in the Bill. Therefore, I would resist the suggested extension under this amendment.

Earl Peel

Perhaps the Minister can enlighten the Committee in one respect. Am I correct in my understanding that it is not the noble Lord's intention to discuss the issues on compensation for foot and mouth within the Bill because he wishes to return to the issue and discuss it at a later stage? Alternatively, is it the Government's intention not to deal with compensation under this legislation but to introduce further legislation later to deal separately with such issues? Can the Minister tell us the nature of his plans on this particular issue?

Lord Whitty

There is but one issue to which I wish to return as regards compensation in this Bill, but, by saying that, I am pre-empting the discussion that we shall have shortly on Clause 3. My current intention is not to return to compensation, except in relation to the 100 per cent market value for vaccinates under the FMD disease control measures. I shall have my own wording in the amendment to achieve that aim.

As I have already pointed out, the report of the National Audit Office identifies a number of flaws in the present compensation and valuation operation. It also raises implicitly the issue of risk-sharing, which involves insurance and levy. It will take time to assess and consult upon those complicated issues. Therefore, further legislation on the issue would be required in due course, following our animal health strategy, which we hope to complete early next year.

Lord Jopling

Some of the Minister's words fill me with disquiet. I hope that he will expand on his comment that the Government are exploring the possibility of insurance. Does that mean that they are minded to move from providing compensation in such cases, leaving it to people in the industry to insure themselves? I hope to heaven that the Minister did not mean that, but it sounded suspiciously as though he was saying that the Government intend to move from the compensation approach that has been taken in foot and mouth cases and during other outbreaks for as long as most people here can remember. If they are minded to toll the industry, this is a total bombshell for the Animal Health Bill.

I listened carefully to the Minister's comments, and, if he means what I thought he did, he must come clean now and tell us what exactly is in the Government's mind.

Lord Whitty

My comments had nothing to do with the Animal Health Bill. However, the noble Lord, Lord Jopling, did not mishear me. For at least one year, I have been saying that in the long term we must examine how the risk should be shared between the industry, the Government and the taxpayer. That would not mean a precipitate move away from the compensation system, but we must consider long-term options to avoid such bills as fell on taxpayers in the past. Our measures must be compatible with the industry's interests and may take a long time to establish. We are in discussion with representatives of the industry, the insurance sector and others to establish our options. We have not decided how to act, or in what timescale to do so. That issue is not reflected in the Bill.

Lord Livsey of Talgarth

The insurance industry appears to indicate that the risk is uninsurable and that it is not prepared to go down that path. I wonder what measures the Government are taking to persuade the insurance industry that they can shell out sufficient funds. Alternatively, will the premiums for producers be so great as to be unaffordable? A can of worms is being opened on this huge issue. This is a question for another day, as we need to discuss this complete change of principle in great detail.

The Earl of Onslow

There is a jolly good case for abolishing the compensation culture. However, that cannot be done without a largely free market and an unsubsidised agriculture industry. Our agriculture industry is bound by rules, subsidised and restricted by the CAP and the Department of EFRA, or whatever it is called. It is perfectly possible to insure against the risk of foot and mouth disease, if it is considered over five years. The incidence in one year was catastrophic; however, it can be insured against over a reasonable period.

However, as long as we have a highly regulated industry, with the Government saying this and the Government saying that, we have to have compensation. With a freer market, less regulation and less of the CAP, I suspect that we could expect farmers to bear their own risks and take their own responsibility. I would welcome that, although that is not what we are talking about in the clause.

Baroness Byford

The Minister may want to come back on this issue. My noble friend Lord Jopling heard him correctly. We had spoken about the issue earlier. It is slightly ironic that the department that totally failed to cope with doing its own job in managing disease control and stopping disease coming in now wants to get rid of its responsibilities for paying out for some of its errors.

Lord Carter

The Companion says that the debate should be relevant to the Question before the House. The Question before the House concerns Amendment No. 130, which has nothing to do with insurance.

Baroness Byford

I suspect that the noble Lord is not quite right. The amendment talks about compensation.

Earl Peel

I may be able to help my noble friend. I simply asked the Minister about the Government's intention. The Minister then revealed his plan to substitute present levels of compensation with some insurance policy.

Baroness Byford

I think that the noble Lord, Lord Carter, has given me a double whammy. I was right in the first place and my noble friend was right. We are talking about compensation. If what the noble Lord, Lord Whitty, has said is correct, we are talking about the Government ending up paying less compensation in future if they can manage it. My noble friend Lord Plumb said that he used to be insured. Many farmers were, but one problem was that insurance premiums became so high that people could not afford them, so they stopped insuring. We are back to square one.

The EU working report, to which we have referred earlier today, suggests that only 80 per cent of compensation for some diseases may come from what the report calls "the public purse", in whatever form that takes. It is not acceptable to expect the buck to keep passing back to the farmers, who are currently struggling to make a minimum wage if they are lucky. My noble friend Lord Onslow said that the risk is insurable. It would be, but we have to remember that more animals are kept now than were kept in years past, there is more movement of animals and there is much more global movement. People come in and out of this country. The chances of disease being brought in and out of this country grow as more of us come to and fro. We talked about vets earlier in the day. The number of vets out in the field has not gone down. The noble Lord, Lord Whitty, quoted that the other day. However, it has not gone up pro rata with the increase in the number of animals, so there are fewer visits to the farm. The cycle keeps going on and on.

I thought that this was not a difficult amendment, but it has taken on another look. I am glad that the NFU supports it. At this stage the best thing I can do is withdraw it, but we shall return to it. I thank noble Lords for their support and I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendment No. 131 not moved.]

Clause 2 agreed to.

Clause 3 [Adjusted compensation]:

On Question, Whether Clause 3 shall stand part of the Bill?

10.45 p.m.

Baroness Byford

I oppose the inclusion of Clause 3 in the Bill. Not one of the diseases listed on page 9 of the Bill is endemic in Great Britain. Great Britain is composed of islands and protected from contamination from its neighbours by a minimum of 20 miles of sea and an underground tunnel. Then again, with the number of people transiting illegally through the tunnel, I am not sure that it truly does provide such protection.

Nevertheless, infection will not seep in, and it is highly unlikely to be blown in. It will have to be brought in. Once imported, unless it is stopped in its tracks, its movement to the first and possibly subsequent points of infection or contagion will, unless the whole procedure is deliberate, be totally uncontrollable and unpreventable by the first, second and even third recipient.

In my opinion, it is highly likely that the owner or keeper of livestock will be dismayed, angry and upset about the diagnosis of an exotic disease among his charges. Indeed, I am sure that he definitely will be upset. If it is immediately clear that the infection has not been prevented by the officials charged with doing so, he might also be rude. However, that is not an adequate reason for lopping off one quarter of his compensation cheque. Depending on the numbers involved, such a deduction could cost him more than a fine at level one, two or three.

I question whether, in the circumstances of the first, second or third infection victim, the courts might not consider it cruel and unusual punishment to penalise the farmer by so adjusting his compensation.

Lord Carter

As I understand it, the Minister intends to agree with the noble Baroness to remove Clause 3 from the Bill, which would also remove Schedule 1. There is no need to spend much time persuading him to do it because he has already said that he will do it.

Baroness Byford

I am delighted to hear it. I shall offer the Floor to the Minister so that he can say it publicly. If he does not do so, I can return to the issue.

Lord Whitty

As I indicated in my opening speech, the Government have recognised the strength of feeling among some people that the clause could be counterproductive. I regret that the farming sector and the opposition parties have not recognised that it could provide an incentive to biosecurity. However, as it is rather crude, it merits further consideration in our wider assessment of compensation, valuation and so on. I shall not reopen that whole discussion now. I therefore accede to the noble Baroness's opposition to the inclusion of Clause 3 in the Bill. As Schedule 1 will consequently fall, as will the next few groups of amendments, we shall be able to move on to Clause 4 either tonight or later, as the usual channels have now decided.

Baroness Byford

I am grateful to the Minister and to the noble Lord, Lord Carter. The possibility had been suggested earlier, and I was not for one moment suggesting that the Minister might change his mind in the intervening period. I wanted at least to make a start on the clause. As I spent several hours putting together my speech on this clause, I am glad that noble Lords were able to hear a little taste of it. I thank the Minister for accepting our suggestion.

Clause 3 negatived.

Schedule 1 [Adjusted compensation]:

[Amendments Nos. 132 to 190 not moved.]

Schedule 1 negatived.

Clause 4 [Slaughter of vaccinated animals]:

Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton moved Amendment No. 191:

Page 2, line 31, leave out "Minister" and insert "Secretary of State"

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton

I beg to move that the House do now resume.

Moved accordingly, and, on Question, Motion agreed to.

House resumed.

House adjourned at eight minutes before eleven o'clock.

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