HL Deb 07 October 2002 vol 639 cc55-89

Before section 15 of the Animal Health Act 1981 (c. 22) there is inserted—


  1. (1) The Minister may produce a strategy for controlling the incidence of the diseases listed in Schedule 2A in the United Kingdom.
  2. (2) The strategy shall include—
    1. (a) a three-yearly review of the world-wide incidence of each of the diseases listed in Schedule 2A;
    2. (b) the resultant recommendation of steps to be taken in the United Kingdom to prevent the incidence of each disease listed in Schedule 2A;
    3. (c) the incorporation of the steps identified in paragraph (b) into a contingency plan for each disease;
    4. (d) the publication of each contingency plan;
    5. (e) the annual testing of each contingency plan and the publication within six months of a critique of the outcome of the tests;
    6. (f) the implementation of the relevant contingency plan upon the outbreak of any disease;
    7. (g) the monitoring of the implementation of each contingency plan;
    8. (h) the reporting, within four months of the official notification of the end of any disease outbreak, of the successes, failures, strengths and weaknesses of the control process and of the method of implementation.
  3. (3) The Minister may investigate, recommend and implement vaccination programmes—
    1. (a) for the emergency control of any disease listed in Schedule 2A in any animal species; and
    2. (b) for the permanent control of all such diseases in animals in particular circumstances.
  4. (4) The Minister may fund research into levels of susceptibility to diseases listed in Schedule 2A experienced within the United Kingdom since 1992, as between species and within each one according to the circumstances of the affected animals.
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  6. (5) The Minister may collate research into the viability of permanent vaccination programmes against diseases listed in Schedule 2A.""

The noble Baroness said: This amendment has been tabled because I, too, share the thoughts expressed by the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Hereford. To me, to start straight into a Bill with a part entitled, "Slaughter" and nothing else seemed foolhardy and unwise in the first instance.

My amendment is lengthy. There is no way that the Government will accept it, although the Minister said that the Government will propose a contingency plan, for which I am grateful. I tried in framing the amendment to reflect certain important matters that the Government may take on board and build on in later amendments. It attempts to incorporate two items identified as important by all three foot and mouth reports: namely, the National Audit Office, the Royal Society and the Anderson reports.

The first plank of the strategy covers contingency planning, where the first priority is to maintain a watching brief on the incidence of exotic diseases. The noble Baroness, Lady Masham, spoke of her concern about the closure of the part of Edinburgh University that deals with that. Perhaps when he replies the Minister can tell us more about the plans for that university. More than one comment has been made to the effect that had more attention been paid to the pan-Asian "O" strain of the foot and mouth virus, the UK would have been better prepared. In his report, on pages 42 to 45, Anderson presents maps and commentary on the progress of that strain. On page 44, the Royal Society uses maps to make the spread of that virus leap off the page at any reader. The Royal Society also sounded a serious alarm on page 29, in sections 360 to 367, about the northward spread of bluetongue and African horse sickness. Let us not say in future that the Government were not warned.

A watching brief is no good without an alert for those likely to be affected. There follows a plan of action in which local knowledge is key—all reports reflect that. Knowing what lies ahead and how to fight it, we must then make the contingency plans public and regularly test them to ensure that they continue to be workable. In his response to earlier discussion, the Minister said that he concurs with that. Local authorities' emergency services could produce a book on factors that have disrupted their regular incident simulation: for example, closed roads, buildings in the middle of previously open spaces, diversions of public services and even the removal of telephone boxes have all in their own way caused little hiccoughs. It is no use running simulations or similar tests if there is no thorough review of what went wrong and right and why. That should be followed up by recommendations for improvements.

Once the need arises, contingency plans must be actioned, their implementation monitored and their performance analysed. We are anxious that that analysis should cover performance in the front line and back at base; it must consider all departments, agencies and public and private bodies and individuals concerned. The recent foot and mouth outbreak served only to highlight how many different departments, people, and organisations are involved in coping with an outbreak.

The second plank of any strategy must be vaccination-about which we spoke at length earlier. On pages 87 to 111—a lot of pages—the Royal Society has a great deal to say on that matter and makes four recommendations. In brief, it says that emergency vaccination should be seen as a major tool of first resort, along with the culling of infected premises and known dangerous contacts. We have already spoken about that and agree with it. The report states that, for controlling foot and mouth outbreaks, the policy should be vaccinate to live. That is where we may have moved on since we met and discussed the matter in March.

I know that my noble friend Lord Onslow was specific in wanting the question of vaccination raised at a much higher level. But, if I may say so, we were then struggling with the fact that there was no answer to the question of what happened to vaccinated animals: would they go into the food chain and would compensation be available? It made vaccination difficult at that stage, but from our earlier comments, I think we have moved on, and I hope that in his response the Minister will pick up on that progress. If he can give the House a further indication of the Government's thinking, that will be welcome.

The policy of "vaccinate to live" necessitates the acceptance that meat and meat products from all vaccinated animals should be able to enter the food chain normally. Perhaps the Minister can confirm that there is no reason why that suggestion of the Royal Society should not be accepted, and that no one has raised that as an issue.

Anderson also devotes a whole chapter—pages 120 to 129—to vaccination. He recommends that the Government ensure that the option of vaccination forms part of any future strategy for the control of foot and mouth disease. In his response to our earlier discussions, the Minister indicated that the Government accepted that. The fact that he is nodding his head reinforces that.

Following the production of the EU report into the outbreak of foot and mouth disease, Commissioner Byrne said, on 12th September, that, the Commission is of the view that emergency vaccination should be moved to the forefront of the response mechanism in the event of future outbreaks".

Any strategy should cover emergency control, but we should also consider special groups of animals for whom permanent control may be indicated—for example, animals in zoos or wildlife parks, or rare breeds. We touched on that matter in earlier debates. However, I would like the Minister to include a comment about it when he responds.

Since the end of the outbreak, there has been a rash of informed comment on apparent peculiar behaviour patterns. Letters to the Veterinary Record in June and July referred to the possibility that ewes on the point of giving birth and whole flocks immediately after gathering and colostral vaccination are more easily and more seriously affected by foot and mouth disease. On page 20 of its report, the Royal Society makes an interesting and—possibly—highly important comment. It says: Infectivity is not readily destroyed by ultraviolet radiation but is particularly vulnerable to acid conditions below pH 6 and alkaline conditions above pH 10. Whereas infectivity might be stable for a few weeks under neutral conditions (pH 7) it survives for only two minutes in a slightly acidic pH 6 environment". I am no scientist, and I find all that a little challenging. However, the Royal Society has made a suggestion, and the Minister should comment on it in his response. Our amendment is an attempt to ensure that government support for such future investigations continues.

We also consider that vaccination for the permanent control of some—if not all—of the diseases listed in Schedule 2A may become a practical necessity if the spread of those diseases continues. For instance, if African horse sickness were to become endemic, the horse-racing industry might need protection, along with animals involved in eventing, showjumping and dressage.

The amendment is wide-ranging. I do not expect the Government to accept it as it stands. However, having tabled it in September without knowing what the Government's thinking was, I hope that the Minister will highlight some of the suggestions in our list from (a) to (h) and indicate which they might consider including in their contingency plan, which we await.

As the Opposition, we do not have the facility to draft major legislation. However, we feel that the principles behind the amendment are important, and we hope that the Government will take them on board before the Bill becomes an Act. I beg to move.

The Earl of Onslow

The quotation about the "sinner that repenteth" springs immediately to mind. I must congratulate the Government on coming round to the concept of vaccination. I wish only that they had listened to someone who took five O-levels—I failed history—in 1954 and learnt a fraction of science, which he did not even bother to take at O-level. The money spent on selling Mrs Messenger's cottage so that I could be sent to Eton was almost totally wasted If I was able to come to the conclusion that I did, which was no great intellectual achievement, surely the clever-clogs in the department and the Government should have been able to reach it too. Other people, much cleverer than I, advocated vaccination. Vaccination was being practised, but, to go back to biblical analogy, there was a certain amount of passing by on the other side.

I shall continue the biblical analogy by saying that we must forgive sinners who repent, and I shall go on to a slightly more difficult problem. The European Commission demanded that a contingency plan should be drawn up to deal with foot and mouth disease: it would appear that that was not done. The Government were warned that type O was rampaging all over the place and that that was likely to happen here too. However many plans we produce, however many strategies we contrive, however many plots we cook up to make sure that certain things do not happen, nothing will make up for the fact that people have not paid attention to what happened. Plans lie in drawers and gather dust.

Every report on foot and mouth disease has been preceded by the words "If only we had paid attention". The report of the noble Lord, Lord Plumb, and the Duke of Northumberland is, I believe, preceded by such a statement. If we do not keep our eye on the ball, it will not matter what is on the statute book. Unless people pay attention to what is happening, things will go on getting worse. Thank goodness we are now considering vaccination. We will never again slaughter God knows how many animals in a blind, ignorant, witchcraft-driven policy.

The more I see of the amendments to the Bill, the more I want to say to the Minister that he should take the Bill away and come back with a proper one next time. I see that he is looking uncomfortable: so he should. He is now grinning because he does not want to admit that he is uncomfortable. We want a proper Bill. I say that to help the Government, not to cause them difficulties. We want the things that my noble friend Lady By ford said were necessary. We want some of the things that the noble Lord, Lord Livsey of Talgarth, mentioned. The Government admit that we want them, but they are all over the place. The changes will come in on Report and at Third Reading but, because the Bill will have been half-chewed in this House, it will have to go back to another place; where they will not have time to do what is needed. That is a crazy way to legislate.

The Government must be big enough to say, "We have made a mistake, and we want to do it better. Our aim is the same as yours, and some of us think that there are better ways of achieving it".

The Countess of Mar

I listened to the noble Baroness, Lady Byford, explaining why she wanted the amendment. As she went through each point, I thought, "I do that already". As a food producer, I am required to have a system of hazard assessment and critical control points. I must account for everything that I do in my cheese making. That is precisely what the noble Baroness is asking the Government to do. It is a good idea. If the Minister will not accept the amendment, he should seriously consider tabling a more refined one. The noble Baroness is to be congratulated on tabling her amendment.

The Lord Bishop of Hereford

I also support the amendment or something very like it. I hope that the Government will propose a preamble to the Bill that covers the same ground.

The noble Baroness, Lady Byford, might have been firmer in her proposals. I would like subsection (3) to say: The Minister shall investigate and"— perhaps— may recommend and implement". Subsection (5) should say: The Minister shall collate research". It must be done and should not remain optional. It is essential that we put it in terms stronger than those in the amendment. There is still time for the Minister to incorporate them in his contingency plan or in the preamble to the Bill and I hope that he will do so.

While I, from this Bench, welcome repentant sinners, I am not sure that the noble Earl is right in believing that this particular repentance could have taken place in 1954. I suspect that only this summer has it become clear that it is possible to distinguish between vaccinated and infected animals. That is the critical difference, so it is a last-minute repentance and we cannot blame the Government for not having repented sooner.

6 p.m.

Lord Livsey of Talgarth

This is a well-informed debate and I agree with the right reverend Prelate the Lord Bishop of Hereford that the provision requires more force. I congratulate the noble Baroness, Lady Byford, on a well-researched amendment. It is very detailed and it needs to be in order to be effective. Emergency vaccination is important and where possible the animals should live.

I commend in particular the noble Baroness's remarks about local knowledge. It is vital. In 2001, I was greatly distressed by the fact that local knowledge was completely overridden. People who knew a great deal about their locality—about how much livestock were here, there and everywhere else—were not consulted. That included myself and I forced myself on to the scene at one point because I was so distressed about what was happening. Local knowledge is vital and the proposals in the amendment and the strategy are to be commended. If the amendment is not acceptable to the Minister, it has provided a great deal of food for thought. If necessary, perhaps he can produce an equally detailed amendment covering the same points but drafted differently.

Lord Carter

I want to make two brief points. I do not have the Anderson report in front of me, but I am sure that it mentioned vaccination and that the science is still uncertain and unclear. Perhaps the Minister can tell the Committee about the latest state of the scientific play as regards vaccination. I am sure that all Members of the Committee will agree that to embark on a vaccination policy before the science is clear might be as dangerous as the previous situation—

The Earl of Onslow

I believe that the Anderson report refers to the situation in Uruguay where there was a similar outbreak. They vaccinated and slaughtered only 10,000 cattle. It started earlier and ended earlier and they vaccinated to slaughter. The science of vaccination is sound and has been applied for the past few years. Although I do not have chapter and verse in front of me, I am pretty certain that that is what Anderson stated.

Lord Carter

That could well be so, but from memory I am certain that the executive summary of the Anderson report states that the science is still unclear—or words to that effect.

Furthermore, the vaccination-to-live provision is already contained in the Bill. Clause 4(2) states: The Minister may cause to be slaughtered any animal to which this section applies". "Shall" cause to be slaughtered is vaccination-to-kill, but the Minister "may" cause to be slaughtered; in other words, he can do so or not. Therefore, the power to vaccinate-to-live already exists.

Lord Jopling

I share the implied view of the noble Lord, Lord Carter, and would be reluctant to accept the vaccination strategy until the science is clear. I have always been dissuaded from embracing the concept of vaccination until I am sure that it is clear and my recollection is similar to that of the noble Lord's.

For the second time today, I was struck by the remarks of the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Hereford, who was not in his place when I spoke earlier. Previously today he dazzled us with his scholastic knowledge of Greek and he has dazzled us again with his infinite good sense. As I said to the Chamber previously, it is a pity that he did not become the Archbishop of Canterbury.

I turn to the points in the proposed new clause which deal with contingency plans for the stated diseases. Perhaps I may detain the Committee for a few moments by speaking of contingency plans through the eyes of one who between 15 and 19 years ago had the honour of being responsible for them. I want to repeat what I said to the House about 18 months ago.

When I was responsible for such plans, there were three or more scares—I forget precisely—that an outbreak of foot and mouth disease was suspected in the country. Happily, on each occasion it was a false alarm. However, I remember asking officials on each occasion whether they were absolutely sure that in the event of a scare becoming a reality the department was utterly prepared with a contingency plan which followed in close terms the report of the Northumberland committee of 1967. On each occasion, I asked officials to review whether the plan was ready to go if the worst happened. On each occasion, I was told, "Yes, we have looked into it and the contingency plan is ready to move into action". I am sure that that was right and I have no reason to suppose that it was not.

However, there is no doubt that in the intervening 16 years eyes went off the ball. The proposed new clause suggests that the contingency plan for each disease should be identified; that the plan should be published; and that there should be annual testing of the plan. Looking back, 15 to 19 years ago, I must tell the Committee that I wish I had insisted on something similar. I asked the question which needed to be asked and received the answer which I badly wanted to hear. However, it would have been better if we had had an obligation to publish contingency plans for the diseases and to have an annual testing of them. I do not believe that it would have taken enormous resources within the department and it would have been clearly proved.

Like other Members of the Committee, I hope that if the Minister is unable to accept the new clause—my noble friend suggested that she would not be surprised if that were so—he will try to write into the Bill provisions which in the same terms will deal with contingency plans. The old phrase that time spent on reconnaissance is rarely wasted is extremely appropriate in this case.

Lord Whitty

The noble Baroness recognised that the amendment is wide and touches on many aspects of disease control, prevention and intelligence, many of which are not really appropriate for legislation but are clearly appropriate in the consideration of the reports and the outcome of the way in which the disease was handled last time.

I am proposing that we put within the Bill—this is the amendment I shall bring forward on Report—a commitment to contingency planning. However, contingency planning is not as wide as the clause. Contingency planning concerns how we should deal with a disease if it were it to break out. As the noble Lord, Lord Jopling, said, my predecessor departments had contingency plans; indeed, there was a contingency plan for foot and mouth and other diseases. However, it is clear from our experience of foot and mouth disease that we need to upgrade them very significantly and to broaden the range of possible outbreaks from a relatively small number, which was covered by a quite detailed contingency plan, to a situation where—as actually happened—60 or so cases occur before we discover the disease. The foot and mouth disease contingency plan we shall produce, and which I wish to see reflected in the Bill, would be a template for contingency plans for other diseases of the kinds referred to by the noble Baroness. So the contingency planning part of that, in process terms at least, would be in the Bill under my amendment.

It would not, however, deal with all the issues of substance referred to by the noble Baroness and many other Members of the Committee. The issue of vaccination is not appropriate for legislation in terms of it being absolutely definitive that we would adopt a vaccination strategy rather than a culling strategy. That proposition is not in any of the reports or in the expected report from Europe. Clearly a very substantial amount of culling will be involved. I do not think that anyone is indicating that we should not cull diseased animals. Very few are suggesting that we do not cull obvious direct contacts with those animals. Where vaccination comes in is as a pre-emptive fire-break or control mechanism whereby we control the spread of the disease beyond those animals identified as diseased or subjected to the disease.

The Earl of Onslow

The Minister raises a very valid point. Will he inquire of the Uruguayan authorities how they did it, what they did and when they did it? One does not want to be clever, but they succeeded and it would seem a sensible idea to go and look at how people design things that work and to learn from them.

6.15 p.m.

Lord Whitty

I do not disagree with that. The Uruguayan vaccination campaign to control foot and mouth was confined to cattle. The disease that we experienced in the UK was spread almost entirely by sheep and sheep movements. Obviously there are sheep in Uruguay, but the Uruguayans did not include the vaccination of sheep—which is, of course, much more difficult, particularly with our topography—in their campaign. They were successful in dealing with the outbreak by vaccinating cattle because the disease at that point was still only in cattle and therefore only a relatively small number of diseased animals and those close to them had to be destroyed.

However, we cannot immediately transfer that experience to the British outbreak or any potential future European outbreak. The vaccination science and vaccination operations are not as clear cut as some of the comments made in the debate would suggest. Indeed, as Anderson said, in moving more substantially to vaccination there are hurdles to overcome and the science is not clear, as my noble friend Lord Carter said. Quite apart from that, many farmers and other operators have extreme doubts about adopting the vaccination strategy.

However, we accept the view of the Royal Society and Anderson, and the putative view of the European committee, that we should be prepared to consider vaccination as part of the immediate strategy rather than as a last resort strategy. However, there is no analogue of any control of the disease which is exactly equivalent, or anywhere close to equivalent, of the sheep-carried disease which we dealt with in this country.

There are also the operational difficulties to which I referred in my remarks to the noble Earl, Lord Peel, during a previous intervention. There are issues as to whether vaccinated meat would be acceptable to the trade, both domestically and internationally.

The Earl of Onslow

Can the Minister confirm that at the moment we are importing vaccinated meat into this country and that it is being sold? If that is the case, the scare as to whether people will eat vaccinated meat vanishes in a puff of wind. The Minister is being briefed, so he had better listen.

Lord Whitty

Vaccinated meat which is legally imported into this country has to be subjected to heat treatment. Therefore, that is not the same as saying that all meat can go into the food chain on the same terms. It is not quite the equivalent, although it is certainly true that vaccinated meat is being eaten by British consumers. Vaccination of poultry and other animals is quite frequent. I do not believe British consumers entirely understand that, but nevertheless it is the case. However, imported vaccinated meat would be treated before it could go into our food chain.

I make this diversion because some of the issues are too complex and strategic to be reflected in a fairly narrow Bill. If my suggested amendment on Report is accepted, there will be a requirement on the Government to take these matters into consideration in their contingency plan and to lay that contingency plan before Parliament.

That is as far as I can go on this amendment. I cannot accept it as it stands. I understand what the noble Baroness is driving at but I do not think that it is appropriate for this legislation. I hope that the assurances I have given on the issues that have been raised will be accepted by the noble Baroness. As the issue of vaccination will no doubt be returned to at subsequent stages of the debate, I hope that people will understand exactly what is being said and how the Government are dealing with the recommendations of the various inquiries in relation to vaccination.

Lord Peyton of Yeovil

I find that answer slightly disappointing. In moving the amendment my noble friend made it clear that she did not think there was the slightest chance of the Government accepting the amendment. Even with her persuasiveness and charm she was unable to move the immovable object opposite her. I had hoped—I do not think it is unreasonable—that in the circumstances that the government amendments are not ready now, the Minister should take advantage of the situation by saying that at least some of the points raised by my noble friend would be incorporated in those amendments. Clearly in their state of unreadiness there is home in them for such good sense.

I particularly mention two points to which the Minister did not refer—that is, the three-yearly review of the world-wide incidence of each of the diseases mentioned in Schedule 2A and the resultant recommendation of steps to be taken in the United Kingdom to prevent the incidence of each disease. Both points are important and I should like to hear something about the Government's intentions in regard to them.

I was rather surprised that the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Hereford should allow his optimism to overleap his good nature and say that the Bill had some prospects of ever being made user friendly. That is going far too far beyond the boundaries of reality. I hope that the right reverend Prelate, whose opinions I greatly respect and to a large extent share, will not be so unrealistic in the future.

Before I sit down I should like to say a word about my noble friend Lord Jopling, whom I have known for many years. When I had the misfortune of being the shadow agriculture Minister, he had the misfortune of helping me to avoid mistakes. One does not often see former Ministers going out of their way to express regret and sorrow at not taking a certain sensible course of action. Tonight, my noble friend clearly said how sorry he was that even though he had the good sense to ask whether there was an adequate contingency plan, he accepted an assurance that there was without asking to take a look at it and having it published. I am sure that was a pity.

My final point to the Minister is on the vexed issue of meat imports. They cause great irritation and if on top of that they are a source of danger, that would be absolutely intolerable.

The Lord Bishop of Hereford

I live in hope, perhaps unrealistically, that the Bill will be ever be user friendly. I detect a degree of convergence. I wonder whether we can lean on the Minister. If there is no prospect in the immediate future of a broader Bill offering many of the provisions that the Committee would like to see, I suggest that it should include a preamble that includes some kind of strategy. The amendment of the noble Baroness, Lady Byford, is headed "Strategy". A strategic prospect is needed, so that people know what the Bill is attempting to do in the context of an overall strategy that is reasonably convincing. Then we can spell out in detail how we shall deal with disease, if and when it breaks out.

I suspect that the Minister is not quite right. I believe that the indications are that the European Union report will be more positive about vaccination than the noble Lord allowed. It may even be the case that science has moved on since Anderson was doing his work. I press the point that if there is time for a further amendment on Report, it could include an element of strategic description. That would be enormously helpful.

The Countess of Mar

The noble Baroness's strategy is also good discipline. It makes one sit down and look at each issue step by step. What is the hazard? The hazard is this disease. What are the critical control points? Airports? Farmers being sloppy? Vets carrying illnesses from one farm to another? How is one to control them? Then there should be a report at the end. That is something which I do every day. I am used to it and can recommend it. Even if it comes at the beginning of the contingency plan, that would help. It would bring everything into a framework. I earnestly ask the Minister to think about it much more seriously than he has indicated that he might do.

Lord Prior

I have come to the debate rather late, for which I apologise. I want only to twist one or two tails.

I can just imagine the scene around the table when this amendment was being discussed with Ministers. I can hear the civil servants saying, "Minister, this is very dangerous stuff. This will lead us into all sorts of difficulties and a lot of unnecessary work". Sir Humphrey would say, "Minister, I think that we had better turn it down"

Actually it is a sensible course to pursue. If there were proper discipline, as the noble Countess said, we would overcome a lot of our problems. Not only that—we would create a lot more confidence than there is at present. I beg the Minister to think again, not take the advice of his civil servants. They are far too conservative and far too keen on these occasions— I have great admiration for civil servants on many occasions—to say, "This is going to create a tremendous amount of work and would be an absolute minefield. Minister, please turn it down". I hope that the noble Lord will not listen to them.

Lord Carter

I will just point out to the noble Lord that I spent 10 years as an Opposition Front Bench spokesman on agriculture. I cannot remember how many times that I moved amendments asking a Conservative Government to report to Parliament, produce plans or whatever. Almost invariably, those amendments were turned down. With this Bill, we have already seen the acceptance of an amendment covering reporting on imports and a commitment to producing a contingency plan. The noble Lord was just a little unfair.

Lord Prior

I do not think that our party was any better when in office—and I do not suppose that when I was a Minister all those years ago, I was any better. All we are trying to do is improve the situation.

Earl Peel

If the noble Lord, Lord Carter, was so keen on the idea when he sat on this side of the Chamber, presumably he still retains that view. He should be welcoming my noble friend's amendment.

Lord Carter

There is to be an annual report on imports and a contingency plan. As a member of the Opposition, I asked for both for 10 years.

Baroness Byford

I will jump in before the Minister does so. I follow the thinking of my noble friend Lord Peel—that as the noble Lord, Lord Carter, pushed for such measures, surely he must support them. I hope also that when we were in power, we never introduced such a rotten Bill, which highlights the practical difficulties. I thank the Government for acknowledging that there are difficulties and for being willing to do as the noble Lord, Lord Carter, said.

I am grateful for the support of the noble Countess, Lady Mar. She copes with risk assessment in her everyday life. She regards it as essential and I certainly do. My noble friend Lord Onslow commented about contingency plans and vaccination policy. According to the European report, things have moved on since Anderson took his views—although people such as Fred Brown were pushing for vaccination, saying that tests were available, and held their ground strongly. That is another argument and perhaps we shall reach it later.

I am grateful to the right reverend Prelate. He said that I was not being strong enough. Perhaps that is because I had been through his beautiful city, which I had never visited before. The amendment was put together 1,200 feet up in the Brecon Beacons, thinking what could we do to introduce some kind of strategy in the form of an amendment. We share the same concerns at the right reverend Prelate. I once described this measure as the Animal Death Bill, which I still think it will be if we are not careful, and said that we were going straight to slaughter. We walked and sat among the sheep, trying to think of ways of tempting the Government to attempt that which my noble friend Lord Jopling thinks impossible and which my noble friend Lord Prior says that we should do anyway.

I watched the civil servants in the Box—although perhaps that is something to which I should not refer—thinking "No, Minister" and quietly smiled to myself. But perhaps that is unparliamentary. If it is, I apologise.

I am grateful for the comments of the noble Lord, Lord Livsey. As to the comment by the noble Lord, Lord Carter, he is right that science is not clear and about what Anderson said. I have the book with me but could not find the right page. The EU report to which we have referred many times this afternoon comments at paragraph 47: The Commission failed to review the Member States' contingency plans within an appropriate period following the introduction of the ban on prophylactic vaccination in 1992. At the time of the 2001 crisis it had still not reviewed the contingency plans of the UK, the Netherlands or France". As to vaccination, the report states at paragraph 51: Experts attending the hearings held by the European Parliament's Temporary Committee on FMD were not agreed amongst themselves"— that is one of the problems referred to in our debate earlier today— as to the appropriateness of vaccinations to stem an outbreak or eradicate the disease, from the point of view, inter alia, of veterinary medicine or in the light of the epidemiological considerations. However, many of the experts stressed that, under certain conditions, emergency vaccination is a better way of controlling FMD than the 'stamping out' method. The issue of vaccination needs to be resolved in the context of the particular situation. It must also be seen in the light of the seriousness of the risk of future FMD outbreaks due to the particular control method adopted". Suggestions are made in the document which I hope noble Lords will accept.

I turn finally to paragraph 54—which relates to the query of the noble Lord, Lord Carter: The vaccines currently available make it possible—at least on a herd by herd basis—to distinguish between infected and vaccinated animals. It is true that the problem of transmission of FMD by carrier animals (animals in which the virus can under certain circumstances still be detected more than 28 days after infection but which may possibly not be producing any antibodies to non-structural proteins or displaying clinical symptoms) still remains in principle and is not quantifiable so far". So the noble Lord, Lord Carter, is right in his thinking on that point. However, many experts consider the risk of transmission of FMD by carrier animals to be extremely slight". I hope that my quotations from the working document may help to fill in some of the gaps and explain why I believe that matters have moved on since we discussed this matter previously. Yes, I have heard what other noble Lords have said either in support or in terms of expressing some slight concern on the question of vaccination.

On the question of meat entering this country from countries where foot and mouth is endemic, perhaps the Minister will clarify one point. I was not aware that the meat had to be heat treated, but I was aware that it had to be de-boned. The Minister almost implied that it had to be heat treated, and was heat treated, but I do not believe that it is. Again, I look for guidance on that point.

I am grateful to my noble friend Lord Peyton for his support on some of these points. I hope that the Minister will take on board some of the suggestions in the amendment. I had it in mind, if I did not receive an encouraging response to my amendment, to put the matter to a vote this evening. However, because of the discussion on all sides of the Chamber, I would rather wait to see what the Government have to say and give them a chance to return to the matter on Report. My noble friend says that I am "very kind". I could take Members of the Committee through the Lobby now—and lose heavily, I fear. I hope that, knowing that I had intended to press the amendment to a vote, the Minister will realise how seriously I view the matter. I hope that he will respond to a couple of my queries before I withdraw it.

6.30 p.m.

Lord Whitty

I was attempting to clarify the situation in regard to meat imported from areas where there has been foot and mouth. The noble Baroness is right to say that it has to be de-boned. But there are also some stipulations in relation to its being heat treated in certain circumstances. In a sense, I put it the wrong way round. The principal qualification is that it should be de-boned; heat treatment is a supplementary qualification in some circumstances.

I appreciate the importance that the noble Baroness places on this matter. There is a difficulty in the way in which we deal with legislation as regards what the right reverend Prelate suggests should be a "preamble". We do not normally legislate in terms of preambles or strategies; we legislate in terms of powers and duties. The duty here is clearly on the Minister to produce a contingency plan which meets many of the objectives that lie behind the noble Baroness's amendment. To promise to go further than that in the direction of her amendment would not be appropriate. That is why I have had to take the attitude that I have.

The Earl of Onslow

Before the Minister sits down, perhaps I may return to the importation of vaccinated meat. I believe—I am open to correction; I seriously seek knowledge, wisdom and enlightenment—that we still import considerable amounts of meat from Uruguay and the Argentine. I suspect that in those countries foot and mouth is endemic. I know that the Argentines make enormous use of vaccination. Are we not importing any meat, off the bone, raw or frozen, which is then sold. The term "heat treated" is used. Does that meat have to be cooked? I refer, for example, to meat used in pork pies and other such products. I know that the Committee would like to know the answer to this important question. It would clarify the general information.

The Countess of Mar

While the Minister is waiting for a reply from his officials, is it not the case that meat from a dead animal goes through a phase where it becomes fairly highly acid—in other words, it goes below 6 pH—and at this point any foot and mouth virus within it will normally be killed. The only parts of a dead animal where foot and mouth has been found to survive are the lymph glands and the bone marrow. The treatment required is often a matter of making sure that the meat is allowed to become acid before it is chilled, so it is kept at room temperature for a while so that the normal biological effects take place.

Lord Whitty

I believe that the noble Countess is right on that point. That is why we refer to a combination of de-boning and treatment. The meat is not required to be cooked.

The noble Earl is correct to say that we import from both Uruguay and Argentina. In Argentina, following the last outbreak of foot and mouth there, they have reverted to a process of what is effectively pre-emptive vaccination. Therefore, virtually all meat from Argentina has to be subject to those controls. There are other parts of the world where foot and mouth is endemic. Some regions have been excluded from exporting to Europe while others have retained that ability—South Africa being one and Botswana another. In those cases we are not talking about foot and mouth being currently endemic in the regions from which the meat is imported. I do not know whether that helps to clarify the position for the noble Earl. If there are greater complications, I had better write to him.

The Earl of Onslow

It would be most helpful if the Minister could provide detailed information. We should all like to have such information.

Baroness Byford

I am grateful to the Minister for his response. I think he understands the feeling of the Committee that there may be a way for the Government to find a suitable amendment that will at least meet us halfway, although I shall not hold him to any promise—he stated clearly that he would not make such a promise. I am grateful to him. The matter is of great concern to us all. At this stage, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 1 [Foot-and-mouth disease]:

Lord Plumb moved Amendment No. 104:

Page 1, leave out lines 9 and 10 and insert— "(c) only those animals which the Minister believes, on the public advice of the chief veterinary officer, should be slaughtered with a view to preventing the spread of foot-and-mouth disease.'"'

The noble Lord said: In moving this amendment, perhaps I may be permitted to make a comment on the last point made by the Minister. He kindly wrote to me in answer to a question that I raised some time ago. I asked for the figure for imports from countries where foot and mouth disease is endemic. The figure that he gave is written on my heart. It was 108,339 tonnes, during the outbreak of foot and mouth disease, coming from six countries that I know well, including Uruguay, where foot and mouth disease is endemic. A copy of the letter has been placed in the Library. The answer can be found there, although it may have been updated.

This amendment is very much related to Anderson recommendation number 38 on page 99, if anyone wishes to check it. The amendment would leave out lines 9 and 10 and insert the words proposed.

The wording in the 1981 Act was only one stage less emphatic than that proposed by the Minister. In 1981 it was seen as practical and workable. The Minister now tells us that it was found to be inadequate. The interpretation of the 1981 Act was at the root of most of the considerable aggravation which occurred during the outbreak of foot and mouth. Nowadays people are looking for greater explanation than hitherto.

The amendment therefore recommends suggestion number 38 in the Anderson report, but it is a little more specific as to when we should look for the well-informed veterinary and scientific advice. That advice, of course, has to be from those who fully understand the situation. That is important and it needs to be published with the reasons for using the preventive slaughter powers. There is much talk about slaughter. God forbid that there should be any further outbreak, but we hope that further slaughter would be kept to the absolute minimum because it is quite obvious that we are going to move towards some form of vaccination.

We also believe that the advice should come from someone who is a recognised authority on foot and mouth disease. During the last outbreak it was clear that the veterinary profession was occasionally in disagreement with the statisticians or whoever it might be. There were differences of opinion on so many issues. Therefore, it is a matter of concern that we get our act together in future so that that can be avoided.

Amendment No. 105 is in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Peyton. I shall speak to Amendments Nos. 107 and 110. Amendment No. 107 is an effort to ensure that owners have a chance to share in what the Minister thinks or has reason to believe. The idea that a Minister and all his officers and employees can act on what they think is becoming increasingly unacceptable in the present day.

Amendment No. 109 is a subsidiary amendment to Amendment No. 104. The amendment is worded to cater for the Government rejecting the previous amendment. It is an effort to define a little more clearly the scope of the thinking that the Minister should employ and to remove any sense that decisions can be arrived at arbitrarily. The importance of this amendment is to stress the need for focused reasons for action in situations of stress, anxiety or emergency. It is all too easy to adopt a blanket approach. The danger is that the thinking process stops in such circumstances.

Amendment No. 113 relates to the current notice of slaughter, not including the reasons, and page 1, line 10, of the Bill. The suggested amendment follows on from Amendment No. 104 where the Minister is being given advice by the Chief Veterinary Officer. With this amendment in place it should ensure that the information is shared by those most affected. Those are my amendments. I beg to move.

The Deputy Chairman of Committees (Lord Brougham and Vaux)

I advise the Committee that if this amendment is agreed to I cannot call Amendments Nos. 105 to 111 inclusive.

6.45 p.m.

Lord Peyton of Yeovil

I start by expressing my warm agreement with almost everything that my noble friend said. After all, it is my habit to agree always with the Front Bench and with the greatest respect. I believe that I have done so consistently today.

I always find that there is something objectionable in the phrase "As the Minister thinks" in any Bill by any government. I am not suggesting for a moment that Ministers do not think from time to time, but I at least ask the Government to take note of the possibility that every now and again Ministers do not think all that deeply or, alternatively, that they get it wrong. I find there is something offensive in the suggestion that because a Minister thinks something, action should follow accordingly. I do not accept that point of view.

In fact, I prefer my noble friend's amendment to the one I have tabled, but mine has the virtue of simplicity, brevity and of being easily understood. In this context and in this arena I realise that, far from those being virtues, they are cardinal defects and give my amendment absolutely no chance of being accepted by the noble Lord opposite.

The Countess of Mar

I love to hear the noble Lord, Lord Peyton, speaking. He is so good and so blunt in what he says. I heartily concur with what he has said: let us have facts instead of beliefs and thoughts. That is the only point I have about Amendment No. 104 which states, only those animals which the Minister believes, on the public advice of the chief veterinary officer". Those words are absolutely fine. My Amendment No. 110 is incorporated in Amendment No. 104 so I am quite happy.

Lord Greaves

This is an interesting group of amendments which, on the face of it, are about different kinds of things. But they are all based on a basic unease at the bare statement that the Minister can do whatever he thinks is right. The amendments are all attempts either to define the basis on which the Minister or the Secretary of State should think, the basis of the information which he should look at before he thinks, or the way in which he has to communicate the reasons for his thoughts.

My noble friend and I have Amendments Nos. 108 and 112 in this group. The first is very much along the same lines as the amendment tabled by the noble Countess, Lady Mar, which she has just spoken to. We are suggesting that the Minister should think on the basis of an evaluation of a formal, written risk assessment undertaken by a suitably qualified veterinary inspector.

Our second amendment is an attempt to include a failsafe mechanism based on the suggestion that two people should be involved in the decision rather than one. That is a different argument, but it tackles the basic problem in the Bill. There is a great fear that arbitrary decisions will be taken on the basis of inadequate consideration by too few people. Whether we are talking about the Chief Veterinary Officer being consulted, as the Conservative amendment suggests; whether the owner should be consulted; whether it is a question of defining the basis on which the Minister should think, as in Amendment No. 109; whether it is a local veterinary assessment, as the noble Countess and ourselves suggest; whether it is the suggestion that the reasons have to be provided in writing by the Minister or there should be a double lock built in as regards the number of people who make the decisions, are all evidence of the widespread concern which exists at the very simplistic and direct approach that is being taken in this Bill to what can be quite horrific decisions, as we are aware, for individual farmers, not to mention the individual animals.

All these amendments are designed to probe the basis upon which the Minister will "think". We shall listen with great interest to the Minister's explanation of how he will think. The noble Lord, Lord Peyton, seems to believe that he will not think at all, but I am sure that he will do so. The Minister may say that some of these matters are covered in other parts of the Bill; indeed, that is the case with one or two of them. However, as other Members of the Committee have said, there is grave disquiet about the phrase, "the Minister thinks". It would, therefore, be helpful if the Government could find a different way to express this in the Bill, as well as incorporating some of the safeguards suggested by the amendments.

The Lord Bishop of Hereford

Once again, the noble Baroness, Lady Byford, has been lulled by the beauty of the Brecon Beacons into an unduly charitable way of expressing the matter. However, I suspect that we need the phrase "good reason to believe". I follow the noble Lord, Lord Greaves, in believing that it is better to talk about a "suitably qualified veterinary inspector" than the Chief Veterinary Officer who will clearly have to devolve any decision to a local expert in each case. Indeed, the Chief Veterinary Officer will not be dashing around the country like a maniac to investigate every possible case. Clearly, in practice, this will have to be devolved to someone in the local area. We need to emphasise the importance of there being "good reason" for such a life-and-death decision being made.

Earl Peel

I think that I support the principles behind the amendment. The effective control of disease must clearly be the principal objective of both the Minister and his officials, while at the same time minimising slaughter wherever possible. As I said earlier, there seems to be one major defect in the Bill; namely, that if and when—I am still not sure whether we have reached that point—an effective means of detection is put in place, it seems essential that it must be implemented before slaughter takes place. Surely that is the only fair way to deal with the situation. It would give everyone in the industry that much more confidence if it were obligatory for such tests to be put in place.

I am not entirely sure that the amendment before the Committee would actually go some way towards delivering that aim. Perhaps my noble friend will be able to advise me in that respect. However, if it would go some way towards achieving that objective, I should certainly welcome it. I shall be interested to hear the Minister's view as to whether or not he thinks it would be appropriate to have an amendment in the Bill that would trigger the use of any technique that is able to detect disease quickly and effectively without deterring the Minister and his department in their ability to slaughter when it is thought necessary to do so.

Lord Whitty

The trouble with these amendments is that they attempt to pin down the decision in relation to a specific case in terms that really relate to the overall slaughter strategy. The expectation that the broad strategy should be explained is clearly reasonable. It follows, therefore, that the Minister's thinking should be based on a rational, reasonable, and proportionate broad strategy. That is why I have indicated my intention to bring forward an amendment that will commit the Government to provide an explanation of why the wider slaughter powers are necessary. This would specify the area, the disease, the species, and the circumstances in which such powers would be used. That is different from the implication that in every case we would have to provide in writing the reasons for slaughtering a particular batch of animals.

If Members of the Committee think about it, the latter is not a practical proposition when one is trying to contain the spread of the disease. Indeed, in primary confirmation of the disease, it is possible that some of the available technology will enable us to move more cautiously than has previously been the case. Once the disease has occurred, we need to move as rapidly as possible. I do not believe that such constraints on rapid action would be appropriate.

As to the question of whether or not the Minister "thinks", I should point out to the Committee that this terminology derives from the Animal Health Act 1981. We are not giving the Minister any more powers; we are simply changing the criteria upon which he should base those powers. In terms of the general powers, we are requiring him to give a clear explanation. We are not actually inventing a new ability for the Minister to "think" or to use his subjective judgment—

Lord Peyton of Yeovil

I want the Minister to be quite clear in his mind about what I am trying to say. I should just add that any precedent—the fact that something has been done before—is no possible excuse. It may be some sort of palliation, but it could never be an excuse.

Lord Whitty

Much of the Bill consists of amendments to a previous Act and, therefore, uses some of its terminology. But we are both tightening and constraining the range within which the Minister can, if you like, "think", as well as requiring him to make transparent and clear the reasons for his thinking in this way. It seems to me to be a positive move, even if it does not go all the way towards deleting the words "the Minister thinks", which would lead to other consequential amendments.

A number of the other points raised by way of these amendments will also be met largely by the requirement that I intend to bring forward; namely, that the Minister would be required to explain the basis of the general strategy to slaughter if that were the road that we intended to take. Taken severally, I do not believe that the amendments would help the circumstances. Amendment No. 112 would require two people to be involved in the decision. Again, once the general policy is clear, someone will have to take a decision on its implementation at the local level.

Some of the other amendments would clarify the way in which such a decision could be queried, but it seems to me that a requirement for two people to be formally involved in taking an individual decision when the disease is rampant would slow down our ability to deal with the disease. The whole thrust of the legislation is to speed up the process of dealing with the disease and thereby avoid the unnecessary culling of animals. Indeed, that might cut across the process in certain circumstances.

Although I accept that a degree of transparency is required and that it is incumbent upon the Minister to provide for that in the Bill, as regards the overall justification for the slaughter strategy I do not believe that further constraints on individual decisions would be appropriate.

Lord Plumb

I thank the Minister for his response. I also thank all those Members of the Committee who spoke to this group of amendments. As I said earlier, the latter were based on the Anderson report. It is a question of clarifying some of the issues that are of concern to many people who lost their stock during the previous outbreak. They are confused: there was misunderstanding between the various sections of people who were involved. Therefore, the amendments were tabled in an effort to bring about some clearer thinking and some clarification on some of the issues that arose.

As ever, my noble friend Lord Peyton makes us all "think", and the Minister has thought about the amendments. I hope that that thinking will bring about at least a report, or reference, to the issues that have been raised. There needs to be some clarification. In those circumstances, I thank all those who have contributed to this debate. In particular, I thank my noble friend Lord Peyton for his support of the amendments. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

7 p.m.

[Amendment No. 105 not moved.]

Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton moved Amendment No. 106:

Page 1, line 9, leave out "Minister" and insert "Secretary of State"

The noble Baroness said: In moving this amendment, I shall speak also to Amendments Nos. 124, 133, 139, 145, 150, 152, 155, 158, 162–163, 165, 168, 170, 172–173, 175, 177, 179, 181, 186–188, 191, 193,200, 203, 298 and 300.

I have gone through the list properly in consideration of the point raised by the noble Earl, Lord Onslow, with regard to things being done properly. These technical amendments reflect the recent transfer of functions order whereby the Secretary of State will carry out functions previously fulfilled by the Minister. As a result, we need to amend the provisions relating to scrapie and foot and mouth disease, and other provisions, so that the relevant powers will be transferred to the Secretary of State.

I am sorry that the noble Earl, Lord Onslow, is not in his place. He referred to sinners repenting. I hoped that he would be able to withdraw his unwarranted attack on the officials who drafted the legislation. As the noble Earl knows only too well, and as noble Lords are aware, officials can draft legislation only in the light of the factual and legal position at the time. Because of the timing of the Bill and the delay involved, the officials, when they drafted the legislation, quite properly referred to the position before the transfer of functions order. These amendments are the first occasion on which the Government can put the matter right. I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

[Amendments Nos. 107 to 110 not moved.]

Baroness Byford moved Amendment No. 111:

Page 1, line 10, at end insert— but, notwithstanding the power in section 87 of this Act to amend the definition of "animals" by order, no animals shall be slaughtered by virtue of this paragraph which are not susceptible to infection of foot-and-mouth disease.

The noble Baroness said: I shall speak also to Amendment Nos. 114, 117 and 115.

Amendment No. 111 is designed to restrict the number of animals that must be slaughtered. The amendment states that, no animals shall be slaughtered by virtue of this paragraph which are not susceptible to infection of foot-and-mouth disease". I am sure that Members of the Committee will have been lobbied as I have. The NFU, in particular, supports the amendment. It is designed to limit the Minister's powers to slaughter animals that are susceptible to foot and mouth disease. There has been concern that by the use of ministerial orders under the 1981 Act, these powers could extend to animals such as farm horses and dogs. When the issue was raised with Mr Morley in another place, he said that the Government did not intend to apply the slaughter power to non-susceptible animals. There is, therefore, no reason why the Government should not agree to the amendment. If the Government agree not to kill animals that are not susceptible, it seems logical that this amendment should be made to the Bill. I am not sure why the Government did not wish to accept the amendment moved by my colleagues in the other place.

I turn now to Amendment No. 114. During the 2001 outbreak, there was great emphasis on isolation and biosecurity. Farmers, farm workers, members of farming families, vets, milk-tanker drivers, postmen and election canvassers were all asked, "Is your journey necessary?". As a result, contractors ran out of work, routine animal inspection ceased, and children either stayed on the farm and missed school or attended school and stayed with friends. Biosecurity in the shape of foot baths, wheel washers and vehicle valeting was, rightly, introduced everywhere. Either these measures are effective or they are not. If they are, animals that are kept indoors, away from other animals or from anyone who has had contact with other animals, and that are subject to stringent biosecurity regimes, should be protected from slaughter, unless or until one of their number succumbs to foot and mouth disease.

Taking Amendments Nos. 115 and 117 together, we contend that no democratic legislature should ever allow for the destruction of people's livelihoods without crystal-clear reason. Subsection (3) is part of Clause 1, "Foot-and-mouth disease", which is contained in Part 1, entitled "Slaughter". To make a qualification by conferring, under this part of the Bill, the right to slaughter unaffected and non-suspect animals that have not had contact with the disease is unfair, unreasonable and, to a certain extent, unparliamentary—I will come stronger, as the right reverend Prelate tells me I must.

In another place, at the first sitting on the Committee stage, Mr Morley criticised the 1981 Act for providing opportunities for all sorts of legal challenges. Founded on a variety of reasons, only some of which were reasonable, these challenges delayed the contiguous cull. The Minister added: The Bill makes it absolutely clear what the Government may choose to do on the basis of veterinary and scientific advice". That may be Mr Morley's understanding of the Government's intentions—indeed, he stated it in another place—but it is not the intention with regard to the implementation of the Bill. Such an intention is certainly not reflected in the Bill. Perhaps the noble Lord, Lord Whitty, will state why the Minister suggested in another place that that was his understanding, despite the fact that it did not appear on the face of the Bill.

Page 1, line 9, refers to any animals the Minister thinks should be slaughtered".

Page 2, line 2, states that, The Minister may by order amend Schedule 3".

Page 2, line 32, contains the words: The Minister may cause to be slaughtered".

No reference is made to veterinary or scientific advice. I wish to make clear that what is being said in the other place is not reflected in what we are being asked to do here. My purpose, particularly in Amendment No. 115, is to ask the noble Lord, Lord Whitty, to clarify the Government's intentions.

Moreover, there is a presumption in Mr Morley's statement that the contiguous cull was right and proper, and that anything that impeded it was wrong and improper. After the three major reports—the National Audit Office report, the Royal Society report and the Anderson report—we all know that the contiguous cull was not axiomatically right and proper. Page 97 of the Anderson report states that in Scotland, a decision was taken to apply the contiguous culling policy pragmatically and only … at the edge of the epidemic zone … These policies worked well". The National Audit Office report considered on page 4: The implications of the vaccination could have been more fully considered". At page 117, the Royal Society report said: The detailed exploration of the most appropriate culling strategies for particular circumstances is a vital research area, which should begin forthwith".

In addition, the European Parliament's report of 16th September 2002 raises no fewer than 12 points on vaccination. Does the Minister accept the comment in point 50, which I think I quoted earlier, that the decision on vaccination is not always a scientific matter, but a political one? If so, what is the Government's response to point 57, which says that emergency vaccination, with the aim of allowing animals to live, must be considered as a first choice option from the onset of the outbreak?

These are important issues. Amendment No. 117 would leave out "immaterial whether or not" and insert "material that". Amendment No. 115 would leave out "it is immaterial" and insert, the chief veterinary officer shall only advise the destruction of animals when his advice has been taken into account.

This is slightly confusing because we have already gone round the circle on previous amendments, but I beg to move Amendment No. 111.

Lord Peyton of Yeovil

Although I normally support my noble friend with enthusiasm and salute the charm with which she speaks to amendments, on this occasion I think she has got things a little wrong. It is surely unreasonable of her, on this day of all days, with the experience of the past three or four hours to guide her, to expect that the Minister will clarify the Government's intentions. That would be asking him to exercise miraculous powers, which he does not have. The Bill has proved beyond all shadow of doubt that the Government's intentions are immune to clarification, even by such a genius as the Minister on the Front Bench.

My Amendment No. 116 is distressingly simple and for that reason is bound to fail. No one would dispute that the fact that animals are affected with foot and mouth disease or are suspected of being so affected is a material fact. Nor would anybody doubt that the fact that animals have been in contact with others so affected is also a material fact. The same applies to those that have been exposed to infection or treated with vaccine against foot and mouth disease. These are all clearly relevant material facts. The Bill says that it does not matter whether they are material.

That heightens my concern about the level and quality of the Minister's thinking, which is referred to in paragraph (c) inserted by subsection (2). I hope that the Minister will attempt to clarify this extraordinary situation in which the Government are suggesting that, at the stroke of a pen, Parliament can make material facts immaterial, or at least can decide that it does not matter whether they are material.

7.15 p.m.

Lord Livsey of Talgarth

Subsection (2) inserts: any animals the Minister thinks should be slaughtered with a view to preventing the spread of foot-and-mouth disease". That raises some key issues. Amendment No. 111 is particularly important, because it exposes the vexatious issue of the contiguous cull, which caused enormous problems in 2001. I spent a fortnight trying to protect a herd of British Friesians, which are becoming increasingly rare. They were inside a property, not out on the farm, and there was a contiguous cull on the neighbouring farm. We can all quote examples of that. After a fortnight the herd was slaughtered. That was a loss of a considerable gene pool, because, as most of us know, the Canadian Holstein has become the main black and white cow in this country now. The issue caused no end of angst in my former constituency, where people could not understand clearly why they were being told that their flocks or herds had to be slaughtered. I have to concede that in the Brecon Beacons, where animals were on the open hill and 18,500 were slaughtered, there was perhaps a case for doing such a thing, although it caused a great deal of distress at the time.

It is extremely important to have accurate assessment. I know the problems. There is very little time in which to make the assessments and come to material conclusions. The amendments begin to clarify the circumstances in which we could perhaps avoid the unnecessary slaughter of animals without contributing to the spread of the disease. I do not underestimate the difficulty of achieving that. We have the possibility of ring vaccination coming up. That will help to overcome some of the acute difficulties and may help to solve the problem in the future. I shall not talk about general vaccination, because that raises a lot of difficulties relating to consumption and exports, but in the longer term—and perhaps even in the shorter term—ring vaccination will help to overcome the problem.

The issue that we are confronting is very important. Psychologically, the farming community in the areas affected is still suffering from it. People have still not come to terms with having to have their animals slaughtered. We are talking about the reasons and what we can do to improve matters. I therefore support the amendments.

Lord Monro of Langholm

As one who was involved in the contiguous cull, I think it important to clarify the procedures when a cull is likely to take place. The amendments would help to do that. With a foot and mouth epidemic all around, one could contemplate that a contiguous cull within the three kilometre limit was a possibility, but when it comes it comes swiftly. On the Friday the veterinary officer and my vet came to see the stock and agreed that they were all healthy, but were within the mileage limit. On Saturday there was the valuation and the setting up of the pens for slaughter and on Easter Sunday came the slaughter. One does not have much breathing space to consider whether there is a reason to object to the cull. In any case, when there is a huge epidemic in the area it would be very wrong for any farmers to try to stand out against the cull if it was in the interests of the majority to get on with it.

However, a number of cases, particularly in the hefted hill flocks, ended up in court cases in Edinburgh. They needed clarification, because the chance of a hill ewe crossing a boundary, which never really happens with a hefted flock, was so remote that most people thought that the hefted hill flock cull was going a step too far.

What my noble friend has suggested would clarify how and when the cull should take place—and whether it should take place at all. That will help the farming industry if we have another outbreak of foot and mouth, although I hope we do not.

The Lord Bishop of Hereford

I think that it is generally recognised by everyone who has reflected on what happened last year that we could never again contemplate culling on the scale that took place. It is just intolerable and unacceptable that we could consider such things. I believe that the following phrase in line 12 of the Bill goes to the heart of what is found most objectionable about the Bill in its original form. The Bill states that, it is immaterial whether or not". Such phraseology has a kind of indiscriminate arrogance about it which I believe is extremely offensive.

It is preposterous to suggest that paragraph (d) can stand in relation to that phraseology, so that it would be immaterial whether or not animals have been vaccinated. It cannot possibly be immaterial whether or not they have been vaccinated, particularly as all noble Lords are agreed, I think, that we are moving towards a much wider and much more intelligent use of vaccination.

This particular phrase must be changed. I do not mind by which method it is changed or by whose amendment it is changed. To say that "it is immaterial" is not something that can remain in the Bill. I urge the Minister to accept that this must be changed in some way.

Lord Carter

The use of the phrase is intended in law to restrict the particular meaning and to ensure that if there are animals outside these four categories—for example, in a firebreak cull—they could still be slaughtered. I am not sure that the phrase has all the meaning that the right reverend Prelate and the noble Lord, Lord Peyton, have given it. I believe that it is there for legal reasons which I am sure that the Minister will explain.

I have two very brief points on Amendment No. 114, which is this business about, animals…which have been kept indoors constantly since the day before the first announcement by any government department of an outbreak". We should remind ourselves that the outbreak was in the country for about a month, we think, before it was recognised and announced. Animals that were outside during the time that the disease was in the country, although we did not know it, and moved indoors on the day before the outbreak would still have been susceptible. I therefore think that there is a fatal weakness in the drafting.

The one redeeming feature of the FMD outbreak, as bad as it was, was that it did not spread to any extent to the pig population. If it had done, the results would have been very serious indeed. Almost all pigs are kept indoors.

The Countess of Mar

What these amendments indicate is the need for rapid testing, which I gather is now well on the way. I hope that the Minister will agree that once we have rapid testing, we will not need this clause in the Bill either. This is another reason for delaying the Bill until we know exactly what is happening. Rapid testing was well on the way when Fred Brown was here; it just had not been audited and authenticated by various departments in either this country or the EU. I ask the Minister to consider whether a government amendment would be appropriate in this case.

Baroness Strange

I support Amendment No. 111 because, as the noble Baroness, Lady Byford, pointed out, the provision might cover dogs and horses which could never get foot and mouth because they do not have cloven hooves. Will the Minister table an amendment to clarify the position, so that no dogs and no horses are killed in this way?

Lord Whitty

I think that this debate is driven by two misunderstandings, one of which relates to the terms of the current legislation, in relation to which I think I can provide some comfort to noble Lords. The other misunderstanding relates to the intent of the Bill. Given some of the more recent remarks, I think that I will not be able to provide such comfort on that point.

As the Bill stands, the new powers of slaughter could not be used to slaughter non-susceptible animals. The reference to "animals" in the Bill is dependent on the definition in the Animal Health Act 1981, which states that only ruminants and swine can be slaughtered for the purposes of the control of foot and mouth disease. Consequently, all these scares about the susceptibility to slaughter of dogs, horses and even budgerigars and canaries—which have not been mentioned today—

Baroness Thornton

What about goldfish?

Lord Whitty

Yes, one might even include goldfish. None of these would fall within the definition of "animal", as repeated in this Bill, in the Animal Health Act 1981. I therefore think that I can lay to rest those concerns. The Act would have to be amended to change that definition, and Ministers have no intention of doing so.

As for the other point, I thought that it was clear that part of the Bill's intention, which was very strongly supported by the Anderson inquiry, is to extend the circumstances in which slaughter may be carried out to include preventive culling. "Pre-emptive culling" is the term that Anderson uses. This clause is designed to do that. I know that some commentators, and perhaps some noble Lords, will not like that, but it is a central intent of the Bill and is strongly supported by both Anderson and the Royal Society.

People are concerned about this clause and the "immaterial" provision because, hitherto, before they could be slaughtered, we would have had to prove that animals fell within the categories outlined in the clause to which the noble Lord, Lord Peyton, and others have drawn attention. In other words, the animals would have to be diseased, exposed to the disease or reasonably expected to be exposed to the disease. If, however, we provided a new power that extends the scope to pre-emptive culls as required by Anderson, one would have to say that the above constraint could be overridden when a pre-emptive cull is being undertaken. Those who oppose that provision oppose a basic tenet of the Bill and a basic strand of the thinking of both of the main inquiries into the matter.

Baroness Masham of Ilton

I thought that vaccination was going to be used for that purpose.

Lord Whitty

The proposition particularly from the Royal Society but also to some extent from Anderson and the Europeans is that the vaccination option should be considered as a first resort, but not as a replacement for all culling and not necessarily as an absolute priority. As I said in speaking to a previous amendment, there will have to be some culling provisions in relation to both diseased and exposed animals. In some circumstances there will have to be a firebreak cull, and in other circumstances there will have to be a firebreak vaccination. We hope to vaccinate to live rather than to vaccinate to kill, as was previously being contemplated.

As it is pre-emptive, the vaccination proposal—not in this clause but in the equivalent provision—also requires the powers of entry provided for in the Bill. Hitherto, everything has been based not on pre-emptive or preventive culling and vaccination but on the proposition that animals are or might be exposed to the disease. As I explained earlier—I do not know whether the noble Baroness, Lady Masham, was in the Chamber at the time—it is wrong to think that the recommendations which the Government have accepted on taking a much more positive line on vaccination replace the need for culling diseased and exposed animals or, in some circumstances, for culling for pre-emptive purposes.

This clause very explicitly expresses the recommendation of the Anderson inquiry to clarify the powers in this respect. Indeed, that is one of Anderson's most powerful recommendations. As I said, those who oppose the provision would go against Anderson's recommendation. I would therefore not be prepared to accept amendments along those lines.

I also do not think that the suggested exemption for animals kept indoors would be appropriate. I think that it is inappropriate not only because of the detailed reason spelled out by my noble friend Lord Carter, but because an animal could still be a carrier of the disease or exposed to the disease although it had been indoors for much longer than the incubation period. I therefore believe that we must have the ability to slaughter animals that are kept indoors to restrict, the spread of the disease.

As I said, I do not think that the earlier concerns expressed most recently by the noble Baroness, Lady Strange, are valid. The concerns about preventive culling are valid. However, if the Committee were to go along those lines, it would be very much flying in the face of the recommendations of both of the main inquiries. I therefore hope that the Committee will not pursue that.

7.30 p.m.

The Countess of Mar

Will the noble Lord kindly address the question that I raised about the rapid diagnostic tests? They would probably eliminate the need for the clause altogether, because we would be able to diagnose very quickly whether animals were infected.

Lord Whitty

No. Not all advances in relation to the diagnostic tests have been fully validated but there is an advance which, we hope, will identify diseased animals and determine whether exposed animals were actually subject to the disease. However, it would not provide the basis on which one would carry out a pre-emptive cull. A pre-emptive cull, by definition, does not require us to be able to prove that an animal had the disease. That is precisely the firebreak or wall strategy that Anderson said should be more clearly available to us in legislation but which is not present in the current legislation. We are increasing the scope—I make no bones about that—but we do so in line with what the report suggests.

The Countess of Mar

I am trying to say that a pre-emptive cull would not be necessary if we had a rapid diagnostic test. One would be able to test every animal to find out whether it was infected. There would be no need to go round culling all over the place.

Lord Whitty

That might reduce the requirement but when large-scale movements of sheep on hills are concerned, for instance, there is no way in which we would be able to carry out diagnostic tests in the way the noble Countess suggests. That would in some circumstances restrict the need for a pre-emptive cull but in other circumstances—in which the disease was virtually out of control and we needed to build a barrier to its spread—a pre-emptive cull would be the obvious weapon for us to use. The problem (and the reason why Anderson suggested that we needed to make this explicit in the legislation) is that at times there was an argument about whether the contiguous cull was always justified in terms of exposure. Sometimes the contiguous cull's primary purpose was preventive. That is where Anderson's reference to ambiguity in the current legislation applies. I do not believe that it is quite as ambiguous as he indicated, but he firmly said that we need to clarify that there is a right to engage in preventive culling.

The Earl of Onslow

Will the noble Lord clarify what we know about diagnostic equipment? So far as I can gather, that equipment was developed in relation to germ warfare. It involves the method whereby someone—or a sheep or cow—breathes on to something, whereupon a computer recognises whether a virus is in the air that is breathed. The test is instantaneous. When that was suggested earlier during the outbreak, people said, "Oh, it has not been tested under field conditions". No one then said, "What a smashing time to test this instrument, when there is a major foot and mouth outbreak", although it could have been extremely useful. These diagnostic tests came as a result of germ warfare.

Moreover, I do not know whether the noble Lord is aware—or even whether I am 100 per cent correct—that at the outbreak of the Gulf War, there was a panic about diagnosing disease-borne attack—

The Countess of Mar

I believe that the noble Earl means to refer to anthrax.

The Earl of Onslow

Yes, anthrax. A portable machine was designed and built at Porton Down—it was used in the Gulf and was diagnostically efficient—within three weeks. Those machines work, and we must consider them. The moment at which one can diagnose quickly and easily, one can use such machines. It is no good the noble Lord saying, "We cannot diagnose sheep". Yes we can. One herds them into a pen and one makes them breathe into something, or one puts a bullet in their head. That is the same thing.

Baroness Wilcox

Not quite!

The Earl of Onslow

My noble friend says, "Not quite", but it involves the same amount of effort.

Will the noble Lord and his department please look more carefully at such diagnostic instruments?

The Lord Bishop of Hereford

I do not want to return to the diagnostic test although I am sure that important steps could be taken in that direction. I entirely accept what the noble Lord, Lord Carter, says about animals being kept indoors—they may have been exposed previously and the disease may be present but not detected.

I do not believe that the Minister understood the force of what I was trying to say: perhaps I am the only Member of the Committee who feels this way. There is a disagreement between us about whether a pre-emptive cull and a pre-emptive vaccination are equally valid policies; I do not believe that they are. I hope that we are moving towards a policy of normally using pre-emptive vaccination, with pre-emptive culling being used in exceptional circumstances. The phraseology should cover that. The cavalier use of the word "immaterial" conveys entirely the wrong impression, which will be greatly resented in the farming community.

We must find a way to express the fact that there may yet be exceptional circumstances in which it is still necessary to cull animals in such categories but not in relation to paragraph (d), because if vaccination works, we will certainly not cull animals that are covered by that provision. It is the tone of voice that desperately needs to be altered. I hope that the Minister will say that he understands that and will do something to change the provision's phrasing. There may be occasional—exceptional—circumstances in which pre-emptive culling is necessary of uninfected and unsuspected animals. However, we need to say that in a way that reassures people, rather than make people feel as if they are being hit over the head with a blunderbuss of a policy that can be applied absolutely indiscriminately anywhere and to any animal.

Baroness Mallalieu

I support the comments of the right reverend Prelate; he conveys exactly my feelings.

Listening to the way in which the Minister responded to this group of amendments, I became profoundly depressed. It seems to me that we are learning nothing from all that occurred last year. It is absolutely crucial to get away from the situation that one farmer described to me: he said that for the first time he understood what Shakespeare meant by the "insolence of office". We are providing powers to do more of the same, although that went wrong. I appreciate that the Minister said that he needs such powers and that he has not got them. However, the circumstances in which they could conceivably be used in future, after all that has happened, must be very limited indeed. We should look beyond simply trying to take powers to justify what went wrong last time and look at ways of avoiding ever having to use them again in such a way.

Baroness Byford

I intervene in view of the last three contributions. I am sure that the Committee has the necessary resolve. We are very concerned about the use of the word "immaterial"; we want to have "material" in the legislation because there are material facts that should be taken into consideration. Perhaps I should give the Minister another chance before deciding what to do with the amendments.

Lord Whitty

If the right reverend Prelate or the noble Baroness can find a word that means the same as "immaterial" without wrecking the Bill, I might consider it. However, that is not what is being proposed. The whole point of using the term "immaterial" is that it is no longer necessary, in relation to animals that fall under the four categories, for us to engage in a policy of pre-emptive culling, as was firmly recommended by the Anderson inquiry. Changing the word "immaterial" to "material" would have exactly the opposite effect. That is why this is a wrecking amendment: it would wreck not only the Government's intention but also the very firm recommendations of the inquiries.

I turn to the point of my noble friend Lady Mallalieu. Clearly, because we have taken on board the recommendations about being more positive about using vaccination as a strategy, we hope that the number of occasions on which a pre-emptive cull was proven to be necessary would be limited. Nevertheless, we cannot exclude the possibility—for logistical reasons or because the disease was running out of control—that we may need to engage in a pre-emptive cull. Nor can we ignore the firm recommendation of the inquiries that we need to clarify the law to that effect. If the Committee wishes to pursue this amendment, it must recognise that it does so in the face of the recommendation of the inquiries, which the House has hitherto said are the main reasons for delaying progress on the Bill. Therefore, I would not recommend the Committee to go down that road. If it were to do so, far from meeting the concerns of the farming community, I believe it would be acting seriously against its interests.

Lord Peyton of Yeovil

Before the noble Lord sits down, I do not believe that I made the point very well in my previous remarks on my amendment. The noble Lord must avoid letting the law look plainly silly, which it would do if he continued to make the statement that obviously material facts shall cease to be material. That is a real "sillyness" and it must be taken out of the Bill.

Lord Carter

Perhaps my noble friend would agree that the wording means that, in applying sub-paragraph (l)(c), the application shall not be restricted to the four cases listed below. That is all that it means.

Lord Peyton of Yeovil

Then why not say so?

The Earl of Onslow

The wording actually says that we can go and kill anything whenever we want to, however we wish, simply because we believe that we should. The use of the word "immaterial" means that that is exactly what one can do. That is what the noble Baroness, Lady Mallalieu, said. It is the arrogance of power and it is very unattractive. It does not matter whether it comes from our side, the opposite side or the Liberals in 1909. It is still arrogance of power, which is unattractive.

Lord Whitty

I cannot conceive that the proposed sub-paragraph bears the interpretation that the noble Earl has just put on it. As my noble friend Lord Carter said, it is intended to say that the categories of animals will not be confined to the previous considerations. If Members of the Committee wish to use a different word from "immaterial" and wish to come forward with an amendment on Report, I shall obviously be prepared to consider it. However, I am not prepared to consider allowing on to the statute book a measure which entirely reverses the intention of the clause and the intention of the inquiry.

Baroness Byford

I am grateful to hear what the Minister has just said.

Earl Peel

I return to a point that I raised earlier. I tried to explain to the Minister my hope that somewhere in the Bill the Government would make a commitment that, if effective diagnostic tests were in existence, there would be a statutory obligation on those making the decisions to use those tests before they decided to go ahead with the pre-emptive power. Is that or is that not a possibility? If the Minister could give us an assurance along that line, I believe that Members of the Committee would be far happier.

Lord Whitty

I have already made two commitments. One was that there would be a published slaughter protocol; the other was that the Secretary of State would have to make clear the reasons for the general strategy in terms of disease control. Both would be public documents, and neither was required during the outbreak of the disease last year. Therefore, with those commitments we should make a considerable advance in terms of transparency.

If the diagnostic tools were universally accepted, one would expect that to feature in a disease protocol. Although substantial advances have been made, there is also an international dimension to this issue in terms of tests which are internationally validated, both in this context and also in the context to which the noble Earl referred earlier distinguishing between vaccinated and diseased animals. However, if the tests were to be totally validated, I should expect that to be reflected in the disease protocol. We have not quite reached that point yet, but it will obviously be a consideration when we draw up the protocol.

The Countess of Mar

I am very much at heart with the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Hereford. To use the word "immaterial" is to say that it does not matter. Would the Minister be prepared to place the words "it does not matter" on the face of the Bill? Would he be happy with that wording? That is what he is saying. He is saying that it does not matter whether or not the animals have been affected, whether or not they have been exposed or any of the other points listed. The noble Lord, Lord Peyton, made a very strong point. Is the Minister happy with the words "it does not matter"?

Lord Whitty

I suspect that "immaterial" is neither a Civil Service nor a ministerial word but a legal one. I can blame the lawyers and possibly reach some consensus in this Chamber. However, it does not mean that "it does not matter" in the sense to which the noble Countess referred but that it is not the determining factor. As I said, if there is a better way in which to express that, I shall consider it. However, as I also said, the amendments before us reverse the meaning rather than clarify it.

Baroness Byford

We are still debating Amendment No. 111. I hesitated slightly because we have jumped from one amendment to another. At this stage, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendment No. 112 not moved.]

Baroness Byford moved Amendment No. 113:

Page 1, line 10, at end insert— ( ) After sub-paragraph (1) insert— ( ) Where the Minister uses the power under sub-paragraph (1)(c) above he shall give, in writing to the keeper of the animals, his reasons for doing so."

The noble Baroness said: It is a little while since we debated the group containing Amendment No. 113. Although the Minister responded to my noble friend Lord Plumb, I do not believe that he gave a satisfactory answer. I wish to test the opinion of the Committee.

7.46 p.m.

On Question, Whether the said amendment (No. 113) shall be agreed to?

Their Lordships divided: Contents, 62; Not-Contents, 80.

Division No. 1
Alton of Liverpool, L. Maddock, B.
Avebury, L. Maginnis of Drumglass, L.
Barker, B. Mar, C.
Blatch, B. Marlesford, L.
Byford, B. Masham of Ilton, B.
Carlisle of Bucklow, L. Mayhew of Twysden, L.
Carnegy of Lour, B. Monro of Langholm, L.
Chelmsford, Bp. Monson, L.
Chester, Bp. Moynihan, L.
Cope of Berkeley, L. [Teller] Northesk, E.
Cox, B. Onslow, E.
Dean of Harptree, L. Palmer, L.
Dixon-Smith, L. Peel, E.
Eccles of Moulton, B. Peyton of Yeovil, L.
Elton, L. Phillips of Sudbury, L.
Falkland, V. Pilkington of Oxenford, L.
Fookes, B. Plumb, L.
Fraser of Carmyllie, L. Rawlings, B.
Geddes,L. St. John of Bletso, L.
Greaves, L. Scott of Needham Market, B.
Griffiths of Fforestfach, L. Seccombe, B. [Teller]
Henley, L. Selborne, E.
Hereford, Bp. Selsdon, L.
Hogg, B. Sharples, B.
Hooson, L. Shutt of Greetland, L.
Jenkin of Roding, L. Stewartby, L.
Jopling, L. Stodart of Leaston, L.
King of Bridgwater, L. Strange, B.
Kingsland, L. Waddington, L.
Livsey of Talgarth, L. Wallace of Saltaire, L.
Lyell, L. Wilcox, B.
Acton, L. Grenfell, L.
Ahmed, L. Grocott, L. [Teller]
Alli, L. Harris of Haringey, L.
Amos, B. Hayman, B.
Andrews, B. Hilton of Eggardon, B.
Archer of Sandwell, L. Hogg of Cumbernauld, L.
Bach, L. Hollis of Heigham, B.
Bassam of Brighton, L. Howells of St. Davids, B.
Bernstein of Craigweil, L. Hoyle, L.
Blease, L. Hughes of Woodside, L.
Borrie, L. Hunt of Chesterton, L.
Campbell-Savours, L. Hunt of Kings Heath, L.
Carter, L. Irvine of Lairg, L. (Lord Chancellor)
Chandos, V.
Clark of Windermere, L. Jordan, L.
Clinton-Davis, L. Judd, L.
Cohen of Pimlico, B. Kilclooney, L.
Corbett of Castle Vale, L. Kirkhill, L.
Crawley, B. Lea of Crondall, L.
Davies of Coity, L. Lipsey, L.
Davies of Oldham, L. McIntosh of Haringey, L. [Teller]
Dean of Thornton-le-Fylde, B.
Dixon, L. MacKenzie of Culkein, L.
Dormand of Easington, L. Mackenzie of Framwellgate, L.
Dubs, L. Massey of Darwen, B.
Elder, L. Mitchell, L.
Evans of Parkside, L. Morgan, L.
Falconer of Thoroton, L. Morris of Aberavon, L.
Farrington of Ribbleton, B. Morris of Manchester, L.
Faulkner of Worcester, L. Patel of Blackburn, L.
Filkin, L. Ramsay of Cartvale, B.
Gale, B. Randall of St. Budeaux, L.
Gavron, L. Renwick of Clifton, L.
Gibson of Market Rasen, B. Richard, L.
Golding, B. Sainsbury of Turville, L.
Goldsmith, L. Sawyer, L.
Gordon of Strathblane, L. Simon, V.
Gould of Potternewton, B.
Thornton, B. Whitty, L.
Turnberg, L. Williams of Mostyn, L. (Lord Privy Seal)
Varley, L.
Warwick of Undercliffe, B. Winston, L.

Resolved in the negative, and amendment disagreed to accordingly.

7.57 p.m.

[Amendments Nos. 114 to 117 not moved.]

Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton

I beg to move that the House do now resume. In doing so, I suggest that the Committee stage of the Bill recommence not before 8.57 p.m.

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

House resumed.

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