HL Deb 22 October 2002 vol 639 cc1222-40

3.7 p.m.

Report received.

Clause 1 [Foot-and-mouth disease]:

The Countess of Mar moved Amendment No. 1:

Page 1, line 3, at end insert— ( ) In the Animal Health Act 1981 (c. 22) (in this Act referred to as the 1981 Act) before Paragraph 3 of Schedule 3 insert— (A1) The Secretary of State shall give priority to a "vaccinate to live" policy prior to causing to be slaughtered animals on premises where no infection has been detected.

The noble Countess said: My Lords, I declare my interest as the wife of a family farmer. We have Black Welsh Mountain sheep, Blonde d' Aquitaine cattle and a flock of goats.

In the aftermath of the foot and mouth disease epidemic and the bloodbath that accompanied it, almost everyone who has spoken in the many debates on the Bill has remarked on its somewhat callous opening clause. I tabled Amendments Nos. 1 and 9 in an attempt to persuade—

Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton

My Lords, perhaps the noble Countess will forgive me. I hope that noble Lords will allow us to hear what the noble Countess is saying.

The Countess of Mar

My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Baroness. I have tabled Amendments Nos. 1 and 9 in an attempt to persuade the Minister that it would be politic to begin with a statement that does not give the impression that the Bill gives a permit to kill every animal in sight.

At the time of the epidemic, there was a hot debate on the pros and cons of vaccination. Was it effective? Would the meat be affected? Indeed, would the meat be saleable? Would not vaccinated animals still be infected? Would they not be carriers? Some of those questions are red herrings; most have now been answered. Both the science and the technology in this field are moving forward at a rapid pace. In the awful event that we should have another serious outbreak of foot and mouth disease, we should be better equipped scientifically, technically and practically to cope with controlling its spread. It could well be that vaccination will not provide the complete answer, but it should be given priority.

Experts giving evidence to the European Parliament's temporary committee on foot and mouth disease as well as to the UK-based inquiries have demonstrated their indecisiveness as to what part a vaccination policy should play in the event of a future outbreak of the disease. I quote from the European Parliament's temporary committee working document dated 16th September 2002. At paragraph 52 the rapporteur states: Mass culling of livestock and the subsequent destruction of meat can be ethically justified only by special socio-economic grounds. Decisions must be taken in a transparent manner: otherwise, it would be difficult to persuade those sections of the population who suffer most from a non-vaccination policy to provide the necessary co-operation during a future FMD outbreak". In Committee, I said that we were governed by consent. If a government are to govern effectively in this country, the laws that they make must be reasonable and enforceable. In recent years, there have been several occasions on which a lack of consent has made enforcement difficult, if not impossible. I think instantly of the poll tax legislation enacted by the Conservative government. There is plenty of anecdotal evidence that the 20-day standstill rule is being flouted, simply because it is unreasonable, unworkable and unenforceable.

Difficult as it may be for the so-called "man on the Clapham omnibus" to understand, most livestock keepers have a bond with their animals that is almost as strong as the bond that they have with their family. They are also hard-headed realists. They know that, when an animal has been exposed to a disease, it must be dealt with appropriately. They find it tough to accept that a healthy animal that has had no contact with any infection must die, when there might be a means of protecting it from disease.

Equally, I recognise that farming has rotten apples, generally known as rogues. They are the wheeler-dealers of this world who own or rent numerous small parcels of land over a large area. They pay scant regard to biosecurity or animal welfare, and they trade animals as stockbrokers trade shares. Family farmers are still the major keepers of livestock in the UK. Most have a long association with the land and with their animals. It is painful and insulting for them to find themselves bracketed with the rogues by others who have little knowledge of farming or farming practices and who get their information from the exaggerated literature produced by some animal welfare organisations. I acknowledge and accept the need for strict controls, but there is room for a little humanity. Even the law can have a sympathetic face.

In Amendment No. 9, I ask the Secretary to State to ensure that an animal must be shown to be infected by foot and mouth disease before she can have it slaughtered. I understand that it is possible to differentiate between animals that are carrying antibodies as a result of vaccination and those with antibodies resulting from infection. If the animals have not been infected and have been vaccinated, they present no infective risk. It is the same as our measles vaccination: once we are vaccinated, we are not infective.

The Minister assured us on a number of occasions that the Secretary of State would take into account a vaccinate-to-live policy. For reasons of openness and humanity, I ask noble Lords to ensure that that policy appears in the Bill. I beg to move.

3.15 p.m.

Lord Greaves

My Lords, despite our best efforts this morning, the groupings have gone slightly awry. With the noble Countess, Lady Mar, we intended that Amendments Nos. 1, 2 and 9 would be grouped. I am not sure how Amendment No. 2 dropped out at the last minute, but, with the leave of the House, I shall re-group the amendments. It might save a little time, which is something of which the Minister will approve. I shall speak in support of the amendment that the noble Countess so ably moved, and I shall also speak to Amendments Nos. 2 and 9.

It is interesting that it has taken until this stage in the Bill's passage for the issue of vaccination to come before your Lordships' House. One of the reasons is that we were waiting hopefully for the Government to make their own proposals to write vaccination as an option—a preferred option—into the Bill. There are several reasons why that is necessary. One is simply to change the balance of the Bill. The issue has been discussed in detail, and I remember the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Hereford speaking eloquently about it in Committee.

At the moment, the Bill is widely seen as a slaughter Bill. The Minister denies that, but the way in which the Bill is written means that the emphasis is on slaughter, rather than vaccination. We have now seen the Anderson and Follett reports and the public's reaction to the appalling scenes that took place during the epidemic, as people desperately tried to fight it. I shall read to the House what the Minister said on the Bill's second day in Committee. Our amendments are merely a statement of what the Minister now says is government policy. The Minister said: The Government's preference, as my right honourable friend the Secretary of State made clear in July, is that a vaccinate-to-live policy should be used wherever possible, in line with the Royal Society report. However, there will be scenarios where vaccinate-to-slaughter may be appropriate".—[Official Report, 7/10/02; col. 23.] The implication is that there will be scenarios where slaughter on its own will be appropriate.

The Minister has said on several occasions that the Government's preferred first option in a future outbreak would be vaccination and that vaccinate-to-live should be used wherever possible. It could not be clearer than that, but the Bill still launches straight into slaughter. We support the noble Countess's amendment and we tabled Amendment No. 2 because we want to see vaccination-to-live written into the Bill as a strategy for dealing with a future outbreak.

Amendment No. 2 stands in my name and that of my noble friend Lord Livsey of Talgarth. There are two parts to the amendment. The first part sets out a sequential test that the Secretary of State should apply in the case of a future outbreak and in planning for such an outbreak. The test would require the Secretary of State to consider, first, biosecurity measures, secondly, vaccination-to-live, thirdly, vaccination for possible later slaughter and—only finally—slaughter. It sounds like a long and complicated procedure, but it is not necessarily so. Decisions could, if necessary, be made quickly. It is important that decisions are made in that order in the case of future outbreaks and that that sequence should underlie planning for future outbreaks.

The Minister may say that planning for future outbreaks is not for the Bill but for the protocol that he will produce, which will be welcome, or for his contingency plan, which will also be welcome. However, we tabled the amendment because we wanted the Minister to tell us where such a system for making decisions would be set out. So far, the information provided by the Minister, including a letter to the noble Baroness, Lady Byford, suggests that the protocol will, yet again, be all about slaughter, rather than giving fair, objective and balanced consideration to the alternatives.

The second part of the amendment probes the Government to see how they believe that they have the legal power to carry out an extensive compulsory vaccination programme to create a firebreak or as a ring vaccination or vaccination of an area—Yorkshire, for example. Where do they believe that they have those powers under existing legislation? I am no expert on existing legislation, but I read the 1981 Act and cannot find those powers. I can find the powers for compulsory vaccination, which appear in Section 16(1), but they do not appear to cover preventive vaccination of such a kind on a large scale. So mine is a probing amendment to discover where the Government believe that they have those powers and, if they do not have them or if, as they say in relation to the slaughter powers, they are ambiguous, why they do not propose to use the Bill to write them into legislation.

Lord Willoughby de Broke

My Lords, I rise to support both the amendment tabled by the noble Countess, Lady Mar, and that tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Greaves. I share the noble Lord's view that it is astonishing that it is only now that we are to consider vaccination. I was not present for the Committee stage but I read the Official Report. The noble Lord, Lord Whitty, said consistently that he still needs the powers for contiguous cull. His argument for that relies on the Lessons to be Learned report, but seems to glide over some of the strongest recommendations of the Royal Society of London, the Royal Society of Edinburgh and earlier reports from Devon, all of which roundly condemn the cull policy and strongly recommend vaccination as a prior tool of future policy. That does not appear anywhere in the Bill, other than in amendments such as that moved by the noble Countess.

I hope that the House will support the amendments. Otherwise, we shall be left with a Bill that has been roundly condemned by everyone who was a victim of the contiguous cull—which, as we all know, was hugely costly in both human and financial terms. This is largely the same Bill as before, with some changes proposed on the fringes by the Government. It does not address the central point—whether we are doing the right thing—but gives the Government more powers to cull contiguously. In other words, it continues the same bankrupt policy that was perpetrated on the country last year. We should respond to the reports. The Government have not formally responded to any of the reports that they commissioned; yet here is a Bill that purports to deal with some of their recommendations.

We should take the amendments seriously. I do not know whether there will be a Division on them, but if there is I shall certainly support them.

Lord Peyton of Yeovil

My Lords, I hope that the Government will take seriously the amendments tabled by the noble Countess, Lady Mar. During the passage of the Bill, the Government have not taken sufficiently into account the view held by many farmers and others closely concerned with the farming industry. The Government have never really looked at themselves from that other point of view and realised how much they are mistrusted and hated. It is no exaggeration to say that many people believe that there is a culture in what used to be the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food that has not seriously changed as a result of its change of name: a culture of addiction to slaughter, belief in slaughter and preferment of slaughter, rather than the consideration of any other means.

I was telephoned today by a land agent in Devonshire who told me what happened on two farms there in June during the last outbreak. He was present on one of the farms and had been talking to a policeman. When his back was turned, the policeman jumped on his back, brought him to the ground, handcuffed him and he was subsequently charged. The Crown Prosecution Service admitted that there was absolutely no case and said that the arrest had been unlawful. There is case after case such as that, and the Government have not yet done anything to eradicate the deep suspicion and dislike of the department.

Clause 2 is entitled, "Extension of power to slaughter"; and Clause 3 is entitled, "Slaughter of vaccinated animals". There, in two headings, we have the counsel of despair or, to put it another way, the record of the department's addiction to the policy of slaughter. I hope that the Government will not be in too much of a hurry to reject the amendments.

Lord Williamson of Horton

My Lords, I am not sure that the amendment is a classic piece of drafting, but I support it because of the importance that I attach to the completion of preparations for a vaccinate-to-live policy to be applied, if appropriate, in any future outbreak of foot and mouth disease. I have made that point several times but, for me, it is the most important point in our decisions on future policy on foot and mouth disease. It is essential that we do not neglect it but write it into the Bill.

I once again recall that the Royal Society report identified several important issues to be resolved and considered that, With significant effort by DEFRA, that should be possible by the end of 2003". That is what we are aiming at and we need to achieve it. The issues identified in the report were: the clear acceptance that meat and meat products from vaccinated animals could enter the food chain; the validation of marker vaccines; the trade implications; the precise vaccination strategy; and all of the practical issues concerning storage, and so on.

The noble Lord, Lord Whitty, kindly sent me a copy of his letter to the noble Earl, Lord Peel, which states that DEFRA is considering two types of test for the presence of the foot and mouth disease virus: the simple, so-called 15-minute test; and the longer, at present laboratory test called the RT-PCR test. I shall not weary your Lordships with the translation of those initials into scientific wording, although I know it. Those are clear priorities. We must ensure that that is carried forward. That is why it would be useful to write that into the Bill to show that we are, in a sense, strengthening the possibilities for slaughter but that our objective is to arrive at a vaccinate-to-live policy, which 99.9 per cent of the British population will support.

Lord Carter

My Lords, I am surprised by the amendments because we discussed the matter in Committee at some length. Those who support the "vaccinate to live" approach, with which we all agree, refuse to read the Bill as drafted. We know what lies behind the Bill. Although the tests are extremely encouraging, there is still no satisfactory scientific proof that we can distinguish between an animal that has been vaccinated and an animal that is carrying the disease.

The Countess of Mar

My Lords, I am sorry to interrupt the noble Lord, but we must be correct. There is a test that will distinguish between them.

Lord Carter

Yes, my Lords, but it has not been subject to peer review or accepted by the Government and the veterinary authorities.

The Government will grasp with both hands any opportunity to prevent the mass culling of animals. In moving her amendment, the noble Countess, Lady Mar, said that it may well be that vaccination is not the complete answer. That summarises the case. Vaccination may well not be the complete answer—at present, it is not. As soon as it is, any Government in their right mind would grasp it. After the experience of last year, no Government will go in for mass culling if there is any opportunity of an alternative such as vaccinate-to-live. However, it is in the Bill already, as I pointed out a number of times in Committee. Noble Lords come to the debate with preconceived ideas—I did myself when I was in Opposition—and they will not read the Bill.

New Section 16A proposed in Clause 3 states: This section applies to any animal which has been treated with vaccine for the purpose of preventing the spread of foot and mouth disease". That is all animals that have been vaccinated. Subsection (2) states: The Secretary of State may cause to be slaughtered any animal to which this section applies". If that clause read, "shall cause to be slaughtered", I would support the amendment. It does not say that. It gives the Government the option of slaughter or vaccinate-to-live. I am arguing that the option of vaccinate-to-live is in the Bill.

In Amendment No. 2 subsection (1)(b) says: vaccination of animals without the requirement of subsequent slaughter". It is in the Bill already. I have just read it. I urge noble Lords to understand that the Government will accept any alternative to mass slaughter if possible. However, that would be extremely irresponsible before scientific proof is available. There are some encouraging tests. We all hope that they will be successful and that the Government will grasp at them. I am sure that they will.

However, until there is satisfactory scientific proof to distinguish between an animal that has been vaccinated or one that is within the 21 days of incubation of the disease, the Government must have the option of slaughter. The Government will not slaughter if it can be avoided. That is my understanding.

However, I ask noble Lords to read the Bill as drafted. It allows the option of vaccination-to-live, which I am sure the Government will grasp, when possible.

3.30 p.m.

Baroness Mallalieu

My Lords, before the noble Lord sits down, will he say where in the present Bill is the priority that is included in the present amendment?

Lord Carter

My Lords, how can the Government allow a priority for an untested test? Giving that priority in advance of being assured scientifically, and without veterinary advice that that test is acceptable, would be extremely irresponsible. I ask noble Lords to be realistic about that. We know the agony that everybody went through last year. Does anybody believe that any government in their right mind will slaughter animals when there is an alternative? Until there is acceptable, scientific proof that can distinguish between an animal that has been vaccinated and an animal that is incubating the disease, it is extremely irresponsible to give priority to vaccination-to-live.

Lord Renton

My Lords, surely the answer to the noble Lord, Lord Carter, and to the Government generally is the application of the simple age-long principle that prevention is better than cure. By prescribing that there shall be vaccination, the amendment of the noble Countess, Lady Mar, applies that principle.

Lord Carter

My Lords, the Bill states: The Secretary of State may cause to be slaughtered". Therefore, the animals can be vaccinated. I am sure we shall hear from the Minister that that will be the Government's first priority, but at this stage they cannot accept that vaccination-to-live should be the priority.

Lord Renton

My Lords, I am not suggesting that there should never be slaughter. Vaccination may sometimes fail. However, that is the application of the principle. I believe that we should support it.

Lord Palmer

My Lords, I, too, would like to support my noble friend and the amendments. Despite what the noble Lord, Lord Carter, says, I feel that they are a vital safeguard. Having been sandwiched in at home with outbreaks of foot and mouth literally at the top and the bottom of the garden, every single animal at home was slaughtered. Needless to say, all the tests proved negative. To my dying day I shall be haunted by the sight of the executioners waiting at the bottom of the road to move into my neighbours' farms. Again, all their animal tests proved negative.

My noble friend's amendment makes such good common sense and we must not forget the vast experience that she has in animal health husbandry. It must be virtually second to none. I urge the Minister most strongly to consider the amendments.

Lord Moran

My Lords, it is generally agreed that there are now two options for dealing with the problem of uninfected animals which are near an outbreak: either slaughtering them, as last time, or vaccinating them to live. It is generally accepted that one or other option may be appropriate in different circumstances. However, I believe that the balance is wrong because the emphasis is entirely on slaughter. I make no apology for reminding your Lordships of my comments on 7th October (col. 29) when I quoted a speech by Commissioner Byrne. I repeat what the Commissioner said because I do not believe that the Government have taken any notice of it: It is no longer acceptable to the public that large numbers of animals can be slaughtered and destroyed now that new diagnostic tests have been developed and are available which differentiate between infected and vaccinated animals". The noble Lord, Lord Carter, will note that the commissioner takes that seriously. He continued: 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…vaccination had been viewed as a weapon of last resort. It is now time to break with this approach". I believe that is the motive behind my noble friend's amendment, which I support. I support much of what has been said by subsequent speakers. Amendment No. 7 proposes a new clause headed "Disease control (slaughter) protocol". There is nothing about vaccination. It seems that the whole wording reflects a policy of killing uninfected animals, instead of giving emergency vaccination. Both possibilities should exist. There should be more in the Bill reflecting the possibility of emergency vaccination because that is clearly a valid possibility.

I hope that the Minister can give us reassurance and will seek to correct the balance—the wording, more than the actual provision—to ensure that the matter is reflected in a fair way. That would be reassuring to many fanners and to many of your Lordships.

The Lord Bishop of Hereford

My Lords, I support what was said by the noble Lord, Lord Moran. I also support both those amendments. At the risk of repeating what I said in Committee, it is a matter of presentation, style and perception. If a dispassionate observer were to write a critique of what has happened with this legislation during the past year, it would be clear that there has been a process of evolution and development. In the wake of foot and mouth, when slaughter was the only known policy—or the policy that was agreed and imposed, which even the NFU wanted to maintain in the face of those who were advocating vaccination—it was natural that the Government were conscious that some culls had been frustrated. Therefore, a Bill was needed to make it possible to act quickly in cases where frustration might occur again in a future outbreak.

That was understandable. That was the genesis of the Bill. The whole issue has changed enormously from a year ago. The Government have made many concessions. I am grateful to the Minister for withdrawing the word "immaterial". There is a possibility that I might give your Lordships a rendition of the Te Deum in thanksgiving for that change. However, the noble Lord, Lord Carter, for whom I have a lot of sympathy, seems to be creating an unnecessary problem. He says that vaccination is on the face of the Bill. That is true, but it is secretly tucked away in Clause 3. It is there by implication. It is actually on the face of the Bill, but one has to read rather a lot before one comes to it.

Lord Carter

My Lords, if the right reverend Prelate will give way—

The Countess of Mar

Order! Order! My Lords, perhaps I may remind the noble Lord that we are at the Report stage.

Lord Carter

My Lords, I am allowed to respond. I can tell the noble Countess that I know the rules. I can respond to an intervention which mentions me and asks me a question. I am saying that the provision is on the face of the Bill: This section applies to any animal which has been treated with vaccine". It is not hidden away—it is there!

The Lord Bishop of Hereford

My Lords, I acknowledge that the provision is printed in Clause 3, but it is not at the front of the Bill. It is not what the Bill appears to be about. The two amendments that we are discussing try to put it at the front and make it prominent and clear that this is what we want to see happening. In Committee, the Minister said—the noble Lord, Lord Greaves, quoted his words—that we want to put the provision on the face of the Bill before we get into the slaughter procedures, which are the fall-back position. I believe that all of your Lordships are agreed that now slaughter should be the fall-back position and the last resort.

That is why the sequential test, set out in Amendment No. 2, is helpful. Perhaps the Minister and the noble Lord, Lord Carter, will consider the wording of that amendment. It says: the Secretary of State must have regard to a sequential test". That is not to say that he must do certain things if in a particular circumstance the test is found to be unreliable. There is genuine disagreement about the matter. Commissioner Byrne has claimed that there is a reliable test, but the noble Lord, Lord Carter, says that it is not yet reliable enough. If there is a sequential series of tests and if there is any doubt about the reliability of the tests, the possibility of slaughter remains as a last resort.

These amendments are important to the farming community because they put at the front of the Bill our present position and the ideal to which we aspire. It is conceivable that if we were to pass Amendment No. 1 in the name of the noble Countess, Lady Mar, which inserts the words "shall give priority", the Government will say, "Well, actually we are still not quite sure enough to be willing to accept that". I would support that amendment and I believe that the European Parliament report is strong and authoritative enough to enable us to do that with conviction. I would also support Amendment No. 2 because it sets out the sequential test.

However, I am puzzled that the Minister and the noble Lord, Lord Carter, still cannot understand why the presentation of the Bill matters so much to the perception of the farming community. I fervently hope that the Government will accept the amendments. I believe they are desperately needed by farmers who are still deeply resentful about the tone of the Bill and the hangover from the time when it originated. We have moved on from there and we need to recognise that in the wording of the Bill.

Lord Campbell of Alloway

My Lords, I shall be brief. I support both amendments tabled by the noble Countess, Lady Mar. I shall return to the matter when I deal with my Amendment No. 19, particularly subsection (4), dealing with the exercise of powers. That is relevant to the speeches which were made by the right reverend Prelate and the noble Lord, Lord Moran. I shall not deal with the matter now, but it is crucial to balance vaccination as against slaughter.

3.45 p.m.

Lord Monro of Langholm

My Lords, the right reverend Prelate and the noble Lord, Lord Moran, hit the nail on the head by raising the issue of the presentation and tone of the Bill. During the last session of the Committee stage we began to think that the Minister was coming to realise that its wording could not be more unsympathetic to the farming industry. It is time that the clauses were softened in the interest of presentation.

I began to feel that the Minister had learnt that when he kindly sent everyone involved in the Committee stage detailed letters of changes that were to be made, generally showing concern about our debates. However, when one read no fewer than four separate articles in today's edition of The Times showing the draconian measures that the Government were likely to bring in primary legislation to deal with foot and mouth, one began to wonder whether we were going to go through all this again.

In addition, after the Secretary of State's incredible mistake in Paris yesterday, farming came through a bad day according to what one read in the newspapers. As a Minister, I have been once or twice to the food fair in Paris and I realise how important publicity is, whatever one's view of the food that is put before one. To feel that the best British roast beef was being spurned at that critical moment was a serious lapse.

The amendment put forward by the noble Countess is most valuable because it puts a requirement on the Government to think for a moment or two before beginning a slaughter procedure. Clause 1 is all about slaughter, slaughter, slaughter, slaughter! There is not a word about vaccination. After all, the first clause is supposed to be the most important clause in a Bill. Acceptance of the amendment will show to the agricultural industry, the veterinary profession and the general public that before slaughter the Government will spend a few minutes considering whether vaccination is the right policy.

I cannot see what is wrong with that. Why on earth cannot we do it? Whatever the noble Lord, Lord Carter, says about there being umpteen opportunities later in the Bill, Clause 1 is the first which comes to everyone's mind. It is right that the Government should have to pause before they take action to consider whether they should vaccinate or slaughter.

The agricultural industry wants the Government to think for just a moment before taking action. Once they have taken action, nothing can redeem the poor animals which have been slaughtered. Later we will deal with the problems raised in today's newspaper about the valuation, which sounds draconian. So let us have a more sympathetic approach to a most fearful moment in a farmer's life; seeing his stock being slaughtered. I have seen it and believe that we must assure the agricultural industry that the Government will not take that step without thinking about vaccination.

Baroness Masham of Ilton

My Lords, I support my noble friend's amendment. During Question Time today we discussed stress. Stress among fanners is a huge problem and the stress of having lost their stock will remain with many of them for the rest of their lives.

Our breeding stock and milking cows are special. I hope that the Minister can put priority on some of the animals as regards vaccination. Much more research needs to be done into various vaccinations and I hope that the amendment will be carried so that priority will be given to vaccination.

There are more dangerous diseases in our community than foot and mouth. Foot and mouth is not a real killer to humans and not enough work is being done on various infectious diseases. Therefore, I believe that the amendments should be supported by your Lordships.

Lord May of Oxford

My Lords, first, I want to thank the noble Lord, Lord Whitty, for his consistent courtesy in keeping us abreast of the various amendments, many of which are tabled in response to earlier debates. I want to speak in support of Amendment No. 1 because, unfortunatelv, I continue to be unhappy with the asymmetry which remains in the Bill, reflecting its drafting at a time long before there had been considered appraisal in the light of experience. In particular, the amendment addresses what we ought to be considering. I agree that we should be giving clearer powers for preventive slaughter, but they should be symmetric and perhaps deferential to reactive vaccination.

Furthermore, the amendment gives the Government a priority to come through. Overlying all the provisions should be clear, inescapable legislation that requires preparations to have been thought through in advance and annually rehearsed. That, too, remains hinted at but not spelled out in anything like the draconian detail that the slaughtering powers are spelled out in the Bill. Until those asymmetries are remedied, I will support amendments such as this and all kindred amendments.

Baroness Byford

My Lords, the Minister can surely be in no doubt about the strength of feeling around the Chamber today on the three opening amendments.

As my name is linked with that of the noble Countess, Lady Mar, on Amendment No. 1, it is natural that I refer to it first. The amendment calls for the Government to give priority to a vaccination-to-live policy. The number 13 is considered unlucky. Our thirteenth speaker, the very well respected noble Lord, Lord May, certainly is not unlucky in any way. He has served with great distinction. The words that he has added to those of the 12 previous speakers are an enormous contribution to the weight of argument in the Chamber today.

Noble Lords in the Chamber are not asking that vaccination should be the only policy. Let us make that clear before we go further. If an animal is infected the animal should be slaughtered, whether or not it has had to be vaccinated first. If it has become infected, slaughter is the only option.

The noble Lord, Lord May, touched on the fact that we started considering the Bill back in November last year, nearly a whole year ago. Since then things have moved on enormously. We have had the various reports. The noble Lord, Lord May, served on one of the bodies. I hope that we have learned something from them. Some noble Lords may place greater importance on different aspects. Amendment No. 1, standing in my name and that of the noble Countess, does not state that this should be the only way that we should deal with the matter, but asks that the Secretary of State should give priority to a "vaccinate-to-live" policy.

In Committee we had a long debate, as we have had again today, on strategy. I find it disappointing that the Government have not accepted the weight of argument behind my amendment. The noble Lord, Lord Carter, says that there is reference to vaccination in the 1981 Bill. I do not think that "may" give consideration to it is the same as Amendment No. 1, which raises the profile further and states, "shall give priority" to it. The two are not the same.

Other noble Lords have raised extremely important points. I do not want to go over those again. Perhaps I may pick up on what the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Hereford said and remind the House that when we considered the question of vaccination last year, when the outbreak was at its height, the National Farmers Union was asked for its opinion on a vaccination policy. Those noble Lords who were involved at the time will remember that they circulated a 20-question questionnaire. They did that because at that stage there were no answers to some of the questions with regard to a vaccination-to-live policy—as to whether the science was there and whether it was possible to implement it. That was back in March or April last year. The reports have been issued since then. We have had time to consider the matter. More importantly, there has been the European report. They have all moved us along. It would be great folly to resist an amendment of this kind, which gives a steer to the Government in saying that we believe that the Government should give priority to a 'vaccinate-to-live' policy.

I should like to comment on all the other contributions. That would not be right at this stage. The case has been well made by each noble Lord who has spoken. Obviously my name is attached to Amendment No. 1, but I very much support the amendments tabled by noble Lords on the Liberal Democrat Benches. I hope that the Government listen to the weight of argument that has been put forward again today on this matter.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Lord Whitty)

My Lords, the right reverend Prelate and others have rightly explained the genesis of the Bill. It was brought forward in the first place because the Government found in the course of the disease that there were certain powers which they lacked or which needed clarifying. This House, in its wisdom, declined to pursue the Bill and to look at the powers that were lacking until it had the advice of the various committees of inquiry that were looking into the conduct of the disease and the way forward.

We now have the results of those committees of inquiry. Their recommendations are reflected in the clause as it stands and in the Government's general approach. The reason why vaccination in this form is not in this clause is because we already have that power under Section 16 of the Animal Health Act 1981. That option already exists. We do not need an additional clause to provide for that option in the Bill. The Bill addresses gaps in the powers of the Government. It might be tidier and presentationally more desirable, and softer and more acceptable, to put in something which is already in law. However, your Lordships will know that that is not the normal procedure of the legislative process. We are dealing here with powers that we do not currently have.

One such power is the power of preventative slaughter. There is an explicit recommendation in the Anderson report that the power needs to be clarified. It should be clear that we have a power of preventative slaughter. That is what the clause is about. It is not intended to explain the total strategy in relation to any future outbreak. It is intended to give us that power which we lacked and which we would need in a future outbreak.

That is not in any sense incompatible with the recommendations of the Royal Society and the comments by Commissioner Byrne that in future we must give greater weight to the option of vaccination. And if we go down the vaccination road we should give preference to vaccination-to-live rather than the vaccination-to-kill, which was the option that we considered but did not pursue during the course of the epidemic, and which the Netherlands did pursue during the course of the epidemic.

We have accepted the recommendations of the Royal Society that greater weight in first resort priority should be given to a vaccinate-to-live policy. That however is not what these clauses seek. The noble Baroness, Lady Byford, was the first person in the debate to refer to what is obvious; that whatever policy one takes to prevent the spread of the disease, stamping out the disease in the first place does require, and will continue to require, the destruction of diseased stock. The Royal Society and the Anderson report also indicate that that requires the destruction of other animals on the premises where the disease is present. That would be prevented by both Amendments Nos. 2 and 9, which restrict the exemption from the vaccination requirement to animals which have been infected.

In dealing with the disease, we would also deal with the situation of direct contact, whether between animals or between human beings, which may or may not be on the same premises. That again would be dealt with by the stamping out process in the Follett recommendations, in the Anderson recommendations and indeed what is being contemplated in Europe. So if the House wants to go along with what we have been recommended to follow by the inquiries, then we do not go along with any of the proposals before us in this group of amendments.

Although Amendment No. 1 is slightly less restrictive, it would still prevent the slaughter of—

Lord Campbell of Alloway

My Lords, can the noble Lord explain to the House why he asserts that these amendments are restrictive. Is it because there is an absolute discretion by the Secretary of State that is being restricted? Or, if it is not that, and we come to that later, what is it?

4 p.m.

Lord Whitty

My Lords, the point I am making is that the Royal Society report recommends not that we should adopt vaccination in all circumstances, but that the option of vaccination should be given primary weight at the point extending beyond the diseased premises and direct contact. These amendments suggest that we do so before that. Where a contiguous cull, a three-kilometre cull, a preventive firebreak, or whatever, is being contemplated, the Royal Society suggests that at that point the option of first resort should be to vaccinate-to-live. Whether or not we would put it precisely in those terms, the Government recognise that that is a shift of approach and one that we broadly accept.

These amendments require that vaccination shall be the option of first resort at a "closer to the disease" stage. That is not in line with what Follett recommends; it is not in line with what Anderson recommends—which is, in effect, the clause as it stands—nor is it in line with what Commissioner Byrne said is the direction in which Europe is likely to move.

Another consideration is that the Royal Society also recognised—the noble Lord, Lord Williamson, referred to this point—that we are not yet in a position, should the disease break-out, God help us, tomorrow, immediately to resort to vaccinate-to-live in the way in which ideally we would move in line with the Royal Society report. That report suggests that we need to look at issues of diagnostics and their validation; issues of logistics; and issues relating to the acceptability of vaccinated meat and milk from vaccinated animals. Those issues have to be resolved, as do certain European issues, before we can fully implement the Royal Society report in regard to the first resort of vaccinate-to-live.

It is to be hoped that that can be done fairly rapidly, certainly within the next two years, but, as of now, it is not an available option. Therefore requiring us to give priority to vaccinate-to-live, as these amendments do, not only relates to a situation beyond that recommended in the Royal Society report but would not be deliverable for at least the next 18 months to two years, even if everything went well.

It is important that we have on the statute book all the powers that the committees of inquiry have suggested we should have. This clause is about giving us one of those powers; others of those powers are spread throughout the remainder of the Bill; others already exist.

I indicated in one of my communications to noble Lords that government Amendment No. 8 requires the Secretary of State to give reasons for adopting one strategy as against another in the course of any epidemic. That is spelt out in some detail. The noble Lord, Lord Greaves, has tabled an amendment to that amendment which requires that, if vaccinate-to-live is not adopted, part of the Secretary of State's explanation should indicate why. Although I do not entirely agree with the wording of the amendment, I agree in principle that that should be part of the Bill.

That, surely, is where we should require the Secretary of State to explain why we have gone for a policy other than vaccination. But it is not in this area because this is not the area where priority for vaccination-to-live is recommended by the Royal Society.

Those who advocate this policy should recognise two things. First, that what they are advocating in these clauses is not recommended by the committees of inquiry. Secondly, I should point out to those who purport to speak for the farming industry that, by and large, the provisions now in the Bill are supported by representatives of the farming community. It is wrong to say that they are resented or opposed by British farming in general; they are not. For obvious reasons, British farmers are as anxious as anyone that the Government should have a full armoury of weapons with which to contain any future outbreak of this terrible disease, or any equivalent disease.

I recognise the passion and concern of those who advocate these amendments that we should clearly shift to giving a greater priority to vaccination—which the Government accept—but the way suggested in the three amendments is not appropriate. It is not in line with what has been recommended.

The Countess of Mar

My Lords, I am grateful to the Minister for his offering. That is about all I can say for it. I am extremely grateful to all noble Lords who have supported me, particularly the noble Lord, Lord Moran, for repeating what he said in Committee and for reminding us what the Commissioner thinks about the Bill and our activities. I am also grateful to the right reverend Prelate, who reminded us of the human aspects of the Bill, and to the noble Lord, Lord May, for promoting a balance in the Bill.

The noble Lord, Lord Carter, was somewhat disingenuous. I said that vaccination was not the whole answer. I accept that viruses—belonging, as they do, to Mother Nature—can change very quickly and that a vaccine might not be available for a particular strain of virus when it hits this country. So I accept that vaccination may not be the whole answer. My amendment does not propose that vaccination should be the whole answer. It merely seeks that the Secretary of State should give priority to vaccination.

The Minister appears to be under an illusion. I go on to state in my amendment: prior to causing to be slaughtered animals on premises where no infection has been detected". That is very important. Obviously I accept that infected animals need to be killed and that animals on the same premises, which are very likely to have been in contact with infected animals but are not yet showing signs of disease, should be killed. I have no problem with that whatever. However, I do have a problem in accepting that animals which have had no contact with any other diseased animal and which are showing no signs of infection—and which, if they are vaccinated, will be of no danger whatever to any other animal—must be killed. That is all I am saying.

Lord Whitty

My Lords, does the noble Countess accept that Amendments Nos. 2 and 9 relate only to infected animals and that Amendment No. 1 would restrict anything beyond infected animals to the same premise? Does she accept that direct contact can take place between animals which are kept at a premise different from the one in which the original disease was detected?

The Countess of Mar

My Lords, I accept that also. But it is quite likely that such animals would be vaccinated. I understand that the vaccination takes only two or three days to work.

The noble Lord, Lord Carter, referred to the fact that tests to distinguish between an animal that has been infected and an animal that has been vaccinated have not yet been validated. These tests were validated quite a long time ago and deal with the RNA. I believe the noble Lord was referring to field diagnostic kits not being validated. There is a difference between the two. The field diagnostic kits are intended to cut down the time it takes to diagnose a sick animal.

I cannot accept the Minister's explanations. I must test the feeling of the House.

4.7 p.m.

On Question, Whether the said amendment (No. 1) shall be agreed to?

Their Lordships divided: Contents, 171; Not-Contents, 123.

Division No. 1
Aberdare, L. Denham, L.
Addington, L. Dholakia, L.
Alderdice, L. Dixon-Smith, L.
Ampthill, L. Dundee, E.
Anelay of St Johns, B. Eden of Winton, L.
Arran, E. Elles, B.
Astor, V. Elton, L.
Astor of Hever, L. Erroll, E.
Avebury, L. Ezra, L.
Barker, B. Falkland, V.
Beaumont of Whitley, L. Fearn, L.
Blatch, B. Flather, B.
Bledisloe, V. Freyberg, L.
Boardman, L. Geddes, L.
Boothroyd, B. Glenarthur, L.
Bradshaw, L. Glentoran, L.
Bridgeman, V. Goodhart, L.
Brightman, L. Goschen, V.
Brooke of Sutton Mandeville, L. Gray of Contin, L.
Brougham and Vaux, L. Greaves, L.
Bruce of Donington, L. Greenway, L.
Byford, B. Hamwee, B.
Campbell of Alloway, L. Hanham, B.
Campbell of Croy, L. Harris of Richmond, B.
Carlisle of Bucklow, L. Hayhoe, L.
Carnegy of Lour, B. Henley, L.
Carrington, L. Hereford, Bp.
Cavendish of Furness, L. Higgins, L.
Chalfont, L. Holme of Cheltenham, L.
Clement-Jones, L. Hooson, L.
Colwyn, L. Howe, E.
Condon, L. Howe of Aberavon, L.
Cope of Berkeley, L. Howe of Idlicote, B.
Craig of Radley, L. Howell of Guildford, L.
Craigavon, V. Hurd of Westwell, L.
Crickhowell, L. Jacobs, L.
Dahrendorf, L. Jenkin of Roding, L.
Dean of Harptree, L. Jenkins of Hillhead, L.
Jopling, L. Rees, L.
Kimball, L. Renfrew of Kaimsthorn, L.
King of Bridgwater, L. Rennard, L.
Kingsland, L. Renton, L.
Knight of Collingtree, B. Roberts of Conwy, L.
Lamont of Lerwick, L. Rodgers of Quarry Bank, L.
Lewis of Newnham, L. Rogan, L.
Liverpool, E. Roper, L.
Livsey of Talgarth, L. Rotherwick, L.
Luke, L. Russell-Johnston, L.
Lyell, L. Saltoun of Abernethy, Ly.
MacGregor of Pulham Market, L. Sandberg, L.
Scott of Needham Market, B.
Maclennan of Rogart, L. Seccombe, B.
McNally, L. Selkirk of Douglas, L.
Mallalieu, B. Selsdon, L.
Mar, C. [Teller] Sharman, L.
Mar and Kellie, E. Sharp of Guildford, B.
Masham of Ilton, B. Sharples, B.
May of Oxford, L. Shaw of Northstead, L.
Mayhew of Twysden, L. Shutt of Greetland, L.
Michie of Gallanach, B. Skelmersdale, L.
Molyneaux of Killead, L. Slim, V.
Monro of Langholm, L. Smith of Clifton, L.
Moran, L. [Teller] Stewartby, L.
Mowbray and Stourton, L. Stoddart of Swindon, L.
Murton of Lindisfarne, L. Strange, B.
Naseby, L. Taverne, L.
Noakes, B. Taylor of Warwick, L.
Northbourne, L. Tebbit, L.
Northesk, E. Tenby, V.
O'Cathain, B. Thomas of Gwydir, L.
Oakeshott of Seagrove Bay, L. Thomas of Walliswood, B.
Oppenheim-Barnes, B. Thomson of Monifieth, L.
Oxford, Bp. Tope, L.
Palmer, L. Trumpington, B.
Peel, E. Waddington, L.
Perry of Southwark, B. Wakeham, L.
Perry of Walton, L. Wallace of Saltaire, L.
Peyton of Yeovil, L. Walpole, L.
Phillips of Sudbury, L. Warnock, B
Platt of Writtle, B. Weatherill, L.
Plumb, L. Wigoder, L.
Plummer of St. Marylebone, L. Wilberforce, L.
Prior, L. Wilcox, B.
Rawlings, B. Williams of Crosby, B.
Razzall, L. Williamson of Horton, L.
Redesdale, L. Willoughby de Broke, L.
Acton, L. Clinton-Davis, L.
Ahmed, L. Cohen of Pimlico, B.
Alli, L. Corbett of Castle Vale, L.
Amos, B. Crawley, B.
Andrews, B. David, B.
Ashley of Stoke, L. Davies of Coity, L.
Bach, L. Davies of Oldham, L.
Barnett, L. Dean of Thornton-le-Fylde, B.
Bassam of Brighton, L. Desai, L.
Berkeley, L. Dixon, L.
Bernstein of Craigweil, L. Donoughue, L.
Billingham, B. Dormand of Easington, L.
Blackstone, B. Dubs, L.
Borrie, L. Elder, L.
Boston of Faversham, L. Evans of Parkside, L.
Bragg, L. Evans of Temple Guiting, L.
Brett, L. Falconer of Thoroton, L.
Brooke of Alverthorpe, L. Farrington of Ribbleton, B.
Brookman, L. Filkin, L.
Burlison, L. Fitt, L.
Carter, L. Fyfe of Fairfield, L.
Chan, L. Gale, B.
Christopher, L. Gibson of Market Rasen, B.
Clark of Windermere, L. Gladwin of Clee, L.
Clarke of Hampstead, L. Gordon of Strathblane, L.
Goudie, B. Milner of Leeds, L.
Gould of Potternewton, B. Mitchell, L.
Graham of Edmonton, L. Morgan, L.
Gregson, L. Morris of Manchester, L.
Grenfell, L. Nicol, B.
Grocott, L. [Teller] Orme, L.
Hardy of Wath, L. Ouseley, L.
Harris of Haringey, L. Patel of Blackburn, L.
Harrison, L. Peston, L.
Haskel, L. Prys-Davies, L.
Haskins, L. Radice, L.
Hattersley, L. Ramsay of Cartvale, B.
Hayman, B. Randall of St. Budeaux, L.
Hilton of Eggardon, B. Rendell of Babergh, B.
Hogg of Cumbernauld, L. Richard, L.
Hollis of Heigham, B. Roll of Ipsden, L.
Howie of Troon, L. Rooker, L.
Hoyle, L. Scotland of Asthal, B.
Hughes of Woodside, L. Sheldon, L.
Hunt of Kings Heath, L. Simon, V.
Irvine of Lairg, L. (Lord Chancellor) Simon of Glaisdale, L.
Smith of Gilmorehill, B.
Islwyn, L. Smith of Leigh, L.
Janner of Braunstone, L. Stone of Blackheath, L.
Jay of Paddington, B. Strabolgi, L.
Jordan, L. Taylor of Blackburn, L.
King of West Bromwich, L. Temple-Morris, L.
Kirkhill, L. Tomlinson, L.
Lea of Crondall, L. Turner of Camden, B.
Levy, L. Varley, L.
Lipsey, L. Wedderburn of Charlton, L.
Lofthouse of Pontefract, L. Whitaker, B.
McCarthy, L. Whitty, L.
McIntosh of Haringey, L. [Teller] Wilkins, B.
Williams of Elvel, L.
MacKenzie of Culkein, L. Williams of Mostyn, L. (Lord Privy Seal)
Mason of Barnsley, L.
Merlyn-Rees, L. Woolmer of Leeds, L.

Resolved in the affirmative, and amendment agreed to accordingly.

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