HL Deb 20 May 2002 vol 635 cc79-80WA
Lord Moran

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Whether they plan to disclose full details of the responses to their consultation on the implementation of powers in the Animal Health Bill; and, if so, when those details and any response from the Government will be published. [HL3876]

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

An overview and summary of responses to the consultation is available in the Library of the House. The full responses from the consultees are available on request from the Defra Library. With regard to a government response, we have to await the outcome of the National Audit Office and the Royal Society inquiries following the House of Lords vote on the Animal Health Bill on March 26.

Baroness Byford

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Further to the debate on the livestock industry on 17 April (HL Deb, cols. 944–84) and the reply by the Lord Whitty that the "contiguous cull" was legal, what measures they did not have at their disposal to effect disease control; and [HL3917]

Why they were unable to enter certain premises during the foot and mouth outbreak; and what was "the legal position" which made the contiguous cull "ineffective", as stated by Lord Whitty on 17 April (HL Deb, col. 984). [HL3918]

Lord Whitty

The Animal Health Act 1981 provides for the slaughter of animals which are affected with foot and mouth disease (FMD) or suspected of being so affected and of animals which have been in contact with affected animals or which appear to the Minister to have been in any way exposed to the infection of foot and mouth disease. This is the legal basis for the contiguous cull.

The Act does not provide for the slaughter of animals outside these categories. The contiguous cull was inhibited to some extent by disputes over whether particular animals had been exposed to FMD infection or not and was therefore not as effective as it might have been in some cases. The Government's Animal Health Bill would have provided additional powers, namely to slaughter animals in order to prevent the spread of foot and mouth disease. This would enable preventive or firebreak culls to be carried out without the animals being affected by FMD or having been exposed to it, thereby speeding up eradication and reducing the overall number of animals that have to be culled.

The Animal Health Bill also provides for powers of entry which could facilitate a more effective and rapid cull both in circumstances that are in principle already covered by the 1981 Act and in the circumstances covered in the proposed amendment to the Act in the Bill.