Animal Health Bill

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 4:15 pm on 7th October 2002.

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Photo of The Countess of Mar The Countess of Mar Crossbench 4:15 pm, 7th October 2002

My Lords, I support the remarks of my noble friend Lord Moran. His wisdom, as always, should be listened to. The situation is fluid, as he and other speakers have made clear. I am concerned that we shall be discussing legislation that will be out of date in six months' time.

I recognise the Minister's need to be able to deal quickly with an outbreak of disease. He can probably have the assurance of most people in the farming industry who have been involved with the recent foot and mouth outbreak that they will have the support of the farmers whose animals are involved. I do not think that there is any doubt about that. However, the Minister needs to reassure us that the measures to be taken are not over the top.

The Minister may have heard a programme on Radio 4 on Friday or Saturday on which a Mrs Morris from my locality, Worcester, spoke about the numbers of animals that were killed unnecessarily because they were regarded as contiguous to animals that were not infected at all. We need to bring into legislation the new rapid diagnostic tests and all the differences in terms of vaccination—whether the vaccinated animals will be killed or whether they will live and possibly enter the food chain. There needs to be an exercise in public education. People need to understand that most of the animals that they eat now have already been vaccinated against a number of diseases and that we suffer no problems as a result.

So I have all kinds of concerns about the Bill. My own preference is to wait and see what the EU comes up with, then to introduce a Bill dealing with all those matters in one go, properly, at our leisure. The noble Lord should trust the farmers. Incidentally, he made a blanket reference to farmers. Most of the severe problems arose in relation to dealers. There is a need to distinguish in legislation between what I call proper farmers, and dealers. I should be grateful if the Minister would give that some thought.