Animal Health Bill

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 5:45 pm on 7th October 2002.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of The Earl of Onslow The Earl of Onslow Conservative 5:45 pm, 7th October 2002

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 Byford 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".