Animal Health Bill

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 6:00 pm on 7th October 2002.

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Photo of Lord Whitty Lord Whitty Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) 6:00 pm, 7th October 2002

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.