Animal Health Bill

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 6:45 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) 6:45 pm, 7th October 2002

The trouble with these amendments is that they attempt to pin down the decision in relation to a specific case in terms that really relate to the overall slaughter strategy. The expectation that the broad strategy should be explained is clearly reasonable. It follows, therefore, that the Minister's thinking should be based on a rational, reasonable, and proportionate broad strategy. That is why I have indicated my intention to bring forward an amendment that will commit the Government to provide an explanation of why the wider slaughter powers are necessary. This would specify the area, the disease, the species, and the circumstances in which such powers would be used. That is different from the implication that in every case we would have to provide in writing the reasons for slaughtering a particular batch of animals.

If Members of the Committee think about it, the latter is not a practical proposition when one is trying to contain the spread of the disease. Indeed, in primary confirmation of the disease, it is possible that some of the available technology will enable us to move more cautiously than has previously been the case. Once the disease has occurred, we need to move as rapidly as possible. I do not believe that such constraints on rapid action would be appropriate.

As to the question of whether or not the Minister "thinks", I should point out to the Committee that this terminology derives from the Animal Health Act 1981. We are not giving the Minister any more powers; we are simply changing the criteria upon which he should base those powers. In terms of the general powers, we are requiring him to give a clear explanation. We are not actually inventing a new ability for the Minister to "think" or to use his subjective judgment—