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

Much of the Bill consists of amendments to a previous Act and, therefore, uses some of its terminology. But we are both tightening and constraining the range within which the Minister can, if you like, "think", as well as requiring him to make transparent and clear the reasons for his thinking in this way. It seems to me to be a positive move, even if it does not go all the way towards deleting the words "the Minister thinks", which would lead to other consequential amendments.

A number of the other points raised by way of these amendments will also be met largely by the requirement that I intend to bring forward; namely, that the Minister would be required to explain the basis of the general strategy to slaughter if that were the road that we intended to take. Taken severally, I do not believe that the amendments would help the circumstances. Amendment No. 112 would require two people to be involved in the decision. Again, once the general policy is clear, someone will have to take a decision on its implementation at the local level.

Some of the other amendments would clarify the way in which such a decision could be queried, but it seems to me that a requirement for two people to be formally involved in taking an individual decision when the disease is rampant would slow down our ability to deal with the disease. The whole thrust of the legislation is to speed up the process of dealing with the disease and thereby avoid the unnecessary culling of animals. Indeed, that might cut across the process in certain circumstances.

Although I accept that a degree of transparency is required and that it is incumbent upon the Minister to provide for that in the Bill, as regards the overall justification for the slaughter strategy I do not believe that further constraints on individual decisions would be appropriate.