Animal Health Bill

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 7:15 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) 7:15 pm, 7th October 2002

Yes, one might even include goldfish. None of these would fall within the definition of "animal", as repeated in this Bill, in the Animal Health Act 1981. I therefore think that I can lay to rest those concerns. The Act would have to be amended to change that definition, and Ministers have no intention of doing so.

As for the other point, I thought that it was clear that part of the Bill's intention, which was very strongly supported by the Anderson inquiry, is to extend the circumstances in which slaughter may be carried out to include preventive culling. "Pre-emptive culling" is the term that Anderson uses. This clause is designed to do that. I know that some commentators, and perhaps some noble Lords, will not like that, but it is a central intent of the Bill and is strongly supported by both Anderson and the Royal Society.

People are concerned about this clause and the "immaterial" provision because, hitherto, before they could be slaughtered, we would have had to prove that animals fell within the categories outlined in the clause to which the noble Lord, Lord Peyton, and others have drawn attention. In other words, the animals would have to be diseased, exposed to the disease or reasonably expected to be exposed to the disease. If, however, we provided a new power that extends the scope to pre-emptive culls as required by Anderson, one would have to say that the above constraint could be overridden when a pre-emptive cull is being undertaken. Those who oppose that provision oppose a basic tenet of the Bill and a basic strand of the thinking of both of the main inquiries into the matter.