Clause 2 - Extension of power to slaughter

Part of Animal Health Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 2:30 pm on 29 November 2001.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Bill Wiggin Bill Wiggin Conservative, Leominster 2:30, 29 November 2001

The hon. Gentleman is leading me down the garden path to say that it will make no difference where animals are kept. During the debate, we might find out whether one can make a building disease-proof. I certainly hope that the offices in Pirbright, where the tests are done, are disease-proof.

Not only farm animals are at risk; section 32(4)(a) of the Animal Health Act 1981 includes horses. The Minister was at pains to point out that only farm animals were in danger of being culled. Horses are not farm animals and I am sure that he recognises that, when dealing with a problem as thorny as the spread of disease other than foot and mouth, he would have needed a wider remit. That is why I am surprised that poultry were not covered. Foot and mouth does not affect poultry, but other diseases do, and that might have been a useful addendum. The Bill is beginning to widen and badgers, horses and other animals are beginning to appear on the Minister's menu for culling.

No one is perfect, and we are doing our best to improve the Bill. Labour Members may snigger, perhaps at the thought of their own imperfections or at the thought of mine, but the amendment, which would insert just one word--either ``contagious'' or ``infectious''--into the Bill, would considerably restrain the much wider powers that the clause gives the Minister. What is the point of culling animals that are not infectious or cannot pass on a disease unless it is genetic? I hope that the Minister will tell us why animals that are not infectious need to be culled. I have given the matter a great deal of thought and I can find no evidence of the Ministry proving conclusively that it knows precisely when animals are contagious or infectious. Indeed, this does not help them in that search.

This part of the Bill is wide and draconian, and I hope that the Minister will take on board the points that I have made about spreading the net wider. If we were considering the spread of disease other than foot and mouth, we would be considering diseases of which the Committee does not have a great deal of veterinary experience. Inclusion of the word ``contagious'' or ``infectious'' would be a positive step.

If that is not acceptable, including the phrase

``following a full disease risk assessment''

would ensure that we knew what we were talking about before culling. Given that the Minister may be doing something else in the future and although his intentions are undoubtedly positive, it might be useful to improve the clarity of the Bill for his successors. The Minister wanted transparency in the Bill and I hope that we shall get that transparency and clarity to show us which animals can and cannot be culled to prevent the spread of diseases other than foot and mouth.

I hope that the Minister will tell us what diseases would be covered by the provision, why they are not specified, why the words ``infectious'' or ``contagious'' would be such a disaster in the Bill and why he would want to cull animals that were not contagious.