Clause 2 - Extension of power to slaughter

Part of Animal Health Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 2:45 pm on 29 November 2001.

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Photo of Elliot Morley Elliot Morley Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs 2:45, 29 November 2001

Bovine TB is indeed a very serious disease, and we treat it as such. For example, we are implementing the Krebs trial. I shall say no more, Mr. Conway, because you would call me to order if I was diverted from concentrating on the Bill.

Amendment No. 87 would exempt animals from wider slaughter powers relating to diseases other than foot and mouth if they have been kept indoors since before the start of the outbreak. I understand the principle behind that, but the problem is that ``indoors'' could be very difficult to define. The consultation, and the guidelines and protocols that we will issue to our vets, will take into account the way in which animals are kept and the balance of risk. As has been said, risk assessment is perfectly reasonable, but we have not included such a provision in the Bill because there would be all sorts of wrangles about what is meant by ``indoors''.

We were somewhat surprised by the spread of disease to cattle that were still in sheds during the winter months. We thought that cattle in sheds would be secure from the disease, although it may have been spread by the movement of people. We need to examine such issues.

Under amendment No. 118, any decision to use the powers to prevent the spread of disease would need to be based on sound veterinary judgment. I agree entirely, but that principle is taken as read. We shall consult on the criteria so that farmers can understand why those decisions are taken. If the Bill were to include provisions such as a full disease risk assessment, it would be enormous. None the less, I understand and accept the principles behind the amendment.

Amendment No. 4 would limit the diseases to which powers could be extended. That would be very constraining and in many respects illogical, as the list does not include TSE or BSE. A key lesson from the Phillips inquiry was that contingency legislation should not be constrained by current circumstance. That we must try to think ahead is one principle behind the Bill. Indeed, the Department is following post-Phillips guidelines by preparing for all eventualities. The Bill does not specify diseases that would not be controlled through a slaughter policy, such as African horse sickness.

I appreciate the intention behind the amendment and I assure the Committee that we will take into account the principles that underpin it. Nevertheless, I invite the hon. Gentleman to withdraw it.