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

I shall take the last point first while it is still in my mind. Compensation arrangements vary among member states, and they vary in this country depending on the disease. I shall explain why in a moment. Although I do not know the details of every EU country, I know the Dutch details because I had a long discussion with the Dutch chief veterinary officer about Holland's experiences of foot and mouth disease control. The Dutch told us about their laws on compensation and how it relates to biosecurity. Their laws go much further than the measures in the Bill. In Holland, much of the compensation for foot and mouth comes from a levy on farmers, which means that the state does not pay 100 per cent.

As the hon. Member for Congleton rightly stated, the Bill will give us powers to pay compensation for any disease, and we can pay up to 100 per cent. of market value, which is appropriate in many cases. We discussed that issue with farmers' representatives such as the NFU, which does a good job of negotiating on behalf of its members.

The reason why 100 per cent. compensation is not specified in the Bill is that it acts as an incentive in the case of diseases such as classical swine fever. The current arrangement is that, where animals are affected, compensation is paid at 50 per cent.; where they are unaffected, it is paid at 100 per cent. It is important for people to report such a disease as quickly as possible to prevent its spread. The mechanism is designed to encourage early reporting, and there is a major incentive for farmers to report the disease before it spreads to their herd. Pigs that are not affected attract 100 per cent. compensation.

That is just one example. The Bill contains powers for 100 per cent. compensation, but there should be some flexibility to adjust compensation rates when that is felt appropriate, and to recognise the present regime. The amendments do not recognise that there are differences now.

There is nothing sinister here. In many cases, market value is not an unreasonable aspiration for farmers, but any responsible Government would want some flexibility to design a compensation scheme with an element of incentive.