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Schedule 2 - Scrapie

Part of Animal Health Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 4:45 pm on 4th December 2001.

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Photo of Ann Winterton Ann Winterton Conservative, Congleton 4:45 pm, 4th December 2001

My hon. Friend makes a telling point; one which has been mentioned before and clearly needs to be repeated. What went on previously would not be at all acceptable now; it was not acceptable then, but it did happen. Much thought must be given to the training of those who are to slaughter animals on farms. It is an extremely sensitive issue; the farmer's life's work may be about to be put down before his eyes. His family will be upset and he will have suffered much stress in the run up to the event. Years ago we had an old pony, which had to be put down. People said: ''Let him go away to be put down,'' and I said, ''No, I will have him put down at home,'' and I held him while the deed was done. It upset me greatly at the time, but I knew that he had been handled properly. I had fulfilled my responsibility to an animal that had been a family pony and was by then quite old. In an identical way, farmers are not heartless people. They do not want to see their stock being put down in the way that we saw during the foot and mouth epidemic. They want to ensure that, if slaughter is to take place, it is carried out properly and they must be accorded certain conditions to ensure that those needs are fulfilled.

I turn to proposed new sub-paragraph 62C(3), which states:

''The inspector may require any person''

We have commented that ''any person'' needs positive definition; that it should mean the owner and any person directly employed by the owner. That person is required to give the inspector

''such assistance as he reasonably needs for the purpose mentioned in section 62A''.

Amendment no. 73 seeks to insert, after ''reasonably needs'',

''and that the person can normally give.''.

What does ''reasonably needs'' mean? You have to be an able-bodied person in order to help people who have come in to slaughter a flock of sheep, for example. How does one define what the inspector ''reasonably needs''? Can it be described and quantified so that we know precisely what it means? Or should we look at it from the perspective of the person who is being roped into the proceedings and consider the assistance that that person could normally give under the circumstances? Many people would feel under such circumstances that they could not give the inspector assistance. I do not believe that they should be required to do so. If the inspector needs assistance, he himself should ensure its provision before he visits the farm.