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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 is right to say that more time is needed. We have kept strictly to debating the amendments and have tried to reflect the concerns of the farming community about the Bill, which, as my hon. Friend says, is being introduced with undue haste. I understand that my hon. Friend wanted some of its stages to be delayed until the new year, but that proved impossible. The Bill will be considered on Report and Third Reading a week on Thursday, as the Government are in a tremendous rush to get the Bill to the House of Lords in the first weeks in January.

It is a shame that, consequently, the Bill will threaten the freedom of farmers and those who own herds or flocks. As we said in previous sittings, the Bill is premature and should have been held back until more information was in the public domain and Government inquiries had published their reports. We should then have been legislating with knowledge rather than reacting to a situation and introducing sweeping and—although I hate to use the word again—draconian powers. They are disproportionate powers that keep the owners of flocks on the back foot. The inspector holds all the cards, and nothing can be done to restrain him.