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Schedule 2 - Scrapie

Part of Animal Health Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 5:15 pm on 4th December 2001.

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Photo of Elliot Morley Elliot Morley Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs 5:15 pm, 4th December 2001

That is a strange question. If a farm labourer were asked to produce movement records but he did not know where they were and the relevant building was locked, that would be a reasonable defence. Decisions would have to be made on what was regarded as fair. The definition depends on whether the request was reasonable. If it were not, that would be a defence. I have given an example of the required reasonable requests.

Amendments Nos. 102, 113, 40, 89, 75, 41, 73, 139 and 157 relate to the requirement to give assistance to officials. In nearly all cases, slaughter, vaccination, serological testing and genotyping involve rounding up stock. That can be impossible without the assistance of the farmer or another appropriate person on the premises, which can hinder effective disease control. That is another example of what is regarded as reasonable assistance. In the majority of cases, farmers co-operated fully with officials and provided the vital assistance necessary to carry out slaughter or serological testing. I do not doubt that that will always be the case in scenarios related to disease control.

The provisions cover the minority of cases in which co-operation was not forthcoming. The amendments would change nothing of substance. The Bill already requires inspectors to act reasonably in seeking assistance. Demands that are made on the farmer will not be unreasonable or go beyond what he can be expected to provide. It is important to remember that the provision specifies reasonable assistance. An inspector could not, therefore, make unreasonable demands on a person, particularly one who was not qualified to help.