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Schedule 2 - Scrapie

Part of Animal Health Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 6:15 pm on 4th December 2001.

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Photo of Ann Winterton Ann Winterton Conservative, Congleton 6:15 pm, 4th December 2001

My hon. Friend the Member for South Norfolk has done the Committee a great service in outlining the precise circumstances in which Mr. Thomas-Everard found himself. If the Bill had been on the statute book, Mr. Thomas-Everard would have been guilty of an offence because he would have been required to give assistance and he failed to give it. Many other cases have been reported to me and other hon. Members over the months since the height of the foot and mouth epidemic. It fills me with fear and dread about what may happen to innocent people, who would have committed an offence although they had done what they did in good faith.

In amendment No. 114, the hon. Member for South-East Cornwall seeks to omit the provision that a person would commit an offence if he failed to give assistance when required to do so under subsection (9). That would be the best solution to the problem, and I hope that the Minister will consider it favourably.

The fallback position is contained in amendment No. 136, which would include a point about mitigating circumstances. That would provide greater balance, and the person who was accused of committing an offence would explain the mitigating circumstances that had made him refuse to give assistance when requested to do so. That point takes us back to the ''any persons'' argument, which relates to the kind of people who may be required to give assistance, the circumstances in which they find themselves and valid reasons that they may wish to give for not providing the assistance that the Bill would require them to give.

I hope that the Minister will consider including some balance in the Bill and accept the amendments.