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7 Nov 2002 : Column 478continued
The hon. Member for St. Ives (Andrew George) raised an important point about how farmers and landowners would become aware of the procedures. I reassure him that one of the changes that we have introduced as part of the lessons learned is that, should there be a decision to cull, the first thing that will be done is to send a note to the farmers concerned informing them of that fact and why the decision had been taken. We can include information on such procedures in those notes, so that they will be aware of their rights.
The whole idea of the slaughter note, which is part of the slaughter protocol, is to explain why a measure is being applied. The need to explain in certain circumstances why culling may be necessary is an improvement and marks a step forward in communication. Even with the greater prominence of vaccination, which I welcome, we have to accept that it is likely that culling will be used for different reasons, depending on the epidemic and the advice given. We need to understand that.
I thank my colleague, Lord Whitty, and my parliamentary colleagues for their contributions. I also thank my officials for their hard work. They have been very much involved in the Bill. I am also grateful for the guidance from the Chair on procedural matters.
The Bill is not about looking back. I hope that its measures allow us to look forward to future disease control strategies, which I have no doubt will be very different from earlier strategies. There will be greater involvement in the process. There are new opportunities, new technologies, new methods of working, improved communications and better contingency arrangements for a range of risks that threaten the livestock industry. I hope that the Bill is seen not as a threat to the industry, but as part of a range of measures designed to engage it, to give people a say and, above all, to ensure that we have a first-class livestock industry equipped to deal with the various threats that it faces from a variety of sources.
Mr. Speaker: I have further to acquaint the House that the Lord High Chancellor, one of the Lord Commissioners, delivered Her Majesty's Most Gracious Speech to both Houses of Parliament, in pursuance of Her Majesty's Command. For greater accuracy, I have obtained a copy and also directed that the terms of the speech be printed in the Journal of the House. Copies are being made available in the Vote Office.
Education is my Government's top priority. An Act has been passed to promote diversity, choice, innovation and higher standards in schools. The Act provides new opportunities for school partnerships, improved support for teachers, more options for tackling weak and failing schools and greater freedom for successful headteachers and governors.
Acts have been passed to maintain the arrangements on decommissioning and to reform the criminal justice system, both part of the Belfast Agreement. Provision has been made for new measures to combat electoral fraud in Northern Ireland.
My Government has continued to co-operate with the devolved administrations in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland in the interests of all of the people of the United Kingdom. A White Paper was published outlining proposals for devolution to the English regions.
My Government invited Parliament to set up a joint committee of both Houses to enable Parliament to reach a view on the second phase of House of Lords reform. Legislation was passed to allow political parties to make positive moves to increase the representation of women in public life.
We recall with pleasure our visits to Jamaica and New Zealand in February and our subsequent visit to Australia on the occasion of the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting. The Duke of Edinburgh and I were also delighted to pay a visit to Canada in October.
My Government has continued to play a leading role in efforts to improve the competitiveness of Europe's economies and bring the European Union closer to its people. Legislation has been enacted enabling the United Kingdom to ratify the Treaty of Nice and implement decisions on the Union's future funding.
My Government has played a key role in agreeing a timetable for enlargement of the European Union and in identifying practical ways to strengthen the Union's foreign and security policy, particularly its support for peace building in the Balkans.
My Government has worked for a more effective global effort to reduce poverty, including initiatives on debt relief and HIV/AIDS, and has enacted legislation to strengthen the poverty focus to Britain's development work.
In the United Nations, the Commonwealth and other fora my Government has been active in promoting human rights and tackling the causes of conflict, including support for UN efforts in newly independent East Timor.