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Mr. Keith Simpson: We have had an interesting small debate on the issue, and I am grateful for Opposition Members' contributions. I felt, however, that the Minister was a tiny bit sensitive. During my days of teaching young staff officers at the staff college in Camberley, it was invariably those who were arguing a shaky case who went in for bluster. I am sure, however, that the Minister feels passionately about this subject, because he rarely denigrates other hon. Members in such debates.
As I said at the start, we sought this debate because of legitimate concerns. I said that I fully accepted that several of the points raised in the media were not necessarily true, and that I did not particularly agree with some of the points made in the other place. However, other specific questions were raised, and it is right and proper, and part of the parliamentary process, that we tease them out.
There is no question but that the Conservative Opposition were going to vote down a piece of legislation that would have left the British consumer and British farming in an appalling state. The Government got themselves into that problem, and many hon. Members, including some Labour Members, realise that the Government sometimes spin themselves out of control.
Over the next 48 hours, the Minister should read the verbatim minutes of the exchange with the permanent secretary. He will see that the reliability of the Department's annual report has been well and
Column Number: 20truly shredded and that many factual errors were discovered. However, that is not the main issue today.
I am grateful to the Minister for answering several of our questions. The legislation that we are discussing is important, not only because we are required to implement it by the European Commission, but because we must retain the confidence of the farming community, of people interested in animal welfare and of consumers.
The Minister may sometimes get irritated because he has to deal with suggestions that are weird and mad, as he so graphically described the one that I mentioned from the British Veterinary Association. I am sure that its representatives will look forward to having a frank exchange of views with him in the next few months. It is one of the duties of the Opposition and of Back Benchers, as we saw during the Animal Health Bill, to raise legitimate concerns. He may have laid to rest some concerns, but in the best spirit of constructive opposition, I urge the Minister, who I know tries hard in this respect, to make certain that the information that is provided is as accurate as possible. I fully understand that, in the interests of transparency, his Department has made public all sorts of contingency plans. I agree that there is a risk in that, but I welcome it, because responsibility ultimately lies with the Government. To conclude, I welcome this debate and his response, and I thank my colleagues.
Question put and agreed to.
Committee rose at twenty minutes to Six o'clock.
The following Members attended the Committee:
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