Animal Health Bill

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Mr. Morley: As I have explained, the reason is that the Government have an obligation to be proportionate. Looking at Hansard, I can see that in our first sitting, I used the word ``proportion'' at least three times. There is nothing new about it.

My hon. Friends took exception to the remarks of the hon. Member for Congleton because we can always find letters to read out. It is unfair to exploit someone who is probably genuinely emotionally upset to make a political point. I could detain the Committee by reading endless letters of thanks for the way in which MAFF and then DEFRA handled individual cases. When I went to Cumbria, a whole wall was covered in letters of thanks. People even took out adverts in the local paper to say thank you, so the hon. Lady's remarks were unreasonable.

An extreme position, based on Private Eye and Christopher Booker, now seems to be guiding Tory party policy. I can tell the hon. Lady that such people might be entertaining to read, but they are dangerous to listen to. The claim that slaughter powers are inconsistent with EU directives on disease control is simply untrue. The Bill's slaughter powers are fully compatible with EU law. Other member states have implemented much wider culling programmes than ours. Pro rata, the Dutch in their post-vaccination cull killed five animals for every one that we killed. The French used extensive culling as part of their FMD control policy. We must be careful about saying things that are not true.

I accept that there is an issue of trust, although it does not help when individuals and organisations make it their business to divide farmers and the Department. That does not help the Department's work because its priority was and is to defeat the disease. Let me give one example. Anthony Gibson from the south-west NFU wrote a column whose headline said that DEFRA had lost blood samples, delaying the lifting of the restrictions in Devon. No such case ever happened. It was completely fabricated. What does it do for trust when people make claims that are patently untrue?

Mrs. Winterton: Will the Minister give way?

Mr. Morley: No, if the hon. Lady will forgive me. I have only a few minutes left.

The hon. Lady was also wrong about appeals. There is an appeal review procedure in the Bill. She has just heard me make that clear in response to concerns raised. I want to strengthen that procedure and make it better and more transparent than under existing law. I believe that, if the Bill is enacted, we shall be in a better position than we are now and have a more transparent explanation for individual farmers and animal owners of how things work. We do not need to delay the Bill's progress to do that.

Mistakes made during the epidemic must be rectified, and there will be opportunities to do that. The outbreak was disastrous and hugely costly. It caused enormous stress to, and impacted on, whole rural communities—not just farmers, but those with rural businesses. I therefore make no apology for ensuring that we have a range of options to give us the most effective, speedy and best response.

We are also taking into account organisations' legitimate concerns. I can tell the hon. Member for Congleton that, when I met groups such as the NSA and the NFU, they did not ask for the Bill to be withdrawn. They wanted clarification, which is what I am giving.

Question put, That the Clause stand part of the Bill:—

The Committee divided: Ayes 10, Noes 7.

Division No. 6]

AYES
Ainger, Mr.
Atkins, Charlotte
Cunningham, Tony
Drew, Mr.
Edwards, Mr.
Hall, Mr. Patrick
Morley, Mr.
Organ, Diana
Owen, Albert
Reed, Mr.

NOES
Bacon, Mr.
Breed, Mr.
Browning Mrs.
Gillan, Mrs.
Wiggin, Mr.
Williams, Mr. Roger
Winterton, Mrs. Ann

Question accordingly agreed to.

Clause 1 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

It being twenty-five minutes past Eleven o'clock, The Chairman adjourned the Committee without Question put, pursuant to the Standing Order.

        Adjourned till this day at half-past Two o'clock.

The following Members attended the Committee:
Illsley, Mr. Eric (Chairman)
Ainger, Mr.
Atkins, Charlotte
Bacon, Mr.
Breed, Mr.
Browning Mrs.
Cunningham, Tony
Drew, Mr.
Edwards, Mr.
Gillan, Mrs.
Hall, Mr. Patrick
Morley, Mr.
Organ, Diana
Owen, Albert
Reed, Mr.
Wiggin, Mr.
Williams, Mr. Roger
Winterton, Mrs. Ann

 
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Prepared 29 November 2001