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Page 11, line 3, leave out ("and").
Page 11, line 4, at end insert (", and
( ) any international criminal tribunal established by the Security Council of the United Nations or by an international agreement to which the United Kingdom is a party.").

The noble and learned Lord said: My Lords, I spoke to the above amendments when moving Amendment No. 1. Therefore, with the leave of the House, I beg to move Amendments Nos. 6 and 7 en bloc.

On Question, amendments agreed to.

Clause 18 [Extent]:

Lord Hoffmann moved Amendments Nos. 8 to 10

Page 12, line 13, at end insert--
("section (Evidence concerning proceedings in Parliament) (evidence concerning proceedings in Parliament),").
Page 12, line 27, at end insert--
("section (Evidence concerning proceedings in Parliament) (evidence concerning proceedings in Parliament),").
Page 13, line 3, at end insert--
("section (Evidence concerning proceedings in Parliament) (evidence concerning proceedings in Parliament),").

The noble and learned Lord said: My Lords, these amendments are consequential on Amendment No. 4. I beg to move Amendments Nos. 8 to 11 en bloc.

On Question, amendments agreed to.

Clause 19 [Commencement]:

Lord Hoffmann moved Amendment No. 11:

Page 13, line 22, at end insert--
("section (Evidence concerning proceedings in Parliament) (evidence concerning proceedings in Parliament),").

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Schedule 1 [Qualified Privilege]:

The Lord Chancellor moved Amendment No. 12:

Page 16, line 50, after ("Rights,") insert--
("( ) any international criminal tribunal established by the Security Council of the United Nations or by an international agreement to which the United Kingdom is a party,").

7 May 1996 : Column 54

The noble and learned Lord said: My Lords, I spoke to this with Amendment No. 1. I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

On Question, Bill passed, and sent to the Commons.

Cattle Disposal Scheme

6 p.m.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Scottish Office (

The Earl of Lindsay): My Lords, with the leave of the House, I shall now repeat in the form of a Statement the Answer to a Private Notice Question which has been asked in another place on what progress has now been made in giving effect to the 30-month cattle disposal scheme and whether a Statement will be made.

    "Slaughtering started in Scotland on Friday and elsewhere in the UK today. Some 104 livestock markets and some 72 abattoirs have been approved as collection centres. I anticipate substantially increasing activity as the week proceeds and see no reason why the scheme should not be fully operational by the end of this week. I have made it clear that all operators in the meat business will have to work together to make the 30-month cattle scheme a success. I met representatives of livestock markets together with a number of abattoir representatives this morning. I am seeing the renderers tomorrow.

    "These are the crucial steps in the chain. Large numbers of animals have to be processed and I will need to ensure that this is done as speedily as possible so that farmers can have surplus stock off their fields and quite reasonably be paid compensation as quickly as possible. At all times we have to have regard to the welfare of the animals concerned and the need to restore consumer confidence. This scheme is being put in place as part of a number of measures to help restore confidence in British beef; it is a novel scheme without precedent and we have sought to set it up with all possible speed.

    "Farmers, livestock markets, abattoirs and renderers have to work together--they do so normally and they have to do so now. I intend every day to see representatives of all the main interests to deal with any problems that might arise, but hope that it is not long before the scheme no longer requires daily ministerial involvement. Farmers will, I am sure, recognise that there are a large number of animals that have to be culled and that they cannot all be culled immediately. As the House will know, there is finite rendering capacity, so I am examining with all speed whether and what possible further cold store capacity can be brought into play to help accelerate the scheme.

    "I well appreciate the concerns of everyone in this House that this scheme operates fully and efficiently without delay. I promise to keep honourable Members regularly updated on progress and am determined that this scheme will make a positive contribution to our wider aim of restoring confidence in British beef as speedily as possible".

My Lords, that concludes the Statement.

7 May 1996 : Column 55

6.3 p.m.

Lord Carter: My Lords, I thank the Minister for repeating the Statement that was made in another place. I declare an interest as someone who is involved in dairy farming. Tomorrow it will be seven weeks since the first Statement was made on this matter. How many cattle have been slaughtered so far? The Minister said that the scheme will be up and running by the end of this week. Does he mean that the slaughtering will take place at the rate of 20,000 per week by the end of this week, which is of course the normal slaughtering figure? Is the Minister also aware of the statement made today by the chairman of Unilever that the BSE fiasco is in the UK and not in Europe and that the answer has to be found in the UK?

Last Friday Farmers Weekly referred to chaos and shambles. There are also reports that the Meat Hygiene Service does not have enough qualified staff to deal with the matter. Can the Minister tell the House what is happening with the proposed exemptions from the slaughter scheme? I am sure he knows that this is extremely important for beef farmers who are producing prime beef which has had no exposure to BSE. As I understand it, at the moment they are still caught by the scheme. We were told some time ago that there would be an exemptions scheme. Can the Minister tell the House what is happening as regards the exemptions scheme?

As part of the slaughter disposal, what has happened to the selective slaughter scheme that was proposed as a bargaining counter in Brussels but was rejected? Most farmers, who are aware that they would be affected by this selective slaughter scheme if it were introduced, are now in limbo. They do not know what will happen. Is the scheme to be revived? Is it a part of the carcass disposal scheme? Is it to be left on the table as a bargaining counter for months until it is decided in Brussels and Luxembourg what it is proposed to do about the export ban? If the Minister could explain what is happening over that scheme, that would be extremely helpful.

On today's early morning farming programme and today in the Statement the Minister of State, Mr. Baldry, proudly announced that now--I believe it will start tomorrow--there will be a daily meeting with all the various interests involved, including the NFU, the CLA, the renderers, the slaughterers, the meat wholesalers and the rest. But we have had to wait seven weeks for this to happen. Why did this not happen on day one? Is there no contingency planning in MAFF or in the Department of Health?

We still have the problem of the feed ban. Some 27,000 animals have been born since the feed ban was introduced. The Minister's noble friend Lord Lucas confirmed in a previous Statement that there has been some malpractice either on farms or in the feed mills, or both. What action do the Government propose to take on this matter? It is clear that the feed ban has been transgressed; otherwise there would be much more serious and more worrying questions about the 27,000 animals which have been born since the ban was introduced. If the Government admit that there has been a substantial transgression of the feed ban, will the Minister tell the House what action they propose to take?

7 May 1996 : Column 56

My honourable friend Dr. Gavin Strang has asked for an inquiry into the matter but the Government have rejected that. What alternative action is proposed? We are not being wise after the event. In 1990 we as an Opposition asked for the banning of the use of ruminant protein in all forms of animal feed, not just in ruminant feed but also in pig and poultry feed. That was rejected by the Government six years ago. Now they have introduced the measure, but the effect of their rejection six years ago is the problem of the 27,000 animals which have been born since the ban was introduced. I remind the House that the Prime Minister told my right honourable friend the Leader of the Opposition only last Thursday that the confusion surrounding this scheme was being examined and investigated and that he hoped that it would be resolved speedily. We can all agree with that, but if we have to go by what has happened so far, it will not be quick.

Does the Minister accept that it is vital that we stop BSE at source? As I said, there must be an investigation into why 67 per cent. of new BSE cases are now in cattle which were born after the ruminant feed ban. As hundreds of thousands of older cattle--perhaps up to 800,000--are to be destroyed under this scheme, does the Minister agree that a live test for BSE has become all the more important and that, if there were any delay on the part of the Government in the establishment of such a test, that would be unforgivable? Having taken the decision that there would be both a live and a deadweight option for the 30-month rule, I should point out to the Minister that it is the duty of the Government to ensure that the compensation arrangements are fair not only to farmers but also to the other sections of the meat and livestock industry and to taxpayers.

We all want to see the lifting of the export ban, but I hope that the Government will accept that we have to restore confidence to consumers--not just consumers in this country but consumers in Europe--but also to our European partners if we are to get the export ban lifted. I suggest that what has happened so far does not exactly give anyone confidence. Last week I asked a Starred Question about the use of the Food Safety Act, which requires the Government to show an imminent risk to public health before introducing a slaughter policy at all. We are told constantly that beef is safe, so where is the imminent risk to public health? I understand that there is now to be a legal challenge to the whole of the slaughter policy from the beef trade on the basis of the use of the Food Safety Act. Perhaps the Minister will comment on that.

The NFU has approached first the British courts and now, I understand, the European Court of Justice. The Government have said constantly that they are proposing to challenge the ban in the European Court of Justice. I suggested here last week that they should use Article 186 of the treaty to seek interim relief. Will the Minister say when the Government propose to start proceedings in this matter?

We now have 120,000 cattle stacked on farms waiting for the scheme to get under way. All the parties involved wonder what they are supposed to do and how they are to be paid. Our European partners await clear policies to show that the eradication of BSE is being substantially

7 May 1996 : Column 57

speeded up. The whole morass is overlaid by actual or potential appeals to national and European law. The Government must get hold of the problem and give clear leadership. If they do so, we shall certainly support them.

6.10 p.m.

Lord Mackie of Benshie: My Lords, I shall not repeat all the admirable arguments put forward. However, after seven weeks it does not look as though we are getting on as well as we should have done had the planning been right.

Certain facts are worth repeating. We know that without doubt the great spread of BSE in Britain has been due to feed. Since that time we have slaughtered 160,000 animals. However, from all quarters we have indications that the ban on the use of SBO rendered bonemeal has not been effective. The Government have to make up their minds to set in motion a sensible plan to accelerate the decline of BSE in this country.

Many of the proposed measures appear reasonable if they are put into effect. The capacity of the industry--whether that of renderers, or as regards total destruction through large premises--has to be the limit to which we stick. I do not believe that the Government should bargain with Europe. If they have a sensible plan to tackle the problem--by eliminating the obvious cases, using the 30 months scheme with sensible exceptions, and so on--they should stick to it.

On the Government's own admission they are not sure whether BSE can be passed on through the mother or by proximity. They hedge their bets. As regards heavily affected BSE dairy herds, there is no doubt that in order to give confidence a policy of slaughter in those herds might well be followed.

The Government should stick to their guns, apply those guns with a reasonable aim, and get things going. After seven weeks a lot of confusion exists. The Minister must have read all the farming press. Every single publication wonders what the devil is happening and is not satisfied that a competent scheme is in being.

One of the long-term factors is that without doubt manufacturers of cattle food should have to state the content on the bag. A number of these factors stick out a mile. The next two weeks will be absolutely vital. However, at present it does not look as though the farming community knows where it is going or where the Government are going, and whether all the matters to which the noble Earl referred, such as compensation, and so on, will be applied. I await with interest what the Minister has to say.

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