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Lord Lucas: My Lords, no, we are not trying to make a scapegoat of the European Union. It is quite right that America and Canada banned our beef a long while ago.

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That is the kind of action that one can expect from people who are our out and out competitors. When dealing with people who are supposed to be our friends first and competitors second, we expect a different standard of behaviour. That is the reason for our disappointment with the initial reaction from the European Union. We seem to be having more constructive discussions with most of the European Union these days.

Lord Campbell of Alloway: My Lords, does the provision to which the Minister referred expressly prohibit a one-off free humanitarian distribution of the type proposed by my noble friend Lord Monk Bretton? Further, in circumstances where one has to strike a balance between certain death by starvation and zero risk or minimal risk of fatal infection, is it not reasonable to seek some derogation?

Lord Lucas: My Lords, my understanding is that yes, the directive prohibits distribution, free or paid for. It prohibits export, and export is the physical movement of goods rather than anything to do with payment for them. Whether or not it is a good idea I leave to the recipients.

Lord Jenkins of Putney: My Lords, can the Minister say what reason Canada and the USA gave for banning our beef for so long?

Lord Lucas: My Lords, they cited dangers which they perceived from BSE.

The Countess of Mar: My Lords, is the Minister aware that two severe problems are building up with the backlog? First, my local market is unable to send cattle on to the renderers because they are asking too much money for carrying out the job and therefore stocks are building up. Secondly, with the late spring the grass has not grown and farmers are finding it extremely difficult to feed their cattle. Is there not a danger that more farmers will die from self-inflicted wounds than from CJD?

Lord Lucas: My Lords, I sincerely hope that few farmers die from self-inflicted wounds. Enough die from that already, without any increase. That kind of argument lay behind the announcement by my honourable friend Mr. Baldry that we would put in place a mechanism to provide an interim payment to farmers who are unable to find the necessary slaughtering and rendering capacity for their animals.

Lord Soulsby of Swaffham Prior: My Lords, in view of what the Minister said about the mature beef assurance scheme, if accepted, does he agree that it is a welcome step forward? Will he further consider whether it would be worth while storing beef, frozen, canned or otherwise, from those beef herds that do not come within the seven-year criterion until such time as the herd of origin meets the requirements? The meat stored could then either be released on to the market or, as my noble friend Lord Monk Bretton suggested, given away to a needy nation.

Lord Lucas: My Lords, we are still having consultation on the exemption scheme. Doubtless

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considerations such as those mentioned by my noble friend will be included. The future of the beef industry in this country depends crucially on our taking measures which restore, or rather keep restored, consumer confidence. The long-term interests of the beef industry are identical to those of the consumer. We must keep that in mind rather than any short-term problems which beef producers may face.

Lord Carter: My Lords, is the Minister aware that in pressing for the lifting of the export ban, the Government should reflect on the Saturday morning farming programme? Mr. Keith Meldrum, the Chief Veterinary Officer of MAFF, said on that programme that we should have eliminated the feed source of BSE from all animal feed at the outset. We in the Labour Party asked for that in 1990 and the Government introduced it three weeks ago.

Mr. Meldrum also said that more rigorous control measures should have been taken at a much earlier stage. That is again something that we asked for but the Government consistently refused it until recently. Do the Government agree with the statements of the Chief Veterinary Officer?

Lord Lucas: My Lords, I did not listen to the farming programme and have not seen a transcript. However, I am sure that with hindsight and knowing what we know now, we could say that had we taken the decisions in 1990 with the prescience of present knowledge, rather than dealing with the scientific advice and knowledge that we had at the time, we might have taken different decisions. However, at the time we acted on the best scientific advice. I agree that it has not turned out for the best. It would have been nice if we had known what we know now, but we did not.

Lord Carter: My Lords, we asked for those measures in 1990, six years ago, not with hindsight.

Lord Lucas: My Lords, we were acting at the time on scientific advice and not with the advice of the Labour Party.

Lord Bruce of Donington: My Lords, can the Minister inform the House which body will decide when consumer confidence has been restored? Has it to be decided by the whole of the Council of Ministers? For example, can Herr Kohl and his Government hang out indefinitely against all the rest, if it suits them politically? Who will decide when consumer confidence has been returned to a point where the British taxpayer may be relieved of the necessity for providing vast sums for the unnecessary slaughter of many animals?

Lord Lucas: My Lords, I am sure that the consumers will decide whether consumer confidence is restored. However, the actions of governments help and in that

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context we were all delighted by the reaction and subsequent assistance of the French, following the visit here of President Chirac.

Baroness Seear: My Lords, does the Minister agree that in these circumstances majority voting has a great deal to recommend it?

Lord Lucas: My Lords, on some issues it has.

Lord Walton of Detchant: My Lords, I speak as a member of the Southwood Working Party which made recommendations to Government in 1989 about the removal of animal-based material from ruminant rations. Does the Minister accept that since that time our conclusion to the effect that any risk to human health arising out of the BSE epidemic was minimal--very slight indeed? Does he further accept that such experiments as have been carried out since that time which attempt to demonstrate transmission from beef muscle to experimental animals have been totally negative? Under the circumstances, is it not the case that British beef is perfectly safe to eat?

Lord Lucas: My Lords, I totally agree with the final and also the penultimate comments of the noble Lord.

Lord Whaddon: My Lords, would it be more appropriate for the Government to show a more pro-European stance and understanding of the concern for the health of countries receiving hazardous exports? In that connection, why do the Government not propose a ban on Greek tobacco?

Lord Lucas: My Lords, there is clearly nothing hazardous about British beef. That is why we are so upset with the European Union for taking precipitate action in banning a perfectly safe product. As for Greek tobacco, perhaps that is why the Greeks are voting against British beef.

Lord Skelmersdale: My Lords, does the Minister agree that the British consumer has regained confidence in British beef and that sales are nearly up to the same level as before the current scare arose?

Lord Lucas: Yes, my Lords, I believe that that is the case, certainly with prime cuts.

Deer (Scotland) Bill [H.L.]

3.7 p.m.

The Lord Advocate (Lord Mackay of Drumadoon): My Lords, I beg to introduce a Bill to consolidate the legislation relating to deer in Scotland. I beg to move that this Bill be now read a first time.

Moved, That the Bill be now read a first time.--(Lord Mackay of Drumadoon.)

On Question, Bill read a first time, and to be printed.

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Education Bill [H.L.]

The Lord Chancellor (Lord Mackay of Clashfern): My Lords, I beg to move that this Bill be now read a second time.

The Bill is the first of two linked consolidation Bills in my name on the Order Paper. If I may, I shall speak to them together and then move the second formally.

These Bills consolidate the Education Act 1944 and subsequent legislation relating to education in schools in England and Wales, together with the statutory provisions dealing with the inspection of those schools.

The current legislation relating to education, subsequent to the 1944 Act, is contained in four principal Acts passed since 1980 which made provision for such matters as the establishment and discontinuance of schools, their government, conduct and staffing, the national curriculum, delegated budgets, grant-maintained schools and the education of children with special education needs. The fact that consolidation is needed in this area is abundantly clear from the considerable size of the Education Bill (which runs to 583 clauses and 40 schedules). It is also a testament to the skill and dedication of the draftsman, and I am sure that the House will wish to join me in thanking him for his work. Nevertheless, although for reasons of convenience the Education Bill deals with the functions of the Secretary of State and local education authorities over the field of education in England and Wales generally, in order to keep the proportions of the Bill within manageable bounds it does not otherwise deal with further or higher education. Those forms of education will therefore continue to be covered by existing legislation.

The provisions dealing with school inspections are currently to be found in the Education (Schools) Act 1992 and Part V of the Education Act 1993. The 1992 Act establishes the framework within which school inspections take place, although the procedure to be adopted differs according to the type of school (and the relevant provisions are to be found in different statutes). The 1993 Act confers powers of intervention on the Secretary of State where a local education authority maintained school has been found on an inspection to require special measures to be taken.

These Bills also incorporate a number of relatively small but useful changes to the present law, giving effect to the recommendations of the Law Commission in its report accompanying the Bills. These changes are intended to rectify a number of inconsistencies and omissions in the present law and to give better effect to the original intentions of Parliament. I am most grateful to the Law Commission for its work in this area. The commission's recommendations will of course be the subject of consideration by the Joint Committee on Consolidation Bills, to which these Bills will be referred in the usual way if your Lordships are content to give them a Second Reading. I commend the Bill to the House.

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Moved, That the Bill be now read a second time.--(The Lord Chancellor.)

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