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Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: My Lords, the 1995 non-proliferation treaty review conference agreed that states should consider further steps to assure non-nuclear weapon states as regards the use of nuclear weapons. These steps could take the form of an internationally legally binding agreement. However, there is no common view as to what form any such international arrangements might take. Discussion on the issue should continue in the ad hoc committee on negative security assurance when it is re-established at the conference on disarmament in Geneva. Of course, Her Majesty's Government will take a full part in those discussions.

Lord Chalfont: My Lords, does the Minister agree that it is important that any potential aggressor, nuclear or non-nuclear, should be left in no doubt that we would defend ourselves with any weapons at our command? Is it not true that we have consistently refused to accede to non-first use agreements for that very reason? Will the Minister also assure the House that none of the assurances given to the 182 states concerned will apply if those states are engaged in an act of aggression against this country?

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: My Lords, I hope that when the noble Lord, Lord Chalfont, reads the initial Answer I gave to my noble friend he will see that those assurances were clearly stated. Our security assurances also contain the standard supreme national interest provisions on withdrawal. That is the important point. Of course the supreme national interest must be maintained in all the arrangements we have. As regards first use, the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation continues to reserve the right of limited first use of nuclear weapons in extreme circumstances of

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self-defence to persuade an aggressor to desist if no other means are available. I hope that that assures the noble Lord on both the points he raised.

Lord Archer of Sandwell: My Lords, is my noble friend saying that, having persuaded the non-nuclear powers to renounce a nuclear future in the non-proliferation treaty, there may still be circumstances in which we would nevertheless attack them with nuclear weapons? Is that not to say not only that we claim the right to use nuclear weapons but that we want to ensure that we do it unilaterally?

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: My Lords, I do not believe that that is the case at all. I hope that my answer made clear that, in all cases where we have given assurances, we have made clear that those assurances are not applicable if any beneficiary is in breach of its obligations.

Quarantine Rules: Consultation

2.51 p.m.

Lord Waddington asked Her Majesty's Government:

    When they intend to announce their response to the public consultation on the report by the Advisory Group on Quarantine.

Lord Donoughue: My Lords, the Government are considering the way forward following the consultation on the review of quarantine rules undertaken by the Advisory Group on Quarantine. In that consultation, more than 96 per cent. of respondents were in favour of reform broadly on the lines of the Kennedy recommendations. We will make an announcement as soon as we can.

Lord Waddington: My Lords, I thank the Minister for his reply and for his help in this matter. I can assure him that I am not asking this question in any mood of carping criticism. Is the Minister aware of arguments in his department that primary legislation is necessary in order to set up the new system rather than regulations under the Animal Health Act? Is it not necessary to make good speed in this matter in order to avoid any unnecessary hardship to animal owners and animals, and also in order to avoid any risk of an increase in smuggling now that people know that vaccinated animals pose no risk of carrying rabies?

Lord Donoughue: My Lords, I entirely agree with the noble Lord that we must make the fullest speed possible. The Kennedy Committee recommended that any new system should contain no more risk than the existing system. We have to put into place monitoring and control measures which ensure that. That is what has delayed matters so far.

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Baroness Trumpington: My Lords, I do not think the Minister answered the question asked by the noble Lord, Lord Waddington. Can he perhaps rephrase what he said to include an answer to the noble Lord's question on regulations?

Lord Donoughue: My Lords, on the noble Lord's point about regulations or primary legislation, that depends on what type of machinery we put in place. Some of the machinery may require primary legislation; some, it is to be hoped, will require only secondary legislation. There are also problems of European Union rules. All that is being examined. If we can do something and avoid the need for primary legislation, we will certainly do that.

Lord Kimball: My Lords, will the Minister bear in mind that those people who invested their money in quarantine kennels did so because of government regulations and stood in for a service that the Government would have had to provide? Will the Minister bear in mind in any adjustment to the current regulations that kennel owners are entitled to proper compensation for having done a job that the Government should have done?

Lord Donoughue: My Lords, kennel owners have been included in the fullest way possible in the consultation. As far as concerns compensation, the Government's present view is that they have been given due warning. In any case, after the reforms, which will only apply to the European Union and rabies-free islands in the European Economic Area, there will still be a great deal of business for them with animals from elsewhere in the world.

Lord Soulsby of Swaffham Prior: My Lords, it is probably a rumour at present, but can the Minister say whether or not it is true that there may be a legal challenge from the European Union to the United Kingdom for charging for assessing certification at the port of entry on the basis that that would contravene the freedom of movement of goods and animals into this country? If that were to be so, I understand that it might cost the Government some £9 million to £10 million not to charge people for bringing animals into this country.

Lord Donoughue: My Lords, one of the problems we have to consider is that when we put a procedure in place it must be one that will not be subject to legal challenge or would survive it. The European Union rules on freedom of movement are a prime area. We are looking at ways to achieve the reforms in the direction that Kennedy recommended and which we want, and which will not be subject to challenge. There are indeed costs in the new procedures, and we have to look at how those costs will be met. Many people would feel that

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the taxpayer should not pay the full cost of something which is to the benefit of an important but small number of pet owners.

Baroness Sharples: My Lords, can the noble Lord say how many ports of entry have the necessary facilities to deal with any change in quarantine laws?

Lord Donoughue: My Lords, I cannot say that because we have not yet reached the point at which we decide what the monitoring facilities are and which ports of entry should have them.

Lord Waddington: My Lords, can the Minister help me on this point? If charging brings the risk of a challenge in the European Union because of interference with free movement, then, a fortiori, the present system of quarantine interferes with free movement. So that argument is as broad as it is long.

Lord Donoughue: My Lords, yes. The European factor is one aspect of the charging problem but it is not the only one. As to the decision of who is charged and how, that matter is under active consideration at the moment.

Lord Brougham and Vaux: My Lords, can the Minister give the House an idea of when things might change? What timescale are we talking about?

Lord Donoughue: My Lords, I cannot give a precise answer to that question. The noble Lord will recall that the Kennedy Report suggested that it might take as long as three years. At present Ministers are very committed that it should take less time than that. But we have to decide the procedures and then possibly develop some pilot schemes. We would like to get it in as soon as possible. The noble Lord should bear in mind that currently about 8,000 animals pass through the kennels. The Kennedy Report estimated that there might be as many as a quarter of a million animals coming through in the first year of the new scheme. Therefore, this will need very careful and detailed preparation.

Lord Shore of Stepney: My Lords, having enjoyed the enormous blessings and benefits of being a rabies-free area for so long, I hope my noble friend can assure me that the onus of proof will be very clearly upon the advocates of change in moving away from our present and effective rabies legislation. I hope my noble friend is not also telling us that the freedom of movement provisions of the European Union extend to animals as well as persons.

Lord Donoughue: My Lords, freedom of movement applies to movements in trade and persons. As to risk, it was a basic principle of the Kennedy Committee that the new proposals should not involve increased risk. The committee carried out a very technical analysis of risk and concluded that the system it proposed would not include risk. I should point out to my noble friend that the European Union is effectively rabies-free as far as

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concerns human beings. Most of the European Union, except for Germany recently, is rabies-free as far as concerns pets. It is not the case that we have an oasis here and outside us are deeply affected areas.

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