|Previous Section||Back to Table of Contents||Lords Hansard Home Page|
Lord Williams of Mostyn: My Lords, store cards and credit cards are, of course, voluntary. In a sense the acquisition of a driving licence is to a degree voluntary. In that case one is entering a regime which is not the object of compulsion. There are questions of civil liberties. I say to the noble Lord, Lord Dholakia, that relatively recently the previous government issued a consultation document entitled Identity Cards. It was that consultation document that I mentioned when replying to the noble Baroness, Lady Sharples.
Baroness Gardner of Parkes: My Lords, is the Minister aware of the Australian system which does not comprise identity cards but tax reference numbers? Every individual must have a tax reference number if he or she wishes to claim any benefit of any kind. Could we not introduce this scheme, perhaps with the introduction of the tax credit system, which I understand will be administered by the appropriate department? That measure would act as an identity card in most cases.
Lord Williams of Mostyn: My Lords, that is a most useful suggestion that certainly needs further consideration. It is not one that had struck my mind in the general context of this Question. However, it certainly bears further examination. My noble friend Lady Hollis is present and will doubtless take up that suggestion.
Lord Cope of Berkeley: My Lords, as the Minister indicated, the previous government did much of the spade work on this issue. However, I was unable to make out from the precise formulation that the Minister used in his original reply whether the Government are drifting on purpose on this issue, or are they just drifting?
Lord Davies of Coity: My Lords, does my noble friend the Minister agree that if a voluntary system of identity cards was introduced anyone who exercised his or her civil liberties under those circumstances and decided not to take out an identity card would be under greater suspicion if any inspection was made?
Lord Williams of Mostyn: My Lords, that might well be the consequence of such a scheme. That is why one must consider it with great care. One would assume, for instance, that this measure would have unanimous support from police forces up and down the country. However, that unanimity does not exist because they are troubled by the possible breakdown of relationships and the growth of suspicion between police services and the general public. Therefore this is not an easy matter. The scheme is extremely expensive. The previous government's estimate was about £600 million.
Lady Saltoun of Abernethy: My Lords, is the Minister old enough to remember the Second World War? I do not think he is. During the Second World War we all had to have identity cards. We were proud of our identity cards because they showed that we were British. In those days we were proud to be British.
Lord Williams of Mostyn: My Lords, the noble Lady is extremely generous to say that I cannot remember the war. For public consumption I readily agree. But privately, between the noble Lady and myself, the other day I found my ration card, which still had a large number of tokens for sweets. If things were retrospective, I could have a large bag of Rowntree's gums ready to hand out to your Lordships in the early hours of tomorrow morning.
The Parliamentary Secretary, Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (Lord Donoughue): My Lords, badgers are shot at close range by fully trained MAFF staff in accordance with detailed instructions. There are regular management checks.
Lord Islwyn: My Lords, does the Minister appreciate that in 1991 in the other place I introduced the Badgers Bill which ultimately became the Badgers Act? My objective was to protect badgers from various evildoers. Why are the Government now flouting the Bern Conventions and the Standing Committee guidelines on this issue? If the culling is to continue, will the Minister ensure that humane methods are used because there have been reports to the contrary?
Lord Donoughue: My Lords, I congratulate my noble friend on his great contribution to the welfare and protection of animals, particularly badgers. I can assure him that maximum efforts will be made by the department to ensure that all badgers are killed in the most humane way possible in the recently launched culling, one hopes starting a trend to that effect. My noble friend asked why we are doing so. The reasons are quite clear. We are doing so for reasons of public health and for the welfare of cattle herds. My noble friend may not be aware that the number of cattle herds affected by TB has increased since 1985 by some 900 per cent, from 88 herds to something like 736 herds last year. It is a growing threat to human health because humans can suffer from TB which is derived from bovine TB. It also causes considerable damage to farmers, who suffer from loss of herds and restrictions on travel, and whose compensation is less than 20 per cent of the associated cost of a breakdown. So there are two reasons: human health and animal health. The professional, scientific Krebs Report stated firmly that there was compelling indirect evidence that badgers played a significant part in the infection of cattle. Any responsible government would take the measures we are taking, which are scientifically based and follow the Krebs Report.
Lord Mackie of Benshie: My Lords, does the Minister agree that 20 per cent compensation is a highly dangerous figure when one considers the harm which was done by paying only 50 per cent in cases of BSE?
Lord Donoughue: My Lords, the figure of 20 per cent--slightly less--relates to compensation for slaughtered cattle. We have increased the compensation compared to the previous government from 75 to 100 per cent of market value. It would not be proper to pay full compensation. After all, the taxpayer pays for all testing and vaccine research in this area.
Lord Hardy of Wath: My Lords, in the early 1970s, when I was taking the first badgers' protection Bill through the House, I suggested to the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food that it should take entire responsibility for any culling that was absolutely necessary. Does the Minister not agree that the Ministry adopted that approach in order to avoid the unnecessary destruction of badgers, animals which in all other areas are eminently desirable and to be welcomed? Does my noble friend accept that that policy must continue? Is my noble friend aware that a number of informed and concerned people take the view that the contribution of eminent scientists on a recent Channel 4 television programme raises some questions? I did not see the programme but I have no doubt that the Minister's department is aware of it. What answer will the Ministry give to people who share the concerns expressed on that programme?
Lord Donoughue: My Lords, I congratulate another of my noble friends on his great contribution in this area through the 1973 Act. I, too, did not see the television programme. I can assure him that it is the Ministry's view--it was the view then--that any culling should be carried out in a controlled, disciplined and humane way. We are aware that some scientists and many farmers question some of the scientific approach and there are badger groups which reject all of the scientific approach. The Government's approach is to take the balanced view--to protect public health; to obtain the maximum protection for animal and badger welfare; to follow the scientific advice, but not only in one area. We have an integrated approach and we are pursuing research in a whole number of areas, not only culling.
Lord Carter: My Lords, it may be for the convenience of the House if I indicate to your Lordships that arrangements have been made for refreshments to be provided tonight. In the view of many of your Lordships and of myself, it should be possible to complete the list of amendments before the House within a reasonable time. In the unlikely event that the debate is prolonged, arrangements have been made for refreshment facilities to be made available until the rise of the House. I suggest that there will be no need to sit very late tonight. Starting half an hour later than today, the House rose just after midnight on Thursday, having dealt with one more group of amendments than are on the Marshalled List today.