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Lord Phillips of Sudbury: My Lords--

Lord Jenkins of Putney: My Lords, will my noble friend place a copy of the information in the Library?

The Lord Privy Seal (Baroness Jay of Paddington): My Lords, the point is often made that we do not allow enough time for the fourth Question. I think it would be appropriate if we moved on now.

Alcohol-related Attacks aboard Aircraft

3.29 p.m.

Viscount Falkland asked Her Majesty's Government:

The Minister of State, Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions (Lord Macdonald of Tradeston): My Lords, we have worked closely with airlines and the police in recent years. Airlines have taken steps to prevent intoxicated passengers boarding, to provide more information on the effects of alcohol at altitude and to limit the amount of alcohol served. The Government are considering legislation to strengthen existing police powers in dealing with drunkennness on aircraft, and are currently consulting on whether passengers should be able to drink their own alcohol on board aircraft.

Viscount Falkland: My Lords, I thank the Minister for that Answer. I had prepared a slightly different supplementary question because I thought that another Minister would be answering. However, as I was deputy chairman for some 10 years of the alcohol misuse body in Parliament, I am used to rather "dickering about" at the edges of alcohol abuse in our society. On this particular issue, does the Minister agree that there must be some kind of technology available that the airlines could use to screen either those who have an identifiable alcohol problem, or that small minority who travel and are prepared to abuse the freedoms that they enjoy, regardless of

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anyone else? Apart from separating passengers from their alcohol during the flight, which he mentioned, surely there is some way of screening such people before they board an aircraft. Most of the other passengers who experience such situations can easily identify those who should never be put on the flight in the first place.

Lord Macdonald of Tradeston: My Lords, there has been no active consideration of the possibility of breathalysing passengers before they board an aircraft. However, in our air transportation consultation document, The Future of Aviation, we asked the industry for its views on whether there should be limitations on passengers drinking their own alcohol on board. We hope to have those views collected and in hand by 12th April.

Lord Graham of Edmonton: My Lords, can I draw the attention of my noble friend the Minister to the excellent report of our Select Committee into the incidence of deep-vein thrombosis, and the evidence that emerged showing that the free availability of alcohol on airlines could be a contributory cause? My noble friend says that the industry is actively considering limiting the amount of alcohol available. Will he also bear in mind that the Select Committee recommended that an inter-departmental committee--indeed, the Minister has mentioned it--should look into the whole situation? It is not merely a question of abuse; it is a question of airlines trying to make themselves more attractive to passengers than other carriers by providing free alcohol. That practice ought to stop.

Lord Macdonald of Tradeston: My Lords, I am sure that the House and, indeed, passengers in general are most grateful to my noble friend for the information that he has provided about his experience of DVT, and for bringing this very real problem to our attention. As he said, we have initiated a departmental committee and various actions to try to ensure that the issue is more thoroughly researched. I am delighted to say that the industry has also shown its commitment towards trying to obtain further and better particulars on the problem.

As to drinking alcohol, one of the steps that the industry has very readily taken is to provide more information to passengers on the effects of alcohol at altitude. Indeed, it has also agreed to try, where appropriate, to limit the amount of alcohol consumed.

Lord Brabazon of Tara: My Lords, can the Minister tell the House what response the Government gave to the report on Powers and Penalties for Offences on Aircraft and Aerodromes, which was produced by the UK Airport Police Commander's Group in January of last year? In particular, can be say what response has been given regarding its recommendation that drunkenness on aircraft should become an arrestable offence?

Lord Macdonald of Tradeston: My Lords, the proposals put forward have been taken very seriously

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indeed. We have under active consideration the possibility of UK legislation being extended from the present maximum of two years' imprisonment for endangering the safety of an aircraft to five years, which would make such behaviour an arrestable offence. Some other forms of dangerous activity are also under consideration. Noble Lords may remember that we announced in the Queen's Speech that a draft safety Bill would be produced which would provide the opportunity of including the kind of legislative change suggested by the noble Lord.

Lord Newby: My Lords, can the Minister say whether his department has been in touch with British Airways about the incident on 28th December, when an aircraft on its way to Nairobi was nearly plunged into a fatal course by the actions of a deranged passenger, to ascertain whether there are any lessons to be learnt from that occurrence that might be taken on board right across the industry?

Lord Macdonald of Tradeston: My Lords, we have discussed such matters with British Airways. Indeed, BA has been in close liaison with the Civil Aviation Authority, which is reviewing the circumstances in which the passenger boarded the aircraft. That review has not yet been completed, but it will be reported to Ministers. The CAA is also looking at the security of access to the flight deck on aircraft to ascertain whether it can be made more difficult for disruptive passengers to interfere with the flight of the aircraft. We understand that the Kenyan authorities have decided not to pursue the offender; he is considered to be mentally deranged. However, should he return to the United Kingdom, BA has said that it will prosecute.

Lord Geddes: My Lords, the Minister said that the result of the inquiry--if I may use that word--will be reported to Ministers. Can he say whether it will also be available to Members of your Lordships' House?

Lord Macdonald of Tradeston: My Lords, I shall certainly make every effort to ensure that that is the case.

Lord Avebury: My Lords, is the Minister aware of another relatively recent case where a stewardess was stabbed in the back by a man who had been drinking vodka on board the aircraft and who subsequently broke the bottle and used it as an offensive weapon? Where it is known that a person has been drinking before boarding the aircraft, does not the noble Lord think that there is a strong case for the introduction of measures to allow the passenger to be searched and for any alcohol found on him to be removed before he boards?

Lord Macdonald of Tradeston: Indeed, my Lords. We are very aware of the Fiona Weir case, which happened in October 1998. From that deeply unpleasant event, we developed the Disruptive Passengers Working Group in April 1999. This group

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put together the unified reporting scheme for air rage incidents. In its meeting with representatives from the industry, the police, and with government departments, it has been considering voluntary and legislative measures. Those are the kind of measures that the airlines have under consideration, certainly as regards additional vigilance over who gets on to an aircraft. No doubt the ability to search passengers would form part of that process.

Foot and Mouth Disease: Update

3.37 p.m.

The Minister of State, Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (Baroness Hayman): My Lords, with the leave of the House, I shall now repeat a Statement made in another place by my right honourable friend the Minister for Agriculture. The Statement is as follows:

    "I want to update the House on the latest position with regard to the foot and mouth disease outbreak. I also want to set out how the Government are taking forward disease control measures given our increased knowledge about how the disease has spread.

    "At 1 p.m. today there have been 240 confirmed cases in the United Kingdom: 205,000 animals have been condemned for destruction, of which more than three quarters have already been slaughtered. This is out of a total UK cattle, sheep and pig population of more than 55 million.

    "Out of 160,000 livestock farms throughout the United Kingdom, 1,200 have been placed under restriction because of a confirmed or suspected case of the disease. We have been able to lift restrictions on over 660 of these farms, leaving less than 550 farms still restricted.

    "This is a devastating disease for farming and for rural communities affected. I want to express my deepest sympathy for those farmers who have lost their herds and flocks, and to the wider farming communities who are going through a time of terrible uncertainty and distress.

    "I was also sorry to learn of a confirmed case in France earlier in the week. As far as I understand it, there have been no further cases on the Continent. We have stayed in close contact with the European Commission and other European countries' veterinary authorities. They have all strongly supported the firm action taken in the UK to control the disease and prevent its spread.

    "From the outset the Government have put firm disease control measures rapidly in place. Every action that has been taken is on the advice of the Chief Veterinary Officer.

    "Each day we have learned more about the outbreak. Epidemiological investigations--and the incubation of disease in livestock--have revealed

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    the mechanisms by which the disease has spread. As our understanding has increased, I have shared new information with the House through daily briefings.

    "The disease has spread mainly through movements of sheep and subsequent mixing of animals at a small number of livestock markets. It is important to stress that the vast majority of disease spread around the country took place before 20th February when the outbreak was first discovered in Essex.

    "With increased knowledge about how the disease has spread, the Government have been able to refine disease control measures. In the infected areas the Government have intensified controls. Where possible we have allowed movement, for example, to allow licensed movements to slaughter and short movements for welfare reasons.

    "The Government are working to five key disease control aims: first, to keep free of disease those areas of the country that are disease free; secondly, to halt the deterioration of the disease situation in Devon; thirdly, to stop the spread of the disease in the north of England and south-west Scotland--we are increasingly seeing localised spread from sheep flock to sheep flock in Scotland and from cattle to cattle in Cumbria--fourthly, to minimise the spread of the disease from Longtown, Welshpool and Northampton markets, where it has been identified that infection has been present; and fifthly, to eliminate infection in flocks that have passed through dealers known to have handled infected flocks. And, of course, we shall keep this strategy under constant review.

    "Taking each of these issues in turn, I shall set out the action the Government are taking. First, in areas that are currently disease free, we shall be establishing a new type of controlled area within which we hope eventually to allow a more normal level of activity both in agriculture and the rural community. But in the short term the priority will be to avoid the risk of importing the disease into these clean areas by movements of animals from areas where there is infection. In addition we shall be identifying any high risk movements of sheep which took place before 23rd February. These sheep will be destroyed to ensure that any possibility of infection is removed.

    "Secondly, in Devon the disease has been spreading from farm to farm due to the nature of agriculture with lots of small farms, dense animal populations, movements of people and equipment. The strategy here will be to have an intensive patrol to all farms within three kilometres of the infected farm. Each farm will be visited and inspected by veterinary or trained lay staff to ensure that cases of foot and mouth disease are identified as soon as possible to prevent onward spread.

    "Thirdly, the large focus on infection in the north of England and southern Scotland has been mostly concentrated in the sheep flock although there is now cattle to cattle spread in Cumbria. There are a considerable number of cases in this area with the

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    potential for rapid spread to adjacent farms and even further afield. In this case we must still ensure that infected animals are removed as quickly as possible and in order to do this it will be necessary to destroy animals within the three kilometre zones on a precautionary basis.

    "Fourthly, we now have clear evidence that sheep from the markets in the Welshpool, Northampton and Longtown areas were exposed to disease and there is reason to suspect that, with the passage of time, numbers of flocks into which these sheep were imported may become infected. These flocks will be removed as dangerous contacts. Fifthly, the same approach will be taken to sheep handled during the high risk period by two major dealers who have been associated with the movements of infected sheep.

    "This is a policy of safety first. We are intensifying the slaughter of animals at risk in the areas of the country--thankfully still limited--where the disease has spread. And then, provided that the other areas remain disease free, we can, over the next week to 10 days, consider modifying restrictions in the areas that have remained clean.

    "We are deeply conscious of the animal welfare problems that have been posed by the movement restrictions that we have had to put in place for disease control reasons. We made arrangements last week for a number of local licensed movements, which will, I hope, have alleviated a proportion of these problems. We were not, however, then able to provide for longer distance movements of animals caught in the wrong place, for example, sheep that are "on tack" on dairy farms in England. I shall be publishing later today the principles of a scheme for moving such animals, necessarily under very tight restrictions. The general principle will be that animals can be moved within a presently controlled area, or within the currently disease free areas, or into an area of higher disease risk, but not the other way around. It is my intention that farmers will be able to apply for licences for such movement over the weekend.

    "These arrangements will not, of course, be able to deal with all the welfare problems which animals are facing. Some animals will be unable to move because of their condition; others will be unable to move because they are in infected areas. Where animal welfare problems cannot be alleviated by local action, by which I mean husbandry action, we shall be putting in place arrangements for their disposal at public expense. This scheme will apply across the United Kingdom. Payments will be made for such animals, broadly on the lines of those adopted by the Government in East Anglia last autumn for the pig welfare disposal scheme.

    "I should emphasise that this is a voluntary scheme. It will be for individual farmers to decide whether to offer livestock to the scheme. Acceptances will depend upon certification by a vet that a welfare problem exists or is about to emerge.

    "The licence to slaughter scheme introduced on 2nd March has allowed the meat trade to begin operating again, although on a necessarily limited

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    basis. The latest estimate of the Meat and Livestock Commission is that the pig sector is back to 78 per cent of normal production, beef is at 68 per cent and lamb is at 30 per cent of normal production. Veterinary advice does not recommend the setting up a system of collection centres, although I have to tell the House that the option is being kept under review.

    "The control of foot and mouth disease is a major logistical exercise. In this task we are drawing on the expertise of many public sector organisations, particularly those with field organisations or specialist knowledge and expertise including the Ministry of Defence, the Environment Agency, the Meat and Livestock Commission and my ministry's own agencies. The Ministry of Defence is deploying a logistic planning team, drawn from Land Command, to provide advice on the planning and management of my ministry's and other civil resources. We have also been offered support from a wider range of private organisations. In addition there has been international support, particularly in the provision of veterinary staff to help with the disease control programme. I am enormously grateful for all of this support.

    "Disease control measures have had a major impact on non-farm businesses in rural areas, and in particular the tourism industry. Yesterday my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport explained to the House what the Government are doing to help those sectors.

    "A new task force has met to take this work forward. My right honourable friend the Minister for the Environment will make further announcements next week. My ministry will continue to provide targeted advice and guidance from the Chief Veterinary Officer on the risks associated with a range of activities in the countryside.

    "Movement control measures in place are keeping the spread of the disease to an absolute minimum. Slaughtering out of infected farms and dangerous contacts is bearing down on the disease where it exists. An intensified slaughter policy in respect of animals thought to be at risk of developing the disease will, of course, add to this effort. As further cases emerge we shall learn more about the way the outbreak has developed, and this will inform any further refinements of the control policy as necessary. And of course I shall continue to keep the House informed.

    "Foot and mouth disease is a personal tragedy for those affected, and a body blow to the livestock industry as a whole. Again, I express the Government's deepest sympathy for those affected; I also want to express my support and appreciation of the State Veterinary Service, the farming organisations and all those others who are involved in combating the disease and dealing with its consequences. I continue to appeal to the public for their co-operation. It is important to remember that the key risk is contact with susceptible livestock. The

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    precautionary measures should be focused on bearing down on that risk. There is no need to bring all aspects of rural activity to a standstill. So while the disease is still with us I renew my appeal to the public to avoid unnecessary visits to livestock farms, and where visits are unavoidable, to take the precautions advised.

    "I am grateful for the support of the House for the Government's actions. It is important that we set aside party politics in dealing with this outbreak. If the whole country works together and works constructively then we shall get through this". My Lords, that concludes the Statement.

3.50 p.m.

Baroness Byford: My Lords, I am grateful to the Minister for repeating the Statement. We should like to record our thanks for her work in the long debate on Tuesday when she listened to our many concerns and responded so well to questions that we posed. We express our gratitude to the vets, the officials, farming organisations, local authority workers and everyone who is busy working out there on the front line. We express our deepest sympathy to all farmers who are struggling and having the distressing experience of seeing their animals slaughtered. I acknowledge the difficulties being suffered by many people, other than farmers, who are living in rural areas and who have a variety of businesses facing very difficult financial circumstances at this time. We are all involved in this dreadful disaster. We support the Government in the efforts that they are making.

I have seven questions for the Minister. We are particularly pleased to hear that the Government are adopting a scheme similar to the pig welfare disposal scheme which I know will be across all species; it is not just for pigs. First, what percentage of market value is the Government estimating giving to farmers who voluntarily put their animals in for slaughter?

Secondly, on the question of burial of livestock there are conflicting views. In some areas it is possible to bury livestock, but there are some areas where the water course is at an undue high state and obviously those areas are unsuitable for burying. Is it anticipated that livestock will be buried on individual farms, or is the Ministry looking to have sites in the locality to which animals could be taken for burial in large numbers? The 1967 report recommended burial as one form of coping with the disposal of carcasses rather than burning. I would be grateful for greater clarification.

Thirdly, the Government have indicated that they are taking on extra help, particularly from the Army, in respect of slaughter and acceleration of disposal of carcasses. Is the Minister satisfied because, sadly, since the first Statement in this House the number of cases has doubled--we are up to 240? Has the Minister enough available help in whatever form, either through the Ministry or private means?

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Fourthly, I turn to the veterinary inspection. When a vet is reasonably suspicious of a foot and mouth case does it need a MAFF vet to confirm it or can the vet on site at that moment declare it as such, and therefore slaughtering can go ahead? One or two of the criticisms have been that there has been a delay. The Minister will understand that if the vet on duty is unable to clarify that, and they wait for another vet, it does take time. Is there to be greater use of trainee vets, and I refer also to the use of hunt servants about whom we spoke previously?

Fifthly, during the debate on Tuesday the Minister mentioned that the banks and the Government were to meet yesterday. Although it is not in the Statement today, can the Minister give an up-date on any information that would give help to those farmers who have a dreadful cash flow and cannot see where they are going? Would the Government consider giving help to them in the meantime?

Sixthly, I turn to the question of movement. There is great concern among the farming community and the wider community about the movement of slaughtered animals to rendering plants. I understand the advantages of using rendering plants. It is a real concern for people out there. They are concerned that those vehicles used should be completely sealed so that there is no risk of an infected vehicle going through a non-infected area and passing on infection.

Seventhly, I turn to infectivity. I understood that Nick Brown said that infectivity could be for a longer period than two weeks. Until now we understood that infectivity was anything from three days and up to two weeks. I should be grateful for clarification on that. There are other questions that Members will want to ask. I should like to give the Minister plenty of time to answer the questions that I have posed. I thank the Minister for her hard work and the way in which she has come back to the House and kept us informed.

3.56 p.m.

Baroness Miller of Chilthorne Domer: My Lords, from these Benches we add our sympathy to the great number of farmers who have been affected and the other rural businesses. Since our debate on Tuesday there has been the sad news of the first farming suicide directly linked to this situation. We join with the comments of appreciation for the hard work of MAFF officials, other workers and local authority staff, some of whom have been hardly sleeping. They have been working all the hours that they possibly can. We welcome the announcement by the Minister of a policy of eradicating any sheep from suspected markets. We agree thoroughly with the policy of trying to get ahead of the disease as best as it can be done. Can the Minister clarify that where there is an unconfirmed suspicion of disease on a farm there will be a decision taken to slaughter rather than to wait any longer for that negative result?

Devon is an area of very small farms. Small farmers will have less income or no income to cushion themselves from the results of this problem. Will the DSS send out guidelines to farmers to inform them of

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their entitlements so that they do not have the burden of making what can sometimes be very lengthy inquiries? Can the DSS produce a standard form in consultation with MAFF? Has the Minister had discussions with colleagues about the use of disinfectant regarding people coming from the infected area of France to Britain? Clearly, that is an issue.

I hesitate to ask the Minister whether she feels that the Government's message to the public about visiting the countryside is clear enough. I listened carefully to what the Minister for the Environment, Michael Meacher, said when interviewed. It did not seem to me that there was a very clear message and that some disease free areas and other areas could be visited. I was in the South West yesterday and people are desperate that the public are not encouraged to visit unnecessarily. It seems to me that that message is still somewhat confused by those who are concerned about tourist attractions losing their business--and I thoroughly sympathises with those people--but the name of the game, as the Minister indicated, is to eradicate the disease. There must be a clear message of no visiting and no movement that is unnecessary. If the result of that is consequential compensation for areas heavily tourist dependent then that is something that the Government need to consider.

Finally, I thank the Minister for her tremendous commitment in answering questions in this House and for her hard work outside the House.

4 p.m.

Baroness Hayman: My Lords, I am grateful for the support of both noble Baronesses, in particular for the staff who have been working tremendously long hours. For obvious reasons, they tend to be criticised if and when something goes wrong while they are doing in the main a tremendously good job under enormous pressure and changing circumstances.

I deal, first, with the questions raised by the noble Baroness, Lady Byford. We are working on the details of the welfare disposal scheme. We shall make them public. It is not a substitute market; it is a welfare disposal scheme. It will be broadly based on the pig welfare disposal scheme. If the noble Baroness will forgive me, I shall not cite exact numbers or proportions at this time. We shall make those available. For some people there will be commercial decisions about whether to go into the scheme.

Burial has always been an option on individual farms. It has not been taken up to the extent that it was in 1967 for two reasons. The first is the increased concern about environmental effects. Burial has to be checked with the Environment Agency in terms of the effect on water courses. The water table being so high this year has ruled out burial in some circumstances. Equally, we have been dealing with larger numbers of animals per farm than in 1967. There is a possibility of landfill sites being used rather than on-farm burial. We are investigating those urgently and hope to make an announcement about potential landfill sites for burial.

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The Statement gave the number of organisations, civil and military, which are providing support. The noble Baroness is right that it is an enormous logistical task. We have had a great deal of help already. More is coming in all the time. I hope that the logistical support team will identify in particular where additional resources are most necessary and will free up some veterinary resource which is the most difficult to access immediately because of the need for training. The noble Baroness also asked about trainee vets. We are considering the possibility of using veterinary college students in their final or penultimate year to undertake some of the work, perhaps in Devon, involving regular visiting and patrolling of farms. Other lay people could also be trained for such tasks.

I do not believe that diagnosis is being held up in relation to laboratory results. In the vast majority of cases--the Chief Veterinary Officer told me today that it is about 80 per cent--diagnosis is made when the vet on the farm telephones headquarters. If they are satisfied from the description of the clinical signs that there is disease, it is confirmed there and then without waiting for laboratory results. Arrangements are then made for slaughter on-farm at the earliest possible opportunity. All noble Lords understand why it is important that the subsequent disposal is done quickly.

When I said recently that we were meeting the banks "tomorrow" there was a slight irony in my voice; I said it just after midnight so it was already Wednesday. The meeting should have started five minutes ago. We shall have further talks with the banks after their initial response to try to make some assistance available to their farming customers.

Perhaps I may give further reassurance on the movement to rendering plants. I know that there has been concern, particularly when there has been movement through areas of the country without infection. Despite the pressure to bring rendering plants on-stream early, such movement was not started before the CVO had reassured himself that the risks had been totally minimised. That is because one is dealing with corpses rather than live animals; they will have been sprayed with disinfectant; the lorries are adequately sealed; and there is a disinfectant regime after the rendering plants. Another rendering plant in the South West has now come on-stream. We hope to announce two more in due course.

On infectivity--I note that the noble Lord, Lord Soulsby, is in his place; he will tell me if I get this wrong--there are two issues. First, there is the period of time during which an animal may be infectious, some of which is before it shows clinical signs. The height of infectivity is in the early stages of clinical signs. There will be a tail-off of infectivity. That period may be about seven days. Secondly, the noble Baroness asked about the two-week period. The normal parameters for the incubation period are three to 14 days. But in the first case--the pigs were very close together and highly infected--we saw signs in 36 hours. Just as the period can be shorter, I believe that

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it can also be longer. I understand that three to 14 days would be the text-book description of the incubation period for symptoms.

The noble Baroness, Lady Miller of Chilthorne Domer, asked me about disease and identification and the wait for negative results. I understand what she says. Those are based not only on the clinical symptoms but also on the epidemiology. The noble Baroness will understand that the veterinary judgment about a suspect case in Devon in the centre of an infected area may be speedier than that for a new, suspect case in a totally clean area when people will want to assure themselves that they are dealing with a case of foot and mouth disease--in particular if we are dealing with sheep when it could be orf or something else. But I am sure that there is no undue delay.

The noble Baroness rightly points out the need for the Department of Social Security to offer guidelines on benefits. It has already taken action on that, as has the Inland Revenue, with its local offices, in terms of the working families' tax credit. I take on board her suggestion about giving information directly to farmers and those in allied industries who are also being laid off temporarily.

Controls were put on the movements from the area of France where the disease has been identified. I take on board her point about disinfectant.

As regards advice on visiting the countryside, I agree with the noble Baroness. I think that there have been different interpretations of the veterinary risk and the advice available. We are trying to clarify that advice. I understand what the noble Baroness says about those in the South West who are desperate not to see the slightest risk of spreading disease. Equally, people in the South West who are dependent on tourism, while desperate not to spread the disease, are concerned about unnecessarily compromising wider parts of the rural economy. We are not dealing only with the rural economy. There are reports of cancellations by visitors from overseas to London. We must have a proportionate response. We can do that best by promulgating clear advice about the veterinary risks. That is one of the first tasks of the working party. I hope that it will be completed at the end of this week.

4.10 p.m.

Lord Dean of Harptree: My Lords, I well remember that donkey's years ago, when I was a young boy, my father experienced an outbreak of foot and mouth in Cheshire. I warmly congratulate the Minister and her department on their rapid response to this disease. Unhappily, we now have a secondary outbreak that includes Somerset and other parts of the country. I have a more important and, I hope, helpful point for the Minister. I hope that she agrees that, disastrous though the loss of animals is for those concerned, the number involved is only a small proportion of our national stocks and herds. We hope that the outbreak

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will be over within a few weeks or months. We should then still have supreme confidence in the quality of our pedigree herds.

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