|Previous Section||Back to Table of Contents||Lords Hansard Home Page|
Lord Whitty: My Lords, perhaps I was wasting my "smidginess", if that was the expression, on the noble Countess. Perhaps I should be more negative in my reaction to the noble Baroness, but hers was such a hilariously misleading view of history that I do not believe it is sensible for us to pursue it. The Government are presenting their own evidence to the Anderson inquiry, as will other parties, on the sequence of events. The noble Baroness is correct in saying that the original contingency plan required the chief vet to be in charge. In the event we were dealing with the kind of outbreak that was not really covered by the contingency plan, which is what I said earlier.
Lord Campbell of Alloway: My Lords, does the Minister believe that it is relevant to consider whether the implementation of this plan was in conformity with the European Convention on Human Rights and, if so, why?
Baroness Miller of Chilthorne Domer: My Lords, will the Minister tell the House how and at what stage local authorities were involved in discussing the contingency plan, given their role in relation to animal health and as the highway authority that had to close footpaths? Will he also tell the House at what stage they will be involved in discussions on the current contingency plan so that they can include it in their emergency planning?
Lord Whitty: My Lords, the noble Baroness has put her finger on one of the problems with the process of contingency planning prior to the disease. The contingency plan had been discussed with various parties, including the local authorities, but the dry runs of the plan that have been conducted with the vets and with other officials were entirely internal. From that experience we have learned that we need to engage not only in the planning process but also in the testing of the process with the local authorities, the farmers, the hauliers and everyone else. Therefore, in the future we need a stakeholder-based contingency plan. Future contingency plans will pursue that.
Earl Peel: My Lords, I was surprised to see that Article 9.2 of the contingency plans for Great Britain estimates that specimens can be delivered to the laboratories within a maximum of eight hours. Clearly, that was not the experience of farmers who desperately wanted to know whether their animals were infected or not. Can the Minister tell the House why there is a considerable divergence between what the European Union is saying on this subject and what actually happened?
Lord Whitty: My Lords, two or three different issues are wrapped up in that question. The European Commission's guidelines would relate to delivering samples as quickly as possible to the laboratory. In the early stages, there were only one or two sites to which they could be delivered. As the disease progressed we stepped up the capacity from about 400 tests a week to over 200,000 tests a week. In the beginning there was the problem of having to travel some distance and there were other logistical delays in delivering samples. As a result of the disease we have learned of techniques that would mean quicker testing.
Lord King of Bridgwater: My Lords, the Minister will be aware that after the 1969 outbreak Western Command produced for the Army its report on the lessons learned. Can the Minister say whether, in connection with the absolutely crucial role played by the Army in trying to bring the disease under control,
Lord Whitty: My Lords, I understand that the Ministry of Defence has internally drawn up its own assessment of the disease and of the Army's role. That will be fed into the committees of inquiry and will be part of the overall government response. But certainly it has drawn those lessons together.
Lord Soulsby of Swaffham Prior: My Lords, will the Government take note of the findings of the various committees that are looking into the lessons learned, especially those from the Royal Society, before they draw up the final contingency plans that are on the board?
Lord Whitty: My Lords, the process I described was an interim contingency plan which will take into account from the Government and other bodies the lessons learned up until now. Clearly, any final or definitive contingency plan will have to take into account the outcome of both the Royal Society and Dr Anderson's considerations and, indeed, of the assessment being made by the EU of the contingency planning and other matters. So the final version will have taken those points into account.
Lord Whitty: Well, my Lords, I referred carefully in response to the noble Lord, Lord King, to an internal document from the Ministry of Defence which will form part therefore of the overall response. Whether or not that gets published will be a matter for Dr Anderson and his inquiry. Certainly, the Government would have no objection to the Government's submission being published with the eventual report.
Lord Judd : My Lords, I beg leave to ask the Question standing in my name on the Order Paper. I declare an interest as vice-president of the Council for National Parks and as a trustee or member of other environment charities.
Our seas are also rich in biodiversity. A range of measures is in hand to afford them further protection. The forthcoming marine stewardship report will set out our strategy for the sustainable development and conservation of the marine environment.
Lord Judd: My Lords, while I thank my noble friend for that reply, will he not agree that there is a crisis threatening this very special asset? Will he further agree that this crisis is evidenced by declining fish stocks, in toxic poisoning of marine mammals and in the disappearance of wetlands, not to mention the accumulation of radioactive waste and the effects of climate change? Is not responsibility for managing this asset spread through too many authorities and departments? Should there not be designated Ministers in every department in Westminster and in devolved administrations to ensure the application of strategic policy with clout?
Lord Whitty: My Lords, on these occasions, I am always advised that the demarcation of government departments and ministerial responsibility is a matter for the Prime Minister. I am not supposed to comment further. However, I believe that in this area there is a degree of co-ordination and that the pressures which my noble friend rightly describes on the marine environment are catered for by the responses of the various agencies, the majority of which come under the aegis of my department.
Lord Greaves: My Lords, last March the Prime Minister announced that there would be a series of marine stewardship reports. In his reply to the noble Lord, Lord Judd, and to a series of Written Questions from the noble Lord, the Minister referred to,