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Lord Livsey of Talgarth: This is a very common practice across Wales, which has very large sheep flocksindeed, we have more sheep than Scotland. It is common practice to take them up to the hills and then to send them down to Pembrokeshire dairy farms in the winter. Many sheep were trapped there at the beginning of the foot and mouth outbreak. Some people did not get their sheep back until well after the middle of the following summer, which gave rise to animal welfare problems. The amendment deals with a very common practice which needs to be provided for in the legislation.
Lord Whitty: I am not sure that I follow the logic of the arguments. The Bill already allows sufficient flexibility for the order to be issued to the person in charge of the sheep at the appropriate time regardless of whether that is the owner or the keeper. This amendment would restrict that flexibility.
Lord Whitty: The person who has to carry out the instructions is the person in charge of the sheep at that time. The Bill already provides for that. There could be substantial delay and an additional burden if there is a double requirement to check up on both the owner and
Baroness Byford: I am very surprised by the Minister's response. If it was not late and more noble Lords were available I would certainly divide on the amendment. I shall not do so, but I hope that the Minister will re-examine the issue and give it a little more thought. Perhaps the message from the officials was not very helpful. I do not see a problem with an expectation that the owner should be told. If their sheep are going to be affected, for goodness' sake, they should be told. If someone such as my noble friend Lord Plumb has my sheep, I should hope that he would notify me. Ultimately, they are my sheep. He might be helping me out and looking after them, but they are mine. The Minister shakes his head. Either one owns something or one does notalthough I appreciate the expression that my noble friend Lord Jopling used about sheep going for their summer holiday.
The Minister may think that the tone of this debate is flippant, but it is not. I hope that his colleagues realise that. I shall not press the amendment now although I think the issue hugely important. I ask the Minister, please, to go away and think about this before we return to it on Report.
Lord Greaves: There are a couple of points. First, it seems that the Minister is confusing the nature of the operation. He is assuming that the urgency to which he became accustomed when dealing with foot and mouth is necessary in this type of situation. As I said some hours ago, surely there is a huge difference between eradicating an endemic disease such as scrapie and dealing with an outbreak of a highly infectious disease such as foot and mouth. There is a difference. I therefore do not think that suggestions that this provision might cause huge delay count for very much. I do not think that it would cause huge delay. It might cause a short delay, but I do not think that that matters.
Secondly, if we are to include rights of appeal in the Bill, we should realise that it is more likely that the owner of the sheep will need and wish to exercise those rights than the person minding the sheep. It seems a fundamental point.
The noble Countess said: Most people who are under instructions not to breed from their sheep and to destroy all eggs and sperm will not want to keep their sheep and will probably send them off to be killed. However, some people who keep sheep, particularly rare breed sheep, will want to keep them as pets. They will know from the notice that if they use the sheep for breeding purposes they will be subject to a punishment which I should imagine is worse than death. I see no reason that such people should not be allowed to keep those sheep for the period of the latters' lives without having them mutilated or destroyed. I beg to move.
Baroness Byford: I am grateful for the noble Countess's explanation of the amendment. The whole question of pets is not a matter that I had picked up from the Bill. Many people keep sheep as pets. I should not have thought that the plan which the Government seek to implement should include sheep kept as pets. I shall be interested to hear the Minister's comments. I am grateful to the noble Countess for raising the matter.
Lord Carter: I am not entirely sure whether I have understood the matter we are discussing. Does the noble Countess envisage holding up the entire national scrapie plan in the interests of safeguarding pet sheep? Is that the intention?
The Countess of Mar: I assure the noble Lord that that is not the case. The measure would not hold up the entire national scrapie plan. The sheep I am discussing will not be used for breeding purposes. Punishments will be put in place for breeding from certain sheep. Notices will be sent to the owners of certain sheep which fall within certain genotypes. What is the point of destroying them if they are kept as pets? That is like telling people that they must have their pet dogs destroyed. However, the TSE regulations do not apply to dogs, so I cannot compare pet sheep with dogs. People will be forbidden from using certain sheep for breeding purposes. Commercial sheep breeders will not want to keep sheep they cannot use for breeding
The Lord Bishop of Hereford: I support those comments. Subsection (7) of new Section 36C achieves the objective of the national scrapie plan; that is, the relevant breeding is stopped. That is what needs to be done. There is no necessity to slaughter the animals we are discussing. It would be sensible and charitable to accept the noble Countess's amendment. It would not make any difference to the incidence of breeding or to the national scrapie plan. It would just allow individual owners, if they wish, to keep the animals we are discussing.
Lord Whitty: I now understand the point that the noble Countess is making. On the face of it, her amendment seemed to undermine the scrapie provisions. It would have made enforcement of the prohibition on breeding from such animals impossible. Indeed, it would be difficult to see why farmers should want to resist that if we were talking about commercial sheep farming. But the noble Countess is dealing with a rather different situation in which the animals are kept for a non-commercial purpose.
I had better consider that matter. I certainly do not believe that I could accept the rather comprehensive way in which the noble Countess has drafted the amendment. But now that I understand the intention behind it, I shall try to see whether there is another way of dealing with the matter.
The noble Duke said: In moving Amendment No. 44, I shall speak also to Amendment No. 45. Here, we are treading much of the same ground as we covered in earlier amendments. We are all aware of the vagaries of modern communications. I stand in great admiration of the communication skills that exist within this building and the rate at which messages can be passed around. But this morning the noble Lord, Lord Moran, did not receive a messageI am not sure where it emanated fromuntil a long time after he was supposed to have done.
One of the main messages from all three reports on the foot and mouth outbreak has been the need for better communication. In fact, the Lessons to be Learned Inquiry report drew attention to the fact that a message sent to Pirbright by e-mail was not opened for 24 hours. If an error of that kind can occur in government departments at that level, it is not hard to imagine how the problem could multiply once one started to pass messages to rural areas.
In Amendment No. 45, we seek to substitute "12 months" for "seven months". It is hard to see what science is driving the Government, unless the Minister has information on the incubation period for scrapie or something similar. If that is so, I hope that he will share it with us. If the provisions in the Bill were carried through up to this point, by that time the animal would have been sterilised. Susceptible animals are not of themselves a threat. Therefore, such animals will be left alive either because they are nursing a lamb or because of sentimental reasons, such as mentioned by the noble Countess, Lady Mar.
I suggest that it would be better for the owner if the flock were afforded the option of a full 12 months before slaughter merely in an effort to see what the Government consider to be the purpose of setting the date at seven months.
On another matter, it is not clear whether the Government have given any thought as to what they will do if they come across a flock of ewes in mid-pregnancy or ewes which have more than one month of their five-month pregnancy left. How will the Government expect to treat either the pregnant ewes or the offspring which will have been born shortly after the period? Our amendment would extend the period from seven to 12 months in relation to the restriction notice imposed by the Government.
I have additional concerns. For example, would it be possible to identify a sheep after it had been sold on? The person who sells it is committing an offence. But unless a standardised description is used, will the animal be traceable? I beg to move.
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