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Lord Livsey of Talgarth: I support Amendment No. 44, which states that the period is from the time when the restriction notice is served to when it is "received". That is very important, given communications in the countryside.
As to Amendment No. 45, it is not clear why seven months were initially suggested. Is that related to the breeding cycle of five months less two months? Is it something of that kind or some arbitrary reason? It is not clear. Perhaps it has something to do with not wanting to breed from animals, perhaps ewes, that have undesirable genes. I should like clarification. If
The Countess of Mar: I too support these amendments. Through legislation we frequently get questions of notices being sent on a particular date. Especially given the expected changes in the Post Office with deliveries of mail, and the failure of mail in the country, as the noble Lord, Lord Livsey, said, the provision should state "received" rather than "given". The post should be sent recorded delivery so that there is a signature for the mail.
I share the noble Duke's concern about timing, particularly with ewes. It does not matter so much with rams. One must think about the lambs when slaughtering ewes. Will one slaughter the lambs if the ewe has lambs at foot? What will one do if she is pregnant within that period? For example, how will one sterilise a ewe within one month of the notice if she is pregnant? I think there are problems welfare problems. The noble Lord should take the matter away and think about it seriously.
Lord Whitty: As to Amendment No. 45, I do not understand the logic of extending the period by yet another five months. What additional purpose is there in that? I do not think that commercial sheep farmers would wish to retain for that period a sheep which they are required to slaughter and from which they cannot breed.
The Duke of Montrose: I am grateful to the noble Lord for giving way. We are not particularly settled on 12 months. We are considerably puzzled by the Government's fixing on seven months in the first instance.
Lord Whitty: My immediate reaction is that I do not know why we settled on seven months. If anything it is probably too long. I would resist any extension. We would be slowing down the whole process for something which farmers, by and large, would not want to do anyway. I think that seven months is not a bad guideline.
The appeal is one month and then six months to allow the animal to be fattened to maximise market return. That is roughly the rule of thumb. Another five months would take most cases over the top for that purpose. It is a little arbitrary, but that is roughly how we got there.
On Amendment No. 44, I seem to remember arguments in previous legislation as to whether something should be dispatched or received. Frankly, there is enough time in this area. We are not talking about missing the post by a day or two. If someone wishes to dispute the point of receipt, that can lead to endless problems. If the point of dispatch is clear, that is the normal way we deal with such matters. There
The Countess of Mar: Perhaps I may ask the Minister to reconsider the period during which animals are expected to be slaughtered. That provision needs to be tidied up a little. There is no problem with regard to lambs but we must also consider ewes. Ewes are in the picture, so to speak. They are pregnant for five months out of 12 and have their lambs at foot for at least three months, in most cases. In my case, our lambs are killed straight after the ewe, so they can go on for five or six months after they have been born. For welfare reasons, the Minister should specify the length of time and the state of pregnancy or suckling of the ewe.
The Duke of Montrose: We are obviously having trouble making our understanding clear. I am grateful to the Minister for his explanation of the seven-month period. In fact, that is a long period. It is most unlikely that, if anyone who decided to fatten an adult animal of any kind, it would take that long. Perhaps we should consider the suggestion of the noble Countess, Lady Mar. If the animal has been castrated or sterilised, there is no need to specify when it should be slaughtered. As has been said, 12 months is neither here nor there. The question is whether, if there is resistance to the killing of an animal, we want to impose a limit of some kind. Having taking the debate that far, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment and return to it once we know whether the Government have any thoughts on the matter.
The noble Lord said: The purpose of the amendment is to try to ensure that applicants fully understand the procedure and that the procedures adopted are not ruled out of time because of postal delayswhich we have been discussing. Anyone who has been told that it has taken three to four weeks to open the mail in a government office will know to what I refer. Getting a letter to the hills is, equally, often a major problem.
It would be helpful if the Minister could take us through the appeal processif not now, later. Will there be courts? Will there be regional administration centres? Will assessors be appointed on a full-time basis, or will they in fact work only part-time. Will they hold hearings in sessions? What performance targets
Those are matters of concern to those who will be affected. Will a new appointee be required to attend training before acting in his appointment capacity? Will the hearing be open or closed? What sort of minutes or court records will be taken? Will they be open to public scrutiny? Those are all matters of great concern to the individuals concerned. We need to get that laid down properly so that people can understand it when they may face a bill. I beg to move.
The Countess of Mar: Although I support the idea behind the amendment, I cannot see why, if the Minister has appointed an assessor, at the next stage we should be applying to an appeal court. That does not fit in with the system. However, I should like to knowI have not come across it in the Billthe description of an assessor. Who will that assessor be? What will be his qualifications? Who will appoint him? I note that the Bill says that he will be appointed by the Minister. We need to know more about the person to whom the appeal will be made.
Lord Greaves: I support the amendments, particularly Amendment No. 52, which would make it mandatory for a restriction notice to contain instructions for making an appeal and applying for an extension prior to an appeal.
It is vital that people who receive a notice be given information on how to make an appeal, to whom they should make it, the circumstances in which they can make it and the grounds on which they may make it. That is normal practice, and it is normal to lay it down in legislation. In many areas of life, people get notices and writs and all sorts of things. There is nothing to be lost by putting it in the legislation and a great deal to be gained by letting people know what their rights are and what they should do.
Lord Whitty: The Bill does not set out the appeals process in detail, including details of the appointment of assessors and so on. One would not expect it to do so. It may be helpful if I undertake to write to the noble Lord, Lord Plumb, spelling out how the appeals process will work under the Bill and copy the letter to others who have taken part in the debate.
The amendments would delay the process substantially, which is not what we would hope for. For example, the amendments give no time within which an appellant must formally lodge the details of an appeal. While there is an appeal, the restriction is suspended. Unless some time limit is built in, such additional loops in the appeals process would not be acceptable. Subsections (7) and (8) of new Section 36D contain provision for the procedures that are to be
Lord Greaves: If I apply for planning permission, and my application is refused, I get a notice of refusal. Together with that noticeprobably printed on the backthere are instructions for appealing against the refusal. I do not see how that slows the planning appeals process in any way. How can sending someone details of how they can appeal along with the refusal notice slow the process down? It is common sense.
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