|Previous Section||Back to Table of Contents||Lords Hansard Home Page|
Lord Willoughby de Broke: My Lords, I rise to support both the amendment tabled by the noble Countess, Lady Mar, and that tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Greaves. I share the noble Lord's view that it is astonishing that it is only now that we are to consider vaccination. I was not present for the Committee stage but I read the Official Report. The noble Lord, Lord Whitty, said consistently that he still needs the powers for contiguous cull. His argument for that relies on the Lessons to be Learned report, but seems to glide over some of the strongest recommendations of the Royal Society of London, the Royal Society of Edinburgh and earlier reports from Devon, all of which roundly condemn the cull policy and strongly recommend vaccination as a prior tool of future policy. That does not appear anywhere in the Bill, other than in amendments such as that moved by the noble Countess.
I hope that the House will support the amendments. Otherwise, we shall be left with a Bill that has been roundly condemned by everyone who was a victim of the contiguous cullwhich, as we all know, was hugely costly in both human and financial terms. This is largely the same Bill as before, with some changes proposed on the fringes by the Government. It does not address the central pointwhether we are doing the right thingbut gives the Government more powers to cull contiguously. In other words, it continues the same bankrupt policy that was perpetrated on the country last year. We should respond to the reports. The Government have not formally responded to any of the reports that they commissioned; yet here is a Bill that purports to deal with some of their recommendations.
Lord Peyton of Yeovil: My Lords, I hope that the Government will take seriously the amendments tabled by the noble Countess, Lady Mar. During the passage of the Bill, the Government have not taken sufficiently into account the view held by many farmers and others closely concerned with the farming industry. The Government have never really looked at themselves from that other point of view and realised how much they are mistrusted and hated. It is no exaggeration to say that many people believe that there is a culture in what used to be the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food that has not seriously changed as a result of its change of name: a culture of addiction to slaughter, belief in slaughter and preferment of slaughter, rather than the consideration of any other means.
I was telephoned today by a land agent in Devonshire who told me what happened on two farms there in June during the last outbreak. He was present on one of the farms and had been talking to a policeman. When his back was turned, the policeman jumped on his back, brought him to the ground, handcuffed him and he was subsequently charged. The Crown Prosecution Service admitted that there was absolutely no case and said that the arrest had been unlawful. There is case after case such as that, and the Government have not yet done anything to eradicate the deep suspicion and dislike of the department.
Clause 2 is entitled, "Extension of power to slaughter"; and Clause 3 is entitled, "Slaughter of vaccinated animals". There, in two headings, we have the counsel of despair or, to put it another way, the record of the department's addiction to the policy of slaughter. I hope that the Government will not be in too much of a hurry to reject the amendments.
Lord Williamson of Horton: My Lords, I am not sure that the amendment is a classic piece of drafting, but I support it because of the importance that I attach to the completion of preparations for a vaccinate-to-live policy to be applied, if appropriate, in any future outbreak of foot and mouth disease. I have made that point several times but, for me, it is the most important point in our decisions on future policy on foot and mouth disease. It is essential that we do not neglect it but write it into the Bill.
The noble Lord, Lord Whitty, kindly sent me a copy of his letter to the noble Earl, Lord Peel, which states that DEFRA is considering two types of test for the presence of the foot and mouth disease virus: the simple, so-called 15-minute test; and the longer, at present laboratory test called the RT-PCR test. I shall not weary your Lordships with the translation of those initials into scientific wording, although I know it. Those are clear priorities. We must ensure that that is carried forward. That is why it would be useful to write that into the Bill to show that we are, in a sense, strengthening the possibilities for slaughter but that our objective is to arrive at a vaccinate-to-live policy, which 99.9 per cent of the British population will support.
Lord Carter: My Lords, I am surprised by the amendments because we discussed the matter in Committee at some length. Those who support the "vaccinate to live" approach, with which we all agree, refuse to read the Bill as drafted. We know what lies behind the Bill. Although the tests are extremely encouraging, there is still no satisfactory scientific proof that we can distinguish between an animal that has been vaccinated and an animal that is carrying the disease.
The Government will grasp with both hands any opportunity to prevent the mass culling of animals. In moving her amendment, the noble Countess, Lady Mar, said that it may well be that vaccination is not the complete answer. That summarises the case. Vaccination may well not be the complete answerat present, it is not. As soon as it is, any Government in their right mind would grasp it. After the experience of last year, no Government will go in for mass culling if there is any opportunity of an alternative such as vaccinate-to-live. However, it is in the Bill already, as I pointed out a number of times in Committee. Noble Lords come to the debate with preconceived ideasI did myself when I was in Oppositionand they will not read the Bill.
However, until there is satisfactory scientific proof to distinguish between an animal that has been vaccinated or one that is within the 21 days of incubation of the disease, the Government must have the option of slaughter. The Government will not slaughter if it can be avoided. That is my understanding.
Lord Carter: My Lords, how can the Government allow a priority for an untested test? Giving that priority in advance of being assured scientifically, and without veterinary advice that that test is acceptable, would be extremely irresponsible. I ask noble Lords to be realistic about that. We know the agony that everybody went through last year. Does anybody believe that any government in their right mind will slaughter animals when there is an alternative? Until there is acceptable, scientific proof that can distinguish between an animal that has been vaccinated and an animal that is incubating the disease, it is extremely irresponsible to give priority to vaccination-to-live.
Lord Renton: My Lords, surely the answer to the noble Lord, Lord Carter, and to the Government generally is the application of the simple age-long principle that prevention is better than cure. By prescribing that there shall be vaccination, the amendment of the noble Countess, Lady Mar, applies that principle.
Back to Table of Contents
Lords Hansard Home Page