|Previous Section||Back to Table of Contents||Lords Hansard Home Page|
Baroness Masham of Ilton: My Lords, before the noble Lord sits down, I remind him that Heathrow is not the only airport. We also need to bear in mind Manchester, Birmingham and all the other airports. If the noble Lord does his sums, he may realise that 200 dogs are better than two.
Lord Willoughby de Broke: My Lords, I echo the question raised by my noble friend Lord Plumb: what was wrong with the original clause in the Bill? Why does it need amendment? When the noble Lord explained why his department had seen fit to change it, I did not understand what was better about the amendment that we are considering as opposed to the clause as it stands in the Bill. Like the noble Countess, Lady Mar, I am at a loss to understand the thinking in the department.
Lord Whitty: My Lords, a number of substantive points have been made about the nature of import controls and about what needs to be done and what is under consideration. I agree, at least in part, with many of those points. The question of how to strengthen the import control regime has largely led to the Government conducting this thorough risk assessment. It is why we allocated significant additional resources to checks and controls; it is why we implemented the pilot scheme to see whether sniffer dogs can operate in a system with a high volume of passenger throughput; and, to address the point raised by the noble Earl, Lord Peel, it is why we asked the
However, the point at issue in this amendment is the nature of a report which is required irrespective of the precise import regime at any given time. Neither my amendment nor the earlier amendment tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Livsey, alters the nature of the import control measures. I accept, as I have done frequently, the need to follow through and strengthen those. However, here we are discussing the nature of a report.
I believe that the items specified in the noble Lord's original amendment, which is now Clause 13, need to be covered in the report. Some of them are easier to deliver than others, but the amendment that we have tabled would be more flexible. It would allow the Government to report on other aspects of import control, including proposed changes in the regime, and it would therefore enable the House to consider the situation in the round. However, if Clause 13 stands as a result of the amendment agreed to at the earlier stage, its prescriptive nature would limit the area covered by the report.
I could have added some other items and made marginal changes, which is what I thought I was doing when we discussed this matter in Committee. However, I am strongly advised that the best way to ensure flexibility and breadth in the report is to table an amendment in the form now before your Lordships. Therefore, we are seeking a broader and more flexible report which will probably cover, at least at the points where the issues are live, a number of the matters raised in this debate.
I do not understand Amendment No. 42A in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Plumb. He may not wish to see my amendment at all but, in so far as his amendment applies to my amendment, it would severely limit the effects of my amendment. It would restrict the report to the activities of government agencies, whereas, as has been one of the problems in this area, we need to know what other people are doing and, in particular, we need to know what the shippers, airlines and airport authorities, which are not government agencies, are doing. Therefore, I do not consider the noble Lord's amendment to be an improvement on mine. I believe that my amendment would broaden the impact of the amendment tabled in Committee and accepted, at least in its principles, in good faith by me at that time.
I recognise the strength of feeling in the House about this matter. But, for the sake of having a rounded report, which, after all, is an annual event and which I imagine will certainly be the subject of debate in your Lordships' House year after year until noble Lords are satisfied with the degree and effectiveness of the import controls, I believe that we need a broader report, as required under my amendment.
Lord Plumb: My Lords, I thank the Minister for that response, which, frankly, I do not believe adequately covered many of the points raised. I rather liked the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Livsey, reminding the Minister of his comments a week ago when he talked about marginal tidying-up. In my opinion, marginal tidying-up needs to be strengthened and not weakened. I fear that the amendment which we are now considering and which replaces the amendment that I believe we could have supported means almost a deletion rather than a strengthening of many of the points put so well to the Minister and to the House during this debate.
There are many other issues upon which I do not wish to spend time, although they are extremely important. My noble friend Lady Masham raised the issue of meat testing. We need to know how the latter is dealt with when such imports are detected by sniffer dogs. I have seen sniffer dogs at work, and know how effective they can be. However, as the noble Baroness rightly said, there is a limit to the amount of time they can work, so there needs to be an adequate pack of dogs to enable the work to be dealt with throughout the country. I hope, therefore, that the current test will prove to all concerned that this is one way, as has been found in New Zealand and in other countries, of trying to control the import of products that can lead to the trouble with which we have been faced during the past year.
In his reply the Minister said that his amendment would make the whole position more flexible. I do not believe that flexibility is needed; the process needs strengthening. The lack of enforcement must be made clear. Moreover, as the noble Lord, Lord Livsey, said, co-ordination is most important. My amendment refers to the agencies that should be responsible for such matters. Surely they could find out what the shippers are doing as regards what is being imported into the country. They should have the responsibility to make contact with the various people involved. Frankly, they are the people who should be made responsible for dealing with the problem through co-ordination. I wish, therefore, to test the opinion of the House.
The Deputy Speaker (Lord Geddes): My Lords, it may be of assistance to the House if I remind your Lordships that the Question I am about to put pertains solely to Amendment No. 42A. Once that has been disposed of, I shall then put the Question regarding Amendment No. 42. The Question, therefore, is that Amendment No. 42A, as an amendment to Amendment No. 42, be agreed to?
Resolved in the affirmative, and amendment agreed to accordingly.
The Deputy Speaker: My Lords, the Question is that Amendment No. 42, as amended by Amendment No. 42A, be agreed to. As many of that opinion will say, "Content". To the contrary "Not-Content". The "Not-Contents", have it.