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Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, as an unbeliever, I am the last person to comment on issues between and within the Churches in this country. As far as the Government are concerned, the issue is not the internal organisation of the Church of England, established by law or not, but whether the conditions under which priests in any Church, whether women or men, are engaged—I cannot use the word "employed"—conforms to our legislation. As the noble Baroness, Lady Richardson of Calow, knows, the Sex Discrimination Act 1975 deliberately excluded the Churches, and we have no plans to change that status.

Lord Faulkner of Worcester: My Lords, there is still political involvement in the appointment of bishops, although it may not last for ever. Bearing that in mind, does my noble friend agree that the comment on the "Today" programme this morning by the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Oxford about seeing the appointment of the first women bishops within five years is welcome? If they were appointed earlier than that, many of us would welcome it.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, I have two alternative answers to that. The first is that it does not follow from the Question on the Order Paper, and the second is that it is not a matter for Her Majesty's Government.

Lord Lester of Herne Hill: My Lords, I was partly responsible for the exemption in Section 19 of the Sex Discrimination Act 1975 as a matter of policy. I am surprised by the Minister's Answer, to which I listened carefully. Does not the Equal Treatment Amendment Directive of 2002 require the Government to make regulations? Will it not be necessary, in order to comply with the directive, to narrow the broad exception in Section 19 in respect of employment and occupation in the Church of England, as elsewhere? Will the Government consult on the regulations with regard to that issue?

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, the Sex Discrimination Act implements the Equal Treatment Directive, but it is true, as the noble Lord, Lord Lester of Herne Hill, said, that there have been amendments to the directive. The amendments cover a wider range of occupations, and we are taking legal advice on the matter. It is not yet clear whether the wider range of occupations covers the occupations relevant to the Question. If it appears that legislative changes are necessary, we will, of course, consult widely, as the noble Lord would wish.

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Bovine Tuberculosis

3.7 p.m.

Baroness Byford asked Her Majesty's Government:>

    What steps they are taking to reduce the spread of bovine tuberculosis.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Lord Whitty): My Lords, the Government are committed to tackling bovine tuberculosis. We are spending £35 million to £40 million a year on a programme of public health protection measures, cattle testing and research. Last week, we announced a review of the current TB strategy as an integral part of the animal health and welfare strategy.

Baroness Byford: My Lords, I thank the Minister for his response. Will he acknowledge that the disease is running out of control? There are more cases of TB today than there were of foot and mouth disease during the crisis. The noble Lord referred to yet another consultation, but we cannot wait until 2007 to tackle the cause of the disease. What will the Government do about it?

Lord Whitty: My Lords, the noble Baroness is partly correct. There is a significant number of cases of TB. It will not be fully established, until we have cleared the backlog of testing, how much the rise in TB has escalated. It was increasing at 20 per cent before the foot and mouth disease crisis. The testing programme was suspended during that period, and we are still catching up, although we have made substantial progress. It is a serious situation. About 4,000 herds are or have been at some time in the past year under TB restrictions. That amounts to about 4 per cent of the whole herd.

Lord Carter: My Lords, I am sure the Minister is aware that almost all farmers and most people in the countryside think that badgers are the source of bovine TB. Given that there are no badgers in New Zealand but bovine TB is still to be found there—people are convinced that the possum is the source of the disease—does not that suggest that wildlife, whatever the species, is the most likely source of the problem?

Lord Whitty: My Lords, anyone who has had anything to do with this matter will know that strong views are held about badgers. Some feel that badgers are the sole cause of the transmission of bovine TB. We are holding a number of trials to assess the degree to which transmission takes place via badgers. My noble friend is well informed as regards the situation in New Zealand. However, scientific evidence also supports pretty strongly the view that much of the spread occurs from animal to animal in cattle. Regrettably, some of the spread in the northern regions relates to the restocking that followed the foot and mouth outbreak.

Baroness Miller of Chilthorne Domer: My Lords, given that the speed of the spread of the disease seems

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to be escalating and the fact that the Krebs trial was halted for years during the outbreak of foot and mouth disease, so much so that it had to start again practically from square one, are the Government considering a different line by reinvestigating the possibility of vaccination? The commercial development of an appropriate vaccine has moved forward since it was last considered by the Government.

Lord Whitty: My Lords, no reliable method of delivering the vaccine has yet been made available, either to cattle or to badgers and other wildlife species, although some progress has been made. The Krebs trial is intended to establish once and for all whether the growth of the spread of badgers is the main cause of the increased spread of the disease. To interrupt or change the trial would lead to our being unable to answer that question.

Earl Peel: My Lords, the Minister referred to the backlog of testing, inevitably brought about as a result of vets being taken off TB in order to deal with foot and mouth disease. Can the Minister give the House a firm assurance that the TB tests will be carried out as quickly as possible and that the necessary resources will be made available to ensure that they can take place?

Lord Whitty: My Lords, we have already made additional resources available in the form of £3 million specifically for testing. At the end of 2001 the backlog of tests stood at 27,000. That backlog has now been reduced to 7,500 tests, so we are making substantial progress.

Lord Christopher: My Lords, can my noble friend say whether any data have been collected on the incidence of bovine tuberculosis on non-organic farms as against organic farms? Furthermore, are there any data on the incidence of tuberculosis in cattle in areas where there is a large population of badgers as against those areas in which there is a small population?

Lord Whitty: My Lords, in response to the second question, some information has been gathered, but it is not comprehensive. That is in part what the Krebs trial is directed to ascertain. On the first point, so far as I am aware, no reliable data are available which distinguish between organically reared cattle and others. Assertions have been made that organically reared cattle are less susceptible, although there is no definitive proof.

Lord Soulsby of Swaffham Prior: My Lords, while I am sure that everyone welcomes the Krebs trial relating to the control of tuberculosis in cattle, the results will not be known until around 2006. In the meantime, TB in cattle is spreading in what are in effect the non-controlled areas, causing great concern to dairy farmers. It has even affected those who restocked after the foot and mouth crisis, where there

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should be no incidence of TB at all. What is the Government's policy for dealing with infections occurring outside the Krebs trial areas?

Lord Whitty: My Lords, the government strategy includes a new package on TB introduced last October. It is a combination of testing, restriction of movement and continuation of the trial. If we were to engage in badger culling outside the trial areas, it would distort the results. I know that pressure is being exerted by large sections of the farming sector to do that. However, I have to say that substantial pressure is also being exerted to maintain what is the current status of the badger, which is that of a protected animal. Noble Lords will know of recent incidents within the Krebs trial areas which makes this an extremely difficult issue on which to strike a balanced approach.

Hunting Bill: Effects on Shooting

3.14 p.m.

Earl Peel: My Lords, I beg leave to ask the Question standing in my name on the Order Paper. In so doing, I declare an interest as chairman of the Standing Conference for Countryside Sports.

The Question was as follows:

    To ask Her Majesty's Government whether the Hunting Bill will compromise the sport of shooting.

Lord Whitty: My Lords, as stated in the Labour Party manifesto, it is certainly not the Government's intention to compromise the sport of shooting.

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