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Mr. Tim Collins (Westmorland and Lonsdale): I echo the remarks made from both sides of the House by Members representing Cumbria and thank the Minister and his team for all the efforts they are making in the county. In the past hour, I have spoken to Gordon Capstick, the chairman of Cumbria's NFU and one of my constituents. He spoke yesterday to Mr. Andrew Hayward, the MAFF vet in the area, who is seriously concerned about the lack of manpower resources. As the Minister may know, he is responsible for an area that comprises both Cumbria and Tyne and Wear. He is dealing with 32 confirmed cases of the disease, which is very nearly one third of the entire national outbreak. He has 34 premises to investigate, and 30 dangerous contacts to inspect, yet there are only 11 full-time professionals on his team.
It is clear that Cumbria and the north-east are especially badly affected. Given the overall resources available in the UK, will the Minister see whether he can concentrate some additional manpower resources in the area?
The hon. Member for Workington (Mr. Campbell-Savours) mentioned the specific issue of livestock destruction. In at least one case, the undestroyed carcases of sheep remain close to a field by a road six days after the animals were put down.
Mr. Brown: I understand how distressing such circumstances are to farmers, and to members of the public who come across them. I will make sure that the hon. Gentleman's remarks are drawn to the attention of the chief vet. The extent of the role of the Longtown market in the spread of the disease before the movement restrictions were put in place has become clear only recently. If it is necessary to divert extra resources to Cumbria, I assure the hon. Gentleman that the only constraint on those resources will be veterinary advice.
Mr. Tony Baldry (Banbury): Beef farmers in exclusion zones cannot move or sell their cattle, which are increasingly becoming over age. The farmers are having to spend more on inputs, and are getting into a pretty desperate financial plight. The Minister rather sought to tease my hon. Friend the Member for South Suffolk (Mr. Yeo), who speaks for the Opposition on these matters, on the question of compensation. However, will he give the House an undertaking that, if the NFU and the Country Landowners Association come forward with suggestions for further financial aid for farmers in difficulties as a result of foot and mouth, he and the Chancellor of the Exchequer will give them serious consideration?
The question of financial aid and compensation will not disappear, and it cannot be batted away by saying that it is impossible to work out where the boundaries should drawn. More and more farmers are going to be in a severe financial plight as a consequence of foot and mouth.
Mr. Brown: The request that I made to the Opposition spokesman was meant seriously. Of course, an assessment of all consequential losses as they applied to farmers could be made, but would one then move further down the supply chain and talk about the losses already incurred by those who operate markets that are closed? Would one include people employed at abattoirs, where business has been disrupted and which are only in part getting back to working normally? Would one go on to look at the impact on the tourist industry? There has been loss of trade in small towns that are not receiving the visitors that they expect, and the Forestry Commission has had to close its visitor attractions.
The issue could run very wide. It is a serious question: what do the Opposition believe that the Government should do? However, I can assure the hon. Gentleman that I have discussed the matter with the president of the National Farmers Union, and I have a clear view of his organisation's priorities.
Mrs. Browning: The Leader of the House has just announced that next Wednesday we are to deal with the remaining stages of the Criminal Justice and Police Bill--which is not the only debate scheduled for that day. For the third time, may I raise with the right hon. Lady the way in which that Bill has been dealt with in Committee?
The new programming rules have meant that the Committee will conclude at 7 o'clock this evening, with much of the Bill still not having been properly scrutinised. After Second Reading, the Minister of State, Home Office, the hon. Member for Norwich, South (Mr. Clarke), announced that there would be about 16 sittings in Committee, despite the fact that the official Opposition asked for l8 as we realised that the Bill was important and dealt with many aspects of criminal justice. When the
I have raised with the Leader of the House our concern about programming in general and the programme for this Bill in particular. It is now a matter of great concern that the Committee stage will end today and we will deal with remaining stages next week, given that this afternoon the Committee will have to deal with no fewer than 56 clauses, six schedules and 42 amendments.
The matters to be considered this afternoon include the disposal of information held by tax authorities; powers of seizure; safeguards of legal privilege--a matter that has been raised by the Bar Association--police training; and DNA testing and police discipline, about which the Police Federation and the Association of Police Authorities have expressed concern.
It is unacceptable for a Bill of this magnitude, whose content had cross-party support in many areas, to be curtailed in this way. This is the last opportunity that I will have to draw this matter to the right hon. Lady's attention from the Dispatch Box before the business is taken next Wednesday. In Committee, the Minister made it clear that, contrary to what the Advocate-General for Scotland said, the Opposition have not prolonged debates unnecessarily. In fact the Minister said clearly at column 567 of the Official Report of the Standing Committee that the Opposition had not filibustered. They have behaved properly in this matter.
The right hon. Lady's roles are now incompatible: she chairs the Modernisation Committee, yet she is expected to do her duty to the House. For the third time running at business questions, I have drawn her attention to the problems associated with the Bill, and the Home Office Minister, no less, informed the Committee that he had written to the right hon. Lady describing his concerns about the Bill. If all that means nothing, the right hon. Lady should consider her position as Chairman of the Modernisation Committee. Clearly, she cannot discharge her duties to this House regarding Bill Committees while she is Chairman.
We will not take this matter lightly. It is an affront to democracy. Previous Governments have allowed more than 200 hours in Committee for similar Home Office Bills. It is a mockery to call this a justice Bill when it has not been properly scrutinised by the House.
Also--[Hon. Members: "Where's the question?"] I do not think that we need frivolous remarks from below the Gangway. I also ask the Leader of the House--for the second time, as I requested this last week--how the Hammond report is to be conveyed to the House. After all, one can read extracts from it on BBC Online, yet the right hon. Lady has still not identified how the Government intend to convey its contents to the House so that hon. Members on both sides can scrutinise it and ask the Government about it. Will she tell us when, during next week's business, the House will have an opportunity to deal with the Hammond inquiry?
My final request is somewhat small in comparison with the weightier matters to which I hope the Leader of the House will give her attention. Yet again, I ask for the annual small business debate promised by new Labour