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Mr. Morley: New clauses 9 and 10 are important. My hon. Friend is right. If the aim is to stop disease spreading and to control and manage disease, the movement of animals is key. During the outbreak, a 20-day stop was put in place. My hon. Friend is also right about the long-distance movement of animals and the growth of livestock dealers. In the period between the introduction of the disease into this country and its identification, there were probably 1.3 million sheep movements, which spread the disease through the markets all the way down the west coast and into the west country.
Those are serious issues, which we must address. My hon. Friend is right to raise them, and he might take some encouragement from what I am about to say. On the transport of animals, there is currently an eight-hour limit within the UK. Under EU rules, longer journeys are permitted in a higher standard of vehicle. The long-distance movement of animals is not just a UK issue. The conditions for the movement of animals over long distances throughout the EU and across boundaries is an EU issue.
I was pleased to hear yesterday that Commissioner Byrne identified animal movements as one of the matters that the EU will have to address through the Council of Ministers as part of disease control. The place to consider time restrictions on the long-distance movement of animals is in the EU, because the limits must apply to all farmers, not just those in the UK. They must apply to the long-distance transport of live exports for slaughter from this country all the way down to Italy and Greece, which I find very hard to justify.
Tony Cunningham: Given that by 2004 an enlarged European Union may include 25 countries, and given that there are probably more farmers in Poland and Romania than in all the current 15 EU countries combined, will not the problem be even bigger in the future?
Mr. Morley: That is absolutely right, which is all the more reason why we must address the problem now in terms of European directives. I assure my hon. Friend that that is what we will do and that we will press the matter in the Council of Ministers.
On the 20-day stop, my hon. Friend the Member for North-West Leicestershire (David Taylor) was again absolutely right. I not only accept his argument in relation to markets, but believe that we need to go further. Animals are moved around for a range of reasons. We need a package of measures dealing with a series of scenarios in which animals need to be stopped for disease-control purposes, which go beyond the issue of markets. There are also issues in relation to the practicalities of the livestock industry. In that respect, we must take into account some of the legitimate concerns of livestock farmers about quarantine stops, and we intend to do so. So, the other assurance that I can give him is that we take absolutely seriously the point that he made, but will deal with it in a package of measures that includes that point but also goes a bit further.
Ms Candy Atherton (Falmouth and Camborne): That is very welcome news. Can my hon. Friend give a timetable that tells us when the package of measures might be introduced? The package will be well received in my constituency and more widely.
Mr. Morley: Yes, I can. The 21-day stop is currently in place as a disease-control measure. We sympathise with livestock farmers in terms of some of the practicalities of the livestock trade. We want to address those issues, but we also want to put in place a package of measures in relation to stops, including markets and other scenarios, as part of a disease-control measure. We will start discussions with the agriculture and livestock sector immediately with a view to securing agreement on the matter some time in the new year.
David Taylor: My purpose in tabling new clauses 9 and 10 was rooted in my belief that animal welfare and therefore animal health are seriously compromised both by the length of journey times and the number of journeys that individual animals make. The review this year of the European directive on transportation is indeed a good opportunity to reduce the maximum journey time to eight hours and I am encouraged by what my hon. Friend said
Animal welfare and animal health are twin themes and have been interwoven throughout this whole debate. They are part of the same issue. We need to reflect on that issue and tackle it as a Government. I am encouraged by what my hon. Friend said about the standstill proposals that he hopes to bring to the House at some future date. For that reason, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the motion.
'In the 1981 Act, the following section is inserted after section 36
"36A National Contingency Plan
The Government shall prepare and regularly maintain in consultation with interested public and private bodies a national contingency plan for footandmouth disease, which shall be laid before Parliament.".'.[Mr. Peter Ainsworth.]
The purpose of the new clause is to require the Government to draw up, maintain and publish a national contingency plan for dealing with future outbreaks of foot and mouth disease. There is widespread evidence that the Government and their agencies were wholly unprepared for the emergency that broke earlier this year. I have looked at the Government's published contingency plan, which is available on the internet. To say that it is rudimentary would be an understatement. It turns out to be very much what the Minister himself described as an outline strategy. It is our contention that an outline strategy is insufficient to deal with an outbreak of foot and mouth, as we found in the course of this year. That might explain why the strategy was so hopelessly inadequate and had no identifiable bearing on the way the Government carried out their duties in the event of this year's outbreak. An outline strategy was a recipe for chaos and confusion, and I am afraid that that is precisely what we got.
The Government have gone to enormous lengths to point out the differences between 1967 and today. One would therefore expect them to disagree with Mr. Alan Richardson's comments that the public had every reason to suppose that the conclusion of the Northumberland report formed the basis of the 2001 contingency plan. However, in a written answer to my hon. Friend the Member for Totnes (Mr. Steen) on 13 July, the Minister stated:
From Devon to Cumbria to Shropshire we find that the problems on the ground were the same. They were avoidable problems that affected every area of the country in which foot and mouth broke out. If there had been a proper contingency plan, action would have been swifter, the damage could have been dramatically limited and the costin every sensecould have been dramatically reduced. If there had been a proper contingency plan, all animal movements would have stopped as soon as the outbreak was officially reported, the Army would have been brought into play sooner, and we would not have had the dithering and confusion over the benefits or otherwise of vaccination which characterised much of the debate earlier in the year.
In the light of the terrible experience suffered by rural communities, businesses and families, the massive cost to our economy which will be counted for months if not years to come, and the tragedy for animal welfare, I have to ask the House whether an outline strategy is really enough. The Minister has asserted that, despite all the differences between 1967 and now, the Northumberland report forms the basis of the Government's policy for foot and mouth disease.