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Baroness Hayman: My Lords, the noble Lord is right. We should in no way diminish the seriousness of the outbreak, but it has affected a tiny proportion of the livestock and livestock farmers in the country--less than 1 per cent of each. Even with the significant measures we have announced today, there will be a substantial high-quality industry to rebuild in the future.
The Lord Bishop of Hereford: My Lords, I associate myself with all the tributes that have been paid to the Minister for her work and to those who are trying to cope with this dreadful disease and all its effects. There undoubtedly have been delays and problems. We all understand that they are due mainly to the amazing geographical spread of the disease and the dreadful rapidity with which it developed. I have two points to make. First, I am grateful to His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales for his remarkable gift to the agricultural charities. I am sure that your Lordships want that to be recognised in this House and an expression of thanks to be conveyed to His Royal Highness. I appeal to those individuals and organisations who have it in their means to follow his example, even if not with equal generosity, by supporting the work of the charities that are doing such remarkable work at the moment helping to sustain the farming community.
The Minister has helpfully set out the Government's plans for allowing--or hoping to allow--some greater freedom of movement. I should like to press the point about farmers who have in-lamb ewes far from their farms. Many of them wish with desperate urgency to enable those ewes to come back to where the lambing needs to take place. In areas that are completely free of infection, such as west Wales or Sussex, is it not possible for movements of 20, 30 or 40 miles to be authorised with immediate effect, provided the transport is done with proper care and precaution? That very urgent need cannot wait even until next week.
Baroness Hayman: My Lords, I echo the comments of the right reverend Prelate on his first point and acknowledge the work that is being done by all the voluntary organisations, particularly those who are giving not only financial but emotional support and counselling to affected families. I take on board the urgency of some of the welfare movements, particularly for in-lamb ewes. The circumstances that the right reverend Prelate described would be covered by the welfare scheme that we are working out. I cannot offer him immediate implementation of part of that scheme only because we have to be certain all the time that we do not spread the disease. That means that when we implement a new scheme, particularly for long-distance movements, we have to have in place
Lord Hoyle: My Lords, I thank my noble friend for the work she has done inside and outside the House. All our sympathies go out to the wider farming community. Following on the point about pregnant ewes, is it not possible to help farmers who have to lamb in the open by providing finance for temporary buildings to reduce their losses?
Viscount Bledisloe: My Lords, I declare an interest. My family has a dairy farm in west Gloucestershire with a number of outbreaks distressingly close to it. My question sounds very gloomy, particularly in view of the point that the Minister made that the percentage of the national herd so far infected is very small. However, I am frequently asked the question. I do not in any way want to call the Government's present policy of slaughter into question. But at what stage in a worst case scenario do they contemplate abandoning it? Presumably, they do not contemplate slaughtering the last but one herd in England to preserve the last herd. If the outbreaks continue to spread and we have a genuine worst case scenario, at what point does it become impossible or undesirable to maintain the slaughter policy?
Baroness Hayman: My Lords, I shall follow the advice of the Chief Veterinary Officer, which is not to make predictions and not to deal with hypothetical situations. I assure the noble Viscount that we are looking at contingencies and adapting policy as the situation progresses. We have not yet reached the stage that he describes and I hope that we shall not do so.
Lord Soulsby of Swaffham Prior: My Lords, does the Minister agree that one of the problems of deciding to move apparently healthy animals is that they can have the virus before it is clinically apparent? That is one of the great difficulties of contact between animals. If they are moved too quickly, they may move the infection before they are seen to have foot and mouth disease. Does the Minister have any new information on the origin of the present virus and how it got into this country? After this is all over--or maybe while it is still going on--can we have a method of alerting international travellers that we do not permit fresh meat and meat products to come into this country? We should make it an offence to import such products without permission, as is the case in the United States. Those of us who have visited the United States know that one has to make a declaration on the customs form. Could there be a similar declaration for visitors coming to this country?
Lord Graham of Edmonton: My Lords, I am sure that the Minister has taken heart from the understanding that has flowed towards her from around the House, especially from those who live in communities that are suffering dreadfully. I do not know of any man, woman or child in the whole country, including those of us who live in urban areas and do not have contact with the problem, who does not share the agony that has been suffered particularly by those who live in farming communities. Will she accept our enormous gratitude for the attitude that she and her ministerial colleagues in the Government have displayed? As far as I am concerned, taxpayers pay their taxes to deal with a national crisis. If the Minister wants reassurance that that is what is required to help to solve the problem, I am sure that the House and the whole country would be more generous in supporting her.
Baroness Hayman: My Lords, I am grateful for my noble friend's comments. The denial of access to the countryside has made people who do not live there even more aware of how much we are one nation in this response. In terms of resources, there has certainly been no constraint on the Chief Veterinary Officer with regard to what he needs to do or what he recommends in fighting the disease.
Lord Monro of Langholm: My Lords, in thanking the Minister for all her efforts in recent weeks, I take it that everything she has said today about the regulations applies to Scotland as well as to England. Although I cannot go to my home in Dumfries, I am assured by everyone there that the area is devastated. They have put forward three key issues. They have asked, first, when they may hear something about financial help to farmers over and above the £160 million of agrimoney that they are owed anyway; secondly, when financial help will be made available for tourism, which is at an absolute full stop; and, thirdly, subject to what has happened following the Lockerbie air disaster, whether the Government propose to provide financial help to the local authority for all the most effective extra work that it is presently doing to keep the disease away from the area.
Baroness Hayman: My Lords, we are well aware that local authorities are incurring extra costs as a result of the issuing of licences and the patrolling of movement restrictions. That will be borne in mind in the assessment of claims for compensation and for support and aid that are being made. As the noble
The Countess of Mar: My Lords, anyone visiting the MAFF website will be struck by the number of cases that have arisen from two dealers. I should like to ask the Minister, first, whether the delay in tracing some of those cases has been due to ill-kept records. Every animal keeper is required to keep an animal movements book, and I know that many dealers have difficulty keeping records. Will the Minister tell us to what extent the failure to keep proper records has caused the delay?
Secondly--I regret that I have not given the Minister notice of this--it has been reported in the press that private veterinary practices are refusing to help the MAFF vets because of the fees that MAFF is offering. I observe that everybody in the farming community and in the country is making sacrifices left, right and centre. It might be helpful if the vets could also make such sacrifices.
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