26 July 2002

Animal Health

Bill is due for second attempt

THE government will have a second attempt at pushing through its Animal Health Bill to remove question marks over the legality of future foot-and-mouth disease control strategies.

Peers halted the passage of the Bill, which will give the government greater powers to slaughter in the event of another F&M outbreak, in March 2002. They voted that the Bill should not continue until the inquiries into F&M had reported back.

But the Lessons to be Learned report published on Monday (July 22) recommended that the animal health legislative framework should be re-examined. This would remove "any ambiguity over the legal basis for future disease control strategies".

A DEFRA spokesman confirmed that junior DEFRA minister Lord Whitty was due to take the National Scrapie Plan part of the Bill to committee stage in the House of Lords on Thursday (July 25).

And it was likely that the F&M related parts of the Bill would be brought back in the autumn in some guise, he said.

If it is passed it will pave the way for the government to use emergency vaccination and pre-emptive slaughter policies such as the contiguous cull during future disease outbreaks.

Iain Anderson, who wrote the Lessons to be Learned report, concluded emergency protective vaccination must be an option available for use. He also said the contiguous culling policy played a critical part in disease control in the 2001 outbreak so the possibility of it being adopted in the future should be retained. &#42

Barney Holbeche, NFU head of parliamentary affairs, said if ministers were given stronger powers the critical point was they had to exercise them in a suitable manner.

"Of course we want the government to act speedily and effectively…but we represent individual farmers and it is important the rights of individuals are respected."