29 March 2002

Top peers stop Animal Health Bill

MINISTERS have condemned a decision by the House of Lords to reject the governments Animal Health Bill.

Peers voted to halt the controversial Bill, which will give the government greater powers to slaughter in the event of another foot-and-mouth outbreak, on Tuesday night (Mar 27). They agreed the Bill should not continue until after the inquiries into the outbreak have reported.

Junior DEFRA minister Elliot Morley described the shock move as a thoughtless act. "This Bill dealt with a wide range of issues surrounding animal disease, including the national scrapie plan agreed by the industry, and [the House of Lords] vote weakens the response available to us."

Fellow minister Lord Whitty saw a political motive behind the verdict: "The vote has more to do with the rejection of hunting with hounds," he said. "The attendance of 52 hereditary peers, Conservatives and cross-benchers who dont normally vote showed that was true."

The governments ability to deal with any future outbreak of F&M would be seriously compromised, said Lord Whitty. &#42