8 November 2001
Union writes to MPs on Animal Bill

By Isabel Davies

THE National Farmers Union has written to MPs asking them to make sure that “shortcomings” in the proposed Animal Health Bill are rectified.

The letter, sent in advance of the Bills second reading on Monday (12 November), draws attentions to issues of concern to the union.

Barney Holbeche, NFU head of parliamentary affairs, wrote in the letter that farmers look to MPs to rectify “the many shortcomings it contains”.

He added: “The timing of this Bill is curious, and its provisions and drafting show all sign of a rushed job.”

An NFU briefing paper goes into more detail on some of the problem areas the union has identified.

It notes that the Bill only applies in England and Wales and questions what is going to happen in Scotland.

The introduction of two different regimes operating in England and Scotland would caused problems for disease control, the union claims.

The NFU says it appreciates that the government wants increased power to bring outbreaks of any disease quickly under control.

But it asks: “Will the government publish its legal advice that such a wide power is compatible with the European convention on Human Rights?”

If ministers are keen to make sure the risk from animal diseases are minimised they must do more to tackle illegal imports, the NFU says.

“More can be done and must be done to reduce the risk of a re-run of this years hugely damaging and costly events.”

The union has reservations that the Bill would enable officials to get warrants to enter farms by applying to a single Justice of the Peace.

Farmers or their representatives would not be present to counter any of the information presented in support of the application, it notes.