a letter written to the Western Morning News -
The vote in the House of Lords for Lord Moran's amendment on the Animal Health Bill was a wonderful victory for common sense and good governance.
All of us who live and work in the countryside owe the noble lords a great debt of gratitude. I attended the debate in the Chamber, and sensed the swell of support for the motion as the debate went on.
It came from all quarters within the House, including two bishops. It is dishonest of Lord Witty to try to lay the blame for his defeat on errant hereditary peers smarting from a defeat on hunting last week.
Firstly, I didn't notice any defeat in the Lords last week . They voted for what they wanted.
Secondly, it was Labour which put on a three-line whip for the vote on the Animal Health Bill, whereas those supporing Lord Moran were under no whip. It was Labour which wheeled in a whole bevy of cronies who contribued nothing to the discussion.
What I attended was called a debate. If the Minister wanted to win it, he needed to produce arguments and to get his supporters to do likewise.
Almost without exception, every conribution which I heard was in favour of Lord Moran's amendment.
If the Government had any arguments to put in favour of the Bill, why did no one put them? So it is the Government and not the hereditary peers, who should be criticised. Who were these 123 silent dummies who mindlessly went out to vote for a Bill which has no place on the statute books of any free country.
So I will tell Lord Witty what he can do with his pernicious little Bill. It needs only one futher, very small, amendment to clause 87(2)(a) of the Animal Health Act 1981 by the deletion of "except man". Then it should be sent to Roberty Mugabe. If passed into law in Zimbabwe, it would give full legal powers for everything that Mugabe and this thugs are doing to the farmers there, including killing them.
The lesson for this country is two-fold. Firstly, it is vital that we have a second chamber independent enough to block any legislation as draconian and inappropriate as this, regardless of what the Government thinks.
Secondly we must change the "Mugabe culture" of the Ministry of Agriculture. That any civil servant should think that colleagues should be given such powers as are contained in the Bill is horrifiying. DEFRA is the most unser unfriendly ministry that I have encountered, and by a long way. It seems to seen its role as being to create and enforce directives, in the most unhelptful ways to control anything which farmers might be doing while understand very little about them. A time for a change of culture is long overdue.
TOM GRIFFITH Uffculme, Cullompton