Labour defeated four times over farm health Bill

Peers voted last night to ease restrictions on movement of animals on farms
after the foot and mouth outbreak.

The voting, during the third reading of the Animal Health Bill was 165 to
128, a majority of 37. It caused another upset for the Government and the
Bill will return to the Commons tomorrow.

Lord Livesey (Lib Dem) said that the rule preventing livestock movement from
farms when any new animal has moved in during the previous 20 days was
causing immense hardship.

"This rule is simply not working. Farmers who obey it risk going bankrupt.
It is being flouted all over the place and the Government can do nothing
about it. The rule is unfair in its present form and unenforceable."

His amendment requires any restriction of 20 days or more to lapse at the
end of a period of eight weeks after the last confirmed foot and mouth case.

Lord Whitty, a junior environment minister, reacted by arguing that changing
the rules would cause difficulties with European partners. He said vets
warned that the timescale was needed to cover the disease's incubation
period and also to slow the spread of the outbreak.

The Government was currently looking at ways in which the regime could be
modified. "We do recognise that the current 20-day rule does impose some
quite heavy costs and disruption on the livestock industry but to accept the
amendment would place us in danger of not getting the understanding of the
international community and the European Union."

The Government suffered a second defeat when peers voted, by 174 to 132, a
majority of 42, to let farmers put their case to a magistrate before a
warrant is issued for entry to their premises in a contiguous cull.

Lord Greaves (Lib Dem) said after the second defeat: "This modest and
sensible amendment, allowing farmers to have their say before their stock is
slaughtered, will lead to more efficient action against a new outbreak and
fewer cases of farmers trying to barricade their farms.

"We have given the Government a real lifeline in their relationship with
livestock farmers. Ministers should swallow their pride and accept these

A third defeat came with when peers backed a call to widen the number of
people to whom ministers must send guidance on "bio-security" measures
during an outbreak. Voting was 167 to 139, a majority of 28.

The fourth defeat came when the Lords backed a move to widen "bio-security"
compliance rules. Voting was 169 to 130, a majority of 39.

The Government was also defeated on the Enterprise Bill when the Lords
insisted on a separate chairman and chief executive for the Office of Fair