Friday, November 12, 2004

So you thought it was the British Parliament that legislated?

After the catastrophe of the 2001 foot and mouth disease and its handling by the British government under the benevolent regard of the European Union, the right to legislate and create contingency plans on the subject has firmly passed to the EU.

In 2002 it issued a detailed directive of many hundreds of pages. It now has to be implemented into British legislation. Because it is so long and so complex, the process is quite a difficult one and is taking a great deal longer than expected. Parliament, however, is not involved.

What we have at the moment is a sequence of stakeholders’ meetings and consultations, some of which result in more papers and discussions, some do not. Eventually, next March a draft Order in Council, that is a Statutory Instrument will be published, there will be another twelve week discussion period and, eventually a detailed and complicated legislation will be in place without any open discussion whatsoever.

Part of the delay is due to legal advice. DEFRA’s lawyers have, apparently, explained that the highly contentious Animal Health Act, passed in 2002 after a great deal of trouble in the House of Lords, is not compatible with the Directive. So, guess what has to change? The Act, of course. Two amendments will have to be made, at least one of which, eliminating the right of discussion before slaughter of animals is very serious. But, because it is a question of making British legislation compatible with the EU one, there will be no parliamentary debate.

The possibility of any member of either House being against the amendments cannot be considered. And, should the amendments not be introduced till after the next General Election, the results of it will not make any difference either.

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