Select Committee on Agriculture Minutes of Evidence


Examination of Witnesses (Questions 60 - 72)

MONDAY 11 DECEMBER 2000

MR JAMES BLACK, MR JOHN GODFREY, MR STEWART HOUSTON AND MR MIKE SHELDON

  60. Were they any better at the end? Some of them came as quite unpleasant surprises; were they any better at the end than the beginning?
  (Mr Black) Throughout this I have to commend the work of the CVO. We set up weekly meetings with him and his offices right from the start and communication was one of the issues that we discussed. Gradually they managed to get their machinery in place and their communication has been better as the disease outbreak has gone on. Clearly it was a new experience for them as well as for us and so we have all had a lot of learning to do.

  61. What in practice was the means that you were using as representatives of the industry for communicating? How in practice was that taking place?
  (Mr Black) Our web site has carried—

  62. No, with government. You make the point that their web site was slower than yours in your memorandum, but how were you communicating with government? What were the practicalities of that?
  (Mr Black) Our weekly meetings with the CVO.
  (Mr Godfrey) And much more. Our regional manager was talking to the local vets on a daily basis.

  63. Daily communication on the ground and what about at policy level where you were trying to get changes in policy?
  (Mr Houston) That was slower.

  64. To whom were you communicating your requests, for example, to go to the 3km kill-out zones? Which layer of government or Civil Service was receiving that information?
  (Mr Black) There were discussions taking place with the CVO's meetings in relation to the kill-out zones.

  65. How quickly were you making those suggestions to them?
  (Mr Sheldon) We first suggested extending the automatic kill out zones at the turn of August into September.

  66. The end of August/beginning of September. And when did they actually happen? When was it subsequently introduced?
  (Mr Black) Chairman, if the dates are going to be accurate we would have to come back to you on that.

  67. Are we talking about a short delay or a long delay?
  (Mr Houston) It was only with the very latest cases that the 3 km kill-out zone was brought in?
  (Mr Sheldon) Approximately two months' delay.

  68. Do you think that was unreasonably long? Did you make the case to a Minister or was it a senior official?
  (Mr Sheldon) We made these recommendations to the Chief Veterinary Officer. We did also have conversations with other MAFF officials and were recommended to communicate on technical matters through the Chief Veterinary Officer because the Minister in the end would act on advice from him, quite reasonably I think.

  69. Was this oral communication at the end of August/beginning of September or in writing?
  (Mr Sheldon) In the first instance it was orally at one of the weekly meetings with the Chief Veterinary Officer.

Chairman

  70. Gentlemen, in one minute, literally, you will have the benefit of hindsight. What would be the recommendations if Government were faced in the next few years with another swine fever outbreak, take that as a hypothesis, what are the lessons to learn from this one?
  (Mr Black) Chairman, we must have a scheme in place so we all know exactly what the rules are at the onset of an outbreak of a notifiable disease. Those rules need to be such that there is scope for the Chief Veterinary Officer to take action immediately without affecting the physical ability of people to continue their right to go about normal business.

  71. And because we have a significant number of outdoor pigs compared with a much more indoor pig industry based on the Continent, one should be cautious before one draws too many lessons from Continental experience; is that true?
  (Mr Black) Yes.

  72. Thank you very much indeed, gentlemen. We are now going to talk to the Minister. You are very welcome to sit and listen.
  (Mr Black) Thank you very much.





 
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