MONDAY 23 APRIL 2001

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Members present:

Mr David Curry, in the Chair Mr David Drew Mr Alan Hurst Mr Michael Jack Mr Austin Mitchell Mr Lembit Öpik Mr Owen Paterson Mr Mark Todd

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EXAMINATION OF WITNESSES

RT HON NICHOLAS BROWN, a Member of the House, Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, MR JIM SCUDAMORE, Chief Veterinary Officer, Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, examined. Chairman 216. Minister, thank you for agreeing to come to see us. We know you have to get away to Luxembourg to the Council of Ministers and we have agreed that we will get you on your way, 5.30 I think is the agreement, and we will make sure we will follow that. It is nice to see you, and Mr Scudamore. We wondered whether you had been inadvertently buried, as it were, because Professor King appeared to be doing all of the media stuff and the Defence Secretary appears to have been very much on our screens recently. We were just frightened that some terrible fate had overtaken you. We are glad to see that you are alive and, presumably, as well as can be expected in the circumstances. (Mr Brown) Thank you for those good wishes. 217. Do you want to say anything to start with, because in the past you have done? (Mr Brown) Because of the Parliamentary recess I have not been able to update Parliament, as I am trying to do on a regular basis. Perhaps it would be useful if I bring the Committee up to date and make some introductory points about vaccination, which is the main purpose of this hearing. Perhaps I can begin by providing an update. The total of confirmed cases as at 2.30 today stood at 1,440, that is an increase of five from last night's total. There were nine confirmed cases yesterday. I have said on previous occasions this is an exceptionally serious outbreak and that eradication will be a long haul. That remains the position, but after two tireless months, there is now evidence that efforts are bearing fruit. The continuing downward trend in the daily number of cases (from a daily average of 43 per day in the week ending 1 April, down to 16 cases per days in the week ending of yesterday, 22 April). Following serological testing of all of the farms in the relevant areas, we have now been able to lift the infected area status from six areas entirely, (Northamptonshire, Leicestershire, Oxfordshire, Berkshire and North Somerset). I expect others to follow in the days and weeks ahead. In other places, based on the latest veterinary risk assessments, we have been able to scale back the area affected. Both developments have released farms from the restrictions associated within infected areas - over 9,000 farms by last night, (Sunday). With effect from today, farmers within the infected area will, under licence, be able to sell stock to abattoirs within those same areas. Government policy has at all times been based on the best scientific and veterinary advice. The advice remains that we need pursue to 24/48 hour cull vigorously. I know the Committee are well aware of the debate surrounding vaccination. The vaccination strategy would complement, not replace, culling, which must continue until the disease is eradicated. The Government is considering a cattle vaccination strategy in North Cumbria, and possibly Devon, because of the specific circumstances in each case, but any vaccination programme would need to be supported by a substantial majority of the farming community, by the veterinary profession, by the wider food industry and by consumers. Discussions are continuing, but I have to tell the Committee that the necessary support for this policy is not yet there and the case for vaccination recedes as the number of daily cases declines. We have made good progress towards clearing backlogs on both slaughter and the disposal, and only in Devon are there a backlog of animals awaiting disposal, there are over 100,000 animals. In all other areas any backlog has been cleared or will be within the next day or two. We are working closely with the Department of Health to take account of public health issues. In every case we are using disposal routes which are the safest and most effective in the circumstances. Over the last fortnight we have also devoted much time to addressing the implications for animal welfare and to solving the problems before Easter. Farmers now have several options available when faced with welfare problems. We have issued over 52,000 licences for animals welfare movements and relaxed some of the conditions for licensed programme operators to give greater flexibility on the ground. We are getting on top of the backlog of applications for livestock welfare disposal schemes and are involving the RSPCA to highlight serious welfare problems and help us prioritise cases. The situation will be further eased by the lifting of restrictions on movement to slaughter in infected areas, which I mentioned earlier on. I hope to make a full statement to House on Thursday, including the report of the outcome of this week's European Union Council of Agricultural ministers and bilateral discussions with my Dutch counterpart. There are no easy options for eradicating foot and mouth, nor is there any workable vaccination strategy that removes the need to cull the disease out. I hope that is helpful to you. 218. Thank you for that. If I can make a preliminary comment, you said you were scaling back the infected areas, which we are very pleased about, but there is still the problem of farmers knowing when this has happened. The Government is still terribly dependent on websites. I have to emphasise, in my constituency farmers are not electronically geared-up. You very kindly scaled it back in my constituency but nobody knows. Some farmers do not know whether there have been infected sites or not. There must be a way of communicating with farmers, which is not just posting on the website. (Mr Brown) With respect, Chairman, I do not think this is generally true. If it is an issue in your constituency we will look at it. The whole purpose of having representatives of the NFU inside our regional headquarters is to make sure that we are liaising properly with the farming community. Issues such as the one you described are picked up very quickly and we try and get the information out by telephone if we cannot do it any other way. If there is a local issue I will look at that. 219. There are just two or three questions I would like to start with, vaccination inevitably. About a fortnight ago you very kindly laid on a seminar for Members of Parliament at which the chief protagonist was Professor Knox. The whole thrust of that was extremely hostile to the case for vaccination. In a nutshell he said, "Vaccination in the teeth of an epidemic does not work". That was the heart of what he had to say. Then, if I may say so, Mr Scudamore seems to have slightly disappeared off the screen and Professor King emerges. A little while after that Professor King tells us there is a very strong case for vaccination and the Government is minded to vaccinate. The next day Professor King tells us that the epidemic is firmly under control. You come before us today and you say that the case for vaccination is receding and, in any case, vaccination is an adjunct to slaughter, not an alternative to slaughter - we may have to probe what that means - you can understand why there is a bit of confusion, can you? (Mr Brown) Not really. The Chief Scientist is heading up the --- 220. We are going to see him on Wednesday. (Mr Brown) That pulls together the work of four separate research organisations and it is designed to inform the Government of the strategic approach to the outbreak by modelling its likely progress. One can only get data out of these mathematical models when data is put in. So Professor King's group have been able to give us very helpful advice on how the epidemic is progressing and also what strategies are necessary to bring it under firm control and to extinguish it. He has made it very clear that the key intervention is the 24 hours report to slaughter time and has urged us to make that our priority. The second intervention, which was urged upon us right from the beginning, and I think it is right, is to make sure that we take out the dangerous contact from the contiguous premises as quickly as we can, and as far the contiguous premises are concerned to aim for this 48 hour target. That is the advice. He has also advised on a vaccination strategy, he is not recommending vaccination primarily for disease controlled reasons. As I understand it, the primary reason for recommending vaccination is that it would enable some animals, particularly cattle in Cumbria, and potentially Devon as well, to live rather than die. 221. How does that become adjunct to the slaughter policy? (Mr Brown) It is not a replacement for the slaughter policy. As the Committee will know the conventional approach to the use of vaccination strategies in the disease outbreak is either to put a ring round the area of infectivity, and that is not really a strategy that is applicable in the circumstances in which we find ourselves. The problem is outbreaks from the areas of infectivity rather than a steady rolling-out of the area of infectivity. The second use that could be made of vaccination is to damp the disease down while it is culled out, however both of these strategies, using it to reinforce a ring-fence around the area of infectivity or using it to cull out both, require the animals to die. Of course farmers are very resistant to this, for perfectly understandable reasons. They describe it as a death sentence over their animals. What we have had under consideration is an alternative strategy, which is vaccination in the most densely infected areas, with the intention of letting the vaccine last for a year, depending on the strength of the dose that was given, or being reinforced after six months. That is an option that would be open, with the intention of the vaccine wearing out over time and the animal living on, of course, not at the risk of infectivity because the other infected animals would have been culled out and the virus would no longer be present. 222. You have been talking about vaccination for a long time but it was always in the context of the subsequent slaughter of the vaccinated animals. The change is that this would be a measure which would make that unnecessary, but there would be for a short term penalties, presumably, of the status of the herds, the status of the region and possibly the marketability of the product of the animal. (Mr Brown) That last issue is absolutely crucial. It is true to say that the examination of different vaccination strategies, whether to have one or not at all, has moved with the nature of the disease outbreak itself. We are in a rapidly changing situation. At the beginning of this I do not think anybody would have considered a vaccination strategy necessary. As the spread of the disease and the intensity of it, particularly in Cumbria and Devon, became apparent the different vaccination strategies were examined very carefully indeed. For the strategy I just outlined to succeed there are a number of things that are required, as I said in my opening statement. The most important, of course, is the support of the farming community. It is very difficult. I regard it as essential to have the support of the farming community and, indeed, the industry to try and eliminate the disease. It would be a much harder job if we were fighting amongst ourselves rather than fighting the disease. That support from the farming community for the vaccination strategy is just not there. There are a separate set of concerns, every bit as important but, perhaps, not as much discussed in the public domain, and that is the support of consumers for products from vaccinated animals, that is primarily diary and also, of course, beef from the suckler animals or, indeed, the animals that are being finished for slaughter. 223. Thank you. If I may ask one more question, we will come back to that vaccination area, this is to do with the relationship between the prices for the welfare scheme and the market prices, you have introduced a scheme today whereby animals can go from infected areas, to slaughter within the infected areas and for human consumption. Again, I am afraid, there is a gap of about ten days between the announcement of the intention to introduce the scheme and it becoming available. There is a long gap there. I have talked to some of the meat processors and abattoirs in my part of the world, the problem is, if you take sheep, if you send your animals to slaughter for human consumption they are getting about 235 pence per kilo dead weight. If you are sending them to the livestock scheme they are bulked up, weighed together with wool, water and anything else which happens to be attaching to them, and that is equivalent to 275 pence to 285 pence live weight, so what incentive have farmers got, other than backlogging the welfare scheme, to send animals for slaughter for human consumption when you have this, sort of, social security network of the welfare scheme, which you did warn at an earlier stage could be priced too generously and could become not a scheme of last resort, but a scheme of first resort? (Mr Brown) It is not the Government's intention to create that. I am certain we must not do so. You are right, there are particular difficulties in the sheep sector, the issues are not as acute in pigs or in cattle where, by and large, we have managed to get the trade back to working, as I said before it is unfair to say, to some form of normality under strict licence and control. I am meeting my Dutch counterpart tomorrow morning at 9 o'clock to discuss welfare schemes and relationships between the different types of welfare schemes, particularly those that involved taking the animals to slaughter. We will see what comes of that. The Government is keeping the rates that we pay very carefully under review. I do not want to say much more about the rates, that is market sensitive, except to say that it is absolutely not the government's intention to establish a false or an alternative market. Let me also say, the welfare scheme is not intended to operate as an alternative market. The Government's routes for the treatment of animals whose welfare is compromised is as follows, firstly to look at whether or not the animals can be safely moved, we have serious licensing schemes which are designed to facilitate that. It cannot be done in all cases, for disease control reasons, but where it can be done that is the first route that should be approached. The second route is to see if the animals can be managed where they are, and that is something that we also ask the farming community, along with their own veterinary advisers, to examine. It is only if that cannot be done that animals are eligible for entry into the welfare scheme. A private sector vet has to sign a form which says that the animal's welfare is compromised. 224. It is not difficult to get that. (Mr Brown) There has been a backlog for the scheme. We have asked the RSPCA to work with us as professional advisers and to advise on the prioritisation of cases. 225. Thank you. (Mr Brown) It is not simply saying, "I would rather go to the Government scheme, thank you very much". Mr Todd 226. Trading standards have to administer the new movement/slaughter scheme opening today, is that not right? (Mr Brown) The scheme is open today but people have been prepared for it because they knew it was coming. 227. It is administered by county trading standard officers. (Mr Brown) Yes, it is. 228. When were they given details of the scheme? (Mr Brown) I cannot give you the day when --- 229. I can give you an answer of when they were not given it, which was by 4 o'clock on Friday afternoon. When I was attempting to extract the information to assist a farmer in my area, the Derbyshire Trading Standards had not received that information and were not able to proceed with any movement authorisations for today. (Mr Brown) There is nothing new or novel about this, they should have had the details. Mr Todd: They advised us they had not yet been issued the details and LAGOS(?) were still in discussion with the Ministry. Chairman: North Yorkshire said the same. Mr Todd 230. That was something which was confirmed by Helen Hayman's office on Friday afternoon. It was desperate, last minute stuff which meant that those who wished to take advantage of this scheme, and many farmers do, were at a considerable disadvantage. (Mr Brown) I would not want to make too much of this, after all this is a permanent change which is intended and the area of infectivity will get smaller and smaller as we are able to clear areas in the current trend of where the disease is. I regret that has happened. After all the arrangements I was putting in place, and I believe are in place and should be in place, not only replicate what is happening in the unaffected parts of the United Kingdom but are confined to these now large joint-up zones of infected premises. The purpose of it is within zones that are more compromised in Great Britain as a whole is to make sure the move from farm holding to abattoir, a journey which in the circumstances, as long as it is properly controlled, ought to be perfectly secure. 231. It does highlight this difficulty that there is a long lead time between Baroness Hayman announcing the new scheme for 23rd and actual mechanisms being in place to do something about it, which meant that although the scheme was open as of today, frankly, it would be very, very difficult to obtain anything as of today. (Mr Brown) As I said before, in the context of our other schemes, the whole purpose of announcing it in advance is so people can prepare for it and get arrangements in place. 232. That is exactly what my farmer was unable to do, she attempted to book an abattoir for today, to sort out transport and was unable to do so because trading standards were not able to say exactly when they would be able to okay that particular movement. (Mr Brown) That point has been put to me. Clearly it is not the intention of it. In any case, I would not make too much of it because the purpose of the changes announced is that they be permanent changes and the areas move from being infected to being cleared up areas and, therefore, uninfected as we are able to put the clear-up regime in place. Mr Drew 233. Can you explain the paradox to me that conventional farmers, in the main, do not want a vaccination strategy, whereas organic farmers seem to have signed up to a vaccination strategy, unless I have it wrong? (Mr Brown) The Soil Association are advocates of a vaccination strategy, they believe it is right and they say that diary animals that meet their own accreditation standards could perfectly be vaccinated and used for organic standard products, including milk. The Organic Farmers' Association in Scotland are compassionately opposed to vaccination. All of the devolved authorities - remember they have a disproportionate amount of the United Kingdom's livestock, for reasons we all understand - are all firmly opposed to the vaccination strategy. The leaders of all of the farming unions, without exception, oppose a vaccination strategy, although I think the Country Landowner's and Business Association is slightly more open, and no doubt you can ask them that for themselves. The reasons are essentially twofold, they believe that a vaccination strategy compromises trade, and by that they do not mean international trade, they are worried about the impact on the domestic market and that they will, therefore, pay a price for it in the market place at best. Secondly, they worry that a vaccination strategy will enable the virus to live on, because vaccinated animals can act as carriers, and they believe that such a strategy might perpetuate the disease rather than accelerate its coming to an end. If a vaccination strategy was to be carried forward by the Government all the principle farming unions argue that the vaccinated animals should be quickly culled out rather than be allowed to live on, that is their case, as I understand it. The alternative case is that in an area of intense infectivity one could vaccinate the animals once, heavily, and enable them to live on as the rest of the outbreak was brought firmly to a complete conclusion, and then allow the vaccine to run out. In other words, for the animals not to be protected in a year's time. There would be no need to protect the animal because, of course, the disease would have been brought to a conclusion. That is the case for using a vaccine, in other words to put the culling of animals on hold, for the animal to live on and continue its normal working life. It is an attractive option but given the uncertainties, in particular the difficulties in forecasting consumer response and, therefore, retailer response and given the overwhelming hostility of devolved authorities and devolved farming unions, the National Farmers' Union and, indeed, others in the supply chain, it seems to me that there is going to be a lot of resistance to it as well. 234. I am trying not to play Devil's advocate here, given the reaction in this country of many consumers to meat hormones, has any serious research been done actually admitting to the fact that this meat has come from vaccinated stock? Is that likely to be something that consumers are going to rush for or are they very much against it? (Mr Brown) There is market research on this. It tells a fairly consistent story, the retailers have said to us very firmly that the product should not be differentiated in the market place. The advice from the Food Standards Agency is there is no food safety reason why either meat from a vaccinated animal or milk from a vaccinated dairy herd should have to be differentiated in the market place. That is the food safety advice to the Government, as I understand it. The retailers are saying, very strongly, that if a product were differentiated then consumers would think that the product from a vaccinated animal was somehow of a different order. Let me emphasise it again, it is not in scientific terms, as I understand it, but that is what they believe the consumer perception would be. The Consumers' Association in Scotland called for differentiation of the product and independent labelling. I think the Consumer Association in England has just called for differentiation, without saying labelling, although it is difficult to see how else it can be done. There is focus group work which suggests that something like 40 per cent of consumers, when prompted, would like to see products differentiated in the market place, in other words to exercise a choice. Whether or not there are any rationale reasons or health reasons for doing that they still wanted the choice. It is that that leads many retailers to be nervous about the vaccination, although I ought to make it clear to the Committee the retailers have said to us that they will support the Government in the policy that we adopt. 235. If I can move on and look quickly at the rationale for vaccination and where it seems to have come from. I do not know if I am wrong on this, is the threat of the turn out of stock in the coming weeks, whereas we can be seen to be on top of it, certainly in my part of the country, in Gloucestershire, is there is always an added risk where animals are going out on to grasslands, and so on, can you, perhaps, explain to us where the vaccination strategy is in relation to that stock? (Mr Brown) The risk is less. As far as the vacated grasslands are quite vulnerable, it needs a host. The prospects of it surviving for a great length of time in an open field are pretty remote. The risk, of course, is that when cattle are turned out of their winter quarters on to grassland will mix with sheep that may still be carrying the virus and then you will see and upturn in the cases amongst cattle. There are pretty obvious things that can be done to reduce that risk, keeping the animals housed for longer, making sure that they are grazed separately from sheep and not on the pastures of sheep that were recently vacated. There is other advice on bio-security arrangements given to farmers and, indeed, I have asked that it be given to farmers, particularly in the hotspots, and made more generally available. It has to be said that in the areas of most intense infectivity we have also culled out a large number of sheep. From memory, in the North Cumbria area of something like 1,900 livestock holdings in the infected area we have culled out 1,600, there are only 300 still holding sheep. That is my understanding from memory. Those figures are very broad. It does paint a picture that the risk is less than it might have been thought to be if we were at the start of this outbreak. 236. What we are talking about here is two parts of the country, Cumbria initially, and maybe Devon, and what would be the success, or otherwise, of bringing in a vaccination strategy. Clearly you have done a risk analysis, are you limiting it to two parts of the country? What are the sort of things you are saying to farmers, which is obviously measuring risk, successive or otherwise, which would mean that the Government would go along this route? (Mr Brown) It would mean that something like up to 95,000 cattle in Cumbria would have the prospect of surviving this, arguably, and it is enhanced. That is effectively the case for it. The truth is that the farming community is divided. The leadership of the main farming organisations are opposed and that is supported, I think, certainly by the Policy Committee of the National Farmers' Union. Many individual farmers support a vaccine strategy, provided certain assurances can be given. Those with valuable diary herds, provided they were certain that the milk once pasteurised was not going to be compromised in the market place, see the attraction of a vaccination strategy. Those with valuable pedigree herds, by and large, oppose a vaccination strategy and prefer to rely on bio-security arrangements, very tough bio-security arrangements, for their own animals, that is because they believe that they are specialist and very valuable products and will be compromised in the market place by vaccination. Whether that is a reasonable belief or not is not for me to say, this is the belief that is held by farmers, and it is, after all, their business. They seem to oppose a vaccination strategy. The issue is divisive within the farming community and the bottom line is this, without there being some consensus or near to a consensus - you will never get an absolute consensus - I think it would be very, very difficult, indeed, to force a strategy in. Remember, the feelings are running pretty high anyway. It has been a terrible thing for the livestock industry, particularly where the outbreaks have occurred, and very hard decisions have been made and debates are taking place daily about the difference between the interests of individual farming businesses and the interests of the livestock farming community as a whole, to end, in particular, the cull. People see the case for it in general but always hope that the specific policy, which is a tough policy, will not have to be applied to them. To inject yet a new area of dispute into what is a difficult situation is, I must say, I think, wrong and would probably not help the situation. 237. What about rare breeds? Is there a logical case where you are talking about breeds that clearly may be in some danger of being lost? (Mr Brown) This is an important and a separate questions and there is a distinction between special breeds, in particular the hefted sheep that work the hills and are territorial, and the breeds that are truly rare. The advice I have had from the National Sheep Association, from John Thorley, has been very clear, he does not want sheep vaccinated. He says that very, very strongly, indeed. Is it possible to devise a strategy for managing special breeds, like the herdwicks, there are some examples right across the country, without using the continuous cull. Yes, it is. We are looking very carefully, indeed. There is a meeting which the Parliamentary Secretary is taking today to look at these strategies. The strategy that I find attractive, although it is not for me to dictate, it has to done in discussion with others, is where animals are territorial and are intensively farmed we leave them on their territory and then test them extensively when they come down in the autumn. Of course if they have the disease they will have to be culled out, but it is quite possible they will not. Chairman 238. It would be quite interesting if the virus had gone through some of the felled sheep. (Mr Brown) It is more likely to do that with adult, hardy felled sheep than it is with pigs or diary herd. The disease does react differently with different species. The main impact that it has on the breeding problem of sheep is that it causes them to abort, the mortality rate is something like 80 per cent, which is a pretty serious compromise in breeding sheep. Mr Paterson 239. As I understand it, you are not going to touch the sheep at all. (Mr Brown) That is not decided yet, but that is the strategy I am attracted to for the hefted flocks that are extensively farmed on the fells. Where they have a territory that is discrete to them then the risk of them spreading the disease outside their own territory, with them being extensively farmed is of a lesser order than more intensively farmed sheep. 240. If, as many people now think, the disease is endemic of sheep, how do you stop the disease getting outside this controlled area, particularly with reports that deer have been found? (Mr Brown) The question of wildlife is a different question. The sheep are hefted, they are territorial, in other words they are not going anywhere. What seems to me to be a workable proposal is to leave them in the territory to which they are wedded in general, I accept that some stray, but mostly they do not and as they are hauled in in the autumn, which would be the conventional agricultural practice, we can test them in advance of that very thoroughly once they are all brought together. All the while that they are living extensively rather than intensively and the risk of disease spread is reduced. It is not a perfect strategy, but it is probably better than culling them all out under this particular contacts approach, which would be the alternative, and is actually more applicable for conventional side-by-side farm holdings rather than very special circumstances of extensively farmed blocks. 241. You are effectively saying that sheep self-inoculate by getting the disease and it coming through them. How do you stop that getting into the wild animal population, such as deer, and it then coming down further into the country and cattle population which have not been vaccinated? (Mr Brown) Yes. I have not had any advice that it is in deer yet but I am aware that the story is going around. It is a bit like the story about that escaped virus from Porton Down and the deliberate infection of the animals and all these other stories that turn out not to be true. Now, how to deal with wildlife. The advice I have is that one should not cull out wildlife because it actually risks spreading the disease. 242. Right. What are your explanations going to be to dairy farmers, for instance, further south, my area Shropshire, Cheshire and Staffordshire, who are going to see their brother dairy farmers being vaccinated after this very long delay. How are you going to protect yourself from legal claims against them, possibly under Human Rights legislation, that they do not have the right to go for vaccination when those in Cumberland have? (Mr Brown) The purpose of having a vaccination strategy for North Cumberland and possibly Devon was very area specific. It is to do with the density of the infection and the possibility of using the vaccination strategy not to put the disease on hold so that it be culled out. Although that is a perfectly arguably strategy it is not one the Government has been exploring. The strategy the Government has been exploring is that in the very special circumstances that pertain in these areas of high infectivity we give the animals this added protection so that they may endure disease outbreak rather than risk getting the disease. That is the case for it. You are saying what is the case for differentiating between --- 243. No. I have seen your response to the NFU question. You are saying if you do not vaccinate in North Cumberland you are going to lose between 70 per cent and 99 per cent of the livestock. (Mr Brown) That is the epidemiological advice to us. 244. Yes. (Mr Brown) This is based on mathematical modelling, whether it turns out to be true or not depends on what intervention the Government makes. The key intervention - and Professor King is very, very clear on this and I believe him to be right - is that we need to get to the infected premises within that 24 hour target and cull out the animals which show signs of infectivity at once, take out their cohorts next and then take out the contiguous premises. But, of course, because the number of daily cases being reported is steadily coming down, as has been forecast by Professor King and the teams that are working with him, it is clearly right that veterinary officials keep the way in which this policy is implemented under review and of course they are doing that. As circumstances change we have to fine tune the policy. Can I just ask Jim Scudamore if he can say something to you specifically about the wild deer. Now, as I understand the situation we have not found the disease in wild deer and in any event if we did the advice would not necessarily be to try to cull it out using marksmen which would be the necessary approach. 245. The reports I have heard have been of deer being found dead with very obvious foot and mouth symptoms: blisters on the tongue and lesions on their feet. The Eliza Test does not work. (Mr Brown) If this were true it would be reported in to the veterinary authorities. I will ask Jim to tell you what has been reported in to us and what tests are available, clinical or otherwise, to ascertain whether it is foot and mouth disease or not. Jim? (Mr Scudamore) Yes. Like you we have had reports from Devon and from Cumbria in particular about deer with what look like vesicles on the mouth. We have taken samples of quite a lot of those now and they have always come back negative for the virus and antibodies. There are two questions really. One is have they got foot and mouth disease, which we are investigating, the second is have they got a different condition together which has nothing to do with it. At the moment we are still investigating these but all the results I have seen to date have been negative for the virus and antibodies. Obviously there is a lot more work to do with them. If they were infected with foot and mouth then you would have to look at the virus or you would expect to find antibodies. So it is a question mark at the moment. The second point is on what we do with them? The advice we have had from Pirbright with wild deer is that if we actually go around shooting lots of wild deer we will actually disperse them and they will become more trouble than if we leave them alone because the disease in wild deer goes through the deer and they should not become carriers and it should gradually disappear. I think in answer to your question there are reports. We have had nothing positive back yet but we are still investigating. If there is an infected farm with deer on it then we might kill one or two of them to have a look and see if we can find anything. Chairman: A couple of brief interventions from Owen and Lembit and then we will come to Austin. Mr Paterson 246. Minister, you rightly said that you would not proceed with a policy of vaccination without the consent of the farming community. What would be the mechanism for determining that? Would it be the national NFU? Would it be the local NFU? Would it be the whole of farms and, if so, what figures would you need to activate it? (Mr Brown) I think it would have to be a very high consensus. Remember the policy will work if people are co-operating with it. If people want to resist the policy it is not for me to set out all measures that people might adopt but it seems to me that there is quite a range of things which people could do. The whole purpose of bringing the disease to an end is to help the industries that are being compromised by it, not just the livestock sector and the farming, it is all the other rural enterprises whose businesses are being affected by the existence of the disease. It would require a high measure of support and that would mean support from the leadership of the different farming units. It is not just the NFU and the NFU's policy committee that are opposed, the Farmers' Union in Wales, the Scottish Farmers' Union, the Ulster Farmers' Union are all opposed to a vaccination strategy. 247. Does that therefore mean it is pretty unlikely that vaccination will be pursued because you are not able to reach any level of near unanimity? (Mr Brown) If one was to secure the farmers' agreement to this strategy, and in theory there is a compelling case for a vaccination strategy, particularly the vaccination to live policy strategy that I have described earlier, it would be also be necessary to offer assurances about the acceptability of a product uncompromised by retailers and by the processors that sell in to the retailers. The retailers have perfectly fairly made the point to Government that although they will, of course, co- operate with the policies of the Government, their own businesses are actually determined by the responses of consumers. If consumers argue for a differentiated product, and one is seen as better than the other, they will not be stocking the product that consumers will not buy, and if consumer resistance is actually stronger than that and ended up compromising whole product ranges then that would have pretty damaging effects on the retail trade and would compromises existing export businesses that are of considerable value. The dairy industry alone accounts for something like 1.3 billion in exports and all that trade is still there. There are a great many uncertainties in all this. Mr Öpik 248. Dr Paul Kitching for the Institute of Animal Health at Pirbright said in an interview on Saturday night on I think it was Channel 4 News: "The data which the modellers really require to input the model has not been made available and if there is not good data going in to a model one has to question the value of the data coming out". Now it seems to me on the question of vaccination that a lot of the assumptions leading to determination on whether to vaccinate or not are dependent on what that model is telling us. Now if Dr Ketching is concerned about that surely we should all be concerned. What are you doing about the quality of the data? (Mr Brown) I rely on professional advice and I think trying to turn myself into an amateur scientist would just be a mistake. These are very serious questions. For veterinary advice of course I rely on the Chief Vet, Jim Scudamore. For the interpretation of the epidemiology I rely on the four groups that are working under Professor King's guidance, who is the Chief Scientist. I think to try and substitute a political judgment on what is after all a scientific question would be a mistake, although I would say that those doing the modelling actually congratulated the Department on the quality of the statistical information that is coming forward. Chairman 249. Lembit, you can have the first question to Professor King who is coming on Wednesday. (Mr Brown) I think it is my obligation as a political head of the Department if I dispute a scientific recommendation to say so publicly and to say why. 250. I think you were very sensible to say that you did not know anything about this matter and that was not what you were paid for. (Mr Brown) That was not quite what I said. 251. Somebody else is paid to give you the advice and since one of the people who is paid to give you advice is going to be in front of this Committee on Wednesday I thought Lembit ought to ask the question. (Mr Brown) We have done our best to put the advice available to Government and, indeed, the alternative views in to the public domain. I did take the unprecedented step of laying on a presentation on these questions of vaccination and epidemiology both for the journalists and for Members of Parliament. Chairman: I am sure as gifted amateurs we all struggle for the same goal. Mr Öpik 252. Having marked my territory for Wednesday I will ask another question. Very briefly, there is a school of thought which has been presented to me by someone called Janet Hughes, and others, who think that there is a very strong case for vaccination in the long term. Do you have any view point about whether a vaccination strategy might meaningfully be discussed on a Europe wide basis thereby taking away some of the problems with regard to export, though I accept that will be a completely different approach to managing the illness? (Mr Brown) Yes. I intend to discuss this with Lawrence Brinkhorst, the Dutch Minister, when we meet tomorrow. The Dutch have a similar problem to ourselves. They have foot and mouth disease. They have contained it using similar strategies to ourselves except that because of the nature of their industry - it is intensive and there are difficulties with the disposal routes - they have adopted for a vaccination strategy to avoid culling all of the animals out at an early stage. I want to explore with the Dutch Minister his exit strategy from his situation. It is localised at the minute. They have not got the spread we have here. I also want to explore his views, and indeed the views of other Ministers later on in the day when we have the full Council, as to whether a vaccination strategy for the future, in other words not just in the present context, could play a part in a European Union response. It seems to me that if this is to be the case - and I certainly think it is worth exploring - we need to be very clear indeed about what we believe is right for the market place, for the products of animals that are being vaccinated, and then explain ourselves very carefully indeed to our fellow citizens. Because, just as a strategy can only succeed I believe with the broad support of the farming community, that support can only be obtained, I also believe, by absolutely ensuring that the strategy will be acceptable to consumers and, therefore, to retailers and processors. I do think that the starting point for this is the public health argument which is very clear. Professor Krebbs could not have been clearer and then there are consumer questions. In this debate the consumer truly is king. 253. You are going to take that up in Europe? (Mr Brown) I shall be exploring that tomorrow morning with the Dutch Minister and in a more general discussion later on in the day at the Council of Ministers. Chairman: I think that is enough on vaccination. We need to move on a little bit. Austin Mitchell. Mr Mitchell 254. That is a shame because I want to ask a couple of vaccination questions to start with. (Mr Brown) I was expecting fishing. Mr Mitchell: Fishing is a forgotten industry in all this. It has got a similar crisis. Chairman 255. Many a word spoken in jest, Minister, an unwise interjection, if I may say so. We are not going to pursue it now. (Mr Brown) I am sorry, I had a considerable sum of money --- Mr Mitchell 256. On the European side, is it correct that vaccination is not really feasible because, for the purpose of exports, Europe is regarded as one nation, therefore if one part of that market vaccinates it invalidates the exports from everybody? (Mr Brown) No. It would be perfectly possible to regionalise the European Union, just as it is possible to regionalise individual Member States within the European Union and just as other countries worldwide, for the purposes of international trade, regionalise. 257. The second question is really are you effectively saying that the NFU has a veto on vaccination? (Mr Brown) No, I am saying the consumers do. If anyone has the veto it is public opinion. 258. Effectively you have conceded one. Government has shifted feet on the issue. (Mr Brown) Not really. As the situation has evolved the use that we make of the different policy instruments that are at our disposal has been reconsidered in the light of the developing situation. It has moved fairly quickly indeed. The bottom line is this. I do not think it would be right as a political head of the Department to try to force in a policy that was going to be faced with substantial consumer, retailer and farmer resistance. Unless there is a consensus for it, or at least an overwhelming measure of support for it, I think in the very difficult circumstances in which we now find ourselves, trying to put a policy of this kind into place by compulsion would be a pretty difficult thing to do. I also believe it would be the wrong thing to do. As I said in answer to an earlier question, there is an awful amount of hurt and uncertainty and fear, just sheer human pain already caused by this disease. To set communities against each other and to have local disputes between those who want a vaccination and those who do not, and to have people trying to resist a first vaccination because they believed it was wrong in principle, to set all that going and on to an uncertain world I think would be the wrong thing to do. As I said in my opening address, the fact is that the number of new infected premises is steadily coming down. Comparing the last seven days with the previous seven days - the previous seven days shows a steady and remorseless decline - suggests that the present policies, painful though they are, and I know they are, are biting. With the decline in the number of new cases so the immediate case for vaccination declines. In response to Lembit's question, do we need to thoroughly review all the courses that outbreaks might take, remember this one has been unprecedented, and have a very thorough review led by David Byrnes' Directorate in the European Union, yes, I think we should do that and I think we should play a part in investigating those discussions and make our contribution to it. 259. Thank you. I had better move on now to my designated area which is managing the crisis. The obvious question is who is really in charge of the management of the outbreak? As Beaverbrook would have put it who is in charge of the clattering train? (Mr Brown) Whatever this resembles I do not think it is a clattering train. Who is in charge? Well, the Prime Minister is in charge. Given that the response has required a number of different Government Departments, and all that has had to be co-ordinated and delivered, I think it is absolutely right that the Prime Minister has intervened in the way in which he has. Indeed it is difficult to see how we could have delivered as much as we have delivered as quickly as we have delivered it without his personal leadership. 260. In 1967, as I understand it, the Prime Minister did not intervene in this kind of fashion, it was left to MAFF to manage it and that would seem more sensible. Why should the Prime Minister spend his time running around the country looking at the backsides of cattle and the mouths of sheep? (Mr Brown) No, I think it is right that he takes charge and sets a lead. The comparisons between the 1967 outbreak and the present one are misleading. Remember I think they were slaughtering it was something like 90 premises a day in the 1967 outbreak and we peaked at about half that. The 1967 outbreak went on for about nine months. Who knows when the tail end of this will finally finish but we are clearly on the downward trajectory, at least that is what the epidemiologists advise now. At least in part that is to do with the intensivity of the effort that has been put in to removing the disease. There are other differences with 1967. 261. You seemed to be doing fine at the start. (Mr Brown) That is very kind of you. Mr Mitchell: All of a sudden the Prime Minister takes over. Chairman: And it goes downhill from then on. Mr Mitchell 262. It is difficult to know what now are the chains of command. You have got the army, you have the private veterinarians, contractors and you have various other people involved. The chains of command come together under the Prime Minister or under you? (Mr Brown) The chain of command, of course, comes together with the Prime Minister at the head. In fact we all meet regularly together and the support that we are getting from the armed services, let me say, is absolutely invaluable. The Ministry of Agriculture, within its own purview, neither has the financial resources nor the logistical resources to undertake extra work of the scale that is demanded and within the timeframe that is demanded by this outbreak. So we have had to ask other people for help and we have done so and it has been willingly given. 263. How about the devolved authorities? Where do they come in? How is it co-ordinated with them? (Mr Brown) I meet regularly with the other devolved ministers. There is a regular meeting which takes place anyway, once a month. We are quite used to working together. Jim Scudamore is the Chief Veterinary Officer for, I think, it is Great Britain, is that right, Jim? (Mr Scudamore) Yes. (Mr Brown) So, therefore, the professional veterinary advice that is coming to myself, to Ross Finnie and to Karwyn Jones is the same and, of course, within the devolved territories then the devolved ministers head up the implementation of it. It is all working pretty well. We are in regular contact. 264. It is working satisfactorily? (Mr Brown) Yes, I think so. We are in regular contact, as I say, by phone and our officials meet regularly and we meet regularly as well. 265. Okay. Now, I think in the last statement to the House, you acknowledged that the report-to-slaughter in 24 hours was occurring in fewer than 80 per cent of cases and that the 48 hour target for contiguous culling was going to be more difficult to meet still. Are those two targets being met now? (Mr Brown) There has been a significant improvement. I would like to ask Jim if he can give you the latest figures rather than doing them from my own memory. (Mr Scudamore) Well, I think on the 21st we met the target in ten cases, in three we did not meet the target, that is the report-to-slaughter. It is quite important to get these animals dead as quickly as possible and it has always been our aim that where we pick up disease we have the animals killed as soon as practical. Most of the ones which do not meet the 24 hours generally are completed shortly afterwards. There are a number of reasons for not meeting the 24 hours. There has been valuation, there has been collecting animals together and on some of these very big farms there are a large number of animals to get together. There are various reasons why the 24 hours is not met but, as I say, the recent thoughts are that we met them on ten but we did not meet on three. There was not much time between the 24 hours and when it was actually completed. We have been getting similar figures. Ad I say, there are some difficulties with meeting the 24 hour target in terms of size. 266. Those are in particular areas? (Mr Scudamore) It varies in different areas. In some areas the target is met where there are few cases, where there are only one or two, the target is often met; where there are more cases then sometimes it is not met. (Mr Brown) Can I just add two points to that? The number of cases that we are seeing now is as a result of the interventions that were made ten days to a fortnight ago, in other words the situation then was not as good as it is now but nevertheless the number of cases is steadily coming down. I think that is significant. The second point is that where we do not meet the target it is often because we have made a start on the culling but have not been able to bring it to a conclusion within the 24 hours but the animals which show signs of infectivity are taken out first so that is quite an important intervention on its own. 267. What about the disposal figures? The figures that we have got from our advisor indicate that up to the week ending 8 April - so you might be able to update us on the subsequent period - the number slaughtered was increasing steadily. The number disposed of is actually falling in April as against March. Why is that? (Mr Brown) Because of the effectiveness of interventions that are being made. One of the statistical difficulties we have had is that the report times are not the same and therefore looking for the gap between the figures, the report to disposal, is that it is not a directly comparable series. We have tried to make the statistics actually comparable and meaningful as we have presented them. When an animal is authorised to slaughter that is something that is noted immediately, when an animal has been finally disposed of it is notified after the event, so the gap between the two will be bigger than the truthful gap every time you try to take a slice of life. 268. What are the actual figures for disposal? (Mr Brown) We have a real disposal problem in Devon where there are still something like over 100,000 animals awaiting disposal. That is carcasses awaiting disposal. The backlog is practically cleared in the rest of the country. I do not know, Jim, if you can give any useful figure? 269. Have they gone up? (Mr Brown) The truth of the matter is that the disposal routes are opened up in the areas where the demand is the highest and are workable. There is a difficulty in Devon because the water table makes burial a difficult option. Every site we have, either for incineration or for landfill, has some objection to it. The truth is there is no popular way of disposing of these carcasses. 270. Is burial being used more than it was in 1967 or less? (Mr Brown) I could not give you an exact measure with 1967. In 1967 farm sizes were smaller and burial on site was a far more practical alternative for a relatively small amount of animals than it would be for a flock of 10,000 sheep on a modern extensive holding in Cumbria, for example. The situations are not directly comparable. Where we can use burial we do, where we can use landfill we do. We are getting as much as we can away to render and disposal through the purpose built rendering plants but, of course, the over five year cattle have to have priority for that route in order to control the prion diseases. It is still necessary to make use of on site incineration with all of the aesthetic objections to that. 271. Finally, there have been concerns raised about the health effects of burning, particularly in respect of dioxins. Are there health implications? Are these looked at? What can you say? (Mr Brown) We are advised by both the Environment Agency on the environmental effects and by the Department of Health on health effects. The Chief Medical Officer is now revising his advice, is effectively pulling together advice that has already been given, putting it in one place and reissuing it. I would expect that to be essentially reissued shortly. Chairman 272. Minister, in Devon, as you know, people are very concerned about the latest pyre and in Cumbria you have decided not to go ahead with burning. If that advice were that there is a health risk or a concern that leaves you in a bit of, I was going to say a hole but you have a problem with holes in Devon and a problem with incineration, where does that leave you? (Mr Brown) There is no absolutely perfect risk-free solution to any of these problems. It is about balancing risks and trying to do the right thing overall but doing nothing is not a solution either. On every decision we make a careful assessment and do what is proportionate and what is right. Sometimes this is very, very difficult for people locally who will want the carcasses disposed of but will object to whatever particular disposal route is put forward, particularly if it is close to where they live. Chairman: I have got three requests for short interventions before we go to the next series of questions. Mr Paterson 273. When you talk about cases you said last time you are only talking about infected premises, is that right? So 1,440 is infected premises? (Mr Brown) That is correct. 274. How many other farms have been taken out as contiguous culls? How many other farms have been taken out as SOSs? (Mr Scudamore) We have taken out around about 3,500 as contiguous premises, dangerous contacts and SOSs. 275. And SOSs combined? (Mr Scudamore) Somewhere around that, yes. I have not got the detailed figures with me. (Mr Brown) Does that include the infected premises or do you have to add the two together? (Mr Scudamore) You have to add the two together. 276. So 3,500 contiguous culls and SOSs? (Mr Brown) Yes. 277. Because there is concern in the Welsh Marches that you changed the criteria for an SOS and IP. I have got three cases where experienced people were absolutely convinced that they had confirmed cases of foot and mouth and this was resisted by Page Street, where apparently there is now a committee of four vets, and they were told to call it an SOS. The advantage to you is that your graph here of cases on a daily basis is coming down very encouragingly because an SOS does not count as a case. Also you do not add to the carcass mountain because an SOS does not require you to take out contiguals. Am I right or am I wrong? (Mr Scudamore) Partly right. What we have got a problem with is diagnosis of foot and mouth disease in sheep. We have ranged from people who complain that we should confirm it on clinical grounds to those who complain that we should not confirm on clinical grounds and we should take samples and confirm it on laboratory examination. So we have a problem particularly with sheep. There is obvious clinical disease in sheep, where there are vesicles and high temperature it is relatively straight forward, but there are a lot of conditions of sheep and their feet which are not foot and mouth disease. We were getting very concerned that there was quite a high percentage of sheep which we confirmed on clinical grounds which on laboratory examination were coming back negative. That poses a problem because it means one of two things: either the sheep were, in fact, negative, they did not have foot and mouth disease, or the samples were coming back with false results, either they were the incorrect samples or they were damaged in transit or in the laboratory they did not give positive results. What we tend to do now with sheep in particular is if it is obvious foot and mouth disease then it will be confirmed clinically and they should take samples which will go off to the laboratory. If we confirm it clinically that automatically initiates a contiguous premises cull within 48 hours. If we are not convinced it is foot and mouth disease and it does not sound obvious then we will take it as a slaughter on suspicion which means that the herd itself is slaughtered within the 24 hours to get rid of it, samples are submitted to the laboratory and if those samples come back negative then it is not confirmed, if those samples come back positive then it is confirmed. 278. The cases I was talking about were cattle. (Mr Scudamore) On average over the last 20 years we have had between ten and 12 reported cases of foot and mouth a year, up to that number, which are not foot and mouth disease. Part of the problem with sheep I have explained. With cattle we would generally take the diagnosis of the clinician but if there is any question about it then we might query whether it is or is not foot and mouth and we might require samples to be taken. If the samples come back positive then it is confirmed it is foot and mouth disease so we initiate the contiguous premises cull. (Mr Brown) In the current circumstances, Chairman, for every three cases that are reported into the Department as foot and mouth disease suspects - and of course there is a heightened awareness of all this in the current circumstances - only one turns out to be confirmed. So for every one real case we are getting two that turn out to be false alarms. Mr Drew 279. I just wondered in a sense why we did not make more of the Northumberland Report? The Northumberland Report in many respects, although the scale of this outbreak is different and the number of movements have made it more difficult, is like a code book of how we should have handled it. I just wondered if everyone did read the damn thing. (Mr Brown) Where the advice is relevant to the current outbreak it has been followed. Nobody has really pointed me to some piece of advice in that report which should have been followed and has not been. There are enormous differences between the 1967 outbreak and the present one. To take the obvious issue of disposal routes: there are difficulties in using burial in Cumbria where the soil is light and the substructure is granite, and in Devon it is just our misfortune that the water table is high and a lot of water rights are privately owned and it is not a good idea to put a lot of dead livestock in the water supply and we will not do it. That means we have to examine the other routes of disposal and they will have their difficulties, not insurmountable but they will have their difficulties as well. On the question of the role of the military it is true to say that the military were called in earlier in the 1967 outbreak but in a less prepared way and reading the report there was quite a lot of early confusion and misunderstanding ---- 280. Exactly. (Mr Brown) But I think by and large we have avoided that in the way in which we have deployed the armed services with very specific tasks which they have rolled their sleeves up and got on with and worked very well with the veterinary advisers and civilian staff. Mr Todd 281. Offering the valuation scales was an attempt to cut down the delays to slaughter. Has it worked? (Mr Brown) By and large, yes. I have asked for figures region by region on the use that is made of the tables and I understand that although some farmers wish to bring in valuers and argue for higher valuation, the rates were set in such a way as to make the table itself attractive and some have said generous. There is a real effort to try to help people in very difficult circumstances. About 75 per cent of the cases, that is my understanding, across England have settled on the table and, therefore, the procedure has been speeded up because of it. It is not a perfect mechanism. I have asked for this region by region analysis of the rates that are being paid and if there are any particular factors that are forcing the rates upwards and I am then looking at what I should do about it. What I will do, if the Committee has a real interest in this, is when I have the figures available I will put them in the public domain so other people can see what has happened as well. 282. You will be aware that the scales have caused some difficulty among farmers who were compensated before they were brought in because in some instances they offer rates which are significantly higher, and I have drawn this to your attention before with suckler cows, than the rates that were offered by valuers early on in the crisis. (Mr Brown) The rates were offered by independent valuers. 283. Indeed so. (Mr Brown) Admittedly they are paid for by the Government but they are acting in a professional capacity and there is a system for appeal if people dispute the valuation. What I think is more likely to be the case, although it is fair to say that the rates were set in an effort to be generous and an effort to encourage settlement, is as the disease outbreak has progressed clearly the replacement value, or the assessment the valuer has made, is also likely to have moved with time. It is to take a hard look at that and also the justifications for it that I have asked for work to be done within the Department and I am expecting that within a day or so. 284. What would you say to the farmer who accepted the valuation offered, say, on 7 March whose 14 day appeal period had then run out and found shortly after that 14 day period that the scales offered a rather better rate and he was down by some tens of thousands of pounds? (Mr Brown) I know it is a hard thing to say but it does not mean that the valuation that he was given was incorrect. The rates were deliberately set at a generous level, in other words above what we assumed a valuer would assess, partly because we realised that in circumstances like this the valuations tend to rise over time until the outbreak is brought to an end, but partly because we wanted to encourage early settlement for disease control reasons and also because we wanted to be generous to people in very difficult circumstances. I think all three of those reasons are justifiable, but it does not mean that the earlier valuation was somehow wrong or less than it should have been. 285. It does mean that those particular individuals feel very aggrieved because they have ended up being compensated substantially less than someone who had exactly the same affliction put on them some week or two weeks later. (Mr Brown) The law is the market value of the animals. 286. Which the Government has intervened in by producing a set of scales instead, for very good reasons. (Mr Brown) For perfectly good reasons, but that does not mean that every judgment ever made before then is necessarily wrong. I do not want to make a definitive statement on this because clearly people have got appeals pending and have also asked for their own cases to be reconsidered and I do not want to say the Government has formed a judgment on all of that because we have not. I do not think that there should be an automatic assumption that whatever the most generous possible settlement going should automatically be the one that applies. Mr Öpik 287. I want to talk about information and briefly about on-farm precautions. First of all, why did some of the information from the Ministry website disappear, for example on the numbers slaughtered and the numbers awaiting slaughter? (Mr Brown) Throughout this I made it very clear at the very beginning I wanted to be very candid with everyone and put the information in the public domain and that is what I have set out to do. It rapidly became clear that some of the statistics, although each true of themselves, were not being compiled to the same time line. I gave the Committee the example of the authorisation for slaughter and the disposal figures. Each of them accurate but, of course, the gap between them not presenting the true picture at all. Because it was a matter of contention we have tried to produce statistics that are comparable with each other, in other words each taken at the same point in time. Once that exercise has been carried out we have got the information restored. There is not much point in putting information in the public domain if it is going to produce a misleading picture. The figures that you are asking for are all there and I have always been careful to include them in my statements to the House. 288. Okay. Accepting that point for now, within those figures are you taking off as confirmed cases those which eventually show a negative test whenever the results come back from the lab? (Mr Brown) No. 289. Or are they left in as confirmed cases? (Mr Brown) A confirmed case would be a confirmed case is my understanding. (Mr Scudamore) They are confirmed on clinical grounds. If they are confirmed on a clinical picture and a report by a vet and that is accepted as positive, that is positive. As I mentioned earlier, you can send samples off to a laboratory and if you do not take the right samples or they get damaged in transit or something happens in the laboratory then you can get negative results. 290. This is a concern to farmers because it means the figures are possibly false. Paul Kitching on the Channel 4 News said that he thought that so much of the resources were actually consumed in tracings and slaughter that very little epidemiology was actually undertaken and, therefore, the intervention required was not available. In other words, he is saying that kind of thing is making it more difficult for farmers to trust the information because in their judgment a number of cases are being included in the graphs that we have been looking at which actually turn out to be negative. What would you say to those people? Do they trust the clinical assessment by the vet or do they trust the laboratory assessment? If one cannot trust the laboratory assessment, how does anyone trust that information at all? (Mr Brown) There is going to be a time delay, is there not? Sorry, Jim, you answer it. (Mr Scudamore) They trust the clinical assessment by the vet. I think we are in a position where we are dealing with a rapidly spreading disease and if a vet believes there is foot and mouth disease we have to deal with this as such. We have put in place a mechanism for slaughter on suspicion where we can just remove that particular herd or flock pending the laboratory results. If the vet rings up and says he is on a farm and there is clinical foot and mouth disease then we will confirm it and that is a clinically confirmed case. 291. For absolute clarity here, the clinical assessment on the farm by the vet takes priority even if the laboratory tests prove otherwise, is that right? (Mr Brown) You would not get it back quickly enough, would you? 292. In which case why are you doing laboratory tests at all? (Mr Scudamore) We are doing the laboratory tests because we need to know what is happening out in the field. We are refining the laboratory test. As we get the information we will change the type of material that we require so, for example, from sheep we will require tissues plus blood and we will try and isolate the virus and look for blood samples. I think it is very important that wherever possible we do take laboratory material for confirming the disease. As I say, with cattle and pigs a very high percentage is confirmed, the problem lies particularly with sheep where the clinical condition can look obviously like foot and mouth disease and if you do not take the right sample you get a negative result. 293. Would it be possible to move those lab tests into the field if the resources were available so that you could bring them much closer together? I have no idea how long it takes to develop the culture. (Mr Scudamore) We are looking into that but, in fact, we can get results quite quickly from the laboratory, the problem arises when they are not clear cut results. If, for example, we take tissue for virus isolation, there is a very fast test that can give you a result in 24 hours, but if that is negative we then put the material up on culture and that can take up to five to seven days to get a culture result sometimes. Equally, with the blood tests we can do a very fast test but if that gives a positive we would have to do another test which can take five days to confirm it. Many of these tests require confirmatory tests which can be done in the specialist laboratory. 294. Can you assure me that once you have done all those other tests you do get a definitive confirmation of whether a particular sample is infected or not? (Mr Scudamore) Not necessarily. If you take, for example, tissue from an old lesion in a sheep you could very well not isolate the virus from it but it could still have had foot and mouth disease. 295. Thank you. (Mr Scudamore) I am afraid. 296. Moving on then, other elements of information procedure have really bothered farmers. Mr Scudamore's explanation of the protocol leading to a cull with a contiguous cull and so forth, that is the first time I have heard it in such a clear, definitive way. Could I ask that you consider sharing that protocol with farmers because there is a great deal of uncertainty about what to expect when there is a suspected case in the area. (Mr Brown) I am more than happy to do that, anything that would help. The bottom line is that there is not any way of eliminating this disease that avoids culling. There is no medicine I can give the animals, there is no other intervention that we can make now with the animals that would prevent the need for culling the disease out. That is a very hard thing to say and for the individual farmers that are affected because their animals are suspected of having the disease it is very hard indeed. Let me repeat again, it is necessary. 297. I am not questioning that, it is really the information. There is a huge stress that is caused by not knowing what to expect, so I would be grateful if that information could be spread. (Mr Brown) You can have my assurance that we will do that. 298. Thank you. Next, the concern I have is about information with regard to compensation. Farmers simply do not understand why they are not getting money for all the animals that were alive at the point when they were applying, for example, for a welfare cull, they are only being paid out for the animals that are still alive when the cull finally takes place even though livestock has died while they have been waiting. Is there any way that you can provide the rationale for that particular judgment? Perhaps it has just been an oversight and you are now going to tell us that you will pay from the point of application rather than the point of cull? (Mr Brown) That does not sound right to me. If you want to refer me to an individual case where that has happened I am more than happy to look at it. 299. I will take that up separately, thank you. I am sorry, you were going to say something? (Mr Brown) If you want to give me an individual case where that has happened, where the animals have died before being taken away, then I will most certainly look into it. 300. I will leave premises to another Member. This is very important, Chairman. So you are willing to investigate the possibility that farmers will be compensated for the animals that they have entered into the welfare scheme rather than the animals that are still alive when the welfare scheme takes place? (Mr Brown) No. What I have said is I will take a hard look at the individual case where you allege that animals have died before they were able to be taken away in the Government's welfare scheme and presumably where they were unable to move under one of the licence schemes and unable to be managed where they were. Remember we have the RSPCA now working with us to prioritise the cases that are most urgent, where the animals are most compromised, and if animals have died in circumstances in the way you have described that seems to me to be a case that would justify priority treatment but I would need to be convinced that they could not be moved or they could not have been managed. Refusing to feed them does not seem to me to be a sufficient argument for saying that their welfare is compromised by the Government's movement restrictions. Mr Öpik: Maybe others can find that information. Chairman: Two quickies from Michael and Owen and then we come to David Borrow for a new set of questions. Mr Jack 301. Minister, all of us have heard a lot of interesting stories about the way that this disease has been managed, conducted, and so on and so forth, but the Prime Minister has set his face against a full scale public inquiry so that all of this information can be digested and lessons learned from it in case, God forbid, it ever happens again. Why has he set his face against a public inquiry? (Mr Brown) I certainly think there will need to be a review. We will need to make absolutely certain that we take every possible step to prevent this happening again. Remember, a disease outbreak in the United Kingdom, a viral disease of animals, is actually a rare event. Foot and mouth disease has not happened here for 30 years. I have already announced a review and, indeed, opinions are coming in now on the treatment of pigswill and whether there should be stand still arrangements, particularly pertaining to sheep. Work continues across Government and I hope to have something to say about it soon on the question of imports, both personal imports and food imports through containerisation, which may be a means of getting the virus into the United Kingdom, although I have no solid evidence to say that is so but it is clearly a route that we should look at. On the question of inquiries, there will be a Public Accounts Committee inquiry afterwards and this Committee is enquiring into these matters, so it seems to me there are comprehensive inquiries. 302. So various reviews would take the place of proper, full, public exposure in the form of a public inquiry because there are already many people who have expressed a lot of views? Some of the stories I have heard about what has been going on in Carlisle would make your hair stand on end. Now is not the time to detail those but there are many who after this problem has gone away would want to say in public what their views were. Some might also want to review other potential risks to the UK's agriculture, particularly the livestock industry. I ask my question again. Why does the Prime Minister set his face against a full scale public inquiry into the most serious threat to our livestock industry, as you rightly say, in over 30 years? (Mr Brown) There clearly will be a need for a hard look at the future of the livestock sector. 303. But why not a public inquiry? (Mr Brown) I am not sure that a public inquiry would have a hard look at the future of the livestock sector. In any event, the setting up of inquiries is not for me, it is for the Prime Minister. All I can do is to take you through the inquiries that are already under way and the work that I have in hand and to say that whatever inquiries are decided upon in the future I will remain happy to co-operate with them and to continue the policy that I have pursued from the beginning of being as candid as anybody possibly could be both with the Department and with the public more generally. Mr Paterson 304. I would say that something that has cost the British taxpayer 20 billion does deserve a full public inquiry. I entirely endorse what Michael Jack said. (Mr Brown) Are you a Government Whip now? 305. My question --- (Mr Brown) No, but are you? 306. Sorry? (Mr Brown) Are you an Opposition Whip, a Conservative Party Whip? 307. Yes, I am. (Mr Brown) Congratulations. 308. Thank you very much. Can we can back to testing. When you take a contiguous cull do you systematically test the animals? (Mr Scudamore) It depends what you mean by "test". When we take the contiguous cull we look at the animals and, indeed, we do find disease. In some of those cases they get converted into infected farms. There was one recently I was looking at where they found disease in a cow, one cow with one lesion, so the fact that we removed that particular farm quickly meant that had stopped any potential spread. Wherever possible, when we take the next door neighbouring farms we look at those to see whether they have got disease or not. 309. What percentage of contiguous culls are you testing? (Mr Scudamore) I do not have a figure for that. When you say "testing", it is not actually collecting samples, it is examining the samples to see if they have got clinical evidence of foot and mouth disease. 310. So how do you think you can track the progression of the disease? For instance, in Jedburgh there were two cases, IPs, where you actually took out 26 farms. Would it not have been sensible to have tested each one of those farms to see exactly what was going on in Jedburgh? (Mr Scudamore) The farms were taken out very quickly to ensure that there was no potential spread from those farms. To test the animals we would have had to blood sample them, send those samples off to the laboratory and get the results back and that takes more time. (Mr Brown) In fairness to the authorities, and it could have been dealt with from Scotland I think, the Jedburgh outbreak was what is called a spark, in other words it is well away from established areas of infectivity, so there must have been a factor specific to the site to have caused it. In such cases it is essential to get there very quickly and to cull the disease out. 311. I am not querying that ---- (Mr Brown) It seems hard. 312. What I am suggesting is that if, as many people think, this is endemic in sheep, the disease actually walked there, it did not go there by some long distance carrion crow, the important thing surely is to test these contiguous culls otherwise you do not know what is happening with the disease? (Mr Scudamore) The problem if you test the contiguous cull is with the test we have available we are looking to see if contiguous culls are the origins of the disease. If you test an animal just after it has become infected you will not have any antibodies there, so what we are doing at the moment on the next door farms is they are visually examined and if there is evidence of clinical disease then they get converted and confirmed and we take samples from those. At the moment we are not sampling routinely the next door neighbour's farms. If we are looking for spread from the infected farms and the next door contiguous farm we could well get negative results. (Mr Brown) I think this point about endemic in sheep is worth a sentence or two, Jim, because we have done some testing. (Mr Scudamore) What we do not know is what the position is in sheep. We now have the serological capacity to test 40,000 samples a week which has been developed at Pirbright and I think this will go up to 40,000 this week. We are hoping to develop it over the next two or three weeks to go up to 60,000 samples. We are now considering what sampling we are going to do for a number of different regions. We will be sampling in infected areas to demonstrate there is no disease there and to lift the restrictions. We will be sampling sheep flocks to see what happens to the disease in a sheep flock, so some infected farms will be sampled to see what is going on in those farms. We are sampling hefted sheep on the moors to see what is happening in those flocks. We will be developing a strategy for testing in the clear areas, like East Anglia, North Scotland, West Wales, to show that those are completely free of disease. So we now have capacity to test serologically for antibodies and we will be gradually using that more and more. The intention is we will be doing a lot more sampling of sheep to see what the position is in sheep. What we are not clear about yet is, if we look at an area, what type of sampling we are going to do and what number of samples we are going to collect, because there is a number of different options. We can statistically select farms and go and visit those farms and sample those, or we can collect samples in abattoirs to try and find what the underlying level of disease is. So at the moment we are working on the surveillance strategies for freeing-up areas and demonstrating they are free. The priority is getting the infected area status lifted, which is what we have been doing recently. Mr Borrow 313. Minister, obviously the Opposition Chief Whip has a different approach from yourself in terms of appointments to Select Committees, but perhaps I can move on from that. Prior to Easter you made a statement to the House on 9th April and you mentioned a letter you had given to all farmers giving advice from the Chief Vet on two or three issues. There was a kerfuffle at the time and some people took that as a criticism of farmers in general. I wondered to what extent you have concerns that farmers are not minimising the risks. (Mr Brown) I do have those concerns, and all generalisations are unfair but the need to maintain very tight biosecurity in the current circumstances should be clear to everyone, and I am taking out advertisements in the farming press setting out the biosecurity arrangements which pertain species by species and also giving clear-cut advice to farmers on issues like the turning-out of dairy stock which have been housed, the need to keep them separate from sheep that might have been at risk of exposure to infectivity. All of this advice has been put very clearly and neutrally in the public domain and there is no implication farm business by farm business, this is just clear-cut advice that they have to play their part in controlling the disease. 314. There have been a number of reports over the last six or seven weeks of illegal animal movements and I wondered to what extent you have got detailed knowledge of the number of such movements and, perhaps more importantly, are you in a position to make a judgment on the dangers that could arise from those illegal animal movements given it is quite possible the vast majority of illegal animal movements may not pose any risk at all? (Mr Brown) This is one of the great myths which I see as being injected into the public commentary in all of this. Prior to movement restrictions being brought in to prevent the spread of the disease the day after we discovered it at Northumberland, at Heddon-on-the-Wall, it was of course perfectly legal to move sheep. Whatever the commercial underpinning of the contract, the movement of the animals was legal. After the movement restrictions came in there should have been no unlicensed movements of livestock at all, and that is pigs, cattle and sheep. Have there been illegal movements? Well, there are cases where there are prosecutions pending and I cannot comment on the individual cases. How many of them have there been? All I can say with certainty is that where people have been caught and prosecuted, we know about those, but like any other illegal act, who knows what has gone on. It would be very difficult to say without hard evidence, and where there is hard evidence, we will move remorselessly in the direction of the legal process and I do not want to interfere with that. Let me emphasise, before the restrictions came in, whatever the underpinning nature of the transaction, the actual movement of the livestock was lawful. 315. What might be helpful to the Committee, Minister, is if you were able to give some indication as to the advice your officials are giving you on the impact of illegal animal movements. In other words, is it a matter of significant concern, albeit there is a duty to give clear advice, or is it a minor issue? (Mr Brown) Moving animals without a licence and without the proper arrangements being put in place is a very, very foolish and, frankly, selfish thing to do, because whatever the short-term gain the person who is moving the livestock is jeopardising their own business and that of their neighbour as well. I really would urge all of those who have control over farming livestock not to move them without the licensing arrangements. 316. I have to bring you back to the question, Minister. Does your Department regard illegal animal movements as something that is having a significant effect on the spread of the disease, or is it something which needs to stop but is not something which is carried out by a significant number of farmers? (Mr Brown) It is impossible to separate out one cause, but it is clear where there are outbreaks in new parts of the country, the most likely causes are the movements of people or vehicles or animals, but I do not have a statistical analysis as to which is the most likely in which particular event. It may be possible to do that working backwards as the evidence comes in, but I do not have a sort of running tally, if that is what you are asking me. Nevertheless, let me repeat what I have said, it is a very foolish and selfish thing to do to move livestock without a licence in the current circumstances. 317. In one of the responses you gave in questions on your statement on 9th April, you indicated that the use of disinfected mats was more symbolic than practical in terms of disease control. Are there any other measures that farmers have been advised to carry out which will come into the same category? (Mr Brown) The disinfectant mat is a traditional device but the advice that I have is that it is of limited utility, particularly over time, and a comprehensive cleaning of vehicle wheels and a scrubbing-down with proper disinfectant of boots and the cleaning-off of mud are all necessary to provide adequate biosecurity, and if it is possible a bath arrangement rather than matting is the more sure way. That is the advice I have had on this. 318. Finally, just touching on something you mentioned in your opening statement which was to do with animal welfare movements, certainly in the run-up to Easter many of us saw pictures of distressed lambs covered in mud --- (Mr Brown) Yes, one particular distressed lamb seems to have ended up in the kitchen but not in the circumstances one would have expected. 319. The concern many people would have is the extent to which those welfare difficulties can be sorted out and quickly. What are the reasons why they cannot be sorted out quickly, if they cannot? (Mr Brown) It is not unlawful to get a lamb covered in mud, but, of course, it does make quite an effective photograph. The biggest contribution we can make to this is to get the market working normally again. We set up this scheme to try to help those farmers whose animals genuinely had their welfare compromised because of the necessary disease control measures, including the movement restrictions. We are getting a movement scheme up and running - and I accept what Mark said earlier about the role of the trading standards officers - within the infected areas, and a lot of pressure on the welfare scheme should be relieved by the normal workings of the market. The scheme itself has turned out to be a popular scheme, there have been a large number of applications, we are using the RSPCA to prioritise the cases, so we get to the hardest welfare cases first. 320. Are you able to make any estimate at this stage of the number of applications under the animal welfare scheme which would come into that category of being urgent because they are really serious? (Mr Brown) We are reducing the number of animals which are coming into the scheme, partly by the substantial amount of work which has been done to clear the backlog, partly by opening up alternative routes within the infected zones, which provide a workable market-orientated alternative, partly by offering clear advice to the veterinary profession and advice on managing the animals where there really cannot be moved. So there is a range of things we can do to help and what we have been able to think of has been done. Mr Todd 321. Has there been any evidence of infection from a licensed movement? (Mr Brown) I am not aware of any. Well, yes, I am aware of one, the famous one, where in Wales, not in England ---- 322. Where some sheep turned up ---- (Mr Brown) --- where some 20-odd animals had foot and mouth disease but still managed to get a certificate which said they had been inspected and had not, and they ended up on that short journey from the farm to an abattoir where of course the vet in the abattoir spotted it at once for what it was. That is the only one that I am aware of. I cannot say with certainty it has not happened but it is an unusual event. Jim might know more. (Mr Scudamore) I think there have been a number of other occasions where abattoirs have had animals coming into them with lesions of foot and mouth disease. Where that happens, we will destroy the animal, clean up the abattoir and it can be back in operation within a day. 323. For that purpose? (Mr Scudamore) For that purpose, that is right. 324. Are the movement restrictions operating speedily? They certainly were not at the start, because I complained rather vigorously about one or two in my area. (Mr Brown) We have issued something like 52,000 licences, which is a lot. 325. I think I illustrated the long paper chase which appeared to exist at least in my part of the country. (Mr Brown) Yes. I understand that, but it is necessary to have some control over this, otherwise a proportion of the movements of livestock would be moving the disease. Holding everything at a standstill, harsh though it is, is necessary so we can cull the disease out and return to normal trade. 326. I still have no information as to why two RSCs need to be involved in issuing a licence in my area. (Mr Brown) My apologies, I did promise to have that looked at for you and get you an answer, and I will do that. 327. Thank you. Have you any further announcements to make on the relief which is currently being offered to areas of the country where infections have been some time ago? We have seen the announcements relating to Somerset, Northampton, Melton Mowbray. Are there any other changes in the map your advisers are now saying can be spread out? (Mr Brown) There most certainly will be. I am not in a position to make announcements this afternoon, but over the next few days and most certainly weeks there will be a further freeing-up of areas which are currently under restrictions beyond the general control restrictions throughout Great Britain, and also in time we hope to be able to free those up in the areas which have remained disease-free, but that of course will facilitate an outward movement. We could not allow inward movement from areas of high infectivity. 328. On what criteria are your advisers working? (Mr Scudamore) We have a lot of infected areas at the moment. Some of them are infected areas around one farm, so the first thing we did was to try to reduce the size of those infected areas to 10 km. What we will then do is identify the sheep farms within the 3 km protection zone around the infected farms, and we will test those sheep farms, so it means visiting the farms, examining animals, collection samples, when the samples are all negative then we will lift that particular area around that farm. 329. I am puzzling therefore slightly why my constituency still seems to have very heavy restrictions in place, since the last outbreak was sometime ago, there have been regular visits to neighbouring farms and there has been no lightening of the forms of restrictions which, for example, prevent anyone doing any movements of any kind really. (Mr Scudamore) We would not start any lifting procedures until 15 days after there has been cleaning and disinfection on the infected farm itself. It depends how many other infected farms there are. If it is a single one, we would start working on that as soon as we can, but if it is a multiple area with lots of infected areas, then it is a question of when we can start on them. 330. But there would also seem to be quite strong arguments for redefining the restricted area as well. Again in my area, it covers half of my constituency even though the area which had infection was really quite small and confined to one corner. It seems to have been done by the accident of where the roads happen to be, the convenient main roads which have been chosen, which again throws in a lot of farms which, frankly, are quite some considerable distance away from the infection. (Mr Scudamore) The intention would be that we would contract the infected area down to the minimum size essential and then work on the zone around the infected farm with a view to getting that lifted as quickly as possible. 331. You must be well aware there is a direct relationship between restrictions which are in place in an area like that and calls on the welfare scheme and, for that matter, on other movement licence applications, which chew up a large amount of MAFF time, and expeditious movement towards defining the risk rather more precisely saves everyone a great deal of trouble and also helps to get the market moving, which should be our objective. Farmers in my area are keen to get on with their lives as far as they possibly can. They have been very careful and, as a result of that, the infection has not spread, which they should be commended on, but they now wish to get on with their lives as soon as possible and at the moment the restrictions are not shifting at all even though the risk appears to be receding day-by-day. (Mr Brown) We are on their side on that. 332. So am I, but I would like to see some movement which allows them to do what they want to do. (Mr Brown) Point taken and I will have a look at what can be done. But in all of this the Government is acting on professional advice and one of the great lessons from the 1967 outbreak - and everyone says learn the lessons from it - was that everyone thought they had got the disease defeated, relaxed, and it burst back out again and they had to go through it all over again. 333. Please do not interpret my remarks as meaning my farmers are dead keen to ---- (Mr Brown) No, I do not interpret them that way. I am on their side. 334. They wish largely to see their own care now rewarded by a lifting of restrictions in a sensible and planned way and, thus far, that does not seem to have happened. (Mr Brown) It is a fair point, fairly made. 335. On the suggestion of restrictions on movements for sheep and the quantity of movements which are allowed between particular periods, the obligation for a standstill, the Government's move to consultation on that, have you any view as to how that consultation is proceeding? (Mr Brown) The replies are coming in. The consultation period is I think still open for a few days. Chairman 336. May 11th it concludes. (Mr Brown) Well, that is soon. The arguments are all moving in the same direction with a lot of support, and although some of the support is hedged with caveats by and large given what has happened, people are - and I do not want to pre-empt the consultation - essentially in favour of a 20 day --- Mr Todd 337. There is a clear head of steam behind that but the difficulty always is policing this kind of thing where there is no tagging of sheep to identify the precise animals involved and where there is likely to be a small number of farmers who may not necessarily feel this is necessary. How is it to be policed, if it is to be done? (Mr Brown) We have traceability with cattle. We policed the 20 day standstill, which is the same period in the pig sector, successfully. But you are right, traceability at least by flock is also an idea which is marching remorselessly towards us. Chairman 338. Can I clarify a particular point, Minister? You said there is not much opposition but there is some concern. (Mr Brown) Let me qualify what I said. The consultation period is still open, so far it is running in favour of the proposals - and I do not want to pre-empt it - and some of those who have argued in favour have hedged their support with caveats about what happens if an animal is taken to market but is not sold and then returns to the home farm - does it have to stay ---- 339. Or if you have to replace a suckler calf. Does that mean that all your stores then cannot be moved within that 20 day period? (Mr Brown) In the consultation document, that issue was teased out. It would be perfectly possible in the case of cattle to have the restriction either by animal or by herd, and I have asked for views on those two proposals. Chairman: Thank you. Mr Todd 340. What is the current backlog on the welfare scheme? (Mr Brown) It is very hard to say because when people get acceptances for their animals the numbers they put in tend to be smaller, and overall that is by a factor of about 20 per cent. So some of the bids are in the nature of an enquiry and some of them are clearly speculative. 341. There is obviously also an overlap with other schemes, so it is allowing the animals to get --- (Mr Brown) And the situation will change as of today because, of course, there is now movement facilitated where there was not before. So within the infected areas ---- 342. So you do not have an up-to-date figure? (Mr Brown) The numbers are diminishing rapidly. I think something like 230,000 animals were cleared through the scheme last week, something of that order. 343. I can see this being problematic. There were comments earlier about the precise valuations in the welfare scheme, have you any plans to review those at all? (Mr Brown) It is fair comment but it is also market sensitive. I did say I was going to discuss this with the Dutch Minister tomorrow because he is planning a similar scheme, and we will have the only two schemes of such a nature in the European Union, and clearly we want to co-ordinate what we are doing. I think it is also fair to call the Committee's attention to the European Court of Auditors' Report which suggested that schemes of this nature should not be state aids or funded by the European Union but should in fact be funded on either levy basis or an insurance basis, at least in part if not fully, and this I think is the future. 344. But you are committed to the rates you have announced for the period that the scheme was set for? (Mr Brown) I am certainly committed to the scheme but clearly one has to make a judgment about the details of it. Mr Todd: It is difficult to explain to someone why animals going into the welfare scheme should not be available for human consumptions when animals moving from currently infected areas under the slaughter scheme, duly controlled movements, are. Chairman 345. Or contiguous cull animals. (Mr Brown) All of that is true. I know of no human health advice which compromises them but it is the need to control diseases in animals, which is at least in part a factor here. It would be perfectly reasonable, given the fact we do not allow mammalian feed at all, to argue as you are arguing. Mr Todd 346. It would be possible to argue, certainly if the European Union chose to look further at this, that one appeared to be a market support mechanism as a way of removing meat from the market place to support prices. (Mr Brown) That is why it is devised as an animal welfare scheme and not state intervention to support the market, although these are difficult times and one wants to do all one can. 347. And definitions to stay? (Mr Brown) What is the over-30 month scheme? Is that a public health measure or is it a market support measure? It functions in practical terms as both but the purpose of it is to protect the consumer, just as the purpose of the welfare scheme is to intervene where because of the movement restrictions the welfare of the animal is compromised. If it cannot be managed where it is, the only other possible thing to do is a mercy killing. Chairman 348. The over-30 month scheme now of course would not function at all because it has been subsumed into the welfare scheme, but we will talk about that on the side. (Mr Brown) I see what you mean. Mr Öpik 349. We have seen in certain areas that the great friction over the disposal of healthy animals could have been avoided by a vet consultation. I just request that you have a conversation with the Welsh Office minister, or opposite number, about the need for consultation in those circumstances. (Mr Brown) I am not familiar with the specifics and nor am I the minister directly responsible, but let me tell you these things, from my own experience, are very difficult. There is no disposal route which does not have some argument which cannot be made against it, whether proportionately or not is a matter for the individual case. Mr Jack 350. I am sceptical about the welfare scheme. My constituent, Lynn Horricks, has sent me a letter and I just pick a sentence out. She says, "How we are being forced to look after our stock is criminal. A welfare issue is recognised by a veterinary surgeon almost three weeks ago and yet we are still awaiting information as to when the stock will be slaughtered." She sent me a list of all the efforts she has made, she has followed every procedure, register, et cetera, and finally she tells me, "On 18th April after first getting involved with the Intervention Board scheme on 27th March, she goes to speak to someone called Gary at MAFF at Carlisle who says that no licence can be issued and he was not in a position to advise her as to what to do." How does somebody like that, who has already spent something like 80,000 on feeding these animals, resolve their difficulty? (Mr Brown) Without knowing what sort of animals they are and what their circumstances are --- 351. Pigs. (Mr Brown) Why can they not move in the market place? 352. I am putting to you, Minister --- (Mr Brown) But why cannot they move in the market place? 353. If you would be kind enough to look into this case, because she obviously feels - and the circumstances are detailed in the information presented to me - they should go into the welfare scheme otherwise she would not have gone through all this rigmarole if they could have gone to market. (Mr Brown) I do not understand it either but I suspect I have only heard part of it. 354. I would be very happy to furnish you with the papers if you will give me the assurance it will be looked at. (Mr Brown) You can give me individual casework but there is a lot of it. 355. What do you mean "there is a lot of it"? Paperwork or people sitting waiting to get into the scheme? (Mr Brown) A lot of people saying, "Can I be the first in the queue. This is what I want to happen in my particular circumstances. Can you get it done for me now." 356. The picture I am getting from this example is somebody has gone through all the proper procedures, has the right reasons and veterinary advice, and three weeks later she writes a letter like that in desperation. (Mr Brown) If it is a welfare scheme case, the first question you have to answer is, why cannot the animals be moved, and the second question you have to answer is, why cannot they be managed where they are? If you can give me quickly the answer to those two points, you clearly then have a welfare concern. What is the answer to the first point? Why can they not be moved? 357. The question I am asking now is, how do I get into the queue to get this constituent's case answered, if it is all too difficult for you? (Mr Brown) It is not all too difficult for me. The first question you have to answer is, why can they not be moved? 358. Are you willing to look at this particular case? (Mr Brown) Why can they not be moved, Michael? 359. I would rather you looked at the individual --- (Mr Brown) It may well be that your case falls at the first hurdle but even if it does not fall at the first hurdle, the second one is, why can they not be kept where they are? Mr Jack: They cannot. To save the Committee's time, I am trying not to go through every piece of information. Chairman: Let's move on. Mr Drew: A score draw there, I think. Mr Jack 360. In your usual courteous way --- (Mr Brown) In my usual courteous way of course I will look at your individual constituent's case, starting with, why they cannot be moved! 361. For the sake of my constituent, Mr Parkinson, who will now have been watching these proceedings for the last hour and 58 minutes, seeing if his case will be raised --- (Mr Brown) Do any other members of the Committee have constituency cases? 362. I think that is an indication of the problem, Minister. This is a question to Mr Scudamore. You dealt earlier with the reviews of the infected areas. We have had one kill-out due to a dangerous contact which subsequently analysis has shown did not have foot and mouth. When will that area and the restrictions which come with that kill-out be reviewed? We have had it now for about ten days since the first identification problem. (Mr Scudamore) I need to know where the case is and what the situation was. If the dangerous contact was not confirmed, it would not have initiated a restriction order. 363. The cattle were slaughtered as a precautionary measure but I understand that subsequently analysis showed that the animals did not have foot and mouth. (Mr Scudamore) Again one would need to look at the analysis because if the analysis showed they did not have foot and mouth does not mean to say they were not incubating foot and mouth. The problem we have when we talk about dangerous contact, it means there is a link between that farm and an infected farm, so the virus could have been moved from the infected farm to the dangerous contact. Those animals could have been incubating the disease. The reason we kill the dangerous contacts is to remove any potential incubating animals as quickly as possible. The fact that any testing was negative does not mean they were not incubating the disease. Secondly, we do not put an infected area on or around a dangerous contact, the infected areas go on around the infected premises. So I am not quite sure what restrictions would be on. Perhaps I can get the information from you. 364. You certainly can. Minister, a lot of people have been very concerned about imports or meat products into this country and a number of stories like contaminated dried Chinese meat circulated, to the detriment of Chinese restaurateurs, you yourself when you gave evidence earlier indicated that contaminated meat might well be the source of this foot and mouth outbreak. Can you just give us a quick summary of the types of proposal you are currently considering to try and tighten up on these risk factors in the future? (Mr Brown) Work is going on across Government now. In fact there is a paper waiting for me to read on my way out to Luxembourg specifically about the personal imports and, separately, commercial imports from outside the European Union. I am going to consider the views of the different departments which are involved in this. As you know, Customs and Excise have the policing function at the point of entry. When I have something more considered to say then of course I will be ready to discuss it, but I am not in a position to take this forward at the moment, but am close to it. 365. You are not able to enunciate the list of possible areas where there may be changes, have any short-term changes been made to inspection procedures in the light of this current outbreak? (Mr Brown) The procedures themselves have been tightened up and there is some investigative work going on in areas which are deemed to be priority areas, but I do not want to say any more than that. 366. Can I assume from that that Customs and Excise have also reviewed their procedures, and one might expect a reasonable man to think things have been tightened up? (Mr Brown) There is a discussion between my department, Customs and Excise and other agencies about all this, and when I have something important to say in public, I will. 367. Can you give us any indication, both in the area of my first question and your last comment, as to when you might be able to say something more in public about that? (Mr Brown) Relatively soon. I give the Committee this commitment: I am looking to make a statement on Thursday and if I can say something more in that statement on Thursday I will do so. If I cannot, I will do it in my next statement. 368. Finally, you mentioned earlier this afternoon briefly the question of pigswill and the consultation you are having on that. Can you give us any indication as to when this ban will come in? (Mr Brown) I have not decided on the outcome of the consultation yet, so I am not in a position to definitively announce a ban, but again when the Government has formed a view, informed by consultation, I will go to the House. 369. In that context, are there any other waste products currently being fed to animals which you are looking at as potential sources of risk? (Mr Brown) Not that I am aware of but if there is something you would like to put to me in that context, please feel free to do so. I will include it in the consultation process and have it examined. Our current framework is pretty tight now. With the 1999 changes made on mammalian feed it is difficult to see what in terms of the law can be fed to animals what more one can do but I am always open to points others wish to make. Chairman: Minister, by dint of your private secretary, we are going to take one rapid further question. Mr Todd 370. Going back to the theme of the future, clearly there will need to be a recovery plan for the livestock sector. (Mr Brown) Yes. 371. How far advanced are you in that? (Mr Brown) I have outlined the proposals which I want to put into the public domain in the next few days. There are some specific issues I will need to consult the industry on but I think the largest question, as we have discussed before, is what is the future shape of the British sheep industry going to be after this. That leads on to a debate about issues which the Committee will be familiar with, our proposals for gene-typing the national flock, having TSE resistance, the European Commission proposals to review sheep premia, our own plans for the future of the less favoured area regime and successor regime for the hillfarm and livestock allowances. I do not think anyone at the moment would be arguing we should be doing it on a headage basis but the better thought, and perhaps the more radical one, is that we should look at what more use we can make of the second pillar of the Common Agricultural Policy under which the hill livestock regime now falls to have a regime which is more supportive of farmers' income and less based on the total number of sheep. 372. On that theme, early retirement, which is something I have raised before - not for me personally but for farmers ---- (Mr Brown) As you know, if I could have made an early retirement regime work, then I was very attracted by the idea, but the deadweight costs were huge when we last looked at it, which was admittedly in a more neutral context. 373. Sadly, there has been a lot of deadweight removed between then and now. (Mr Brown) I take your point. I am looking at a recovery plan which at least does not exclude consideration of that. But let me make it absolutely clear to the Committee, I know there is a lot of support for the idea in the House for perfectly good and decent reasons, it is fiendishly difficult to make it work. In particular where tenant farmers have lost their livestock and might have the most pressing claim, I am told it is not possible because of the law to distinguish between tenants and those who own their farm premises. 374. Lastly, repeating a question I asked last time about restocking guidance, I think at that time there was a statement saying we were putting something together and we would have it available reasonably soon. Has it surfaced yet? (Mr Brown) Do you mean restocking after? 375. Yes. (Mr Brown) No is the answer to that. 376. Where are we on that? (Mr Brown) It is a bit early to sum up. 377. Another constituency case - Mrs Archer - and I am sure there are lots of others. (Mr Brown) This is the other way round. I think it would be better to give some clear signals as to what the support regime would be over time and then talk about the restocking protocols. Frankly, if one moved to a system of much more targeted payments directly to the business for a whole series of socially desirable objectives, one would set maximum levels of stock on holding and ensure there were viable business minimum levels as well, but they might be less than what a farmer would expect if their first intention was to farm the livestock rather than take part in a more managed countryside scheme. These are big questions for the future. 378. In my case, my people are keen to farm livestock and would like to know when they can start purchasing again and start restocking their farms once more. It is becoming more acute to give that sort of information to those who had infection sometime ago. (Mr Scudamore) We have internal restocking guidance but I do not think we have published it and that is something we need to do. It does involve cleaning and disinfection of the farm, certification cleaning and disinfection has been done, they can then restock with a proportion of the animals which have to be held for 30 days --- 379. We ran through this last time and it needs to be nailed a little harder than that, so people can have some confidence and can plan head. (Mr Brown) There are difficult questions though about the shape of the regime, including some quite hard ones, which I think it would be quite wrong to --- 380. Which would influence whether people wanted to restock. (Mr Brown) Exactly. They are holding, some of them, quite large sums of money and wondering whether to reinvest in the business. Chairman: To which we may wish to return. Minister, thank you very much indeed. We have Professor King on Wednesday, so any questions you would like us to put to him, if you would let us know between now and then! Meanwhile thank you very much indeed and we wish you well in Luxembourg. See you on Thursday.