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LGC/Cellmark Diagnostics Ltd.

Mr. Breed: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what the responsibility of LGC and Cellmark Diagnostics Ltd. was in relation to errors in tests of sheep and cow brains; and if she will make a statement. [24908]

Mr. Morley: Cellmark Diagnostics has had no involvement with the Government in this context. LGC performed the cross-checking genetic test of the brains in

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the flawed Institute of Animal Health experiment about which my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State made a statement to the House on 22 October last year. LGC has performed an internal audit of this work and is satisfied that the samples were correctly handled and that the results can be traced back to the correct samples.

Laboratories (Departmental Arrangements)

Mr. Breed: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what plans she has to (a) review and (b) assess her Department's arrangements with (i) its own and (ii) other laboratories; and if she will make a statement. [24907]

Mr. Morley: As Executive Agencies of DEFRA the arrangement between the Department and its three science laboratories—Veterinary Laboratories Agency (VLA), Centre for Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture Science (CEFAS) and Central Science Laboratory (CSL)—are governed by their respective Framework Agreements. Executive agencies are subject to quinquennial reviews which evaluate their performance and organisational arrangements. All three agencies are due quinquennial reviews this year. In accordance with best practice active consideration is being given to a joint exercise to ensure realisation of the full potential of these reviews to help improve the way service and functions are delivered. I hope to be able to announce further details soon. In addition the three agencies are the subject of periodic science assessments carried out by teams of independent and respected experts in the relevant fields. A science assessment was conducted on CEFAS in 1999 and similar assessments are currently under way at VLA and CSL.

DEFRA has concordats with the research councils, such as BBSRC, NERC and MRC, aimed at ensuring effective working arrangements. The research councils periodically assess their research institutes for scientific quality, strategic relevance of science and knowledge transfer; BBSRC are currently carrying out such an assessment. In addition to this Horticulture Research International, a DEFRA sponsored NDPB but included in the BBSRC assessment exercise, is to undergo a quinquennial review in 2002 which was announced in December 2001.

Livestock Compensation

Mr. Clifton-Brown: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, pursuant to the answer to the hon. Member for Tewkesbury of 27 November 2001, Official Report, column 860W, on livestock compensation, for what reason the Government treats losses incurred on cattle which went beyond 30 months because they could not be moved during the foot and mouth crisis as an indirect loss. [25150R]

Mr. Morley: As that answer explained, the Government pay compensation only on property, including animals, seized or destroyed to prevent the spread of foot and mouth disease. The Government do not compensate for other losses such as those resulting from inability to market agricultural products at an optimum time.

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Hills Task Force

Tony Cunningham: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs when she will respond to all aspects of the Hills Task Force report; and if she will make a statement. [23696]

Mr. Morley: The Hills Task Force produced many wide-ranging and thoughtful recommendations which are being considered in the review of the Hill Farm Allowance, in the review of agri-environment schemes and elsewhere. The recommendations on helping hill farms to recover from foot and mouth disease have already informed our recovery strategy. The report also provides a timely contribution for the consideration of the Policy Commission on Food and Farming announced on 9 August and which we understand is due to report shortly.


Mr. Drew: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs how many TB breakdowns of cattle there were in the Gloucester Division in each year from 1990 to 2000; and what the projected figure is for (a) 2001 and (b) 2002. [25348]

Mr. Morley: The Gloucester Animal Health Division covers the counties of Gloucestershire, Wiltshire and the part of North Somerset which was formerly in the County of Avon. The total of new herd TB incidents from 1990 to 2000 and the number of those confirmed to be M.bovis TB are set out in the table.

YearNew herd incidentsOf which confirmed

This information is taken from the IT system used by the State Veterinary Service in support of their TB control work and has not been checked against the quality criteria expected of 'national statistics'. Figures may therefore be unreliable (especially before 1996); they show trends rather than absolute numbers of new incidents.

Precise forecasts of the number of future incidents are not possible because of unknown variables including, in particular, the effect of the suspension of TB testing during 2001 in order to limit the spread of foot and mouth disease. We expect the total of new herd incidents in 2001 to fall within the range 95 to 150 (final figures will not be available until April). In 2002, if the rising trend of the last four years continues in the Gloucester Division, a new herd incident figure of around 400 may be possible, although it is not yet clear how measures taken in respect of foot and mouth disease may affect the incidence of bovine TB.

Mr. Drew: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs when full TB testing of herds will resume; what the priority order is for

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testing cattle to monitor the spread of bovine TB; and what staffing implications there are in the resumption of full cattle TB testing. [25373]

Mr. Morley: It is not possible to predict when full TB testing of cattle will resume. This will depend on when veterinary resource can be released from FMD work.

Prioritisation of testing will vary according to local circumstances but in general tests will be ranked using two major criteria: likelihood of TB infection in a herd; and likely transmission of TB out of a herd. Top priority will be given to tests on herds where raw milk or raw milk products are manufactured and sold for human consumption or direct to consumers. Next in priority will be overdue tests on herds which have some association with an incident of TB. Of these, herds with high levels of movements other than direct to slaughter will be given priority.

The major part of routine TB testing is delivered for the Government by local veterinary practitioners who work for the State Veterinary Service (SVS) as local veterinary inspectors (LVIs). Non-routine TB testing is delivered by both SVS veterinary officers and (LVIs) depending on local circumstances. SVS administrative staff provide office support for the testing programme. The resumption of full TB testing and clearing the overdue test backlog will place significant demands on these resources for quite some time to come.


Mr. Love: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what evaluation has been made of the ability of the Environment Agency to undertake its statutory duties relating to flooding; and if she will make a statement. [25747]

Mr. Morley: The Environment Agency has permissive powers to undertake flood defence works on main rivers and against flooding from the sea. The agency also has a statutory duty to exercise a general supervision over all matters relating to flood defence.

The agency is able to carry out these functions satisfactorily.

Miss McIntosh: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what in the allocation of revenue support grant for 2002–03 reflects the cost of the floods in autumn 2000 for (a) North Yorkshire county council, (b) Humbleton district council, (c) Harrogate borough council, (d) Ryedale borough council and (e) City of York council. [25279]

Mr. Morley: I refer the hon. Member to the answer given to her on 17 December 2001, Official Report, column 137W.


Mr. Anthony D. Wright: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs whether departmental staff processing permits from hunts on Saturday 15 December usually work at weekends. [25484]

Alun Michael: Most of the sections processing hunt permit applications do not work at weekends.

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Mr. Anthony D. Wright: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (1) how many (a) fox and (b) hare hunts have applied for a temporary permit for hunting with dogs; and how many of these have been (i) accepted and (ii) rejected; [25487]

Alun Michael: The current system is demand-led and temporary. DEFRA's animal health divisional offices will produce monthly statistics. A full copy of the statistics will be placed in the Library of the House when available.

Mr. Luff: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what special conditions have been attached to licences giving permission to hunt to the (a) Worcestershire Hunt, (b) Croome and West Warwickshire Foxhounds and (c) North Cotswold Hunt; what the reason is for any such special conditions; and how long she expects such conditions will endure. [24454]

Alun Michael: Hunting with hounds is not governed by a licensing system. At present a temporary system sets out the requirements against which hunting can be allowed to take place within the requirements of disease control measures. Hunting was one of the activities that was banned in order to stop the spread of foot and mouth disease and assist its eradication. The Government's priority has been to eradicate FMD and then to enable the countryside to return to normal as quickly as it is safe to do so. For each of the activities that were banned or limited the decision on resumption and on any residual limitations on the relevant activity has been based on a Veterinary Risk Assessment. For low risk activities like walking, implementation of such decisions have been relatively straightforward. The same was found to be the case in respect of grouse shooting and falconry. In the case of hunting with hounds, the Veterinary Risk Assessment reflected a much more complex set of circumstances in which different forms of hunting, different conditions in different parts of the country and concentrations of FMD susceptible species such as deer and the presence of Form A and Form D farms all posed different risks and are factors that have to be taken into account.

On 15 November 2001 I published proposals for the way in which hunting might be allowed to resume, along with the Veterinary Risk Assessment on which the proposals were based. Essentially it was proposed that any hunt which wished to resume activity would have to show how they would observe the limitations which would be necessary to minimise the risk of starting another outbreak of FMD. Decisions were delegated to Divisional Veterinary Managers who would be familiar with local circumstances and would need to be satisfied that the hunt could meet the requirements of animal health controls. Hunts which met these requirements can be permitted to hunt within the defined limits.

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On 13 December 2001 I published details of the permit arrangements which included practical amendments responding to representations by both hunting and non- hunting groups. Since then our Divisional Veterinary Managers have sought to apply local knowledge and common sense to approaches from hunts. They have been widely praised for the way they have undertaken this additional task and I would like to place on the record my thanks to the DEFRA staff involved.

It is against this background that the circumstances of the Worcestershire Hunt, the Croome and West Warwickshire Foxhounds and the North Cotswold Hunt have to be understood.

All these hunts have applied for and given a permit to hunt. Limitations on hunting will continue as long as care is needed to achieve the eradication of FMD and the general requirements—which require hunts not to meet or hunt within 8 km of a Form A or a Form D premise—will be reviewed as and when there is any change in the Veterinary Risk Assessment. As indicated earlier, the disease control requirements are being applied with common sense in the light of local circumstances. So in the case of the Worcestershire Hunt several exceptions have been granted to this criterion which is that it may hunt closer to a particular Form A premise as the M5 acts as a natural buffer between the Farm and five of the proposed meets. Two other proposed meets have also been permitted within an 8 km restriction due to the low risk of hunting near to the relevant Form A premise.

Special conditions have also been applied to the Croome and West Warwickshire Hunt forbidding it from hunting on the Ragley Hall Estate. This is in recognition of the estate having a large deer population.

These conditions will continue to apply as long as the threat of FMD remains. The permit section at Worcester Animal Health Office is constantly reviewing the restrictions on individual Form A and Form D premises and as soon as any are lifted, the relevant Hunts are being informed. The temporary permit system for hunting will continue as long as restrictions are necessary to achieve eradication of FMD and will be removed when FMD has been officially eradicated from the whole of Great Britain.

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