Examination of Witnesses (Questions 100
WEDNESDAY 15 NOVEMBER 2000
100. Let us move on to the MAFF Wildlife Unit.
You say in paragraph 33 the project complement is 202 but currently
they are 171 staff only. Are you experiencing difficulty in recruiting
(Baroness Hayman) We have just had a recruitment exercise.
It is ongoing. At the moment we have a complement of 202. We have
got 127 field staff in place. There are currently vacancies for
two supervisors and 15 field workers. In recent interviews we
had 45 applicants who were successful and they are undergoing
medical and security checks. I think from that exercise we are
now confident all the vacancies will be filled. Certainly the
staff that I have met, who are engaged in the trials, are very
committed and professional.
101. What is your estimate of the likely final
cost of the whole Krebs programme, particularly the field trials?
(Baroness Hayman) I do not know. Have we got estimates
of final costs? I know what we have spent so far.
(Mr Hathaway) One has to be careful whether one is
talking about all five strands of the Government's strategy on
TB or whether one is picking out individual elements of that,
such as badger culling.
102. You can provide projected figures for all
(Mr Hathaway) We could project figures for all five
103. The Krebs field trial, what would the figures
(Mr Hathaway) We have a budget allocation for the
current year of £6.9 million. That was under spent a little
last year because there was not a full complement of staff. Once
we have reached the full complement of staff that is what that
budget allocation figure relates to. One could extrapolate that
for three or more years ahead to the projected end point of the
104. Does that include the cost of policing?
(Mr Hathaway) We are not meeting the cost of policing.
Police forces locally are meeting those costs.
105. Can I take you back to the issue of the
RTAs. Surely it cannot be right that one part of Government holds
another part of Government to ransom because basically the Health
and Safety Executive have been saying they are not prepared to
do anything about this until they havewhat effectively
they have always done in the pastcollected road traffic
accident figures and all is in place. It is not a very satisfactory
state of affairs surely?
(Baroness Hayman) I would not characterise it as being
held to ransom. I think if you have advice from the Health and
Safety Executive about the appropriate circumstances in which
Government work should be carried out, you have to take that advice
very seriously and abide by it.
106. There is a problem. I have farmers who
have now got dead badgers on their land being told nobody is going
to come and collect them. That must be unsatisfactory. If we are
worried about bovine TB and the possible link with badgers, to
have dead badgers on a farm and being told there is no-one willing
to come and collect them, this is not very good.
(Baroness Hayman) It is not very satisfactory. I think
in some areas there are badger groups who are willing. Is that
the case or is it sick badgers that they are concerned with?
(Mr Hathaway) I think mainly sick badgers can be reported
to RSPCA or other animal welfare groups. I accept that is not
a complete answer to the question which has been raised. There
are instances where badgers are found dead on the farm. It is
worth adding, perhaps, for completeness, that as far as what we
have been referring to as the road traffic accident survey is
concerned, that will also have a facility for collecting badgers
that are found dead on farms in trial areas but not across the
whole countryside obviously.
107. Finally, it is inter-related, what contingencies
have you got to cover for the loss of Aston Down which you will
be losing as a centre in April?
(Baroness Hayman) Debby, do you want to answer that?
(Dr Reynolds) Yes. The question of the accommodation
for the Wildlife Unit at Aston Down is one where we have a number
of options from which we can choose. We could consider relocating
or buying part of the site and we have a number of areas of flexibility
for next year's accommodation.
108. How do you weigh the relative hazards of
handling possibly infected badgers in laboratory conditions in
a regulated environment with a consumer storing uncooked meat
from a definitely infected TB cattle in an unregulated fridge?
How do you weigh those two possible hazards?
(Baroness Hayman) I am tempted to say that I take
advice from the Health and Safety Executive on one and the FSA
on the other. I do not interpose my own judgment between the two.
109. I am asking you to express your opinion
(Baroness Hayman) My opinion certainly on the meat
in the fridge is that all the advice has been that no meat that
ends up in the fridge presents a danger to human health and that
since meat is habitually cooked, which gives it added protection
110. Even if it is not cooked, that is fine.
Prior to that most people do not have an inspector available to
check on their fridge and its layout and whether it is appropriate
to keep different kinds of meat separate and so on.
(Baroness Hayman) Indeed. You can take that with a
great number of other organisms.
111. Unlike scientists, presumably, who have
a good deal of help in ensuring safe procedures in the laboratories.
This did not appear to have been thought through in an entirely
coherent way. The link is the risk to human risk.
(Baroness Hayman) Yes.
112. Clearly scientists were anxious about that
risk to themselves but perhaps there may be less anxiety about
the ordinary punter or for that matter, in David's case, the ordinary
farmer who may have to handle by the nature of his activities
a dead badger?
(Baroness Hayman) I think my responsibility is to
ensure that the appropriate advice is sought, taken and transmitted
113. It just does not appear to be joined up,
does it? We are hearing one Government agency which is giving
a very precautionary view of the possible implications to scientists'
health of handling badger corpses which may be infected, a lot
of RTAs will not be but may be infected, with M bovis,
a rather different view of other aspects of the transmission of
M bovis to human beings.
(Baroness Hayman) We could have a long debate about
the way in which risk is evaluated, managed and communicated.
114. Is there one standard for scientists and
another for others?
(Baroness Hayman) I think, with respect, the HSE are
not scientists defending other scientists.
(Baroness Hayman) They are about the occupational
health of workers in an environment, about assessing a risk and
laying down what they consider to be the appropriate circumstances
in which people should be working. They are absolutely fair and
do comment on the health and safety of farmers as well.
116. Perhaps we should get the HSE to look at
the health and safety of workers in a kitchen. I will leave it
(Baroness Hayman) When I had responsibility for food
safety there was a great deal of work done about trying to educate
people about risk and many criticisms about the nannying nature
of the advice which came from that. That is something onto which
I should not stray.
117. I was going to point out that Grimsby has
got the biggest cold stock capacity in Europe but I do not think
yours is a business we would like to encourage, so I will not.
I want to put three specific points put to us by Dr Fiona Mathews,
who is a Dorothy Hodgkin Research Fellow at the Department of
Zoology at the University of Oxford. She suggests you should answer
three specific points. One, will MAFF now allow historical data
on the incidents of TB in the trial areas prior to the commencement
of the trial to be made publicly available?
(Baroness Hayman) Historical data, is there any historical
data that is not available?
(Mr Hathaway) The report of the Independent Scientific
Group which was published in February of this year for each of
the trial areas which had been proactively culled up to the time
of publication did contain summarised historical data about previous
incidence of TB in those areas. Is Dr Mathews saying there is
118. She is asking it be made publicly available
because it would be useful for the analysis of repeat and contiguous
(Baroness Hayman) Can I answer it in a more general
term, Austin, which is that as far as any robust information that
is available that the Independent Scientific Group believe would
be helpful, there is no desire whatsoever to keep that back and
I have no problem with making it available.
119. Yes. I think she means farm by farm data
rather than the total data.
(Baroness Hayman) I think it is very difficult to
respond to an individual's request when it is particularly, and
it sounds as if it might be, labour intensive to find that. If
that is an individual request, I would like to take it away, look
at it and answer it, if that is all right.