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Volume 982: debated on Thursday 17 April 1980

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asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food how many badgers were (a) live-trapped and (b) snared in South-West England in (i) 1978, (ii) January to September 1979 inclusive, and (iii) October to December 1979, inclusive.

The Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food
(Mr. Jerry Wiggin)

The figures for the three periods in question are:

1978, 157 and 145; January-September 1979, 207 and 112; October-December 1979, 51 and 83.

Will my hon. Friend accept that, for those interested in the welfare of badgers, those figures are very worrying? What progress is being made by the inquiry headed by Lord Zuckerman into the connection between badgers and bovine tuberculosis?

The inquiry by Lord Zuckerman was announced on 25 September and its progress is entirely a matter for him. He hopes to complete it by the middle of the year. I look forward to receiving his report and I propose to make the findings public.

Will my hon. Friend bear in mind that there are many people who believe that badgers are overprotected? Is he aware that the outbreak of tuberculosis, which is spreading through the badger population, is caused by over-crowded housing and bad food supplies? Will he look again at the issue of reducing protection for badgers?

I am tempted to follow my hon. Friend into a technical argument on this matter, but it is not my Department's responsibility to do more than protect animal health. I think that we had better stick to that.

If it is not his Department's responsibility to look after badgers, would the Minister explain the cost to his Department of obtaining the figures that he has just given to the hon. Member for Plymouth, Drake (Miss Fookes)?

My Department seeks to provide information—as do all Departments of this Government—as promptly and accurately as possible.