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Avian Influenza

Volume 447: debated on Tuesday 20 June 2006

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what aid the Government have given to the Romanian authorities to tackle the incidence of H5N1 avian influenza there. (77807)

The UK is playing a lead role in international initiatives to coordinate action on avian influenza. We provide advice and support through the Veterinary Laboratories Agency which, as the World Reference Laboratory, is a constant source of advice, expertise and training for specialists around the world. We have provided technical veterinary expertise to Romania and will consider requests for additional support, working with the European Commission, to help their efforts to tackle the disease.

We consider that the most effective use of resources is to channel them through multilateral organisations, such as the Food and Agriculture Organisation, who already have in place infrastructures and programmes which can be employed to address avian influenza.

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what assessment he has made of the likely impact on pigeon racing of restrictions which may be introduced to tackle avian influenza; and whether the Department plans to issue guidelines on this matter. (78010)

Following a veterinary risk assessment, pigeon racing is currently allowed within the British Isles (that is, including the Republic of Ireland) subject to certain conditions. These include a requirement for race organisers to advise their local Animal Health Office that the event is taking place and to adhere to strict biosecurity practice.

Following a further recent risk assessment, pigeon races from Belgium and Northern France were permitted since 15 June 2006. These gatherings are subject to the same notification and biosecurity conditions for races within the British Isles as well as additional requirements to isolate pigeons following a race and can only take place until 31 July 2006 when we will review the position again. If the disease situation changes we will immediately review the position and may re-impose a ban on all pigeon races.

The Defra website contains full details of the restrictions and guidance on how to comply with them: http://www.defra.gov.uk/animalh/diseases/notifiable/disease/ai/qanda/gatherings.htm.