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Bovine Tuberculosis

Volume 458: debated on Thursday 29 March 2007

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (1) what steps he has taken to establish the new arrangements for securing scientific advice on bovine TB following the Government’s strategic framework; (130300)

(2) what steps he has taken to implement the proposals put forward by his Department’s Science Advisory Council in 2005 for the establishment of a new bovine TB Science Advisory Board.

The Government are committed to establishing a new bovine TB Science Advisory Body (bTB SAB) to provide independent expert advice to inform policy decisions on bovine TB issues.

Defra has broadly accepted the recommendations put forward by the Science Advisory Council (SAC) and has had lengthy discussions with SAC members to receive advice on reporting channels, body composition and terms of reference for its proposed bTB SAB. Agreement has been reached to establish an overarching bTB SAB with an independent external chair and membership drawn from existing, strengthened, independent expert advisory subgroups covering all aspects of the bTB science programme.

The Department continues to obtain independent expert peer review at all stages of its procurement and management of research and, last July, a quinquennial review of Defra’s Bovine Tuberculosis Research programme was carried out. The report is available on the Defra website.

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (1) what the purpose is of a disease report form; and how the data collected are used to provide a better understanding of bovine TB; (130302)

(2) what use is made of the data obtained from the bovine TB disease report form; and if he will list the notices, reports and other documents that have been collected as a result of the process.

Since 1 January 2005, the TB Disease Report Form (DRF) has been used to collect the information required for dealing with each new TB incident.

When cattle react positively to a TB test, or TB is detected in a carcase or animal, an investigation is initiated into the circumstances of the incident. Information is collected to establish, whenever possible, the origin of infection.

The DRF is used to capture on-farm information, and collate results from the incident. The collection of data and the epidemiological section are used to consider the possible origins of infection and potential risks of further disease spread, set up lists of animals to be traced and identify which neighbouring premises require additional testing.

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what data from the bovine TB disease report form is entered into the electronic data retrieval system; how many forms are held by (a) the State Veterinary Service and (b) his Department; for how long are they retained; and what average time is taken for a veterinary officer to complete a form. (130303)

The information in the TB Disease Report Form (DRF) is collated and used by local State Veterinary Service (SVS) Officers to manage TB incidents. At the present time, the majority of the information captured is not normally entered onto an electronic database. However, such information may be routinely captured by other means as part of normal SVS business. The SVS are currently updating their information technology (IT) systems and plan to capture such information electronically in the future.

Information relating to neighbouring farms and cattle movements is used by the SVS to identify cattle ‘at risk’ of spreading TB. This information is entered into IT systems to trigger TB testing for neighbouring animals or herds. Information such as TB testing results and post-mortem results are taken from other IT systems and added to the DRF.

SVS staff are instructed to initiate a DRF for each TB incident. Between the beginning of 2005 and the end of 2006 there were 7,103 new TB incidents. Records are held by the SVS, not the core Department. DRFs are retained for up to 25 years.

SVS staff initially complete parts of the DRF with the farmer involved, then complete it later at the local office; this can take, in total, between three and four hours. The DRF is subsequently updated with case-related results as required.