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Foot and Mouth Disease Outbreak (2007)

Volume 487: debated on Tuesday 3 February 2009

Following the outbreak of foot and mouth disease in 2007, the Prime Minister and I invited Sir Iain Anderson to conduct a review to see if the lessons of the 2001 outbreak had been learned and to recommend what further steps might be taken. Sir Iain published his review in March 2008 and I am laying the Government’s response before Parliament today.

As we saw in 2007, even when confined to a small number of infected premises in the same area, the impact of an outbreak can be considerable on the livestock sector, food businesses, and the wider community.

Sir Iain commended the Government’s overall handling of the 2007 outbreak. He stated that

“many of the lessons identified in the 2002 report had been acted upon and performance, taken as a whole, was much improved”. “In analysing how the 2007 outbreak was handled, with its innumerable, interwoven decisions and actions, we found much to applaud, along with some deficiencies. On balance, the positive easily outweighs the negative”.

I am grateful to Sir Iain for his review and for the recognition of how Government and the livestock industry tackled the outbreak in partnership. However, even though most things were handled well, I acknowledge that there are always lessons to be learned and ways in which we can do better.

The Government have accepted all of Sir Iain’s 26 recommendations contained in the main body of his report. Since 2007, we have dealt with other exotic diseases by applying what we have learned from the foot and mouth outbreak, and as a result we are now better prepared. I am committed to continuing to work with the industry to ensure this remains the case.

Our response also comments on Sir Iain’s personal recommendation to reposition the Institute of Animal Health as a new National Institute of Infectious Disease. DEFRA, DIUS and BBSRC have discussed over the past year the future facilities needed for animal health in the UK and specifically the future management and arrangements at IAH Pirbright. BBSRC will continue to fund the Institute for Animal Health so that it can provide the nation with world class research facilities that underpin the livestock industries and our food security. DIUS expects BBSRC soon to submit a business case for the redevelopment of the site at Pirbright to allow the continuation of world class research there on animal diseases. DEFRA will continue to work with DIUS and BBSRC to ensure that the national provision of research, diagnosis and surveillance enables effective disease detection and response. The Institute for Animal Health and the Veterinary Laboratories Agency will continue to pursue opportunities for collaboration.

Copies of the report are available in the Vote Office and at: