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Badger Cull Pilots

Volume 573: debated on Thursday 9 January 2014

We are waiting for the independent expert panel to report its findings, and we will consider all information the pilots have generated and decide on our next steps in due course.

Everybody wants bovine TB to be defeated, but there is great scepticism out there that this tactic was ever going to work. Will the Secretary of State say when we can expect all the evidence to be published on the risks associated with culling?

That is a perfectly valid question but we must wait for the independent panel. That panel is independent and I do not want to put any pressure on it. It has a large amount of data from the two pilots that it will analyse for safety, humaneness and effectiveness. We must be patient and wait for it to report.

The Secretary of State is to be congratulated on taking action to hold the pilot culls, but it is now necessary to analyse them and in particular to look at the Somerset scheme, where trapping was very effective. In Devon we need a full-scale cull to get control of this disease, as they have done in the Republic of Ireland.

I thank my hon. Friend for his comments and he is right to say that we cannot ignore this disease, as the previous Government did. He is absolutely right to draw the House’s attention to the Republic of Ireland. I met Simon Coveney, the Irish Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, at the Oxford Farming Conference, and he told me that thanks to the policies adopted by the Republic of Ireland, the disease there is at its lowest level since records began.

The Secretary of State has delivered an unscientific cull that has spectacularly failed, that his own Back Benchers are openly questioning, that has weakened the reputation of DEFRA and Natural England for evidence-based policy, and from which the Prime Minister’s office is reported to be working up an escape plan. Will he now commit to bring the report of the independent expert panel to this House for a debate in Government time, and put to a vote any further proposals on badger culling?

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for his question but I remind him that last time this issue came before the House, the Government had a good majority of 61. I am not prepared to put any pressure on the independent panel; it is up to it to take its time to evaluate the evidence and report to us, and we will come back in due course.

I thank my hon. Friend for his question. We will obviously analyse the reasons the panel puts forth in its report. He asks a hypothetical question, and all I can say is that we just have to look at other countries. There is no doubt that if we look at Australia, the scientific evidence shows that it is now TB free. We can look at the United States and the white-tailed deer, the brushtail possum in New Zealand, or Ireland, which I have just cited. The Republic of Ireland is a scientific, practical example because by bearing down on the disease in cattle and in wildlife, it has got it down to the lowest level since records began. We will follow its example.