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House of Commons Hansard
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12 June 2014
Volume 582
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5. What steps he plans to take to ensure that the monitoring of the pilot badger culls in Somerset and Gloucestershire is independently scientifically evaluated. [904172]

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DEFRA is currently working closely with Natural England and the Animal Health and Veterinary Laboratories Agency to develop the detail of how the monitoring will be implemented, including auditing and evaluation procedures. The results and outcome of the monitoring of this year’s culls will be made publicly available after they have been completed.

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I am grateful to the Secretary of State for that reply. Will he ensure that, in addition to that scientific examination, he also meets with the Welsh Assembly Minister who is dealing with this matter in Wales—not too far from his own constituency—where an alternative method, vaccination, is being undertaken? Will the Secretary of State agree to evaluate that as part of the process as well?

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I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for his question. We have regular discussions with our counterparts across the border. We take information from them and they take information from us, so we are observing with interest the vaccination trial that is taking place over 1.5% of the surface area of Wales.

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We learned late last year that the Government would not allow scientific evaluation of the extensions of the pilot culls. Then the independent experts reported that DEFRA had failed to meet its main test for humaneness and now we learn that Ministers have no plans to scientifically evaluate the second phase of the pilot culls, which are due to take place later this year. Is there any valid reason why scientific evaluation of the culls has been abandoned—or is the Secretary of State just allergic to scientific advice?

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I welcome the hon. Lady to her post and congratulate her on her new position. I would like to reassure her that it was always our intention, stated right back in 2011, that an independent panel would assess the first year of the pilot culls. We have had some helpful recommendations from the panel, which we are taking on board, but I think she is unfair and underestimates the professionalism of the skilled staff we have in Natural England and the AHVLA, who will continue to monitor the culls this year.