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Bovine TB

Volume 584: debated on Thursday 17 July 2014

8. What recent reports she has received of progress made by other countries on bovine TB by tackling the disease in both cattle and wildlife. (904927)

The Government are aware of the success in countries such as Australia, New Zealand, the United States and the Republic of Ireland in tackling the scourge of TB. For instance, in New Zealand the number of infected herds has reduced from 1,700 20 years ago to just 66 in 2011-12, whereas in the Republic of Ireland the number of BTB reactors fell by 65% between 1999 and 2013. All those countries have pursued a strategy of tackling the reservoir of the disease in the wildlife population as well as other measures.

As we seek to tackle this dreadful disease, is not one of the main lessons from the countries the Minister listed that while we must be prepared to use every tool available to us, we must also continue to develop new tools that might as yet seem out of reach?

I completely agree with my hon. Friend. The 25-year strategy to eradicate TB, which was published earlier this year, emphasised the fact that no one measure will tackle the problem. We need to pursue a range of measures, and that is why we are constantly improving our cattle movement controls and why we are spending £4 million a year investing in research into vaccines. It is also why we are continuing to develop effective cull methods.

17. The new Secretary of State is not answering this question personally, but perhaps she might do so later. The science clearly criticises the Government’s culling policy and this House has voted twice to end it. When will the Government change their mind? Do we not now have an opportunity, with the new broom, to do so? (904936)

I disagree with the hon. Lady. The evidence is very clear that no country has ever eradicated TB without also tackling the reservoir of the disease in the wildlife population. The randomised badger culling trial showed very clearly that in the four years after it concluded there was a significant reduction in the incidence of TB. I meet farmers, some of whom have closed herds but have repeated breakdowns and some of whom have been under restriction for 12 years, and although they are not bringing cattle on or off their farm, they have a reservoir of the disease in the wildlife population.

The Minister will be aware of the disappointment and anger among the farming community in Dorset that the badger cull was not extended to Dorset this year despite the support of both the former Secretary of State and the Prime Minister. Will the Minister reassure the farming community in Dorset that DEFRA is on-stream to roll out effective control of bovine TB in Dorset next year?

As the former Secretary of State made clear in his statement, we listened to the recommendations of the independent expert panel. It made recommendations to improve the methodology of the cull and we are going to implement them this year. Our view is that we should improve and get the methodology of the cull right in the two existing pilots before we roll out new ones. Clearly, we will reassess the situation once this year’s culls have concluded.