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Bovine Tuberculosis: Dairy Herds

Volume 491: debated on Thursday 10 December 1987

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3.13 p.m.

My Lords, I beg leave to ask the Question standing in my name on the Order Paper.

The Question was as follows:

To ask Her Majesty's Government whether they are satisfied with the measures taken to prevent the re-establishment of tuberculosis in dairy herds in this country, and why the compensation offered in cases of compulsory slaughter is so much greater in Northern Ireland than in Great Britain.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food
(Baroness ]]]]HS_COL-308]]]] Trumpington)

:Yes, my Lords. We are satisfied that the measures taken are adequate. The basis on which compensation is calculated is generally the same for Great Britain and Northern Ireland. However, in Northern Ireland the maximum may be increased by up to £225 for pedigree cattle only. This is a longstanding arrangement, originally designed partly to encourage farmers to join the eradication scheme when it was voluntary, and which recognises the particularly strict health controls which apply in Northern Ireland and the additional risk of infection by movements across the land border.

My Lords, I thank the Minister for that reply. Is she aware that this Question arose from the eradication of a good pedigree herd belonging to a very good farmer, an ex-president of the NFU in Scotland? A number of disturbing features apply to the whole country. The first is that the three-year test in a previously clear herd suddenly disclosed 80 reactors out of 200. Secondly, traces of tuberculosis were found in the lymph glands in the cattle killed which were not reactors. Does this not indicate that countrywide tests should be more frequently applied? Is it not nonsense that this farmer, if his herd had been in Northern Ireland, would have received £70,000 more in compensation? Surely the grounds for this difference have long since disappeared.

My Lords, the noble Lord has asked a great many questions under the heading of one supplementary. The question about animals killed but which were not reactors showing positive tuberculosis results is in a way of no account because when a test reveals the reactors are slaughtered and a further test is carried out on the whole herd 60 days later. If disease is confirmed at post-mortem or in the laboratory further tests are carried out at 60-day intervals until the herd is clear. The average premium which has been paid over the past six months in Northern Ireland has been £130 and accounts for less than I per cent. of the total compensation paid in Northern Ireland.

My Lords, will the noble Baroness give the figure showing whether the number of reactors found over the past 10 years is on the increase or is remaining stable?

My Lords, the incidence of reactors is currently about 0·015 per cent.

My Lords, perhaps I may press the Minister on the level of compensation between animals from Northern Ireland and the rest of the United Kingdom. I understand the reasons for the higher level of compensation for pedigree animals when that was introduced, but surely that no longer applies.

My Lords, I understand that there has been the greatest difficulty in eradicating this disease in Northern Ireland. Furthermore, there is the problem of movement of cattle across the border. It is considered necessary to continue with this amount of money in that area where the incidence is still higher than in this country.

My Lords, I am concerned about the difference between pedigree and non-pedigree animals. I can understand the level of compensation being higher for the reasons given by the noble Baroness, but why is there the difference between the pedigree and the non-pedigree animal?

My Lords, successive governments have taken the view that 75 per cent. strikes a fair balance between recognition of the efforts and co-operation between herd owners in TB eradication, on the one hand, and, on the other, the considerable public investment in fighting the disease. With the incidence of tuberculosis now at a very low level farmers can insure against the disease at reasonable premium rates to cover the difference between compensation and the market value of reactors.