Examination of witnesses (Questions 320-339)|
MONDAY 23 APRIL 2001
320. Are you able to make any estimate at this
stage of the number of applications under the animal welfare scheme
which would come into that category of being urgent because they
are really serious?
(Mr Brown) We are reducing the number of animals which
are coming into the scheme, partly by the substantial amount of
work which has been done to clear the backlog, partly by opening
up alternative routes within the infected zones, which provide
a workable market-orientated alternative, partly by offering clear
advice to the veterinary profession and advice on managing the
animals where there really cannot be moved. So there is a range
of things we can do to help and what we have been able to think
of has been done.
321. Has there been any evidence of infection
from a licensed movement?
(Mr Brown) I am not aware of any. Well, yes, I am
aware of one, the famous one, where in Wales, not in England
322. Where some sheep turned up
(Mr Brown)where some 20-odd animals had foot
and mouth disease but still managed to get a certificate which
said they had been inspected and had not, and they ended up on
that short journey from the farm to an abattoir where of course
the vet in the abattoir spotted it at once for what it was. That
is the only one that I am aware of. I cannot say with certainty
it has not happened but it is an unusual event. Jim might know
(Mr Scudamore) I think there have been a number of
other occasions where abattoirs have had animals coming into them
with lesions of foot and mouth disease. Where that happens, we
will destroy the animal, clean up the abattoir and it can be back
in operation within a day.
323. For that purpose?
(Mr Scudamore) For that purpose, that is right.
324. Are the movement restrictions operating
speedily? They certainly were not at the start, because I complained
rather vigorously about one or two in my area.
(Mr Brown) We have issued something like 52,000 licences,
which is a lot.
325. I think I illustrated the long paper chase
which appeared to exist at least in my part of the country.
(Mr Brown) Yes. I understand that, but it is necessary
to have some control over this, otherwise a proportion of the
movements of livestock would be moving the disease. Holding everything
at a standstill, harsh though it is, is necessary so we can cull
the disease out and return to normal trade.
326. I still have no information as to why two
RSCs need to be involved in issuing a licence in my area.
(Mr Brown) My apologies, I did promise to have that
looked at for you and get you an answer, and I will do that.
327. Thank you. Have you any further announcements
to make on the relief which is currently being offered to areas
of the country where infections have been some time ago? We have
seen the announcements relating to Somerset, Northampton, Melton
Mowbray. Are there any other changes in the map your advisers
are now saying can be spread out?
(Mr Brown) There most certainly will be. I am not
in a position to make announcements this afternoon, but over the
next few days and most certainly weeks there will be a further
freeing-up of areas which are currently under restrictions beyond
the general control restrictions throughout Great Britain. Also,
in time, we hope to be able to free those up in the areas which
have remained disease-free, but that of course will facilitate
an outward movement of animals. We could not allow inward movement
from areas of high infectivity.
328. On what criteria are your advisers working?
(Mr Scudamore) We have a lot of infected areas at
the moment. Some of them are infected areas around one farm, so
the first thing we did was to try to reduce the size of those
infected areas to 10 km. What we will then do is identify the
sheep farms within the 3 km protection zone around the infected
farms, and we will test those sheep farms, so it means visiting
the farms, examining animals, collecting samples. When the samples
are all negative then we will lift that particular area around
329. I am puzzling therefore slightly why my
constituency still seems to have very heavy restrictions in place,
since the last outbreak was some time ago, there have been regular
visits to neighbouring farms and there has been no lightening
of the forms of restrictions which, for example, prevent anyone
doing any movements of any kind really.
(Mr Scudamore) We would not start any lifting procedures
until 15 days after there has been cleaning and disinfection on
the infected farm itself. It depends how many other infected farms
there are. If it is a single one, we would start working on that
as soon as we can, but if it is a multiple area with lots of infected
areas, then it is a question of when we can start on them.
330. But there would also seem to be quite strong
arguments for redefining the restricted area as well. Again in
my area, it covers half of my constituency even though the area
which had infection was really quite small and confined to one
corner. It seems to have been done by the accident of where the
roads happen to be, the convenient main roads which have been
chosen, which again throws in a lot of farms which, frankly, are
quite some considerable distance away from the infection.
(Mr Scudamore) The intention would be that we would
contract the infected area down to the minimum size essential
and then work on the zone around the infected farm with a view
to getting that lifted as quickly as possible.
331. You must be well aware there is a direct
relationship between restrictions which are in place in an area
like that and calls on the welfare scheme and, for that matter,
on other movement licence applications, which chew up a large
amount of MAFF time, and expeditious movement towards defining
the risk rather more precisely saves everyone a great deal of
trouble and also helps to get the market moving, which should
be our objective. Farmers in my area are keen to get on with their
lives as far as they possibly can. They have been very careful
and, as a result of that, the infection has not spread, which
they should be commended on, but they now wish to get on with
their lives as soon as possible and at the moment the restrictions
are not shifting at all even though the risk appears to be receding
(Mr Brown) We are on their side on that.
332. So am I, but I would like to see some movement
which allows them to do what they want to do.
(Mr Brown) Point taken and I will have a look at what
can be done. But in all of this the Government is acting on professional
advice and one of the great lessons from the 1967 outbreakand
everyone says learn the lessons from itwas that everyone
thought they had got the disease defeated, relaxed, and it burst
back out again and they had to go through it all over again.
333. Please do not interpret my remarks as meaning
my farmers are dead keen to
(Mr Brown) No, I do not interpret them that way. I
am on their side.
334. They wish largely to see their own care
now rewarded by a lifting of restrictions in a sensible and planned
way and, thus far, that does not seem to have happened.
(Mr Brown) It is a fair point, fairly made.
335. On the suggestion of restrictions on movements
for sheep and the quantity of movements which are allowed between
particular periods, the obligation for a standstill, the Government's
move to consultation on that, have you any view as to how that
consultation is proceeding?
(Mr Brown) The replies are coming in. The consultation
period is I think still open for a few days.
336. May 11th it concludes.
(Mr Brown) Well, that is soon. The arguments are all
moving in the same direction with a lot of support, and although
some of the support is hedged with caveats by and large given
what has happened, people areand I do not want to pre-empt
the consultationessentially in favour of a 20 day
337. There is a clear head of steam behind that
but the difficulty always is policing this kind of thing where
there is no tagging of sheep to identify the precise animals involved
and where there is likely to be a small number of farmers who
may not necessarily feel this is necessary. How is it to be policed,
if it is to be done?
(Mr Brown) We have traceability with cattle. We policed
the 20 day standstill, which is the same period in the pig sector,
successfully. But you are right, traceability at least by flock
is also an idea which is marching remorselessly towards us.
338. Can I clarify a particular point, Minister?
You said there is not much opposition but there is some concern.
(Mr Brown) Let me qualify what I said. The consultation
period is still open, so far it is running in favour of the proposalsand
I do not want to pre-empt itand some of those who have
argued in favour have hedged their support with caveats about
what happens if an animal is taken to market but is not sold and
then returns to the home farmdoes it have to stay
339. Or if you have to replace a suckler calf.
Does that mean that all your stores then cannot be moved within
that 20 day period?
(Mr Brown) In the consultation document, that issue
was teased out. It would be perfectly possible in the case of
cattle to have the restriction either by animal or by herd, and
I have asked for views on those two proposals.
Chairman: Thank you.