WEDNESDAY 21 MARCH 2001 _________ Members present: Mr David Curry, in the Chair Mr David Borrow Mr David Drew Mr Michael Jack Mr Austin Mitchell Mr Lembit pik Mr Owen Paterson Mr Mark Todd Dr George Turner _________ THE RT HON NICHOLAS BROWN, a Member of the House, Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, and MR JIM SCUDAMORE, Chief Veterinary Officer, MAFF, examined. Chairman 1. Thank you for coming, Minister. We realise that you have a double whammy today. This is a sort of aperitif but as you know the aperitif can be a more discerning morsel. I think you would like to bring us up to date with events first of all and then we will go into normal questioning. I will leave it to both of you to decide who is the sensible person to reply to the questions put to you, unless they are addressed specifically to one of you. (Mr Brown) I would like to bring the Committee up to date with the present situation as at ten o'clock this morning. There were 394 confirmed cases in Great Britain and there is one case, which is now three weeks old, in Northern Ireland. As the outbreak has gone on, our response has grown as our understanding of the outbreak has grown. I think it is widely recognised that the State Veterinary Service responded with great speed and effectiveness to the outbreak. That is the view of our European Union partners, both at the Council of Ministers with whom I have discussed this issue twice now, and at the Standing Veterinary Committee which is a meeting of veterinary experts from each of the Member States. This was also the view of the Commission's mission to the United Kingdom which took place last week. In the 1967 outbreak, the government had to slaughter some 450,000 animals over six months. We have already authorised the slaughter of 350,000 animals in four weeks. Backlogs have developed and I am determined to overcome them. It is not a question of will; it is not a question of cost. It is a question of practicality and logistics. I would like to take the Committee through some of the key issues, because I know these are what you want to ask me about. The first key issue has been the availability of vets. The State Veterinary Service normally has some 220 vets. Over the past four weeks, this has been increased from private practice, from overseas state veterinary services, to some 700 and there are more vets on their way. There have been difficulties with the speed of disease confirmation, difficulties with the speed in which we have been able to kill the animals and difficulties with disposing of the carcasses. This is particularly true of the major disease areas. It took time for it to emerge but we now know they are Cumbria, Devon and the area on the Welsh/English borders. Most critical for disease control is a narrowing of the gap between discovery of the disease in animals and the killing of the animals. This is partly a question of veterinary resource and partly other factors: access to the sites, suitability for on-site burial, the scale of the on-farm incineration pyres, environmental and local authority consents, the process of valuation and the availability of rendering capacity. All of these issues have in the past tied up veterinary manpower. We have taken a number of key steps to increase management and logistical support to free vets for disease control and veterinary management. I would like to outline to the Committee what we have done. In Cumbria and Devon we have brought in Army logistical teams to provide on-site advice for contracting and supervision of carcass disposal. In other words, they are not disposing of the carcasses themselves; they are supervising contractors. We have also put in place new senior Ministry of Agriculture directors of operations, working alongside veterinary management to handle all the non-veterinary tasks and to work closely with the stakeholders and the local media. This was both in Cumbria and south Scotland as one area and in Devon as another. In London we have the Intervention Board chief executive to coordinate the provision of slaughtering, rendering and disposal capacity across the country. We have had a meeting with the chief executive of the Intervention Board to work on precisely this problem before coming here this morning. In other words, to substantially increase the amount of rendering capacity available to the government so that we can use that as a disposal route. We are also looking urgently with the industry at a shorter route to fair valuation. In other words, establishing a single price or a range of prices which would either be accepted or go to arbitration but take one route or the other. Our disease control strategy is as I set out to the House last Thursday. We are seeking to keep the currently disease-free area clear of foot and mouth disease. We have intensive surveillance patrols in Devon. We have the precautionary three kilometre cull of infected or exposed sheep and pigs in Cumbria, Dumfries and Galloway, the Scottish authorities working in parallel with our own. We intend to destroy those animals that are traced from the three infected markets and we are taking similar action in respect of the animals homed by the two main sheep dealers. These disease control measures and questions are at the top of our agenda but we have also tackled speedily, effectively and in close cooperation with the affected communities other issues posed by foot and mouth disease. We have tightly controlled movement of animals to slaughter for the human food chain where it has proved practical to do so. It is important to try to get the domestic market moving again where we can. We have had some success with that, particularly with cattle and pigs. We have taken precautionary but proportionate measures to limit public access to the countryside. We have introduced schemes to deal with the welfare problems posed to our animals that are caught up in restrictions and the scheme here parallels the scheme we put in place in East Anglia last summer during the classic swine fever outbreak. We have announced initial support measures for farmers through the rural task force for the rural economy. I want to make it absolutely clear to the Committee that there is more to be done on support measures for farmers. I am not in a position to make a statement today but it will cost the public money. I have in the forefront of my mind not just what is necessary to help farmers who are at present in difficulties but to make sure we have a comprehensive and workable recovery plan so that, once we are through and out the other side of this very serious disease outbreak, we can have an industry that is viable and returning a decent income to the farmers who are going to return to livestock farming. 2. Thank you. You have covered a lot of ground which we will seek further detail on obviously. As you know, there have been rumours swirling around, and they were articulated very clearly on the radio this morning, that ministry officials, some time before the announcement of that first outbreak, had been making inquiries about the procurement of timber and materials to build fires to dispose of carcasses. This is now taking some material form. It would be helpful if you would take the opportunity now to let us know what that situation is, what substance there is to that and if you could clarify that matter. (Mr Brown) I was first informed about the disease on the Tuesday night of the week the outbreak in the Essex abattoir and the Essex farm was discovered. It was the week the House was in recess. That Wednesday morning, I made a speech in Cambridge about non-food crops and then came straight back to London. Of course, by the end of the day, we had the export restrictions in place. In fact, they had been in place on the day before because officials had put a hold on all export certificates. The following Thursday, I was notified of the potential cases in Northumbria. That Friday morning, it was confirmed. Early Friday afternoon, I spoke to the Prime Minister, who was in America -- it would be morning, by his time -- and at five o'clock that night we imposed a control zone and restrictions right across the whole of Great Britain. There are a number of urban legends doing the rounds about whether the ministry knew before. That is not true. There are legends that sheep farmers were reporting it earlier on. That is not true. There are legends that a veterinary inspector on the farm where the outbreak took place visited the farm and missed the disease. That is not true. The only thing that might have happened is that each year, as the two of you who have been Agriculture Ministers will know, there is a contingency exercise covering a whole range of circumstances and, as part of that exercise, we regularly check on supplies of materials the industry might need to take up from the private sector at short notice. It is perfectly possible that a junior official would be ringing round suppliers to check the availability of a range of materials, as we do every year, in case they need them, but it is nothing to do with the disease outbreak, apart from contingency planning. 3. As some people who claim they have been recipients of the phone calls were on the radio this morning, I am sure if you were able to seek positive confirmation that that is what happened, it would no doubt help everybody. (Mr Brown) I intend to do exactly that. We will trace the people who were on the radio and ask them for the telephone number that they rang. If they can remember the name of the official, that will be fine. If they cannot, we will telephone the official. If it is one of ours, we will find out what they were enquiring about or why. I am pretty certain it will turn out to have been the regular contingency planning that is part of the routine work of the Department. I can give the Committee this assurance: we did not know of foot and mouth disease in this country at a time earlier than has been reported to Parliament. It is an important question. It has been reported overseas that there was some deliberate concealment. There was not. 4. That is why I asked the question first of all, to give you an opportunity to set it right on the record. (Mr Brown) I have set out the timetable in some detail because I think it is right that it should be a matter of public record. 5. I would like to ask you about two micro management matters. Would you agree that perhaps some of the people worst affected by this are not farmers who have foot and mouth in their own flocks and herds but those who are caught within exclusion zones which might be, in my constituency, as far as 25 miles away from the nearest outbreak, who cannot sell stock, who cannot move stock, whose stock is now literally going past its sell-by date, which are eating capital and not producing revenue and for which there is no prospect of compensation that I am aware of? (Mr Brown) This is a very serious question. I cannot say that it is of a more serious order than somebody whose business is wiped out because they have foot and mouth disease directly on the farm, but it most certainly is a serious question. I have done a number of things to try to help. Where it has been possible, we have tried to get the supply chain moving again, although admittedly under very carefully controlled conditions. There are no unlicensed movements of livestock around Great Britain at the moment at all. It is an illegal act to move livestock at the moment without a permit. The purpose of the licensed scheme is to try to get the trade working normally where it can safely be done and the licensed movements are from farm holding to slaughter house. That does not pose a great risk of spreading the disease as long as it is a single journey and the animals in transit do not mix with other animals that are going to live on. The disease is dramatically reduced when the animals are dead because they are not breathing out the virus. I have opened up again a welfare scheme very similar to the one that we developed from scratch last summer in the circumstances of the classical swine fever outbreak in East Anglia. This is a voluntary scheme. The payment rates are below the market rate, partly because it is a voluntary scheme but particular because if it was at market rate that would be opening a whole alternative market into which animals would be presented. The purpose of that is to deal with the animals that are caught by moving restrictions in quarantine areas, but also to try to ameliorate the very difficult situation that the sheep sector finds itself in, where animals are on winter tack and it is difficult to get them back to their home quarters. Our proposed order of solutions is this: firstly, where we can move animals safely and under licence for welfare reasons, we are doing that. It is a very strictly controlled scheme and we have to make sure we have eliminated the risks of infectivity in the lorries, the animals having infectivity before they move or, when they arrive, then being infected. That risk has to be reduced to as low as we can get it. If that cannot be done, our second preferred route is the management of the problem in its location, even if the location is not ideal. We are giving advice about temporary housing, about moving the shepherds to the flock rather than moving the flock to the shepherds. In some cases, this is a practical route, but not in every case. The third route is for the animals to be sold into the welfare scheme, a particularly difficult issue for the sheep sector because of the market conditions. In the other two sectors, cattle and pigs, we have a fair bit of the market, about 80 per cent, back to working, back to there being trade. I cannot say it is working normally because the licensing conditions impose pretty heavy restrictions on how things can be done but 80 per cent of volume is moving again with cattle and pigs, but not with sheep. There is a particular series of difficulties with the sheep sector. 6. The problem is that the areas of exclusion are drawn very widely and sometimes it is quite difficult to understand why they have been drawn where they are, other than to conform to natural or major features. That means farmers 25 miles from an outbreak can be excluded but ones 15 miles away can be in a territory which is not. (Mr Brown) Apart from farms where the disease is directly discovered, where the animals have to be purchased and slaughtered, we have tried to deal with local anomalies by a local licensing scheme which we got up and running pretty early on during the disease outbreak. The restrictions are that it has to be in a five kilometre radius of the original holding or ten by road. It is a restricted local scheme but it is designed to help farmers move animals across roads to new pastures and from pastures to where there are sheds for the purposes of liming in tightly controlled, local circumstances. The longer journeys of animals have absolutely to be strictly controlled because if we have the unlicensed movement of unchecked livestock around the country the risk of spreading the current disease is substantial. 7. I appreciate that and you will equally appreciate that there are obvious cases of farmers whose cattle are now going beyond the 30 months because they cannot be moved. There is also the less obvious one of lambs which are now pushing up to teeth and therefore they will eventually be slaughtered as mutton, not as lamb. It is an analogous circumstance but a significant market loss for the farmer as well. (Mr Brown) I am looking at what can be done for cattle caught by the workings of the over 30 months scheme. There are not a great many animals involved. The position with sheep is rather more complex and intractable because a substantial volume of the total number of animals now confined to the United Kingdom was clearly destined for export. It is not going to be exported. There is no prospect of it being exported in the near future, even if the market was there. The animals are lightweight lambs. They are not bred for the United Kingdom market. There is no demand for them on the United Kingdom market. There are two problems. We have a product that was not destined for the United Kingdom coming on to the United Kingdom market creating an unwanted product that the market is not structured for. Also, it creates a huge surplus and that forces the price down. With sheep, we only have about a third of the normal domestic supply chain moving at the minute. There is a gap there and the problem is not directly amenable to a market orientated solution. 8. There has been a lot of discussion as to what does the expression "under control" mean. There is probably a consensus that "under control" means that all the outbreaks can be traced back to the original, primary source. Are you confident that where we are now, about to go over the 400 threshold, every single one of those has an umbilical cord going back to the original outbreaks and, in that sense, can be still described as "under control"? (Mr Brown) That is essentially right. We understand what is happening but there are two uncertainties. One uncertainty is how much infectivity is out there; the other is what is incubating but has not yet shown itself. That is what I mean by "under control". I mean something else as well. In as much as we have imposed blanket movement restrictions across the whole of Great Britain, all movements are controlled. In other words, we are not spreading the disease by the movement of animals. That is also what I mean by "under control". When I am asked this question, I always try and state two caveats alongside it. There is the uncertainty as to how much infectivity has spread and the incubating of flocks and the uncertainty as to where this will emerge. I do not want to get involved in a semantic debate but that is what I mean by "under control". As the disease has emerged, we have been faced with a new range of problems in Cumbria and south Scotland, in Devon and on the Welsh/English border. There is lateral infectivity. You are right to say it can all be traced eventually back to the original outbreak but with the very latest cases there is nothing that is so anomalous as to suggest that there is some other outbreak as well as the one originally sourced back, we still believe, to the farm on Heddon-on-the-Wall. What we are now finding is that there is sheep to sheep transmission in the areas where the disease is most intensive. We are finding cattle to cattle transmission as well. The stages at which this can be traced back in the most extreme circumstances are from a fourth farm, back to a third farm, back to a second farm, back to a first farm, back to the Longtown market and then back probably to ---- Mr Todd 9. Can you explain the relative roles of MAFF and trading standards on dealing with movement controls, because the point David has already made about dealing with local movements to ensure animal welfare and to deal with lambing difficulties certainly applies in my area. I have had a number of cases raised with me where it has proved extremely difficult to obtain proper movement licenses, partly because of the processes that seem to be expected of farmers. (Mr Brown) The extra work that all this has necessitated has put a strain on the department and the local authorities who are part of this. They had to put new procedures into place very quickly with existing resources in the same way that we have done. The advantage that we have is that, being a government department, we can call on the extra resources of government that are needed to deal with a situation of this kind. It is the local authorities, the trading standards authorities, that are the licensing authorities for the purposes of the movement. The movement itself has to be certified in two ways. A vet has to give consent and the farmer has to certify that the animals are clean. In other words, that they are not showing signs of the disease. That certificate has to be signed as a daily certificate. It cannot be signed and deemed to be true a fortnight later. 10. The difficulty that has been drawn to my attention is that, in my area, that may mean getting your vet to give a view and sending that to Nottingham, which is the local RSC for our area. That for some reason is transacted to Cambridge for a further check, sent back to Nottingham, back through the vet, back to the farmer, who has to obtain the licence from Matlock which is some distance away, who will not transact that process by fax but have to do it in person. It means that this is a task for which there are plenty of obstructions in the way. No one wishes to see casual movement control because that risks spread. In my area, we have not had an outbreak for a week or so. We are hoping and praying it will not happen and are therefore keen to see vigilance, but clearly there are difficulties in the administrative process. (Mr Brown) It sounds to me that there is an extra transaction there but can I check it? 11. I would welcome a review of the way in which the paperwork moves around the various districts. (Mr Brown) It sounds as if it is something to do with an incompetent local authority but let me check. Perhaps I can let the Committee have a note on how these schemes operate and what the authorisations are. Chairman 12. In my own constituency, the movement to bring ewes back home, which is not going to happen, is separate, but you apply to the regional service centre. They courier down to Leeds and back to Northallerton and send out from there. (Mr Brown) These are two separate areas. 13. They illustrate the same point. (Mr Brown) Except that I cannot conceal from the Committee how serious the question of the longer movement of sheep is. Yes, we want to do the right thing by the animal for welfare reasons. Yes, we would like to get the industry working as close to normal as we can. However, the overriding priority has to be to protect the movement of the disease and the most likely route of spreading the disease is that animals vulnerable to the disease will carry it as they are moved. Difficult though it is, we have to be very tough minded about this. There is a substantial number of animals involved in what you describe, hundreds of thousands. To move them all, if they all need to move at the same time, also means a very substantial movement of animals and I do not want that authorised substantial movement of animals to mask the unauthorised movement of animals because the temptations are out there. I am urging people not to do it. The authorities, when they stop wagons and check licences, meaning the police -- I do not want to make their job any harder, by masking the unauthorised movement of animals. Mr Mitchell 14. I wonder if we should not have implemented more draconian controls as soon as the outbreak was notified. The French have gone in guns blazing, slaughtering cattle and sheep just on suspicion. The Irish have cancelled all their sporting events and introduced a strict disinfecting policy, not before time, on the border. Should we have acted more quickly with more draconian controls? (Mr Brown) We have probably had more guns blazing than anyone else literally. Remember, the animals are shot. The movement restriction across the whole of Great Britain that Friday involved bringing the whole of the livestock sector to a standstill. That was a very dramatic thing to do. At the time, people were critical. They said that we were panicking. I was advised to do it by the chief vet. My private view is that he was absolutely right to make the recommendation that he did. I telephoned the Prime Minister in America to say what I intended to do. He accepted it as well on the same professional advice that I had received. We discussed it with colleagues in the territorial departments because it clearly impacts on Scotland and Wales; we discussed it with the authorities in Northern Ireland who felt that they could do something slightly different because of the slightly different veterinary regime in Northern Ireland and there is the land border with the south. In retrospect, I believe that was the right thing to do. I believe it was right to impose the quarantine measures around the affected holdings and to make the statement that I made last Thursday, that where the infection is continuing to spread, because of the intensity of the infection, further preemptive measures are necessary. I support what the French authorities have done. They have caught their, I hope, one outbreak, taking the most rigorous measures to confine it to that. Our problem was that on Friday we discovered that it was not a single outbreak in an abattoir in Essex and a neighbouring farm. At that stage that was all we knew about in the country. When we discovered the third case in the second region affected, we found two new things. We had a case on the border of Northumberland and Tyne and Wear at Heddon-on-the-Wall and the infectivity appeared to have been in the animals for about a fortnight. We had had the disease in pigs concentrated for about a fortnight. The potential consequences were not lost on anybody. It was confirmed on the Friday morning. By the end of that day I had spoken to the Prime Minister and the whole livestock industry in Great Britain was at a standstill. That seems to be pretty tough, decisive action, straight away. I am absolutely convinced that what we did was necessary to limit the spread of the disease. What we could never limit was what was already in the national herd. As we now know, but could not have known then, these cases were all pigs at the beginning. We know how it got there: a plume of disease from the Heddon-on-the-Wall farm across to neighbouring farms in Northumberland, into the livestock markets, a huge amount of infectivity at the Longtown market and spread by dealers throughout the country, completely unwittingly, because of the incubation period of the disease. When people see the number of cases growing, there is a tendency for it to be reported as if the cases were spreading. They are not spreading. Mostly, what we are seeing is as a result of what has already happened a fortnight earlier. The two uncertainties in this are how much of it there is -- a lot more than anyone could have hoped for -- and where it is. We now know the answers to that as well. 15. There seems to be some improvisation about movement policy. You had a complete ban on 23 February. On 2 March, licensed movements for slaughter and you talked of collection points. You cancelled the collection points on the 15 March and on 16 March you allowed movements within affected areas, having suspended the drivers' hours regulations on 6 March. This seems to be increased improvisation rather than clear policy. (Mr Brown) I do not think that. I would have liked the collection centres to have been a workable proposition but we believe that to divert resources into managing them to make sure that there is no acceptable risk of spreading the disease is not the right priority. We will return to the proposal later. I do not think it is the right thing to do now because the risks are unacceptable. We are absolutely right to try to get as much of the livestock industry working under controlled conditions as we can. The risk of transporting clean animals on their final journey is very low. These are sheep mostly. Even if they are carrying the disease and the farmer has a signed certificate saying they are, the risk of them forming a plume that could infect other animals in the transportation on the highway is incredibly low. What would be a risk is if the animals parked up or were unloaded and reloaded and had the ability to come into contact with other animals which are going to move on. That is not acceptable. These very tight control measures are necessary. We have relaxed the rules about drivers' hours because the risk of the driver driving slightly longer than he should is much lower than the risk of the animals stopping and there being some other transaction. It is essential that the animals are inspected to ensure they are clean; they are loaded into a disinfected wagon on the farm, the lorry leaves the farm and does not stop again until it has got to the abattoir and then the animals are killed and will therefore not be breathing out the virus. 16. The difference between sheep and pigs is that pigs spread much more quickly over a wider area so there is a case for differential treatment and differential movement. (Mr Brown) Fortunately, the seeding does not seem to have got into the national pig herd. If it had, people would know about it. It is a virulent disease and it is particularly devastating to pigs. They pump the virus out far more effectively than cattle or sheep, so much so that they are capable of pumping out sufficient virus to form what is called a plume above the herd and that can be wind-borne and remain in sufficient concentration to cause infectivity where it settles. That can be miles away. It is not the same with sheep or cattle. The major problem we are faced with has been a substantial spread of the virus through markets by dealers in sheep. 17. To a layman like me, the control policy does not appear to have been changed all that much since the last outbreak in 1967 but agricultural practice seems to have changed enormously, particularly the amazing distribution because of the closure of abattoirs, the amazing movement in livestock and also the increase in the sizes of herds. To what extent have the changes in agricultural practice that have gone on since 1967 been taken into account in the control policy? (Mr Brown) I have asked for a review in the department of three things. Is there anything that makes our country more vulnerable to these disease outbreaks in the pattern of trade? Clearly, I am looking not just at the initial outbreak but also the way in which it is spread. Separately, I have asked do our control measures work. In other words, are our border controls to make sure this virus and indeed classical swine fever do not get into our country sufficient? I have asked for a specific report on precisely how the original outbreak happened and how far back we can trace the virus. Remember, this did not start in our country. It must have got into the European Union from some external source. I want a public debate about that before finalising the obvious consequences for policy makers. That is for the future. On disease management, the debate about the number of abattoirs is not the correct thing to focus on. This is not about abattoirs or supermarkets. It is about livestock markets and the feed practices of pigs. You are absolutely right to say that the size of herds nowadays is much larger than they were in 1967. Some of the things said about the 1967 outbreak are not applicable in the current context. For example, one of the things I heard the other day was that, in 1967, the vet would carry a pistol with him and shoot the animals there and then. If there were 40-odd animals on a farm, that was a practical proposition. We are dealing with holdings of sheep of some 10,000 and to expect the poor old vet to shoot them in an afternoon is asking too much. We are bringing in qualified slaughtermen to get the job done in a professional, manageable way. Mr Mitchell: I am provoked by the Euro enthusiast on my left. Since we are on the subject of varying degrees of abuse from Europe on our policies, or shall I say helpful advice, how far would it be fair to speculate that European intervention has not been helpful in the situation -- one, the closure of abattoirs because they were required to have vets which caused many of them to go bankrupt; two, illegal sheep movements to top up herds because of numbers claimed; three, inability to bury animals because of European environmental regulations. Chairman: Could it be a rapid speculation, Minister? Mr Mitchell 18. But a balanced one. (Mr Brown) There are three separate issues here of varying validity. The number of abattoirs is not really an issue in this. There are perfectly good public policy reasons for supporting small abattoirs to do with diversity, organic farming, specialist markets, animal welfare but not to do with disease control. Once the animal is dead, it is not pumping out disease and it is not that last journey to the abattoir that is the risk of spreading the disease; it is the journey to some other holding from a holding that has infectivity to a holding that currently does not, or just travelling in a lorry that may not have been cleaned out properly on the last journey that poses a greater risk. You are on to a stronger point when you talk about the movement of animals. I think it is fair to say that the sheep sector is driven by the sheep premium under the Common Agricultural Policy and the hill farm allowances. As you know, as a matter of policy, I am trying to move away from headage payments to area based payments and, thirdly, what drives the industry is the market. The market essentially falls into three parts. There is the market for the cast ewes, for mutton, the last important part of it. There is the domestic market for lamb which is bred to the domestic requirements of the major retailers and then there are the lightweight lambs that are essentially bred as a specialist, lightweight product for export. When people have an order, it tends to be in round figures. If their flock is not quite the right number to meet the order, they will purchase extra animals to make up the package. That, at least in part, accounts for the movement of animals. One of the policy issues that we have under active consideration is as to whether, after every movement of animals, there should not be a legal requirement for the animals to pause, say, for 21 days to see if they are incubating any disease at all before they move on. That is a policy issue that will be part of the debate afterwards. On your third point, we are burying animals. They are being buried. We are in discussions with the Environment Agency about the balance of priorities between the water table and the need to get rid of the carcasses. We are looking at landfill as well as a disposal route. We are opening up extra rendering plants as a disposal route, but we are also having to use on-site burning. It is an effective way of removing the animals. It does take time to get the materials into place to start the fire. These are not small quantities of wood and coal that are needed. We have to bring in mechanical diggers to dig a trench so that the fire has something built around it. It is quite a difficult, logistical task. I am often asked why not bring in the Army. The truth is it is better to use specialist contractors if we can take them up. If we have not enough, we can call on other resources, including the Army. There is no obstacle to using the Army. I saw in the press this morning that somebody was saying we would have to pay for it. The two of you who have been ministers will know that there is no reserved budget in the Ministry of Agriculture for this. The whole cost of this control is a claim on central government. If the Army are used, the taxpayer will be paying for the Army, but the taxpayer would be paying for the Army anyway. Mr Jack 19. I would like to ask Mr Scudamore about the epidemiology. It seems to be spreading with increasing numbers when, given all that the Minister has said, you might have expected to see the number of cases coming down. Could you tell us what your projection is for the way that this thing will develop? Can you tell us how the disease is spreading? Do you believe that the measures you have taken will stop it and when do you predict that will occur? (Mr Scudamore) We are evaluating preliminary results with three epidemiology groups. We have provided all our statistics and the information on the outbreak to a number of groups in universities and in government to look at how it is developing and they will be producing preliminary results on predictions as to how far it will go and how long it will persist. 20. When do you expect those to be available? (Mr Scudamore) We are hoping to finish the preliminary work this week. We will be meeting to produce an agreed statement of what the consensus is on the way the outbreak will develop. That is to look at the overall development of the outbreak. The problem is that we have the seeding of the whole country with infected sheep. That is quite apparent if you look at maps of the country, where we have the disease all over the country apart from those areas that do not import sheep. North Scotland, West Wales and East Anglia tend not to have big movements of sheep. The first difficulty we are facing is that we have the national sheep flock which has potentially infected sheep in it. We do not know where all of them are. We are seeing spill-over of those sheep either into more sheep or into cattle, so we are seeing sporadic outbreaks in different parts of the country due to the sheep. We are also seeing in other parts of the country where there are a lot of sheep movements through the infected areas that it is continuing within those sheep. What appears to be happening in Devon and Cumbria, where the seeding was from the sheep, is that the disease is continuing within the sheep but also has spread to the cattle. What we are seeing there is local spread within the local areas. The way that will be happening is not by the movement of the sheep which seeded the problem in the first place but by spread from farm to farm, because the virus is easily spread by people or animals. If you have infected animals in one field and animals in the next field, the disease can spread from one field to the next. 21. Is that airborne virus spread? (Mr Scudamore) No. It can be with that distance but the pig is the animal that produces large amounts of virus. Statistics suggest that one pig can produce the same amount of virus as 3,000 cattle. Clearly, if there are a lot of pigs, they will produce large amounts of virus. If there are a lot of pigs and the weather conditions are ideal, including the wind speed, wind direction, topography and geography, that virus can spread long distances. In ten infected pigs it could go 50 kilometres if the weather was absolutely correct. Cattle and sheep do not produce large amounts of virus in a similar way but, because of the way they graze and their greater lung capacity, particularly with cattle, they will absorb the virus and inhale it. Those two species will become infected from the plumes but in their own right they do not produce plumes at all. If you had ten cattle or sheep infected, it could probably spread one kilometre at the most and generally less than one kilometre. In most conditions, cattle and sheep do not pose a problem, but there are occasional conditions when it might spread. The distance is nil compared to that with pigs. That means that where we are getting the local spread in Cumbria or Devon it is either coming from the sheep and spilling over into the cattle or it is cattle to cattle due to next door farms or people movements. For example, if someone has animals on one farm in a field and he goes down on his tractor, there is that sort of connection. To summarise, it has been seeded throughout the country by sheep. We are seeing sporadic outbreaks in a lot of the country where it is popping up in cattle. In Carlisle and Devon, we still have a sheep problem but it is spreading into cattle and there is local spread. Mr Paterson 22. Does the strain of this virus have a particular predilection for sheep? Had this strain been identified on any site in the United Kingdom before 19 February? (Mr Scudamore) It had not been identified in the United Kingdom before the date confirmed in the pigs in Essex. It does not seem to have a predilection for sheep but it does seem to have a predilection not to cause major disease in sheep. In sheep, it might be completely unapparent. The sheep might be infected and capable of infecting other animals but there has been no apparent disease seen by the farmer. Secondly, it appears that it can be quite transient in sheep. The disease can get into the sheep flock and infect a number of sheep and then it is not apparent any more. Again, it can be missed. Thirdly, in some of the sheep flocks that we looked at in the early days, there were very few sheep with disease lesions. In a big sheep flock, there were only five per cent that had evidence of the disease as shown by blisters or bleeding blisters. The problem we are really facing is that it is not always apparent in sheep. It can be missed by farmers but the sheep appear to be capable of transmitting to other sheep and to cattle. The second problem is that if the disease moves into a big flock of sheep there might be only one or two sheep that move in. Those then affect a few more sheep and affect a few more sheep and it is only when a large number is affected that you see anything wrong. When we then look at those animals, we can see animals with very young lesions that have just developed the disease and some animals which much older lesions who have had it earlier. 23. In early January, shepherds in Galloway were reporting extraordinarily high losses of lambs amongst sheep. As I understand it, MAFF's animal health officer did investigate why there was this high level of abortion. Was that anything at all to do with foot and mouth disease? (Mr Scudamore) The first evidence we had of foot and mouth disease was with pigs in Essex. Sheep have a lot of other conditions which can mimic foot and mouth disease. One of the commonest is serious foot rot. If you look at the situation in sheep before 20 January, you could have flocks with a lot of sheep in them which were due to serious foot rot. There are quite a lot of conditions which will cause abortion in sheep and lameness in sheep. To differentiate those from foot and mouth disease is quite difficult. Mr Borrow 24. Have we any estimate of the number of breaches of the restrictions in movement of animals that have taken place and whether those breaches of the livestock movement restrictions have added to the problem or has it been an insignificant factor in spreading the disease? (Mr Brown) I do not have a comprehensive figure, by the very nature of the question. What is done is illegal and we only know about it if we find out about it. There have been cases of people being caught moving animals illegally and there have been prosecutions. I cannot give an estimate. Do not do it. There is no surer way of spreading the disease around than moving animals that are vulnerable to the disease unlicensed. Mr pik 25. There are clearly two kinds of livestock movement. One is to slaughter and the other is within a farm unit which can often be quite disparate. How do you strike the balance between the need to contain the disease and the need to allow those two forms of movement? (Mr Brown) This is very difficult and effectively it is a micro management question. The over-arching principle is that the animals cannot move. If the disease is out there and incubating, it has to be held still. Within that policy, we want to get as much of the livestock industry functioning and the supply chain functioning as we reasonably can, consistent with the over-arching imperative to absolutely control the disease. We have devised the local movement schemes which are essentially designed to sort out local anomalies, which is why the distances involved are relatively short. If a farmer has sheep in one field which he has grazed and he wishes to move them across the highway to a linked holding, that requires a licence but nevertheless it is probably in the best interests even of the management of the risk that that movement takes place. On the longer haul from holding directly to slaughter, there have to be very strict controls, as there are. The third aspect to your question is a vexed question of those farmers who have animals in winter quarters and want to either bring them to the home farm for lambing or move them for other agricultural management reasons. We are trying to do what we can to help with that but there will be some animals, particularly those in the protected zones, that cannot be moved for disease control reasons, even if they do not have the disease. All I can do is open the welfare scheme. I believe it is the right thing to do and we are carrying the cost of the movement. The government is paying for that and we are paying a proportion of a notional value of the recompense for sheep to farmers. 26. You are aware that farmers feel somewhat punished by not getting the market value, given that it is not their fault? (Mr Brown) If I gave them the true market value now, it would be less. 27. What is your view about the obligation to bring the animals to the closest abattoir available for slaughter? (Mr Brown) The priority is to control the disease, to get the market working as close to normal circumstances as we can and not to provide further distortions. It is not that last journey that is the disease problem; it is making sure that the journey is what it is supposed to be and there are no stop-offs on the way or other anomalous incidents that would risk spreading the disease. 28. As you know, there was an outbreak at an abattoir in mid-Wales when a farmer took infected animals from his farm to that abattoir. Is there anything that you can do to tighten up the procedures to reduce the risk of that happening? (Mr Brown) The animals are inspected by the farmer before they board. He signs a certificate to say that they are disease free. In the case you cite, he seems to have missed 23 of them and when they arrived at the abattoir and were inspected by the vet he noticed the foot and mouth disease. Essentially, this does rely on the cooperation of the whole of the supply chain, including those who are making any declaration. The declaration has a meaning in law. 29. Moving on to collection centres, what was the nature of the veterinary advice that precluded the establishment of collection centres? (Mr Brown) In order to make sure it is done in a way that will not compromise our disease control measures, it is resource intensive. One of the difficulties we face is the number of vets. I cannot divert veterinary resources from disease control work. As soon as it is possible to open up collection centres, I will want to consider it but at the minute all the veterinary resources we can get our hands on are in the front line. 30. Will you anticipate handling pigs, sheep and cattle differently when you move to collection centres? (Mr Brown) It is a good question because the industries are structured differently. The pig sector in particular works very much like a production line. Animals move through the production process; they grow at a very steady rate and so many are taken away each week directly from the larger holdings to the abattoir. It is a problem for the smaller holdings. 31. One farm I mentioned specifically because of the degree of danger of infection is about three kilometres from an outbreak near Chertstoke. There are 2,000 pigs on the farm and the movement restriction means that the pigs which cannot be stopped from growing are now reaching sexual maturity and can create aggression within the farm itself. Because they are not allowed to take these pigs off the farm, they are in an almost impossible position and it might lead to them putting the animals out into the fields. How can we square that circle? (Mr Brown) If the animals have the virus, they will be quarantined and killed. If they do not and they are under a movement restriction, you are right to say that, as with the outbreak of classical swine fever in East Anglia, the animals reach an age for the market they are bred for and, as they grow older, they will lose value. If their welfare is compromised, it is an option to sell the over-age and overweight animals into the welfare scheme. That requires a veterinary certificate from the farm vet -- it does not have to be a ministry vet -- to say that their welfare is compromised and they can go into our welfare scheme. That is a commercial option for the farmer. He may choose to manage the problem differently. What he cannot do is to compromise the state's disease control measures. 32. I see this as a viral time bomb, being so close, but could I ask if you would help me to resolve that particular issue? (Mr Brown) On the specific issue, it is difficult for me to comment further. I will ask the chief vet once we have finished here to look at the specific circumstances and to see if it is necessary to do something on the basis that the animals are potentially dangerous contacts. 33. What kind of limits do you intend to impose in disease-free areas and will interfarm movement be allowed in those areas which are considered disease-free? (Mr Brown) The Department's strategy is to regionalise the problem as soon as it is absolutely safe to do so but the overriding priority is disease control. The reason we have thought about a smaller number of animals, primarily sheep that have gone into the disease-free areas through the hands of the dealers who have had contact with infected animals is to try to make a preemptive strike on the relatively low risk that these animals pose. In other words, we intend to keep the disease-free areas disease-free. Once we are certain that we have achieved that, it will be possible to look at the movement restrictions within the disease-free areas -- in other words, clean area to clean area; I do not mean from the north of Scotland to the west of Wales; I mean within the disease-free areas -- and to look at one way movement out of the disease-free areas to an area of higher risk. What it will not be possible to permit is the movement of animals the other way round from an area of high risk to an area that is disease-free. It is my hope that with the sporadic, early outbreaks in other parts of England it will be possible to have those areas declared free and if there has been no further outbreak for us to relax restrictions there as well. This has to be done in a very methodical and cautious way. We have learned the lessons from 1967, when the movement controls were relaxed and the disease broke out again. 34. Would you consider introducing the 21 day movement restriction in the disease-free areas? (Mr Brown) Movement restrictions for animals that move for commercial reasons are under consideration within the department, as are other control measures as well. Once I am satisfied that we have something that is in the form I am satisfied with, I do intend to put it out to consultation. I do not intend to just make decisions and put them directly to Parliament. I think it is right that there should be a discussion. I intend to listen to those who do not have the mainstream view as well as those who do. I did discuss it with the leaders of the different farming unions yesterday. They were all very much of the view that layover restrictions as a permanent feature of the way in which the supply chain works was something the government should be looking at. Mr Todd 35. What is the incubation period for this virus? (Mr Scudamore) As with any disease, there is a range. The range will be 1 to 14 days, but there are variations within that and they are affected by the numbers of animals, the amount of virus and all the other issues which decide whether an animal goes down with the disease. What we found with the pigs in Essex is that pigs moved into the abattoir and they came into contact with other pigs. The shortest time was 36 hours. We generally find it is between four and seven days with this outbreak but it can be up to 14 days, depending on the dose and how the animals are infected. 36. What is the infectivity within the incubation period? (Mr Scudamore) Generally animals will be infectious for a number of days before clinical signs develop, but the maximum infectivity will be when they have got large numbers of blisters and when they are excreting the virus. That can continue for up to five days after the development of the disease. 37. So when we move animals which appear to be disease-free there is of course a significant risk that they may be carrying the disease and be infectious. Is that a reasonable statement to make? (Mr Scudamore) That is a reasonable statement to make but it leads on to the reason why we allow animals to move. When we put the complete ban on movements we stopped everything but we then had to look at the various movements that might be allowed to take place to allow animals to go to abattoirs or to move for other reasons. We did a number of risk assessments which I hope we will be publishing. They are ones we have got at the moment which we based on advice from the World Reference Laboratory at Pirbright. If you look at all the risks of collecting those animals from the farm, putting them in a lorry and taking them to an abattoir, and if you look at where all the potential risks were, then if you look at the risk management you could introduce, such as no animals moved onto farms for 21 days and farmers to examine the animals and various other management factors you could put in place, we concluded that those movements could be permitted provided they met a whole range of requirements which are in the licence. So they go from the farm to an abattoir direct, not stopping anywhere. They are inspected by the farmer and they are inspected by the TVIs. There is a risk with everything we do but the assessments we did, on balance, showed that they could be allowed. Mr Paterson 38. Could I ask one question on detail. If there is a holding with two or three sites which may be three or four miles away, does that count as one case or does it count as two or three cases? (Mr Scudamore) What we would do with those is when we go to the farm with the disease on it we would look at what contacts there are with that farm and other farms and we would assess whether those contacts are classified as dangerous. In other words, we ask are the animals on the other farms potentially infected with the foot and mouth virus? If the answer is yes, we remove them as "dangerous contact" herds. So we have 394 confirmed cases and there are 341 dangerous contacts, so those would be herds with a very high risk of having the disease, being in the same ownership or the same animals moved on. We remove those and when we remove those we examine the animals and it is only if we find disease in those animals that we confirm it. 39. Is one holding counted as one case? If the holding has two or three areas around it also taken out as being contact herds, are we now saying there are twice as many cases? (Mr Scudamore) No, we are not. If a holding has got three separate farms we could well take the one with disease out and the other two as dangerous contacts. 40. If you take those out do they count towards the case numbers? (Mr Scudamore) No, because they would be generally considered to be the dangerous contact list. They are kept as a separate list which we call dangerous contacts. As I said, in the total number we have 394 confirmed premises and 341 dangerous contact premises. 41. Where you have slaughtered? (Mr Scudamore) Where we have slaughtered the animals because we think they are potentially infected. Some of those will be in the same ownership. For example, one of the dealers had 17 premises. One had disease on it so we slaughtered that and that was confirmed as a premises. The other 13 were removed as dangerous contact premises but when we killed the animals on a number we found disease and they then get switched and go into the confirmed premises list. 42. Do you think from now on you should publish on a daily basis the holding cases and the contact cases as two separate lists? (Mr Scudamore) They are available and we do give them out to the media. 43. The public is under the impression we have had 394; it now turns out we have got a hell of a lot more. (Mr Scudamore) 394 confirmed and the other ones are potentially infected but there was no obvious disease at slaughter. There are 341 of those. 44. Could I move on to the question of the speed of slaughter. I was on the telephone after 11 o'clock last night with the divisional veterinary manager down in Worcester desperately trying to persuade her to come up to a case reported yesterday evening in my constituency to slaughter half a dozen cows who were foaming, frothing and had very obvious lesions. In 1967 according to the 1969 Report they would have been slaughtered on the spot by a vet with a pistol, referring to the Secretary of State's earlier comment, and then the next day the rest of the flock or the herd would have been slaughtered and there would be a much, much quicker reaction to removing those very obviously infected animals immediately by the vet. I have talked to vets who worked in my constituency (and I live in the heart of it) and they are absolutely exasperated by the delays. They totally support your slaughter policy. I have a meeting with them on Friday to go over the detail of how it was done so much more quickly. What can you do to ensure that vets have powers to put down obviously infected animals immediately and then ensure the next day that the remainder of the herd can be put down? (Mr Scudamore) You have raised a number of different issues and they are problems. The first is report and getting report cases and the second is when the disease is confirmed and getting the animals killed. We have faced a number of problems with the escalating number of cases we have got. We have "dirty" vets and the difficulty is that if a vet goes onto a farm and there is disease there, there is a timelag before he can go back onto another farm. We started off with five days. If a vet went to a farm with the disease he could not go to another farm which did not have the disease for five days and he had to be decontaminated. We then took on board the international specification and we dropped it down to three days. So if a vet was on a farm with a disease he could not go to a clean farm for three days. We have been looking to see whether we can reduce that even further so that we can rotate vets around a lot faster. We would wish to get out to report cases as fast as we can and obviously that is one I will have to look into when I get back to the office. The vet will examine the animals and he will ring up and he will be given a confirmation. When we started dealing with the disease they would have to take samples and put them in the laboratory because we were not clear what we were dealing with because some of the conditions were not obvious. Now if a vet is on a farm and they ring to get confirmations we will confirm on clinical grounds, so if the vet rings up and he is on the farm and he has got five cattle with blisters on their tongues and high temperatures we would confirm that without requiring the samples to be taken. We are trying to speed up confirmation rates. The second thing is vets in most parts of the country are authorised to kill animals on the farm. However, if there are a small number of animals they will use Uthetal (?), one of the drugs, to kill the animals because we do not (unlike 1967-68) go around with guns. There are lots of difficulties with staff having guns. They are not always equipped to shoot animals on farms but in many cases they should use one of the drugs to put animals down as we do with BSE cases. If those animals are dead we would want to get a slaughter team in as soon as possible. There have been delays in doing that. We would want to try and get animals dead as fast as possible but there have been logistical problems with doing that. I should say in the case of pigs that they have top priority. With the case in Devon not long ago they worked through the night to kill the animals to make sure they were all dead. The interval from diagnosis to death is critical and it is too long at the moment. 45. Could you make it mandatory that vets use this drug administered by injection when they visit a farm and see half a dozen very obviously diseased cattle? This site is in the heart of the largest dairy-producing area in the country. It is absolutely critical that they are put down as fast as possible. Farmers agree with that entirely. There is great frustration among the elderly vets around that there are delays. The Report was also quite clear when it said: "Diagnosis should not depend on confirmation on the telephone from the veterinary headquarters at Tolworth." Vets on site had much more executive power to make decisions on putting animals down on the spot. Can you give them that power under the current restrictions you are operating under with various regulations like the EU Foot and Mouth Directive? Do you have the power to do that? (Mr Scudamore) We do not have the power to do it but we could look into it. At the moment we would want the vet on the farm to investigate the case, to make a telephone report to our operations room, where we have a team of vets that take these reports, and if that report describes foot and mouth disease the vet is given permission to go ahead and slaughter. There was criticism at the beginning that it was taking too long but we are confirming 90 per cent of them now on clinical diagnosis and also the time lag is greatly reduced. So I do not know that confirmation on the farm is necessarily going to achieve a great saving in time. We do need to make sure (because we have a lot of new vets working for us) that we are confirming disease and it is correct and we are not confirming cases where there is not the disease. We have a lot of TVIs (temporary vets) working for us in practice and it is useful for us to discuss with them the cases. We have speeded up the whole process from the time they arrive to the time the disease is confirmed. It is my understanding they would normally kill the animals with lesions when they are on the farm and then would arrange for a slaughter team to come in later. I will look into this case specifically for you. 46. We have all been inundated with cases around the country where there has been delay. If you could go back to the 1967 system where experienced vets had autonomy you would speed up this process. There was another case in South Devon where an experienced vet who worked in 1967 did his own autopsies, killed five sheep and was 95 per cent certain, but it was not until two days later that the main flock was put down. And in my constituency it was a further two days. That delay is too long. (Mr Scudamore) I worked on the 1967-68 outbreak as well. We were given 32 revolvers with which to go out and shoot animals. On health and safety grounds it would not be advisable in this day and age. Even then we rang in. We went out to farms, we saw the disease, we rang headquarters, gave a brief summary of the disease and they confirmed it. We then killed the animals that had the disease and then the slaughter teams came in the next day. There are two issues. The first one is the reporting and diagnosis and killing of the few animals with obvious disease and the second issue is getting the slaughter teams in to kill the rest of the herd. There are two blockages there. One is the evaluation of the animals and the second is the slaughter teams. We have been looking at the whole process from the time we get the report to the time animals are disposed of to try and reduce the time intervals, which I agree with you are too long and which we have got to get down. 47. It would be very helpful if you could push that point on administering the lethal injection to very obviously infected animals. On disposal the 1969 Report is again completely clear. It says that burial is preferable to burning and it gives additional information on how much quicker burial is and a much higher proportion of those that were buried were covered within the next day or the day after, while funeral pyres take a day to build and two or three days to finish the job off. Also it warned of the risk of thermal air currents putting the virus into the atmosphere. I have a note here from the Environment Agency which says that the order of priority for foot and mouth disposal is rendering, incineration, burning on site, landfilling and burial. I would suggest to you that is an exact 180 per cent mirror image of what should be happening according to the recommendations of the Report. It is the placing of burial as the last option which is causing immense frustration amongst the vets I have talked to that worked in 1967. What can you do to ensure burial goes to the top of the pile rather than the bottom of the pile? (Mr Scudamore) There are a number of technical issues. We would prefer burial, incineration and burning in that order because, as you say, burial is by far the easiest and quickest option on the farm. There are a number of points to make. First of all, the situation now is not like 1967 - and again quoting from my own experience we dug a hole and put 30 cows in it and that was it - in that we are dealing with 300 or 400 cows or 6,000 or 7,000 sheep, so the scale of the burial operation is much, much larger than it was then. The second thing is there are issues of ground water and issues of pollution and issues of seepage from these burial sites with very large numbers of animals. It is extremely important that the water table and the quality of water being used from these areas is protected. In order to deal with this, though, we have been in discussion with the Environment Agency who have been particularly helpful and we are in discussion at two levels, first of all at the local level where as soon as a farm is diagnosed as having the disease the local contacts are made to see whether it is practical to bury them. There have been a number of farms where burial has taken place, not very many. We have also been in discussion with the Environment Agency at a much higher level to see whether the rules are completely inflexible or whether there is some degree of assistance they can give to us. Those discussions are continuing. We would, if we could in safety, wish to bury animals but again we have to look at environmental protection. I think the situation now is different to the situation in 1967-68. 48. If you do not dispose of those animals by burying you are creating another environmental problem. The Minister last week said 25 per cent of the 205,000 animals are not buried. That is 50,000 animals lying out in wet and snowy weather at the moment with water running off them and running the virus into the water ways and brooks. You have a major pollution problem now by trying to burn them because you cannot keep them on top. (Mr Brown) It would be useful if the Chief Vet explains to the Committee what happens to the virus in the animals once the animals are dead. (Mr Scudamore) The reason we want to kill the animals is we want to stop them producing the virus. Once they are dead they are no longer producing virus and all you have left is the virus in the animals which gradually decomposes as pH changes take place and rigor mortis sets in, so eventually the virus will disappear. I agree entirely that the ideal world is to have the animals killed and destroyed and buried as fast as possible. 49. Was the 1969 Report wrong then when it said on page 55: "Body excretions continue to exude from the carcasses and add constantly to the risk of the virus being disseminated"? (Mr Scudamore) The Report is correct but the virus is exuded from the carcass but not produced. In other words, there is no increased production of virus from the animal because it is dead but the virus is still there and it will still exude, yes. 50. On what basis will the farmers be compensated because again in this Report it shows that as the number of animals came down the market value went up as it took place and it recommended staged compensation. (Mr Brown) The compensation rates are at market valuation and we are trying to get the payments to the farmers as quickly as possible. The average time is something like seven days. 51. Minister, the point I am making is, as the Report points out, as the 1967 outbreak went on and reduced the number of available beasts, the price went up. (Mr Brown) The valuation has not fluctuated and I am determined that we treat the farmer fairly. The question you ask is a very shrewd one in the context of the sheep sector where the price has been affected. I am trying to pay the compensation at the pre-disease outbreak rate which is the higher rate. Mr Drew 52. Can I ask you about the valuation process. Clearly I know farmers have been quite annoyed about the criticism they took in the House of Lords last week about them delaying the process. I think it would be useful for you to take us through what happens in terms of the valuation process and what possible delays there are when agreement is not reached between parties. (Mr Brown) Mostly agreement is reached. I do not want to get this out of proportion. In circumstances where the state is intervening (perfectly properly) in somebody's business to take away their animals, then clearly we have to pay them the market rate as a matter of law. This is not a matter of the state asserting what the rate is. It is contestable. An independent valuer is called in to do the valuation and that in turn is subject to arbitration. It is a reasonably quick procedure but there is an arbitration procedure if there is any quarrel over the rates. The scheme that we are working on in the Department is one where we have an indicative rate, particularly for sheep, which people can either take there and then and that is the deal done, or take a separate route which needs to go to independent valuation and then arbitration. Whilst I am very keen on getting such a scheme in place, people would have to choose from the beginning one route or the other. If the valuation came in lower than the state's flat rate it would not be possible to revert to the state's flat rate scheme. 53. If someone disagrees I know that you can go to arbitration but you have the power to slaughter before that agreement is in place. I know some farmers are wanting to value live animals rather than dead animals so there are obviously some tensions there. (Mr Brown) There are tensions. Valuation can be a cause of delay but it is not the main cause of delay. I do not want to get it out of proportion and nor would I want to do anything that took away the rights of people who have very good reason for wanting independent valuation, in particular people who have got pedigree herds or rare breeds that might command a premium in the market place. The same is true incidentally of animals farmed organically; we do pay for that value. Mr pik 54. The NFU and NFW are having many members who are desperate to get rid of fat stock and in some cases are willing to have their fat stock slaughtered. The problem is being in an infected area they cannot move them anywhere to be slaughtered. Can you assure me that very fast measures are being taken to resolve what is becoming a very desperate problem at the moment? (Mr Brown) We can get the pig market and the beef sector not working as they would ideally but something close to it under very strict conditions. There is a problem in the sheep sector, particularly in Wales, largely because exports are not only prevented but are going to be prevented for the foreseeable future. So animals not bred for the domestic market nevertheless have no other outlet so are displaced onto it. It is how we deal with those circumstances (which is not a disease control issue, it is a market issue) that I am taking a very hard look at. I want to devise a plan that not only helps the industry get through these appalling difficulties but enables it to recover to a future that probably is not the same that we have at present. 55. Those in infected areas are desperate to get some resolution as well because it is an immediate problem. (Mr Brown) I will ask the Chief Vet to say something about the market that is available but it is not a complete solution to the problem. (Mr Scudamore) One of the problems with the infected areas is that we are allowed to move animals into slaughter houses in infected areas, but the meat has to be cross-stamped. That is using an animal health measure on a public health stamp and unfortunately the retailers and other organisations do not particularly like the idea of cross-stamped meat. The difficulty is if there is a market for that meat. If we allow those animals to move out of the infected area we are looking at the risk assessment, we are raising the risks of allowing them to move, and, equally, if they are then slaughtered they still have to be cross-stamped because they are coming from an infected area. We had exactly the same problem with swine fever. Slaughtering animals from within those areas has additional controls put on them which makes the meat generally unacceptable even though there is nothing wrong with it. Because they have the oval stamp crossed out the view is that there is something wrong with it. That is an issue we are addressing at the moment. (Mr Brown) I have asked the Chief Vet to explain that to the Committee because I think it is right that the full set of circumstances be set out, but let me make it very clear that I do not believe this to be a practical answer to the problem for the simple reason that it does not comply with the retailers' spec and therefore they are not willing to purchase it. Mr Todd 56. Bearing in mind the dominance of burning as a disposal method, how up to date are we with the science of what happens to the virus when combustion takes place and where it is dispersed in the air in thermal air currents? (Mr Brown) It is a fair question, but my understanding is that the temperature is very high, we use fuel on the animals to make sure they burn thoroughly, and the risk of spreading the virus through the smoke from the fire is negligible. (Mr Scudamore) I think the Minister has summed it up. The Northumberland Report is ambivalent and inconclusive about whether it spreads or not. We have looked at the various components and as far as we can see the risk is minimal but the problem is we have to get rid of these carcasses and there is a large number of carcasses to be removed at the moment. In a lot of this issue we are looking at the relative risk - and that is the difficulty we are facing - of leaving the carcasses to rot away as opposed to getting them removed. Mr Jack 57. The Chief Vet indicated that the scale of this outbreak of foot and mouth is on an altogether different level than that in 1967. There has been an enormous amount of comment in the press about difficulties with resources. We have discussed veterinary surgeons, we have discussed disposal facilities and so on and so forth. Minister, you mentioned quite rightly that MAFF twice a year carries out an exercise to develop its contingent facility. You have had 34 years without a foot and mouth outbreak. Some people listening to our exchanges might think that this preparatory exercise has still left you flatfooted, running behind the game, short of resources. Just how good is this contingency exercise in terms of its predictive quality because we are still short of resources? (Mr Brown) I do not think we should under-estimate the seriousness of the situation that faces us nor should we under-estimate the difficulties of dealing with a situation that is rapidly changing. Remember we have to deal with the two unknowns. We do not know where the disease will emerge nor do we know how much of it is out there. On the contingency exercise to do with the procurement of materials that seems to have worked very well. We are able to procure the lorries and the railway sleepers that we are using as wood to start the fires, we are able to procure the coal, but we are doing it in very, very large quantities. We also have to procure the mechanical diggers to dig the trenches in which to place the animals once they have been slaughtered. It is not going fast enough, I acknowledge that, but there are three essential bottlenecks: the need for more vets; the need for more skilled slaughter men; and the need to make sure that the contractors' time is effectively managed. The way we are dealing with this is we have issued the appeal for extra vets and we are trying to make better use of the veterinary time that we have by the methods the Chief Vet has described to the Committee. We are trying to make sure we make effective use of the slaughter men as well. However, as I told the Committee in my opening statement, we have already killed a similar amount of animals to the entirety of that which was involved in the 1967 outbreak. Finally there is the question of organising the disposal. We are opening up new routes including extra rendering plants, including the use of burial, including the use of landfill as well as burning on site, which is the other disposal route, and we have logistic teams in from the Army to help organise those practical tasks, but it is on a much greater scale than it was a fortnight ago. 58. Let me ask when was the last time you role-played out a scenario or two about a foot and mouth outbreak? In the House you told us that the United Kingdom, for example, had been ahead of the game in banning imports of meat products from South Africa because you knew there was a source of foot and mouth infectivity and we wanted to be prepared, so in other words a bell might have rung, but something could get through. You mentioned tightening up on import controls. When was the last time the model was run and what kind of scenario did you have? Some people have said on the question of burial and machinery that the Army should have been brought in sooner. (Mr Brown) There are three things we need: vets, slaughter men, and contractors to help with the disposal. The Army is not a reservoir to any great extent of any of those things. 59. When was the model last run? You said you updated the contingency plans once every six months. (Mr Brown) The contingency exercise is annual rather than six monthly, but I stand to be corrected if that is not right, and it is about the procurement of materials that would be needed in certain circumstances, in other words to make sure --- 60. So your contingency plan has not in the last 12 months looked at the scenario that said "if we had an outbreak, if the defences were down and foot and mouth got into the United Kingdom, these are some possible ways in which it could occur and therefore the resource implications are X"? Are you telling me that such an exercise has not been carried out? (Mr Brown) I am not telling you that. I do not know the answer. Jim, do you know the answer to the question? It is very rare for Ministers to be involved in role-playing. In fairness, I do not have a lot of time for role-playing. My time is at a premium. 61. You might not but the quality of the advice you get from your officials depends on them having worked out possible contingencies. We have just seen what can happen with something like BSE over a number of years where similar problems of disease, the destruction of animals, the use of vets has been a key part in dealing with that. I am asking a question about how well prepared you were for the situation that we are now going through. Perhaps the Chief Vet can tell us. (Mr Brown) I do think that everything we have done stands very good comparison with what was done in the case of the BSE outbreak. 62. My question was how well-prepared were you for this in the light of some of the problems that have occurred? (Mr Brown) How well-prepared was the last Government for BSE? 63. Perhaps the Chief Vet will be able to enlighten us as to what preparatory exercises have taken place. (Mr Scudamore) There are two types of contingency planning. First of all, there is local contingency planning where the local offices will write up and develop scenarios where they would look at the possibility of one or two or ten cases and they would work up what they would do about them and run exercises some of which would be practical exercises, other ones of which would be desk-top exercises and it varied in how often it was set up and where it took place, and those exercises would be run to deal with the swine fever scenario or foot and mouth scenario. Those are local office scenarios. In terms of the national plan we are required by Europe to submit a national contingency plan, which we do regularly. That more describes the operational aspects of how we would deal with outbreaks and what do we do. We have not used a model to do the scenario of planning you are talking about. The contingency planning is local training and planning on how people would deal with outbreaks and what they would do, and nationally it is to produce a contingency plan which complies with an EU requirement. We have been doing that for the last 20 years, looking at the way we would deal with outbreaks, but the scenario planning has not been done which would have picked up this situation. One of the reasons being that we have had a very heavy workload over the last ten years and risk assessments at the time meant that we spent the time on BSE and other issues. We do have contingency plans, national and local, we do have training, but we have not had any scenario running with a model to look at a circumstance like this. 64. One of the earlier points of criticism was the time taken for the analysis done at Pirbright. For example, why were other central veterinary laboratory facilities not used? I gather there is a private laboratory called the Crompton Laboratory which could also have been used. Why were they not all brought into play at the beginning to speed up the process which you identified between diagnosis, confirmation and slaughter? (Mr Brown) There was not a delay at the early part of the outbreak. Indeed, people worked very hard overnight doing the tests on the main suspect cases to make sure that the confirmation was there the following morning. As the disease has developed we know now that we have foot and mouth disease in the country and in quantities of intense infectivity in parts of it so we are dealing with it on the basis of clinical diagnosis rather than tests overnight. 65. Can I have an answer to the specific point. (Mr Brown) I will let Jim answer but this is not a resource shortage, or it has not been. (Mr Scudamore) The specific point is that we are dealing with a highly virulent, highly infectious virus that can only be dealt with under high containment and high security. There is only one laboratory in this country that is permitted to deal with this virus and that is the Institute of Animal Health at Pirbright. The laboratory has to have special filters and special designs and it is so high security that it is the only place that we can submit material that has virus in it. There have been suggestions that we could use the Veterinary Laboratory Agency to do some of the serology but I have rejected those on the grounds that I do not want material taken from the Institute to the VLA where we have some very valuable cattle under experimental conditions for BSE and other long-term trials, and the last thing we want to do is contaminate that laboratory. We are left with only one laboratory in this country that will do this work. In terms of delays, the laboratory is meeting the challenges extremely well and I should pay tribute to the work they have done for us. The number of samples they get and the work they do is tremendous. There is not a delay at the moment. We are confirming large numbers on clinical grounds. Some we are taking samples from just to make sure that the clinical decisions are right. The reasons for some of the delays at the very beginning were that we wanted a full examination of material to be absolutely sure we were dealing with foot and mouth because, if you remember, when we started we only had it in pigs, then we found it in sheep, now we have had it in cattle. In sheep we wanted to be sure that the diagnosis was right. In the very first few weeks we did have some problems with communications between Pirbright and the operations centre and we have resolved those by putting one of our staff down to Pirbright to improve the operational and communication links. That has removed the delays of giving negative results. Most of the results are given on clinical examination now. 66. Are you satisfied with the support you have had from the private veterinary service and indeed the relationship that MAFF has with them? There has been a certain friction, for example, in Lancashire and Cheshire before this outbreak occurred over the way you have tried to resolve the reduction in costs in testing for tuberculosis, for example, in cattle and perhaps that has left a bit of a nasty taste in the mouth of private vets. Are you happy that your relationships have not in any way soured or diminished their willingness to fully support your endeavours in the context of foot and mouth? (Mr Scudamore) Again I should pay tribute to the veterinary profession for the amount of help they have given us. The situation in Lancashire and Cheshire was to deal with tuberculin testing and that has been resolved. We currently have 717 temporary veterinary inspectors working for us. Many of those will have been in private practice and they are now working for us on the outbreak. In addition to the ones who work directly for us there is quite a commitment from the local vets to deal with the licensing arrangements for welfare movements and for inspecting animals before they move. I think relations with the veterinary profession are very good at the moment. We are in close touch with the British Veterinary Association and the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons and in fact yesterday the BVA and RCVS both put out an appeal for more vets to come and work for us, particularly in Cumbria and Devon. 67. My last question was on communication to farmers. Minister, quite rightly, you put a lot of emphasis on the range of ways you are communicating with farmers. You sent a helpful letter out to members summarising some of this. In their letter to us the Tenant Farmers' Association commented that although good information was put on MAFF's Internet web site they were concerned that some farmers did not have access to that technology. Perhaps you could give us a commentary on that particular point and generally give us some feedback as to how your exercise in communicating with farmers has worked and if there are still any areas in which you are trying to make improvements. (Mr Brown) In my management of communications in what is now a serious animal disease outbreak I am guided by the comments in the Phillips Report which looked at the way in which the BSE outbreak was handled. Phillips is very clear on this question. He says that the Government has a duty to communicate its strategy clearly, to listen to not only those who agree with it but those who do not and to explain. Throughout this (which, as you will readily appreciate, is very time-consuming) I have set out to explain to Parliament of course because that is an obligation on me as a Minister, to the public which has enormous interest in this. We have daily media briefings for journalists to bring them up to date day-by-day, but also with the farmers themselves. I cannot meet every farmer individually although, as I said before, it sometimes feels like I have. The leaders I can meet and I do regularly. The last meeting between myself and Ben Gill was yesterday and the next one is today. We are in regular contact. The officials of the NFU are in regular contact with my officials. I am also in contact with the Ministers in the devolved administrations and there is very good liaison between my Ministry and the agriculture specialists in the devolved administrations. I have written to every Member of Parliament saying where front- line information can be found. I have written to every farmer, absolutely every farmer, setting out where front-line information can be found. We have established a help-line. We do put information on the Internet. The bulletin that goes daily to Members of Parliament also goes to regional officials of the NFU. They get exactly the same front-line daily information that the Parliamentarians get and can use that for informing their own members. I know this is not perfect, particularly in a situation that is changing very rapidly, but I am doing everything I can to make sure the new information that comes to me is interpreted and explained on a daily basis. There are weekly opportunities in front of the House for me to set out the present position and how the Department is responding to the challenges that are, after all, changing as the situation itself changes rapidly, so I am trying to do this with openness and candour. At the same time I am trying to give careful consideration to dissenters, those who have a different view in policy terms as to how we should be dealing with the outbreak. These effectively fall into two groups. There are those who say we should be doing what we are doing but better and sooner. I have some sympathy with that. We are trying to get more vets and more contractors and we are trying to organise the disposal of material better and more effectively, particularly in the areas of intense infectivity, Cumbria, the South of Scotland and Devon, and at the same time I am giving careful thought to those who say there are alternative strategies that can be pursued. I must emphasise to the Committee that the whole weight of veterinary opinion and the whole of the industry and indeed (it is not a party political point) across party, everyone is in favour of the strategy that we are pursuing and wants it to be pursued with vigour. 68. Can I just say I am delighted to hear all that, but I would very much appreciate it if you could ensure that I get a copy of your daily bulletin because so far it has not reached me. (Mr Brown) I am sorry for that. I will make sure it does. Chairman 69. Nor me. (Mr Brown) It may be that somebody is handling your post and sparing you. Mr Drew 70. Can I take you back very quickly to the situation of private vets. There has been some argument that private vets are not being compensated sufficiently well, particularly it they are dealing with foot and mouth cases and become dirty and cannot work on other holdings for several days. (Mr Brown) That is one issue. The other issue is there are about 22,000 private vets in the country but they have their own practices and are making a living and to divert from their practice themselves or one member of what might be a group practice clearly is an economic cost to the practice. You are right to say that is an important point. I am going to ask Jim to say something about that because we are aware of the problems. (Mr Scudamore) We have revised the fees we pay to TVIs upwards since we began the outbreak and we keep that under constant review. We want to attract vets to work for us. The problem is that they do run practices and again a difference to 1967-68 is that a lot of the practices then were agricultural only so they could release vets. Now most of the practices have quite a high proportion of small animals and one of the difficulties we are facing is that whilst the vets are very willing to help in their own locality their locality could be the wrong one. There is a slight discrepancy between where we need vets and where we have got them. We are getting very good co-operation. The difficulty is the type of practice. And what we are investigating now is whether we can use vets who have got small animal practices more efficiently to do work for us in those areas. Chairman 71. Is it true that in Cumbria vets were getting 160 a day and valuers 500 a day? (Mr Scudamore) Vets were getting 160 a day. I cannot quote what the valuers were getting. 72. Would they be justified in feeling some resentment because they had a dirtier job? (Mr Scudamore) We have altered that rate to 250 a day, which has not been announced yet but will be announced tomorrow. 73. It has been now! (Mr Scudamore) Perhaps I can explain why we have done that. First of all, I must say that the veterinary profession is committed to doing this work and the vets from practice or the other vets working for us are doing 12 hours days and we did consider that 160 was quite inadequate. It is being raised to 250 a day which is a special rate for dealing with foot and mouth disease and for dealing with this problem. At the same time we have to consider our own staff who are also working extremely long hours and who are also veterinary staff, so we are looking to see how they are recompensed for the work they put it. We are having to look at it as an overall picture. The intention is to pay the TVIs for the work they do and at the same time attract more of them to come and work for us and at the same time give them a fair rate for the work they are doing for us. Mr Todd 74. I think we have identified the major barrier is getting the slaughter done fast enough after diagnosis. The abattoir sector is working comfortably below capacity in most areas and there is clearly not a shortage of slaughtermen, it is an issue of how you get them to the correct places. There is also no shortage of rural accommodation for them should they need to be brought from other parts of the country. What is the difficulty there? (Mr Brown) We have brought in extra help to manage the work, in other words to take that off the veterinary authorities because it is a job that can be done by those who are not vets. We are putting substantially higher resources into that. We are exploring making substantial further use of rendering as a disposal route and I would expect substantially enhanced capacity to continue to come on stream over the next few days. As I said to the Committee earlier, I had a meeting with the Chief Executive of the Intervention Board to discuss precisely that. 75. It is not quite the same thing because the task is normally to kill the animals first before movement, I would have thought. (Mr Brown) There are two different categories of animals. There are those that have the disease which have to be killed on site. There are those that are suspects but do not have the disease and it may be possible to move them live to designated abattoirs on a single journey and then they are slaughtered in the abattoir. 76. So are we attempting to engage the abattoir sector? (Mr Brown) We would need a specialist contract with a specialist abattoir for this purpose and this purpose alone. The meat would not - let me make this absolutely clear - the meat would not go into the food chain. Dr Turner 77. You have made it very clear that you want to be completely open on information. Given that the media are telling us that the Opposition may be breaking ranks in this non-partisan approach, could you tell us what efforts have been made to make sure there have been information flows and that the Opposition are kept well informed? Can you tell us any representations they have made as you have gone along as to what you should be doing differently? (Mr Brown) The same information has gone to all Members of Parliament equally and that is on a daily basis. The five proposals that were put forward yesterday by the Leader of the Opposition - there were seven but five are to do with disease control - are all perfectly helpful and sensible suggestions but are things that we were doing anyway. Let me give an example: the idea that we should take up final year students. We have over 100 final year students, veterinary students, working for us anyway and are recruiting a further 80. It is a good idea but we are doing that. In summary, I hope that we can maintain a bipartisan spirit in dealing with what is a disease outbreak and it should not be a party political issue. Chairman: We will find out about that this afternoon. Mr Borrow: I just want to explore a few things around some of the alternate approaches that have been suggested in the press over the last few days. I recognise that there is a consensus around the strategy but there are a number of alternative strategies that are now being raised by various individuals. On the question of vaccination, if we were to go down the vaccination route, what would the effect of that be on UK's disease free status? Do we know which countries would actually block exports of livestock as a result of that. Chairman 78. And of carcasses I assume. (Mr Brown) If we do not get our disease free status back we would struggle to find an export market and could only establish one under strictly controlled circumstances, in other words the meat would have to be de-boned and so on. It is quite a prohibition. There would be no export at all of breeding animals so the whole of the breeding sow industry, the quite strong one that we have, would be gone. Perhaps it would be helpful if I ask the Chief Vet to set out the down side of vaccination. It is not as straight forward as is commonly assumed. Let me say no veterinary authority in the European Union is recommending to its ministers vaccination as anything other than a containment strategy and even then as last resort. As far as I understand it, every first world country fights to get a disease free status and if they are using vaccination it is as a route to establishing a disease free status and the vaccinated animals, once they have got the disease defeated, are culled out. The idea that we would have a continuous vaccination strategy would make us internationally unique. It is very undesirable for the livestock sector for reasons that the Chief Vet will set out. (Mr Scudamore) There is a whole range of different strategies for vaccination. There can be emergency vaccination and there can be routine vaccination. With emergency vaccination you would still continue the stamping out policy. So you would vaccinate as an emergency but cases would still be dealt with by condemnation, slaughter and disposal. With routine vaccination you would just remove to vaccinating animals and letting the disease run its course. There are different implications for both of those. The situation with no vaccination is that three months after the last case, provided we have carried out serological surveillance, we would be classified as free and we would expect to be able to sell products on the world market, or at least within the EU. If we use emergency vaccination still with stamping out, then three months after the last vaccinated animal was slaughtered and we carried out serological surveillance would we get our free status back. That implies that if you use emergency vaccination in areas or in parts then you would have to slaughter all of the vaccinated animals out to get the status back, or you would have to regionalise the country so you would have to have vaccinated parts of the country and unvaccinated parts of the country and you would have to have movement controls between the two different parts of the country, which would be quite difficult to manage. If you go to routine vaccination and you do not stamp out then you accept that you have endemic disease and the implications of that are that you are not free of disease and you would only be allowed to export beef provided it was de-boned and it was matured and you would not be allowed to export pig meat or sheep meat. There are quite a lot of other rules on genetic material, milk and other products. There are different types of vaccination and they have different impacts on the country's status. If we went to routine vaccination and we did not slaughter animals and we had no disease, we would have to go two years from the time we stopped vaccination before we could be considered free again with no outbreaks and we would also have to do more surveillance before we could get a free from no vaccination status. So the lengths of time are quite long but there are different combinations of vaccinations and different impacts of what they mean and it needs to be put in a tabular form really. Mr Borrow 79. Some suggestions have been made that we can use emergency vaccination as a "firebreak" and your comment would be if that was done that might slow down the spread of the disease but those animals would have to be slaughtered anyway as part of the eradication of the disease? (Mr Scudamore) That is correct. There are two types of emergency vaccination. You can either do a firebreak to stop disease spreading out of an area or you can do it within an area to reduce the level of infection. In both cases if you want to go back to being a free country I think those vaccinated animals would have to be slaughtered and removed otherwise you would have to have a country of two parts, the vaccinated part where there are vaccinated animals, which would have to come on stream two or three years later, and the rest of the country. (Mr Brown) Can I just make this clear to the Committee. The Government's strategy is to protect us from classical swine fever, foot and mouth disease, to keep our disease free status and to eliminate BSE as well. That is our objective, to get back to a completely disease free status, to look very hard at what made us vulnerable and to make sure that any corrections that are needed there are made. 80. As I have been pottering around the country listening to radio stations and some of the phone-ins on this issue, one of the common themes that keeps popping up is the argument that if it is going to cost the UK economy 9,000 million as a result of this outbreak, is that a loss that is worth sustaining in order to safeguard the long-term future of the livestock industry in the UK and the ability of the livestock to export? We have always assumed up until now that is a price worth paying but I think increasingly that is going to be one that the Government is going to need to justify. I would be grateful if you could give me any comments on that. (Mr Brown) I am looking very hard at what the shape of the industry, particularly the sheep sector, should be as we devise a recovery plan. I think there are questions around the export of animals, particularly the export of live animals, that we should be thinking about very carefully. There are also issues around the role of the subsidy system, the Sheep Premium and the way in which we support hill farms that need looking at very carefully. As the Committee will know there is a task force looking at the Hill Farm Allowances and how we make more use of the Rural Development Regulation set up and working now. These are important questions. I have seen the estimates of the total cost of the disease and of course they include estimates of losses to the broader economy, not just to the livestock sector, but when the Prime Minister and I met representatives of the tourist industry earlier on this week it was also very, very clear that there are people not coming in to our country from abroad because we have foot and mouth disease. Until we clear up the foot and mouth disease the other industries are going to be compromised, subjectively perhaps but nevertheless compromised, by the existence of that disease in our country. We were told that people were not coming to London because of foot and mouth disease. There is no reason why you cannot come to London and enjoy London because of foot and mouth disease and yet bookings are down. I heard somebody say on the radio this morning that people were not coming to Bath because of foot and mouth disease, yet Bath is a perfectly viable tourist destination and the city itself does not have farm livestock in it. Then, of course, there is the domestic tourist industry. The domestic tourist industry is worth about twice as much as the overseas tourist industry in terms of money to the economy. These are very broad figures but it is about right. Yet it is clear that for two reasons our fellow citizens are deterred from visiting the countryside. One is the existence of the disease and the second is the desire to help get through this and in order to help people are not going to the countryside even though there will be no risk of spreading the disease by their doing so. The advice is to stay away from farm livestock and frankly that is it. It is clear that the existence of the disease itself has compromised tourism and the way to deal with that for the tourist industry and for the livestock industry, they have common cause in this, is to eliminate the foot and mouth disease. Chairman: Owen, very rapidly, with no reference to 1967. Mr Paterson 81. Do you have a vaccine for this particular strain? If so, how many times a year will it have to be administered? What will it cost? Who owns it? (Mr Brown) I think we, the Government, own it, as it were, or the European Union has reserves as well on which, of course, I can draw. My understanding is it requires an initial vaccination just against this strain and there are seven main strains as I understand it but you are only vaccinating against one. It then has to be boosted four months later. It takes three weeks to take, so you would have the illusion of protection without the reality for three weeks. Then it has to be renewed annually. Is that about right? (Mr Scudamore) Yes. 82. The cost? (Mr Scudamore) The cost is around about 60 to 80 pence per cow for the first two doses plus the cost of administration which would be around about 5, so it is quite expensive. The vaccines, as the Minister says, are available from the international vaccine bank where we have 500,000 doses, from an EU vaccine bank and then we have to go to commercial manufacturers to buy. (Mr Brown) We can multiply it up quite quickly. The reason for not adopting the policy is not shortage of the vaccine. Chairman, could I just correct something that I said earlier when I said that you got a daily note. You do all get a daily note on the progress of the disease. It is available to all Members of Parliament equally but you have to collect it from your respective Whips Offices or collect it from the Library of the House, it does not turn up in your individual post. Chairman 83. It is not on the screen? (Mr Brown) I think this is special for MPs and NFU officials. I think it is a sort of executive note which is available to yourselves. 84. Your website is actually usually 24 hours behind the time. (Mr Brown) Like me. We are doing our best but these circumstances are moving very rapidly. Mr Drew 85. We always blame the Whips Office. (Mr Brown) Yes, it is always a good idea. 86. Just very quickly. Obviously you have mentioned the support for the industry. It would be very useful just to encapsulate what support is now available for those not directly having animals slaughtered? I know you use the words consequential losses. Also the timescale by which payments are being made? (Mr Brown) The two main payment routes have already been agreed and the opening of the welfare disposal route, which is a voluntary scheme but it does help people who are affected by movement restrictions, and the cost to the Government is not light because, of course, we pay both for the movement for the disposal as well as making a cash payment to the farmer. The second main support measure is although we are unable to undertake on farm inspections or to confirm to the European Union that the on farm inspections have been completed, we are requesting from the Commission for complete protection for the five premium payments that are made to the livestock industry in these constrained circumstances. I have permission in principle from Franz Fischler to use the force majeur rules because this outbreak is force majeur so the farmers will be getting their payments. There is also, of course, the agrimonetary payment. 87. Obviously we are drawing down the money. (Mr Brown) We are drawing down 156 million of agrimonetary compensation. It goes to the sheep, the cattle and to the dairy sectors. The payments will be made in March, April and May. There is a delay on the dairy payment until May because we want to make them to people currently in the industry rather than on the basis the last agrimonetary payment was made. I still require the consent of the Commission to make two premium payments to the beef sector in one year. That is what we are seeking to do. In other words, we are trying to bring the money forward so that the farmers get it all now. 88. Is it possible to go back to Europe again because of the losses of the whole of the farming industry? (Mr Brown) Yes is the answer to that. I am looking at what further we can do now to help the farming sector, in other words get support to farmers. Separately I am looking at the shape of a recovery plan so that as we move towards the firm elimination of the disease, when we are on the home straight, we can look at the shape of the industry and what will be the right thing to do to help those who want to continue in the industry and whether it will be right to introduce measures for those who want to retire from the industry in the special circumstances which have been brought about by the disease outbreak. 89. What about a private storage scheme? (Mr Brown) I have that under examination. I am certainly not ruling it out both for the people or for the sheep sector. It is not my preferred route, I have to say. I think a better route, the more market orientated one is getting the supply chain working as well as it can or using the welfare scheme as a way of alleviating welfare problems. There is of course a specific problem in the sheep sector, private storage for sheep meat does not work as well as it does for beef because of the time limits on how long the meat can be kept in store and the difficulty of then easing it back on to the market where it will probably be providing a market overhang whilst it is in store. Mr Todd 90. The last major mailing you did of farmers was one I received myself actually showing you how to detect the disease and a number of gene factors. Is it not time to do another one, bearing in mind some of the comments that have been made about the difficulty of accessing information from the website which I would also say is out of date quite a lot of the time? (Mr Brown) The website has actually been quite widely praised. We do our best to keep it up to date but it is always going to be one step behind a very rapidly developing situation. In fact we have had more hits, I think we are just short of Britney Spears somebody was telling me, so it is quite a popular website. I am going to meet the President of the NFU tonight and we will be discussing this issue with him. 91. Are the days of pig swill numbered? (Mr Brown) I think it is about one per cent, one and a half per cent of the industry still use under licence, the ability to take the swill. 92. Should we not stop it? (Mr Brown) Provided it is heated up properly and the virus is killed it is therefore a safe procedure. 93. Sadly those are quite big provisos. (Mr Brown) There are big provisos in that. The issue is under active consideration in the Department and it will almost certainly be something that we consult on. 94. As you have said, the disease almost certainly came in from overseas. What steps are you taking to review the controls that are in place on either the accidental or deliberate import of material which may carry the infection? (Mr Brown) Whether it is knowingly or unknowingly it is most certainly illegal. I cannot think of a way in which this could legally have happened. I am working very closely with officials on the trade side to examine all the routes and the consequences for public policy and there will be a public consultation on this question, both about the routes into the country and also about enforcement. 95. There is no potential for it having been brought in with the intention of re-export? There is not a legal loophole there which we have discovered in some other areas of animal products where food that is not able to be sold in this country may be brought in for resale outside? (Mr Brown) It is difficult to think what that would be because there is an absolute prohibition on bringing in meat from areas where there is the infectivity. I suppose you are thinking of a cured meat product. 96. Yes. (Mr Brown) I am not aware of any route. Remember, it would be unlawful to bring it into the country if it came from an area ---- 97. Even if it were for re-export? (Mr Brown) It would still be unlawful to bring it into the country. Chairman 98. Can I just clarify that. Does that mean that, say, from an African country with endemic foot and mouth we do not import meat at all from them? (Mr Brown) The disease will be regionalised so it will not be the country, it will be the region that has the infectivity. No, you cannot import the meat from a region where there is the infectivity. 99. You can import from the country but not from the region concerned? (Mr Brown) It is the region that is excluded, it is not the country. Or it can be, because sometimes the country and the region are the same. Mr Todd 100. Looking at the longer term issues, clearly the sector will suffer from an export ban for quite some considerable time and this will distort the marketplace for many months. What steps are we taking to look at price support mechanisms that will preserve a marketplace that is viable? (Mr Brown) These are precisely the issues that I am looking at in the recovery plan. The recovery plan has to be tailored to the market circumstances for the foreseeable future. If we are going to look to a longer term export market, and this issue is particularly important in the case of the sheep sector, then we do need to have a very firm grasp of the time frame. It seems to me that re-establishing the export market for sheep is going to take longer than I think perhaps people have realised so far because, of course, there is the breeding cycle to be considered as well as the opening up of the markets. 101. Bearing in mind that a lot of farmers will be facing a clean sheet of paper position essentially in which they can review the future of their business because they have now had losses, is this not an opportunity to engage with farmers on other potential futures? (Mr Brown) Yes is the answer to that. 102. What are we doing? (Mr Brown) I am hoping that we will be able to pull together the work of the Hill Task Force, work that we have under way on support mechanisms in the Sheep Premia, the Hill Farm Allowances and the marketplace. There is other work that we are examining with the sheep sector which the Select Committee has looked at, including the genotyping programme. It does seem to me there is an opportunity to draw these different strands together and create an industry that is more effectively supporting farmer income rather than sheep numbers. 103. There may be farmers who may wish to see a future outside farming altogether who may need assistance to diversify as well. (Mr Brown) That is a perfectly clear point. I have always been a supporter of the early retirement scheme. Like every other minister in the European Union who did not already have such a scheme as part of the social security arrangements we found it impossible to introduce such a scheme under the Rural Development Regulation because of the deadweight cost. I do wonder, and I can go no further than this, if such a scheme might play a part in our response to the very specific circumstances that now confront us. 104. Are we making sure that the social security advice is available to farmers on a proactive basis? There are many farmers who are facing despair and have little experience of claiming benefits. Are we ensuring that social security is brought into the loop of farm assistance? (Mr Brown) I hope so. I have seen the advice that has been distributed around Government and I hope that that is going out to the appropriate agencies. 105. Is "hope" enough? (Mr Brown) We are doing what we can. The front line advice is certainly there. 106. Just getting the timescales for when farmers can start to restock. Can someone, either you or Jim, run through exactly when a farm may be able to restock? (Mr Brown) I will get Jim to run through the veterinary constraints and then perhaps say something about broader market considerations because there are two aspects to this. (Mr Scudamore) On the veterinary side we would destroy the animals and remove the carcasses either by burning or burial or rendering and then there would be a preliminary cleaning and disinfection which is to dampen down any weight of infection to make sure it has disappeared. The problem then is we have to get contractors in to thoroughly clean the property from top to bottom. That is what we are not doing at the moment. We are having to concentrate on dealing with the ever increasing number of outbreaks. What we would have to do is we would have to have the whole premises cleaned. It would require steam cleaning of buildings. It is a very intensive cleaning because the virus can last for a long time, for example faeces, dung or even dried blister material. Once that was completed - and that time would vary depending on the type of farm, some of the farms you are seeing would take a long time to clean up, others would be quite quick - we would then want to leave the farm empty for a period and again this would depend, I think, to a large extent on the type of farm. If it was an indoor unit and it was cleaned and disinfected then it could be restocking quite quickly. An outdoor unit, the survival of the virus on pasture for example varies tremendously so it could be 28 days in the winter, it could be three days in the summer, so the virus itself can remain around for quite long times in some situations. We would then want the farmer to restock. He would be allowed to restock gradually. We would put what are called sentinel animals in to make sure that the restocking did not result in more disease. Again in 1967/68 some of the outbreaks were what we would call recrudescence where the animals went in to a farm and then picked up a disease from the farm itself. I have not actually answered your question because it is variable, depending on the type of farm and the length of time it takes to clean it up to a satisfactory level which would have to be inspected and we would have to be clear that it was absolutely spotless and there was no virus. 107. You will be aware the farmers are asking exactly that kind of question. (Mr Brown) Yes. 108. At the moment they cannot receive any further guidance on that. (Mr Brown) That is right. Mr Todd: What about farmers who have not actually been infected that are in an infected area? Chairman 109. Because, of course, there has been a precautionary kill or where animals have been killed but as part of the firebreak process. (Mr Brown) Yes, I understand, you want the restocking protocol. I will ask Jim to give you that and then I will talk about some of the commercial considerations. (Mr Scudamore) I have given you the general principles but we are actually working on the restocking protocol because I accept that farmers need to know what the rules are going to be for infected farms, dangerous contact farms, which are within the infected areas. We hope to get something finished and available. Dangerous contact farms I think we will treat in the same way as infected farms because the reason we have killed them is because we believe the animals are potentially infective. The question there is whether we treat them exactly the same because there has been no disease on that farm, whether we can do less of a disinfection on those farms. With respect to the infected area, the requirements are that I think it is 30 days from the time that preliminary cleaning disinfection is completed on the farm we are eligible to lift the infected area, but at the same time we would want to do some form of serological surveillance to make sure we have not got sub-clinical disease in sheep in that area. At the moment it would be 30 days after the preliminary cleaning or disinfection on the farm, not the five for cleaning and disinfection, and with an assurance that there is no disease in the area, then we could lift that infected area. What is happening with quite a lot of these infected areas, they are all running together so the clock does not start ticking until the last case has occurred. Mr Todd 110. What about abattoirs where a case has been confirmed? (Mr Scudamore) Yes. One of the constraints the abattoir industry told us with moving back to slaughtering animals was that if they received animals direct from farms and they had evidence of disease they were concerned they would be put under restriction and left under restriction for 30 days. In order to get the industry moving, because we do not believe there is any risk, if animals arrive at an abattoir and they are direct from a farm, under the licensing arrangements they are due to be slaughtered very quickly and if disease was found in those animals, we would put a restriction on the whole of the abattoir and then we would look at the risks, in the lairage, in the slaughter hall, in the cutting room, and if it was only in the lairage we would reduce the restriction just to the lairage and then we would kill the animals. We would hope to have the abattoir back in business in about 24 hours. Chairman 111. Could I have a clarification. It is a very important issue. For example, in North Yorkshire there is a cluster of outbreaks at Hawes but there are no other outbreaks in North Yorkshire at the moment. (Mr Scudamore) Yes. 112. Farms up to 25 miles away are under restriction in infected areas. Now, have I interpreted your words correctly that restrictions on those farms will not be lifted until the total disinfection procedure has been carried out on the farms which did get the disease? (Mr Scudamore) No, the restrictions would not be lifted until the preliminary disinfection. That is the big difference. With the preliminary disinfection we remove the animals for slaughter and then we spray the premises with disinfectant or material to dampen down the virus weight. Once that is completed then the clock starts ticking for the 30 days. Complete and final disinfection can take a great deal of time in premises where it is really dirty and where there is a lot of manure and a lot of problems. It can take a great deal of time to clean those up. We are looking at preliminary cleaning and disinfection and 30 days from that. Equally, if we have a very big infected area and we are content that the disease does not exist in that area we can alter the size of infected areas as well. 113. I realise that they are not hard and fast rules but it would be terribly useful to have them written down because it is a question that we are constantly asked by farmers. (Mr Brown) Let me try to get this set out in the briefing note that MPs get. As I say, it is available in the Library as well as in the Whips Offices. Mr Todd 114. We are also hitting some issues which farmers really do need to be told about in formal terms. When I raised the issue of another mailing, we are seeing some of the contents of that. (Mr Brown) I am willing to do another mailing out. I want to talk to the President of the NFU about what it is that farmers would like information on. I do not want to send a generalised note, I want something of practical help. 115. Can I check on the export ban as to what our view is of how soon it might be that we might be able to see that lifted? I recognise that it is a matter for our trading partners as well as ourselves. (Mr Brown) We may be able to regionalise the outbreak in the United Kingdom and seek the lifting of the ban on some parts of the United Kingdom before others. The prospects in Great Britain --- 116. Take the example of Northern Ireland perhaps. (Mr Brown) Northern Ireland is a very good example. There is one case, it is contained and it has been just one case for three weeks now. There is every hope that Northern Ireland will be a disease free zone soon and in those circumstances of course we would try to get trade resumed, at least for Northern Ireland. It is too early to set a timescale for that. Our trading partners are going to be risk averse, just as we would be if it was the other way around. That does not apply just to the European Union but internationally. There are international protocols and they talk about three months and they talk about six months. Even when we can demonstrate that we are disease free, and as the Chief Vet says the clock starts ticking, it is still going to be some time. For the sheep sector they will also need to restock and then there is the breeding cycle to be considered before there are actually products to export. At least in some sectors we are in for a very long haul. Dr Turner 117. I want to ask a question about the origins again. Are we likely in due course to know what the origins of this outbreak were? (Mr Brown) We are doing everything we can to provide ---- 118. Is it likely to remain a mystery or is the advice that we are likely eventually to know? (Mr Brown) We are certainly likely to have a very good idea. I think I would perhaps like to leave it at that. Jim, do you want to say anything more explicitly or is "a good idea" enough? (Mr Scudamore) We are still doing the investigations. The outbreak looks as if it started in swill in Northumberland and obviously we want to make sure that there are no other possible outbreaks or any other source. If it remains that one then the question is where the meat that would carry the virus came from, so that is under investigation as well. (Mr Brown) We are trying to get a take on that issue as well. 119. You said it was highly likely that it was because of illegal activity. (Mr Brown) It is very difficult to see how it could have been legally brought into the country given the law. I am not saying knowingly, that is a slightly separate point. It is perfectly possible to unknowingly commit an illegal act. 120. Clearly in due course prevention is going to be an issue. Are you sure that, in fact, the penalties which are available for breaking these laws are sufficient to deter people who break them? Certainly in my part of the country there are cases of movements taking place on the quiet and people clearly breaking the law with great risk to the whole of the UK farming industry. Are the penalties sufficient? (Mr Brown) Once we are in a position to set out what we believe has happened and our analysis of the control measures that are in place there will be a discussion about what we have discovered and I certainly think that would be an appropriate time to have a discussion about the penalties as well. 121. Have you looked to see what the penalties are at the moment? (Mr Brown) Yes, I have. 122. Are they severe? (Mr Brown) I think the maximum penalty that is enforced by the local authorities rather than us --- Chairman 123. There will be a scale. (Mr Brown) --- is something like a 5,000 fine. Mr Borrow 124. A quick question to the Chief Vet. I was interested in your comments about reopening abattoirs after a case has been discovered under the licensed use of abattoirs. There is a major employer in my area who operates an abattoir and a meat processing unit adjacent to each other. He is still operating the meat processing unit but he is having great difficulty getting assurances from MAFF in relation to reopening the abattoir. His fear was that if a case was discovered in the abattoir not only would it close the abattoir down but it would actually close the meat operating plant down. Could you give him some idea of timescale? (Mr Brown) This is a perfectly reasonable concern. We have looked at what we can do to help in a practical way with this. I will get Jim to set it out. (Mr Scudamore) What some abattoir owners wanted was they wanted us to give them an assurance that if we found disease in an abattoir lairage what we would do. We said we could not do that because if we found disease in an abattoir lairage we would have to go and look at the situation on that abattoir on that day. Were those the first animals in or had some animals already gone into the situation? Where the difficulty arose was we could not give them a general blanket assurance of what would happen. What we could say was if there was a case in the abattoir that we would go and look at it and if there was evidence that there was no contamination further down the system into the cutting hall or chiller then we would restrict the restrictions to the lairage only. I think it was a problem with what they wanted from us and what we could provide for them. Mr pik 125. Just about reviews. Farmers in Montgomeryshire have repeatedly questioned the linkage with regard to markets. They have found it very hard to find information to unequivocally show that. Do you reveal the process from the information? Obviously I would be very grateful if, maybe not now but later, it would be possible to get the information on that linkage with regard to Welshpool Market. (Mr Brown) Yes. I think we have circulated to the Committee in diagrammatic form the case numbers - it may be anonymised, I am not sure - I see you have it, which shows the linkage between the outbreaks --- 126. But not the rationale, the justification for the linkage is not here. (Mr Brown) Is there anything you can say quickly on that, Jim? In other words how we trace the links? (Mr Scudamore) The epidemiology work we do, we unfortunately are behind the game because we find disease and then we have to go back to see where it came from. My recollection with Welshpool was that there were links backwards and forwards. In particular what we are interested in is if there are any animals gone from the markets where we know infection went through that could have possibly spread infection and then we want to remove the animals that have had contact, dangerous contacts. Particularly in the long term where there are so many cases linked we want to remove animals in other markets where we think infection has been and we will be looking to remove animals. 127. Given the enormous consequences of a cull associated with Welshpool Market, it would help farmers co-operate psychologically much, much more if they genuinely feel they understand the rationale for that kind of thing. I use Welshpool as an example but I am sure that would be the same across the whole of Great Britain because they would feel they were part of the information process rather than having to take things on trust. (Mr Brown) I must say, Chairman, I think this is an incredibly important point. I am convinced what we are doing is right but I am also convinced that we have to explain ourselves to farmers and to be ready to answer the questions they ask. Just because we are satisfied we know the answers it does not mean that they are going to automatically be satisfied. That means we have to sit down and explain ourselves and I do understand in particular the point that Lembit makes about Welshpool Market and the route of infection. I will try and have that set out in such a way that we have explained ourselves as well as we possibly can. I do want to carry farmers with us. May I just confirm something that I was asked earlier. This is about the urban legend of the railway sleepers being purchased by MAFF in advance of the disease outbreak, that it was all foreseen. The answer I gave the Committee was essentially correct but I have now got the statement from the Department confirming what I said. Staffordshire Animal Health Office was carrying out a contingency planning exercise in January and they called vets, slaughtermen, disinfectant suppliers and also called suppliers of railway sleepers. The reason that the supplier of railway sleepers, the one that was on the radio this morning, had not been called before was because the Animal Health Office was getting a range of rates for the supply of this equipment and, as part of their contingency plan, were comparing prices. This was part of the division's regular contingency planning exercises. In other words, what I thought was the explanation I gave the Committee earlier on turns out to be the right explanation and is not fuel for a conspiracy theory. Chairman 128. That shows, Minister, that our confidence and expectation that you would only give us the correct version has been justified. If I may conclude with two very last points. I have learned a lot this morning. The Chief Vet's explanation of the argument against vaccination was more comprehensive than we have yet heard. Quite frankly, I do not think the Ministry is yet winning that argument. It is winning it amongst the agricultural community and vets and specialists but it is not winning it amongst the public at large. The public at large is beginning to say "Does it really matter? It is a tiny industry, it is a tiny export trade exporting a few live sheep to France probably in lousy conditions. Is that really worth all this?" I think the Ministry actually needs to set out that case. (Mr Brown) Can I respond by saying we are going to do that on Friday. I have a presentation at ten o'clock for the journalists who regularly attend our press briefings and other journalists who want to come. The presentation is on the disease itself, an explanation as to what it is, and then on strategies to deal with it including vaccination and the reasons why vaccination is not the preferred route. All of that is going to be set out in the presentation on Friday. Can I invite Members of the Committee to come and join us in the Department if they want to at ten o'clock on Friday. 129. If you put it on any other day than a Friday, Minister, I am sure you would get many candidates. (Mr Brown) There was a demand for it in the House. I am quite happy to repeat it so that Members can attend. 130. My final point. There is quite a belief out there, and I have even had letters from doctors in my constituency, that foot and mouth is like getting a dose of the flu, it lasts for two or three days, it is nasty but everybody gets over it, so why the hell are we going around killing things? Also it would be helpful, I think, to have a proper and accurate description of what foot and mouth does to various animals expressed in terms of welfare and not pure economics. (Mr Brown) Mortality amongst lambs, for example, was 80 per cent in the recent Tunisian outbreak. We will put all this information into the public domain on Friday. I accept that it is necessary. Chairman: Minister, I am conscious you have got a second innings this afternoon and some of us may or may not have a second innings depending upon the Speaker's inclinations. Thank you very much for coming this morning, it has been very thorough, very helpful, and we will no doubt wish to have a continuing dialogue which I know you are open to on this. Thank you.