Examination of Witnesses (Questions 140
WEDNESDAY 15 NOVEMBER 2000
140. The Government has already decided that
it intends no further step beyond the cull areas?
(Baroness Hayman) The paper was not only about localised
culling. There are other areas of it that I think have to be considered
and acted on. The issue about localised culling outside the trials
is there, it has had work done on it by that sub-group and I think
the TB Forum accepted that lay on the table, if you like, rather
than in the long grass about a possible way forward if it was
necessary. At the moment, the Government is seeing through the
trials. We are not ruling out forever and a day that there could
be any change to Government policy. We have talked about some
of the areas in which there could be changes in different parts
of the strategy. That is not ruled out forever and a day. It is
important though, and I think this Committee has wanted it all
along, that policy is based on strong and sound science and that
is what the trials are there to provide for us. We do not want
to preempt the results of those trials in policy.
141. There has been an analysis of the consequential
losses to farmers on movement restrictions when TB is found. Do
you believeand it has certainly been urged again, it was
urged in the debate which took place on the Select Committee Reportthat
compensation levels for farmers should be reviewed?
(Baroness Hayman) I think on compensation levels for
farmers the statutory compensations are laid down. I think the
consequential loss issue is slightly different because there is
not a statutory obligation to pay for consequential loss. If I
can answer slightly obliquely, I think the issues which have come
outI seem to have talked about swine fever a lot todayout
of the swine fever outbreak raise important and broad issues about
insurance in its broadest sense. I do not mean necessarily insurance
through private sector insurance policies for the sorts of consequential
loss which happen through animal disease or indeed we are talking
about flooding no doubt and other issues like that. Farming is
very much prone to lots of these sorts of circumstances. I think
there has been some useful work done in the Forum and it will
be continued on quantifying the consequential loss. It is, as
I said to Mr Öpik earlier, quite a big leap going from that
to Government becoming the insurer of last resort in some of these
areas. I think we need to see from the work that is going on out
of swine fever about whether there are some lessons to be learnt
for endemic disease rather than exotic disease.
142. Also, indeed, the balance between the responsibility
of the producer and the responsibility of Government, where one
of the issues is the control over the spread of the disease, to
ensure that the correct motivations are put in place to encourage
compliance and support with sensible public health and animal
(Baroness Hayman) Absolutely.
143. The short paper that we have had refers
to the voluntary system suggested for making available the latest
TB test results to those who purchase cattle. Can you explain
where the voluntary aspect of this is, who is volunteering, and
is it mandatory?
(Baroness Hayman) Perhaps I can ask Dr Reynolds to
respond on that.
(Dr Reynolds) Every time a farmer has a test done
on their herd of cattle, the veterinary surgeon responsible for
it sends a report in to MAFF, and if a reactor result is found,
action is taken. That piece of paper can now be requested by the
farmer concerned and then can be requested by anyone who wants
to purchase cattle from them. On a voluntary basis the farmer
can make that information on the recent test report available.
144. To get the mechanics right, a purchaser
can ask for that information from MAFF who hold it, or ask for
that information from the seller of the cattle who may disclose
it to them if they so wish?
(Dr Reynolds) The information is from the seller of
the cattle, and now it is a formal piece of information recording
the test result.
145. So if the fellow says, "I've thrown
it away, I don't have that kind of information", then the
purchaser obviously makes their own judgement as to how material
that issue is in their decision to purchase that particular beast?
(Dr Reynolds) Yes, that is correct. There is no compulsion
on the person selling the cattle to respond by making the information
available, but MAFF has merely set up the position where that
information can be provided in a standard format which can be
(Baroness Hayman) It is an issue, if I can come in
here, which has been raised in terms of cattle passports and automatic
recording. I think, as we have cattle passports at the moment,
it would be an enormously bureaucratic task to be recording that
information. However, we are proceeding towards an electronic
database which will give you a lot more opportunities for speedy
and easy recording of information that might be of benefit obviously
to purchasers but also to sellers. I think we have to look at
the implementation of that database and review these issues.
146. I have just been passed a note to say that
in New Zealand we are told that cattle must be shown to be negative
before being allowed to be moved. I do not know whether that is
(Dr Reynolds) In New Zealand they do have movement
control areas, and the procedures for controlling movements do
depend on a certain level of pre-movement testing. That is not
the same across the entire country.
147. So it is only in risk areas, is it?
(Dr Reynolds) Yes, that is right, high-risk areas.
There is also a very similar process to the one that we have now
introduced, to make the information available on a voluntary basis
in the interest of the country.
148. This goes a little bit back to the question
I raised about frequency, because, to be honest, this would imply
an increase in the frequency of tests as well, would it not? If
you had to have a test made before movement could take place,
that would imply an increase in the number of tests that took
place. Has this approach been considered in this country? Obviously
we have presumably reviewed the advantages of the New Zealand
(Dr Reynolds) Yes. The question of pre-movement testing
is always at the back of our minds, and it is something which
has some benefits. It also has a very sort of broadbrush catchment,
and it is our approach actually to base movement testing on risk
and also to make sure that it is based on a buyer beware arrangement,
so the purchaser of the cattle is really the best person to arrange
the testing of the animals based on what they know about the area
that they are coming from and the herd, based on what they are
told by the farmer concerned.
149. So it is not just driven by the fact that
the New Zealand system might appear to be rather more expensive?
(Dr Reynolds) Not at all. The New Zealand system has
been built up based on a risk approach to the management of their
infection in the same way that we have.
150. We are nearly there. Can we just look briefly
at the long term. The ISG memorandum ended with a formula for
the development of a long-term strategy. Are you looking to the
Bourne Group, in its final advice, to lay out the framework for
a long-term strategy and a long-term policy as well?
(Baroness Hayman) I think we would certainly expect
them to give us advice. There might be areas of long-term strategyfor
example, on public healththat they did not focus on particularly.
I think that in terms of the review as to where different pieces
of research took us to inform policy for the medium term and long
term, I would be looking to the ISG for advice on that. So that
is obviously particularly around the Krebs trials but also around
the pathogenesis trials, the wildlife trials, but there is what
is called an iterative process as well going on. If, for example,
we did change testing regimes and found that that was beneficial,
then that would be woven into longer-term policy.
151. What level of reduction in bovine TB would
you see as the minimum in order to justify a policy of badger-culling?
(Baroness Hayman) I once went to a meeting of an organisation
and asked what their membership was. Their membership secretary
said, "I wish I could say `static'". I do not think
we have quantified the level of reduction that would mean successyet.
Certainly the current level of increase does not mean success,
and we need to bring that down.
152. The Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons
said you had better have a Plan B in any case, had you not, just
in case this does not work? Do you accept that you will have to
have a Plan B?
(Baroness Hayman) I am not quite sure what "this"
is, in the context of what will not work, because I think I have
tried to make clear that I do not believe that there is a single
silver bullet answer and that we are likely to end up with a multi-faceted
approach where we need to get each of the aspects right and where,
in some areasfor example, the vaccinethe timeframe
is going to be different from the timeframe in other areas. I
think contingency planning is something that one should always
participate in, and it is always a judgement about how much resource
you put into contingency planning for a contingency that does
not seem very likely, so you have got to strike the right balance
153. My final question is, what happens if the
results from the various components of the present programme do
not point in the same directionin other words, if you have
got a clear result, let us say, from a proactive cull, but a negative
result from a reactive cull?
(Baroness Hayman) Then I think that is the sort of
circumstance in which I would certainly be looking to the Independent
Scientific Group to interpret that data and give advice as to
the policy direction that was most sensible to follow. I quite
envisage circumstances in which policy options will be before
Ministers, without the clarity and certainty of data and information
that everyone agrees on and everyone agrees on the way forward
Chairman: That, Minister, would enable me to
go into a long dissertation on the history of BSE and the experience
of Ministers, but I will restrain myself from doing that and thank
you for coming here today. I am sure we shall see you again. We
do not yet know on what subject, but there is, I think, a practical
certainty that we shall see you again, and we look forward to
that. Thank you.