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Advisory Group on Veterinary Medicines

Malcolm Bruce: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, pursuant to her answer of 27 November 2001, Official Report,

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column 850W, on veterinary medicines, for what reasons the minutes of the Advisory Group on Veterinary Medicines are considered confidential. [20701]

Mr. Morley [holding answer 4 December 2001]: The Advisory Group on Veterinary Residues (AGVR) was set up in 1995 under different arrangements from those that are currently in place for its successor, the Veterinary Residues Committee. Members of the AGVR included a number of independent experts from several fields, including a consumer representative. They were aware that a summary of their deliberations would be published each year in the Annual Report on Surveillance for Veterinary Residues. However, at no stage were they advised that their comments in meetings, which were minuted, would be made public. There are also elements in the minutes which may be commercially sensitive.

As indicated in the answer of 27 November 2001, Official Report, column 850W, the Veterinary Medicines Directorate (VMD) is considering how the minutes might be released. However, before they can be released the VMD will need to seek the agreement of all of the former members of the AGVR to the release of information since they had supplied the information in confidence. This is in accordance with Part II, Paragraph 14 (a) of the Code of Practice on Access to Government Information, Second Edition (1997).

Fuel Poverty

Mr. Sayeed: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what steps the Government are taking to eradicate fuel poverty in the UK. [7753]

Mr. Meacher: The UK fuel poverty strategy was published on 21 November. This set out the Government's goal to seek an end to the problem of fuel poverty, with the first target to ensure that by 2010, no vulnerable household—older people, families, disabled and long- term sick—need risk ill health due to a cold home or spend more than 10 per cent. of income to keep warm.

The strategy is based on a range of programmes and measures to tackle the root causes of fuel poverty: programmes to improve the energy efficiency of fuel poor households. These include the individual home energy efficiency schemes within each country as well as programmes to improve the standard of social housing. As part of their reports under the Home Energy Conservation Act 1996, we have asked energy conservation authorities to report on their efforts to tackle fuel poverty; continuing action to maintain the downward pressure on fuel bills, ensuring fair treatment for the less well off; continuing action to tackle poverty and social exclusion.

We will also be working with interested groups to further improve these programmes, and also to develop programmes that can identify and assist those healthy adult households at risk from longer-term fuel poverty.

Foot and Mouth

Miss McIntosh: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs if she will update and publish the information given in the letter of 6 August from the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State to the hon. Member for the Vale of York concerning the

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contingency plans to stop the spread of foot and mouth disease in the Vale of York, North Yorkshire and the Humber region (ref 3469). [12071]

Mr. Morley: My letter of 6 August provided the following information:

A copy of my letter was placed in the Library of the House.

Since the date of that letter, the plan has been further developed to ensure that strict biosecurity measures, along the lines of those applied in the Thirsk area, can be rapidly implemented should a new case occur in any part of the region. These measures coupled with the ongoing message on biosecurity continue to be successful in preventing the spread of the disease.

In addition, we maintain the capability, both in terms of infrastructure and resources, to respond to any recurrence of disease expeditiously. This capability is being taken forward so that it forms part of an integrated contingency response for the north of England as a whole.

It is encouraging that North Yorkshire has had no outbreaks since 18 August, but we continue to maintain our guard.

Mr. Jack: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs how many diagnoses of foot and mouth disease in the current outbreak have subsequently been proved incorrect; and if he will make a statement. [12924R]

Mr. Morley [holding answer 6 November 2001]: As of 27 November 2001, the total number of infected premises (IPs) in Great Britain was 2,026. In 299 confirmed cases samples were not taken, for example where clear clinical signs of FMD were observed and where disease had already been confirmed in the locality. Of the 1,727 cases where samples were taken, 1,326 (74 per cent.) were recorded as having a positive laboratory result. However, a negative laboratory result does not necessarily mean the disease was not present and does not change the status of an IP confirmed on clinical grounds.

Brian Cotter: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what scientific evidence her Department has evaluated which supports the assumption that animals vaccinated against foot and mouth can pass the disease on to uninfected animals. [15667]

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Mr. Morley: The Department has drawn on all of the available scientific research conducted worldwide, as well as relevant epidemiological findings from natural outbreaks of disease, on vaccination against foot and mouth disease in examining potential control policies involving vaccination. A comprehensive review of the use of emergency vaccines against foot and mouth disease will be published shortly in the scientific journal Vaccine.

The current scientific evidence is that ruminants can, but not invariably, become infected following vaccination and this depends on the strain of the virus and the length of time between vaccination and exposure to the virus. Such animals therefore present a potential risk and the international guidelines on the movement of vaccinated animals take this risk into account. More research of the long-term carrier state is needed in countries with the disease, and where vaccination has been used, as long-term studies of sufficient size are not possible in the laboratory.

More information about the science of vaccinating against foot and mouth disease is on our website

Mr. Steen: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (1) what are the criteria for imposing a ban on animal movements in Devon; and when these criteria were last met; [15592]

Mr. Morley [holding answer 16 November 2001]: Livestock movement restrictions are imposed throughout Great Britain using powers contained in the Foot and Mouth Disease Order 1983 (as amended). A total ban on movements applied only for one week (23 February to 2 March). Since then, movements have been permitted under licence to abattoirs and from farm to farm subject to conditions. Movement restrictions reflect the disease status of the county, which is based on veterinary advice. FMD free status is awarded on the basis of extensive blood testing of sheep. Devon was classified as an FMD free county on 27 November.

Details of permitted movements, county classification (updated weekly) and the criteria for classification may be found on the DEFRA website at www.defraweb/ footandmouth.

Paul Flynn: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, pursuant to her answer of 20 November 2001, Official Report, column 196W, (Ref. 12294), what percentage of the payments made to valuers in the foot and mouth disease epidemic totalled £1,500. [17712]

Mr. Morley: Seventeen per cent. of the payments made to valuers during the foot and mouth epidemic totalled £1,500.

Cattle Markets

Mr. Gray: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what risk assessment she has received on the reopening of cattle markets; when she plans to allow Chippenham cattle market to reopen; and if she will make a statement. [15531]

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Mr. Morley [holding answer 19 November 2001]: The decision to reopen livestock markets in England and Wales will depend on scientific and veterinary advice, taking account of the inherent risks of farmers and animals mixing and potentially spreading the disease mechanically or biologically. An initial veterinary risk assessment is currently being considered and will be published shortly. Depending on progress towards eradicating the foot and mouth disease, it is hoped that it may be possible to reopen cattle markets in the early part of next year.

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