|Previous Section||Index||Home Page|
I met with the First Minister on 20 October when we discussed a range of issues, including dentistry. My hon. Friend, the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Wales is in regular conversation with the Assembly Minister for Health and Social Services, Brian Gibbons, and plans to meet him to discuss dentistry on 14 November; I met him on 28 October. In addition, I met my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Health on 3 November on this very same issue.
7 Nov 2005 : Column 5W
Lynda Waltho: To ask the Minister for Women and Equality what steps the Government are taking to tackle women's pension inequality; and what discussions she has had with the Department for Work and Pensions on this issue. 
Meg Munn: The Women and Work Commission was set up in 2004 to look at ways to tackle the gender pay gap. Their report will be published in January 2006. The Department for Work and Pensions published a report on women and pensions last week, which provides a detailed analysis of women's pension position, without policy proposals. Both reports will inform the next steps taken by the Government to tackle women's pension inequality.
Both my right hon. Friends the Cabinet Minister for Women and I have had discussions with my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions on the issue of women's pensions. The issue of women's pensions is central to the National Pensions Debate and the women and pensions report will provide a valuable contribution to that debate. The report provides a firm basis on which to build consensus on the way forward and achieve fair outcomes for women.
Meg Munn: I welcome the report that the Department for Work and Pensions published last week, which provides a detailed analysis of women's pension position. It considers both state and private pension entitlements and highlights key influences on the level of women's retirement incomes: women's education, employment, earnings, caring responsibilities and demographic trends. It also includes research on household financial planning.
The issue of women's pensions is central to the National Pensions Debate and this report provides a valuable contribution to that debate. The report provides a firm basis on which to build consensus on the way forward and achieve fair outcomes for women.
7 Nov 2005 : Column 6W
Bill Wiggin: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what research her Department has commissioned on preventative measures to prevent the spread of Avian influenza. 
Mr. Bradshaw: The current research programme on Avian influenza (AI) is multi-disciplinary with many facets that are aimed toward improving our understanding of the disease and effective methods of prevention and control.
For example, one project is conducting studies to assess virus survival under various environmental conditions. This will provide direct evidence on risks of transmission in poultry products. Another project is seeking to develop improved diagnostic technologies that will allow more rapid identification of infection.
Mr. Bradshaw: Current records show that there are 83 bird quarantine facilities and centres in the UK. This figure may not distinguish between single facilities and multiple units in large bird quarantine centres.
Mr. Roger Williams: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what training for (a) state veterinary service veterinary surgeons and (b) private practice veterinary surgeons (i) has been and (ii) are being provided with in the detection of Avian influenza. 
The state veterinary service has recently run a programme of training for veterinary officers to update them on dealing with a potential outbreak of Avian influenza. Confirmation of disease is based on laboratory analysis and not clinical diagnosis in the field.
Mr. Roger Williams: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what arrangements have been made for the safe disposal of poultry carcasses in the event of a cull for avian influenza. 
Mr. Bradshaw: Disposal of carcases of birds infected with highly pathogenic Avian influenza would be by off-site incineration or rendering in specialist plants. If existing incineration and rendering capacity were fully utilised, carcases would be disposed of by deep burial in suitably engineered commercial licensed landfills.
Mr. Roger Williams:
To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what assessment she has made of the adequacy of the capacity of the
7 Nov 2005 : Column 7W
rendering industry to deal with the number of poultry slaughtered in the event of an outbreak of Avian influenza. 
Mr. Bradshaw: The Department is in close contact with the United Kingdom Renderers Association (UKRA) and has assessed the current available capacity and maximum likely capacity. The available capacity at any time will depend on the time of year, breakdowns and other demands. Some 2,500 tonnes per week (equivalent to 1.25 million chickens) would be available very quickly and a further 1015,000 tonnes could be brought on stream within about two weeks.
Mr. Wallace: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what further steps her Department plans to take to ensure that Avian influenza does not enter the UK through poultry meat imports. 
Mr. Bradshaw: Poultry meat can only be imported from countries approved by the European Community. In addition the country of origin must submit a plan setting out the guarantees which it offers with regards to the use of veterinary drugs and other products which could lead to residues and contaminants in foods.
All poultry meat and birds imported into the EU from third countries must enter at designated border inspection posts where they are subject to veterinary inspections. All consignments are subject to documentary and identity checks. These check ensure that these import conditions are met.
If there is an outbreak of notifiable disease in an exporting country Defra takes appropriate emergency safeguard action in accordance with Community legislation. This may include a ban on imports of animals and animal products from all, or parts, of that country.
Mr. Wallace: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what tests her Department carries out on meat imports to ensure that they are free of (a) Avian influenza and (b) foot and mouth disease. 
After the disease has been confirmed, the premises must first be depopulated of poultry and subjected to preliminary cleansing and disinfection.
7 Nov 2005 : Column 8W
Following depopulation, the premises must be cleansed and disinfected to standards set by a DEFRA veterinarian and this may take several weeks for it to be completed. The premises must then remain empty of poultry for at least 21 days. We would then allow the premises to re-stock if there were no more outbreaks of the disease in the locality. Once restocked the poultry would be kept under close surveillance for a period of 21 days and subjected to clinical inspections during that period.
Bill Wiggin: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs pursuant to her oral statement of 26 October 2005, Official Report, column 308, how many poultry and bird markets she expects will be closed. 
Mr. Bradshaw: Under the Avian Influenza (Preventive Measures) Regulations 2005, birds collected together at exhibitions, shows, fairs or other gatherings are no longer permitted except under licence following a veterinary risk assessment. Information on the number of poultry and bird markets is not readily available. This is anticipated to affect a number of markets.
Bill Wiggin: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs for how long the Government propose to keep (a) bird auctions and (b) bird markets closed in the event of an outbreak of avian influenza; what assessment she has made of (i) the effect of the closures on those employed in markets and auctions; and (ii) the merits of paying compensation to those affected. 
Mr. Bradshaw: On the 21 October the European Commission considered the encroaching avian influenza threat and, as a result, introduced a decision to ban bird markets, fairs and other gatherings of birds until the 31 January 2006, when the decision will be reviewed. This decision was implemented in England by the Avian Influenza (Preventive Measures) Regulations 2005 (2005 No. 2989). The ban will remain in place until the European law requiring it is lifted. We have worked with representatives of groups holding such events and assessed the risks. As a result, some gatherings may continue under licence and subject to biosecurity controls. We will consider any applications for a licence sympathetically and any which can be permitted to go ahead following a veterinary risk assessment will be licensed. There is no provision for the payment of compensation in these circumstances.
Mr. Graham Stuart: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what measures she will take to ensure secondary losses resulting from biosecurity restrictions relating to avian influenza do not have an adverse economic impact on farmers. 
The Department considers that poultry farmers, in common with all animal owners, have a responsibility to maintain good biosecurity and have issued appropriate guidance. Any action taken to control avian influenza should be proportionate and decided upon in the light of an overall assessment of the risks, costs and benefits in a particular situation.
7 Nov 2005 : Column 9W
Mr. Roger Williams: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what compensation package has been agreed with the poultry industry in the event of an avian influenza outbreak; and if she will make a statement. 
Mr. Bradshaw: In the event of an avian influenza outbreak, compensation would be payable under schedule 3 of the Animal Health Act 1981 against the number of healthy birds destroyed at time of slaughter.
Mr. Roger Williams: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what assessment she has made of the adequacy of personnel numbers within the state veterinary service to deal with an outbreak of avian influenza. 
These plans include the ability to call on trained contingency LVIs, vets from other signatory country members of the International Health Emergency Reserve and staff from other Government Departments.
Mr. Roger Williams: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what model her Department has prepared to predict the spread of avian influenza should an outbreak occur. 
Mr. Bradshaw: My Officials are currently closely engaged with both the industry to collect data and a wide range of modellers to ensure that a range of models to support policy development and decision taking is rapidly put in place.
Mr. Bradshaw: The Avian Influenza (Preventive Measures) Regulations 2005 prohibit birds to be collected together at any fair, market, show or exhibition except under licence following a veterinary risk assessment. Detailed guidance on these rules are set out on the DEFRA website (http://defraweb/animalh/diseases/notifiable/disease/ai/shows/qanda.htm) and relevant stakeholders have been informed.
Anne Main: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what her Department's assessment is of the risk of the feral pigeon population as a disease reservoir for avian influenza; and if she will make a statement. 
Mr. Bradshaw: In comparison to domestic chickens, feral pigeons are generally unsusceptible to highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI). Experimental studies show that while pigeons can be infected with HPAI they do not appear to excrete the virus. This suggests that pigeons are unlikely to form a reservoir of infection of virus. However, the risk cannot be completely discounted and the public is encouraged to report any unusual die-off in pigeons or any other wild birds to the DEFRA helpline (08459 33 55 77) when further advice will be provided.
To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what plans she has in place regarding the treatment and regulation of
7 Nov 2005 : Column 10W
birds in (a) zoological gardens and (b) other public animal parks (i) in preparation for and (ii) in the event of an outbreak of avian influenza. 
Mr. Bradshaw: The Avian Influenza (Preventive Measures in Zoos) Regulations 2005 outline the treatment and regulation of birds in 2005, and institute similar establishments in the event of a need to reduce the risk of transmission of avian influenza If required, an avian influenza prevention (zoos) zone will be declared in all or part of England, or restrictions notices may be served on the owner or occupier of any zoo where susceptible birds are kept.
Mr. Paterson: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs how many (a) parrots and (b) other birds at the quarantine facility in Essex referred to in DEFRA press release 471/05 have been examined by veterinary (a) inspectors, (b) technicians and (c) experts. 
Mr. Paterson: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what (a) parrots and (b) other birds have been sampled for H5N1 avian influenza virus; how many samples were collected; and what the results were of the samples submitted for laboratory examination. 
Mr. Bradshaw: Two parrots were submitted on 20 September for examination and both proved to be negative for avian influenza virus. A parrot and a mesia were submitted on 14 October from which the isolation of H5N1 was made. On 22 October a total of 104 parrot and 171 other bird carcasses were submitted and representative samples according to species and location in the quarantine site were tested. A number of the mesias have tested positive. We are awaiting the results from the rest of the birds.
However, on rare occasions it has been known for other mammalian species to become infected following close contact with infective birds. There is little to suggest onward transmission from these species.
There is some evidence to suggest that pigs have become infected with avian influenza viruses of subtypes H5N1 following contact with infective birds. There is no evidence of onward transmission from pigs to other pigs.
Mr. Bradshaw: There is evidence to suggest that pigs have become infected with avian influenza viruses of subtypes H5N1 following contact with infective birds. There is no evidence of onward transmission from pigs to other pigs.
Mr. Paterson: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what discussions officials from her Department had with officials of the Taiwan Government prior to publishing the working hypothesis of the Chief Veterinarian on the origin of the H5N1 virus recovered from bird samples taken at the quarantine facility in Essex. 
Mr. Paterson: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what assessment she has made of the source of H5N1 infection among birds at the quarantine facility in Essex. 
Mr. Bradshaw: A clade is a distinct branch within a phylogenic organisation of viruses within a family. Identification of which clade an influenza virus belongs involves isolation of the virus by growth on eggs, subsequent characterisation by examination of its nucleotide sequence and then comparing this to the sequences of other viruses previously isolated. It is then possible to place the new isolate within the family tree.
Keith Vaz: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs pursuant to her oral statement of 26 October 2005, Official Report, columns 3079, on avian influenza, what regulations she plans to bring forward to assist in reducing the risk of disease and strengthening the ability to control an outbreak of bird influenza. 
|Next Section||Index||Home Page|