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8 Jan 2007 : Column 264Wcontinued
Mr. Roger Williams: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs how much his Department has spent on initiatives to educate (a) farmers and (b) vets to recognise the clinical signs of biosecurity threats and infectious diseases in livestock in each year since 2000. 
Mr. Bradshaw: The information requested is not collected centrally and could be provided only at disproportionate cost. However, as an example, over £500,000 has been spent over the last 18 months raising awareness of the symptoms of avian influenza, promoting the Great Britain poultry register and informing bird keepers of the appropriate biosecurity measures. The messages used were developed with interested parties. This process is continuing with other diseases such as bluetongue, classical swine fever and foot and mouth disease.
Good biosecurity is a vital part of keeping new disease away from animals. It also helps to improve farm efficiency, and to protect neighbouring farms and the countryside.
Further information, including the current DEFRA biosecurity guidance, is available on the Departments website at:
Mr. Roger Williams: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what steps his Department is taking to detect and identify pathogens that pose threats to livestock in the United Kingdom. 
Mr. Bradshaw: The Department undertakes a wide range of surveillance activities to detect and identify pathogens that pose threats to livestock in the United Kingdom.
The International Disease Surveillance Team monitors the occurrence of major animal disease outbreaks worldwide as an early warning to assess the risk these events may pose to the UK. Our assessments and reports aim to raise awareness that animal disease outbreaks occur regularly around the world. We publish our assessments and routine summary reports on the DEFRA website or in the Veterinary Record. Details of this work can be found at:
Owing to increased international concern about the spread of avian influenza, increased targeted surveillance is being undertaken. This includes enhancing the UK wild bird survey, investigating the causes of unusually high mortality events in wild birds, and a national survey for avian influenza viruses of subtypes H5 and H7 in domestic poultry. Further information can be found on the DEFRA website at:
DEFRA continues to work closely with Her Majestys Revenue and Customs to prevent illegal imports entering the UK and causing a disease outbreak. This includes effective enforcement, targeted risk-based inspections and raising public awareness. More information can be found on the DEFRA website at:
A surveillance programme is also undertaken by the Veterinary Laboratories Agency to provide DEFRA and other interested parties with a targeted assessment of the current disease status of farmed livestock and birds in England and Wales (disease information in Scotland is provided by the Scottish Agricultural Colleges Veterinary Science Division) and to warn of potential risks from changing disease trends or new diseases. It also monitors any welfare issues resulting from changes in husbandry practice or the emergence of new diseases. The project also provides information which assists in supporting declarations of Great Britain-wide clearance for exotic non-notifiable diseases. The principal outputs of this programme are a series of disease surveillance reports which are published on the DEFRA website at:
The Department is working closely with devolved Administrations to implement the UK Veterinary Surveillance Strategy which aims to
(i) Improve our network of surveillance partners
(ii) Improve prioritisation to ensure that surveillance activity is targeted effectively, based on risk assessment
(iii) Using an innovative IT system (RADAR) to help identify, analyse and track animal disease-related threats more rapidly
(iv) Improve data sharing and data quality.
Further information on this is available on the DEFRA website at:
Mr. Roger Williams: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs whether there is a national response plan in the event of attack on the United Kingdom food supply chain. 
Barry Gardiner: DEFRA participates fully in the central Government programme to improve civil contingency planning, especially in areas relating to our departmental responsibilities. This includes planning in relation to disruptions to the UK food chain.
Mr. Drew: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs if he will undertake an evaluation of the costs and benefits of introducing pre-movement testing prior to 42 days for bovine TB. 
Mr. Bradshaw: Monitoring of the impacts of phase one of pre-movement testing is ongoing. Key statistics are updated monthly and published on the DEFRA website at:
No evidence has emerged to date that alters the decision to extend pre-movement testing to younger animals in March 2007 as already set out in legislation.
Mr. Letwin: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs how many false positive results were obtained from tests for bovine tuberculosis in (a) 2004, (b) 2005 and (c) in the first six months of 2006. 
Mr. Bradshaw: For the Great Britain routine herd testing programme for bovine tuberculosis (bTB), the Government uses the single intradermal comparative cervical tuberculin (SICCT) test (commonly known as the skin test). For reasons outlined, it is not possible to give a precise figure for the number of false positive results obtained from these bTB tests.
When the skin test is applied to cattle in bTB-free herds in Great Britain, there is less than a one in 1,000 chance that a non-infected animal will be wrongly classified as a reactor. This is known as the tests false positive rate. An alternative way of defining this is to say that the skin test has a specificity in excess of 99.9 per cent. Although the probability of getting at least one false positive result increases with the size of the herd being tested, it would be extremely rare to find more than one false positive in a herd.
It is important to bear in mind that failure to confirm the disease by post-mortem examination at the slaughterhouse, or by culturing the causative bacterium
in the laboratory, does not mean that the animal was not infected with bTB. In the early stages of this infectious disease, it is not always possible to see lesions with the naked eye and, owing to the fastidious nature of the organism, it is not possible to culture it from tissue samples in every case. Therefore, it is not correct to consider all skin test reactors that fail to disclose disease in the slaughterhouse or in the laboratory as false positives. The ease with which lesions of bTB can be detected at slaughter depends on the stage of
infection, with lesions being harder to find in the early stages of bTB (that is, when most animals are detected using the skin test).
The following table shows, for 2004, 2005 and the first six months of 2006, the total number of test reactors slaughtered and the number of such reactors that had demonstrable evidence of infection at post-mortem examination and/or bacteriological culture.
|Total number of reactor( 1) cattle slaughtered under TB control measures in Great Britain||Number of confirmed reactors||Number of unconfirmed reactors|
|(1) Reactors, inconclusive reactors and direct contacts.|
Mr. Drew: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs when he expects to make a statement on whether the national flock shows evidence of BSE. 
Mr. Bradshaw: The Veterinary Laboratories Agency (VLA) has tested all samples from sheep that were diagnosed as being positive for scrapie, from 1998 to the present time, for the possible presence of Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE). This is nearly 3,000 samples and all have been negative for BSE.
Recently, in light of the testing performed by the VLA, the Spongiform Encephalopathy Advisory Committees Sheep Subgroup discussed the current likelihood of BSE being present in the national sheep flock. They concluded that
the prevalence of BSE in the UK sheep population is most likely to be zero, or very low if present at all.
A draft of the Subgroups statement is available at:
The statement was discussed at a recent meeting of the main Committee on 7 December 2006 and, although it recommended some minor changes to the text, the main conclusions in the report were ratified by the Committee.
Chris Huhne: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what estimate his Department has made of the number of Christmas trees purchased in England that are (a) UK grown and (b) imported in each year since 1997; and if he will make a statement. 
Barry Gardiner: The following table provides details of Christmas trees sold in the UK which are imported and UK grown for each year from 1997 to 2005.
|Number of Christmas trees sold in the UK which are imported and UK grown|
|Imports||UK grown||Total sold|
Data prepared by Trade statistics, Agricultural Statistics and Analysis Division, DEFRA
ImportsH M Revenue and Customs
UK grownBritish Christmas Tree Growers Association
UK grown sales are compiled by the British Christmas Tree Growers Association and are based on the best available information and intelligence sourced from the industry. Imports of Christmas trees are as recorded in the official Overseas Trade Statistics.
The British Christmas Tree Growers Association forecast sales for 2006 of 7.6 million UK grown trees. The majority of imports occur in the latter part of the year, and consequently statistics on imports for 2006 are not yet available.
Miss McIntosh: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs how many penalty fines have been imposed on local councils in North Yorkshire under the provisions of the Clean Neighbourhoods and Environment Act 2005. 
Mr. Bradshaw: The fixed penalty notice provisions contained within the Clean Neighbourhoods and Environment Act 2005 were commenced in April 2006. Details on the number of fixed penalty notices issued between April 2006 and March 2007 will be collected from local authorities in July 2007. This information will then be published in the autumn.
Daniel Kawczynski: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs when he last discussed the relationship between supermarkets and food producers with the Competition Commission. 
Barry Gardiner: There have been no discussions between the Secretary of State and the Competition Commission about the relationship between supermarkets and food producers. However, Lord Rooker wrote to the Competition Commission on 2 June to draw attention to matters that we believe it should look at during its investigation of the grocery market. These include the impact of supermarket buyer power on the long-term viability of suppliers and producers in the UK, and the effectiveness of the supermarket code of practice. A copy of the letter can be found on the DEFRA website at:
Mr. Spellar: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs if he will take steps to reduce the temperature level in offices in his Department in order to cut carbon emissions. 
Barry Gardiner: From December 2005, DEFRA implemented a policy that its buildings are heated to a maximum temperature of 21(o)C. Active measures are being taken to implement this policy and to reduce office temperatures where they are being exceeded.
Anne Milton: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what the timetable is for the relocation and closure of the offices of his Department located at Epsom Road, Merrow, Guildford; what procedures his Department will follow on the disposal or sale of land where the offices are located; and if he will make a statement. 
Barry Gardiner: The DEFRA Management Board agreed on 16 November that the Guildford site should be disposed of with a target date of December 2007 for receipt of disposal proceeds and that the business units (including IBM) should relocate to identified locations no later than autumn 2007.
DEFRA undertakes the disposal of surplus land, buildings and residential properties in accordance with Chapter 24 of HM Treasurys Government Accounting 2000 (Amendment 4/05), following the guidelines contained in Annex 24.2. DEFRA also takes full account of other guidance issued by the Office of Government Commerce (OGC), including its most recent Guide for the Disposal of Surplus Property (November 2005).
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