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Mr. Hoyle: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what strategies his Department has in place to combat (a) avian influenza and (b) foot and mouth disease in the North West. 
The key to effective disease control is good surveillance, early detection and rapid response. DEFRAs Contingency Plan for Exotic Animal Diseases, which is available on the DEFRA website, covers arrangements for response to outbreaks of avian influenza and foot and mouth disease. Our contingency
planning was tested by the avian influenza case in Suffolk earlier this year and it coped well.
The North West Regional Resilience Forum has drafted a North West Exotic Animal Disease Plan that complements DEFRAs plan and would be implemented in the event of an outbreak requiring a response from the full range of regional resilience partners.
Ian Pearson: Of the 360,000 or so hectares English farmers are obliged to set aside, some 76,000 hectares (21 per cent.), have been entered into contracts under the non-food set-aside arrangements for the 2006 Single Payment Scheme. The majority of the hectares concerned would be used for energy purposes, but the precise number could be gathered only at disproportionate cost.
Ian Pearson: My Department funds an ongoing programme of research on Non Food Crops, which includes assessing the effects of energy crops on biodiversity. In particular, we are funding an extension to the RELU-biomass (Rural Economy and Land Use) project to asses field-scale impacts on biodiversity from New Crops. New research for 2007 is planned to model the landscape scale impacts of biomass crops on biodiversity.
Current evidence indicates that, in comparison with arable crops, energy crops such as short rotation coppice and miscanthus can encourage biodiversity, particularly for birds and insects, although the species composition may differ from those normally found on arable land.
Ian Pearson: Research into the potential of hemp as a biofuel crop suggests it is not currently competitive compared to other sources of biomass. However, hemp does have a number of high-value end uses. For example, as a fibre crop it is used in car panels, construction and as horse bedding. In addition, hempseed oil is used in food, cosmetics and various industrial applications. As a result, there is little interest in this country at present in growing it for biofuel production.
Mr. Bradshaw: The Bluetongue Control Strategy agreed in 2002, which is available on the DEFRA website, sets out the disease control measures which the UK would use in the event of an outbreak of Bluetongue. The Strategy is currently under review (in partnership with industry) in light of experience and epidemiological evidence from the 2006 Northern European outbreak, and may therefore be subject to amendment.
Bill Wiggin: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what compensation packages are in place for farmers whose stock (a) become infected with bluetongue disease and (b) need to be contiguously culled. 
Mr. Bradshaw: As Bluetongue is spread via vectors (that is, midges), rather than from animal to animal, compulsory slaughter of ruminants infected with bluetongue would not normally form part of our control strategy. We would not, therefore, expect any compensation to be payable.
Mr. Bradshaw: The species of Culicoides midge, which has acted as a vector for disease in the current North European outbreak, is different from the species which have traditionally acted as the vector in Southern Europe and Africa. The European Food Standard Agency are currently conducting a detailed epidemiological analysis of the North European outbreak, including details of vector biology and behaviour.
From initial studies it can be roughly estimated that a midge can travel up to 1.5-2 kilometres (km) a day in a local area. However, if caught in suitable meteorological conditions, midges can be carried much farther (that is, more than 200 km) especially over water masses,. All of these details are an approximation and vary according to local environmental, topographical and meteorological conditions.
The Bluetongue Order 2003 implements, in England, the requirements of European Union Council Directive 2000/75/EEC, which lays down specific measures for the control and eradication
of Bluetongue. Similar legislation applies in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
The legislation provides for measures (including veterinary investigation and movement restrictions) on premises where the presence of disease is suspected. When disease is confirmed, an initial zone of 20 kilometres (km) radius, a Protection Zone (PZ) of at least 100 km radius and Surveillance Zone (SZ) (at least 50 km beyond the PZ) would be established surrounding the infected premises. The measures applying to suspect premises are maintained and extended to all premises with susceptible animals in the 20 km zone. There is also a ban on the movement of animals out of the PZ, or out of the SZ, although some derogations from movement restrictions may be allowed, in agreement with the European Commission.
The Bluetongue Control Strategy, agreed in 2002, which is available on the DEFRA website, sets out the disease control measures in more detail. The strategy is currently under review (in partnership with industry) in light of experience and epidemiological evidence from the 2006 Northern European outbreak, and may therefore be subject to amendment.
Mr. Stephen O'Brien: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what assessment he has made of the reliability of the use of tuberculin manufactured in Holland to identify cattle with bovine tuberculosis. 
Mr. Bradshaw: In August last year, the Chief Veterinary Officer issued a report on the possible reasons for the reduction in the number of new tuberculosis (TB) incidents observed in Great Britain (GB) in the first half of 2006. This report, available on the Defra website, includes an assessment of the performance characteristics of the tuberculins manufactured by ID Lelystad BV in Holland, and by the Veterinary Laboratories Agency (VLA), in the context of Britains bovine TB testing programme. It concludes that, although the two tuberculins perform slightly differently in the field, and that this could be a small contributory factor to the reduction in the number of new TB incidents, the difference is not significant enough to account for the whole fall.
The performance of the tuberculins manufactured by ID Lelystad and by the VLA has continued to be closely monitored and analysedour reviews do not call into question the efficacy of either tuberculin supply. Furthermore, all tuberculin used in GB (produced by ID Lelystad or VLA) is produced and assayed to the same standard, as part of European Union licensing procedures.
Mr. Stephen O'Brien: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (1) how many false positive results were obtained from tests for bovine tuberculosis undertaken in Eddisbury constituency in each of the last five years; 
Research shows that when the skin test is applied to cattle in bTB-free herds in Great Britain, there is a less than 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.
When considering the false positive issue 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, due to the fastidious nature of the organism, it is not possible to culture it from tissue samples in every case. Because of this it is not possible to give a meaningful figure for the number of false positive test results.
Statistics on cattle slaughtered under bTB control measures are not collected on a constituency basis, but at county level. The following table shows the number of cattle slaughtered under TB control measures in Cheshire in the last five years:
|Number of TB reactors slaughtered||Total number of cattle slaughtered( 1)|
Details of compensation paid to farmers for the slaughter of cattle under bTB control measures are not available on either a constituency or a county basis. The following table shows the number of animals slaughtered under TB control measures in Great Britain in each year since 2001 and the amount of compensation paid as a result:
|Financial year||Total number of cattle slaughtered( 1)||Compensation paid (£ million)|
|(1) TB reactors, inconclusive reactors and direct contacts.|
(2) Provisional data, subject to change as more data become available.
(3) In 2001, the TB testing and control programme was largely suspended due to the foot and mouth disease (FMD) outbreak. When testing resumed in 2002, resources were concentrated on herds with overdue TB tests which would have had a longer period in which to contract the disease. Also the proportion of high risk herds tested immediately after the FMD outbreak was greater than that prior to the outbreak. As a result, data for 2001 and 2002 are not comparable with other years.
Mr. Stephen O'Brien: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what measures are in place to ensure that compensation for the slaughter of cattle with actual or presumed bovine tuberculosis is at market value. 
Mr. Bradshaw: In England, cattle compensation for bovine tuberculosis is determined each month, primarily using table valuations based on contemporaneous sales prices. The 47 cattle categories used were finalised after two public consultations.
To support the system, sales data are continuously collected, by an independent service provider, from a large number and wide range of sources across Great Britain. These sources include regular markets, dispersal sales, and breed sales.
A statistical analysis of sales data collected during a 12 month period has helped Defra to identify the level of variability in sales prices for each category. This intelligence is used to determine when there are insufficient data to support a table valuation.
Mr. Drew: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what evidence his Department has (a) commissioned and (b) assessed on the incidence of bovine tuberculosis amongst dogs; and whether he plans to make this a notifiable disease. 
Mr. Bradshaw: TB in dogs is already notifiable. The Tuberculosis (England) Order 2006 introduced a duty to report suspected TB in the carcase of any farmed or pet mammal to the Divisional Veterinary Manager of Animal Health (previously the State Veterinary Service). The Order also made it compulsory to notify the Veterinary Laboratories Agency (VLA) if Mycobacterium bovis ( M. bovis) is identified by laboratory examination of samples taken from any mammal (other than a human).
Although TB can affect dogs, the apparent incidence is very low. Until 2006, the VLA typically processed fewer than five samples from dogs each year. Since enactment of the new TB Order in March last year, the number of canine submissions to the VLA has increased and tissue samples from 20 dogs were processed in 2006. Only four cases of confirmed infection of canine TB caused by M. bovis have been recorded by the VLA between 1993 and 2004. There have been no confirmed cases since 2004.
The consensus of veterinary opinion is that dogs are a spill-over host for M. bovis and not an epidemiologically significant source of infection for cattle or other species. Therefore, no research has been conducted in this area.
To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what assessment he has made of the likely impact on British Waterways ability to meet its deadline for 2012 for the full clearance of the maintenance arrears if British
Waterways grant-in-aid is to be set at £55.4 million with a five per cent. year on year reduction with adjustments for retail price index; and whether a new deadline has been set for the removal of these arrears. 
Barry Gardiner: Funding levels over the Comprehensive Spending Review period have not yet been decided. British Waterways target to clear its maintenance arrears by December 2012, which it published in 2002-03, was predicated on assumptions of both Government grant and planned returns on commercial income. British Waterways adjusts its plans in the light of updated figures for both grant and income.
While the safety backlog has been completed, no date has been set for completion of the maintenance backlog. British Waterways will continue to reduce it using a risk-based approach as it moves towards greater self sufficiency through finding ways to boost income.
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