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Written Ministerial Statements

Monday 18 June 2007

Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

Independent Scientific Group on Cattle TB

The Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (David Miliband): The Independent Scientific Group on Cattle TB (ISG) has today published its final report, “Bovine TB: The Scientific Evidence”. Copies of the report will be placed in the Libraries of both Houses.

This report is the culmination of nearly 10 years’ work by the ISG and provides a wealth of valuable evidence. I am very grateful to Professor John Bourne, chairman of the ISG, and his colleagues on the group, for their long commitment to this study.

It is indisputable that bovine TB remains a serious problem for the farming industry with disease prevalence increasing sharply over the last decade. The cost to the taxpayer was around £80 million in 2006-07, and farmers whose herds are affected by disease also face significant financial and personal costs.

Cattle control measures are critical to tackling this disease. We have already tightened these with the introduction of a zero tolerance regime for overdue tests; changes to the compensation system; a new requirement for pre-movement tests from high risk herds; and the extension of the use of the gamma interferon test. The numbers of herds tested each year has increased significantly, increasing costs to both the taxpayer and farmers. We will consider carefully the ISG’s conclusions, which suggest more could be done to tackle transmission between cattle and root out infection from herds. New cattle measures would of course increase the cost of the TB control regime. We will therefore need to work with the farming industry and the veterinary profession to assess the implications of these recommendations.

We know that the badger can play a role in maintaining disease in the areas where bovine TB is endemic. The Protection of Badgers Act 1992 allows the culling of badgers under licence for disease control purposes but, while the randomised badger culling trial (RBCT) has been in progress, there has been a moratorium on issuing licences for culling of badgers for bovine TB. The ISG’s final report marks the end of the RBCT. We therefore need to decide next steps.

The ISG’s report summarises the results of the RBCT. These show that small scale culling can increase levels of TB in cattle. The report also says that proactive culling as practised in the RBCT can bring benefits but only if culling is sustained over a number of years and co-ordinated. The ISO are not convinced that it would be practical or economical to deliver a cull in this way, leading them to conclude that badger culling could not contribute meaningfully to the control of bovine TB in Great Britain.

I have always made it clear that we will base our approach to tackling bovine TB on all the available
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evidence. The publication of this report makes an important contribution to the now extensive evidence base on this disease. We will be considering the issues it raises very carefully and will continue to work with the industry, Government advisers and scientific experts in reaching a final policy decision on this serious issue.

Veterinary Laboratories Agency Annual Report

The Minister for Local Environment, Marine and Animal Welfare (Mr. Ben Bradshaw): The 2006-07 annual report and accounts for the Veterinary Laboratories Agency will be laid before Parliament today.

Copies will be available in the Libraries of both Houses.


Hybrid and Chimera Embryos

The Minister of State, Department of Health (Caroline Flint): The House of Commons Science and Technology Committee published its report on Government proposals for the regulation of hybrid and chimera embryos on 5 April 2007. The principal area covered by the report was Government proposals for the regulation of inter-specific embryos.

We welcome the recommendations of the Health Select Committee, and have today laid before Parliament the Government’s response to the report (Cm 7139). Copies of the response are available for hon. Members in the Vote Office.

Home Department

‘Managing Global Migration’ Strategy

The Minister for Immigration and Asylum (Mr. Liam Byrne): I am today publishing a new strategy entitled “Managing Global Migration: A Strategy to Build Stronger International Alliances to Manage Migration”. This strategy has been drawn up jointly between the Home Office and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. Copies of this document have been placed in the Libraries of both Houses.

Around the world Britain is laying the foundation of our offshore border controls. Our visa waiver test for all non-EEA countries is underway. Biometric visas are now issued in 75 countries. Over 20 million passenger movements have been screened before arrival in the UK.

But the impacts of migration are not issues Britain faces alone. This strategy seeks to outline how we will work with European and international partners to better manage global migration. We will now make migration a key part of the UK’s relations with other countries. Other priority actions are to enhance the
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sharing of data and expertise with other countries to make it easier for people to visit the UK for legitimate reasons and more difficult for those who seek to enter illegally or do us harm.

By working with EU partners we aim to further reduce ‘asylum shopping’. We will also make clear to illegal migrants’ countries of origin the benefits of co-operating and the disadvantages of not doing so. By building bridges with priority countries we will bring needed skills to the UK to boost our economy.

The main proposals include:

I commend the strategy to the House.

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Trade and Industry

Strategic Export Controls

The Minister for Science and Innovation (Malcolm Wicks): The Government will today—Monday 18 June 2007—launch their review of UK strategic export controls, in the form of a full public consultation.

The UK’s strategic export controls support the Government’s counter-proliferation objectives. They are based on the Export Control Act 2002 and in particular its secondary legislation, which came into effect in 2004. This legislation overhauled the UK’s export control system for the first time in over 60 years and provided the comprehensive legislative framework needed to control proliferation activity and police the arms trade effectively in today’s increasingly complex world. The changes were radical and far-reaching. That is why the Government made a public commitment to undertake a post-implementation review three years after implementation.

This review will enable the Government to revisit the UK’s strategic export controls in the light of experience, to establish whether they are having the intended effect without imposing unnecessary or disproportionate burdens on business. The Government will also need to look to the future, and so the consultation document sets out options for further change, many of which have been identified in discussions with both industry and non-Governmental organisations. Ultimately the Government’s aim is to find an effective and proportionate way to guard against the risk of undesirable exports and related activities.

The consultation document considers a wide range of options for changes to the controls, including in relation to trading in military goods conducted by UK persons overseas; the provision of ancillary services such as transportation; the production of controlled goods overseas under licence from UK companies or by UK subsidiaries; the transfer of equipment for military use in embargoed destinations; and restrictions on the export of goods that could be used for torture.

The consultation will run until 30 September 2007. Copies of the consultation document have been placed in the Library of the House. At the end of this period, the Government will carefully analyse all responses received. The Government intend to publish the initial results of that analysis by 31 December 2007.

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