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Justine Greening: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer when he plans to answer Questions (a) 208270, (b) 208268, (c) 208271 and (d) 208269 on vehicle excise duty, tabled by the hon. Member for Putney on 30 May 2008. 
Mr. Heald: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs when he expects to reach conclusions following his Departments aggregates levy consultation; and whether he plans to publish the outcome of the consultation. 
Mr. Drew: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what estimate he has made of the number of foreign workers participating in the seasonal farm workers scheme in each of the last three years; and what estimate he has made of the number in 2008. 
The annual quota for the number of foreign workers who were permitted to enter the United Kingdom under the auspices of the seasonal agricultural workers scheme in 2005, 2006 and 2007 was 16,250. The quota was met in each year. The quota for 2008 is also 16,250.
Sir Michael Spicer: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs when he expects to make the Single Farm Payment for 2007 to the constituent of the hon. Member for West Worcestershire, Mr. Robert Philipson-Stow of Pendock Estates. 
Mr. Drew: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what discussions he has had with the Secretary of State for Innovation, Universities and Skills on the sharing of funding for animal health and welfare research between Departments; and if he will make a statement. 
Jonathan Shaw: The Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) funds a wide range of animal health and welfare research projects. The Department of Innovation, Universities and Skills (DIUS) is the Government Department which funds the BBSRC.
I have not had specific discussions with the Secretary of State for Innovation, Universities and Skills on this issue. I consider that good working links exist between DEFRA and BBRSC, who keep each other informed about research funding plans and aim to have well co-ordinated research programmes. Regular interaction
takes place between DEFRA, the BBSRC and other UK research funders through various media such as the UK Animal Disease Research Funders' Forum, the Microbial Safety of Food Funders' Group and the UK TSE Research and Development Co-ordination Group. Joint activities such as scientific workshops and research calls have been organised by these groups.
DEFRA has observer status at meetings of the BBSRC Animal Sciences and AgriFood Committees. Both DEFRA and BBSRC are involved in the EU Standing Committee on Agricultural Research, the Collaborative Working Group on Animal Health and Welfare Research and the ERA-NET on emerging and major infectious diseases of livestock.
In addition to this close interaction, the BBSRC and DEFRA have jointly funded projects on viral disease of livestock. DEFRA also co-fund a number of projects identified from the BBSRC responsive mode grant applications under the Government Partnership Awards scheme.
Ben Chapman: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs how much funding his Department provided to (a) the National Bee Unit and (b) the Bee Inspectorate in 2001-02. 
Sir Nicholas Winterton: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what recent assessment he has made of exotic threats to the honey bee population, with particular reference to the small hive beetle. 
Jonathan Shaw: The possibility of the small hive beetle arriving in the UK is a recognised threat to the health of honey bees and the National Bee Unit remains vigilant for the arrival of this and other exotic pests and diseases. To promote early detection, publicity material has been distributed to help raise individual beekeepers awareness of the risk. Plant health import inspectors and horticultural marketing inspectors have also been alerted, as one possible entry pathway is imported fruit. To help mitigate this threat, DEFRA has developed a contingency plan in consultation with stakeholders and is also pressing the European Commission to introduce tighter contingency arrangements to reduce the risk of spread should the small hive beetle be introduced into another member state. Additionally, DEFRA is funding research into a lure and kill monitoring system for rapid deployment should the small hive beetle be detected.
Mr. Paice: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what research his Department has commissioned on the role of maize and trace element deficiency in the spread of M.bovis. 
Jonathan Shaw [ holding answer 15 July 2008] : While the role of maize in the spread of Mycobacterium bovis (M. bovis) has not been specifically investigated by any DEFRA funded research projects, the case-control studies carried out as part of the Randomised Badger Culling Trial (RBCT) did investigate associations between a number of feed types and risk of a herd TB breakdown. Studies TB99 and CCS2005, found an association between feeding silage and the use of grass feeding types for grazing/forage and an increase in risk of TB breakdown, respectively. The findings of these studies are in the final report of the Independent Scientific Group report on cattle TB. In addition TB99 also identified not using feeding supplements as a risk factor for confirmed cases of TB.
The association between M. bovis infection and trace elements such as selenium, copper and vitamin B12 status of cattle was investigated as part of the DEFRA
funded project Pathogenesis and Diagnosis of Tuberculosis in CattleComplementary Field Studies (project SE3013), carried out at the Veterinary Laboratories Agency (VLA). While little evidence was found for a difference by TB status in copper or B12, associations were found between low levels of selenium and a higher risk of an animal being infected with M.bovis. However, given the design of the study and the evidence that the action of some micro-nutrients can be substantially influenced by the levels of others it was not possible to conclude that the observed associations were causal. The full report can be downloaded from DEFRAs website.
I remain open minded about the possibility of a nutritional link but because of the number of variables involved and the likelihood a causal link could never be proven I am not inclined to fund further research into this subject.
Mr. Paice: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what assessment he has made of the effectiveness of the cattle testing regime in preventing cattle-to-cattle transmission of bovine tuberculosis; and what representations he has received on the frequency of the tests under the regime. 
Jonathan Shaw [holding answer 15 July 2008 ]: The underlying principle of our bovine TB test and slaughter programme is to identify infected cattle as early as possible and minimise the risk of the transmission of the disease within and between cattle herds. Many countries where infection is maintained solely through spread between cattle have eradicated bovine TB through the systematic testing and reactor slaughter programme that we use today.
DEFRA has funded, and is currently funding, a number of research projects modelling the potential impacts of various cattle movement control scenarios on the spread of TBfinal reports are published on the DEFRA website. We recognise the importance of monitoring the effectiveness of the TB control programmeand we will enhance controls in the light of emerging evidence. New policies introduced in recent years include: zero tolerance for overdue TB tests (i.e. herd movement restrictions applied immediately a test becomes overdue); mandatory pre-movement testing of cattle in high risk areas; and increased use of the gamma interferon blood test. These measures increase our ability to identify infected cattle, thereby reducing the risk of disease spread. We have also been working with stakeholders to raise awareness of simple biosecurity measures to further reduce transmission risks between animals.
Increasing the frequency of bovine TB testing in some areas was one of the additional measures recommended by the Independent Science Group (ISG). Initial cost benefit analysis of increasing the frequency of cattle testing suggests that they would come at a high cost with limited benefitsand so would be difficult to justify in terms of Government expenditure. Decisions about the value of such measures, and how they might be funded, are as much, if not more, a question for industry as for Government and will need to be discussed by the Bovine TB Partnership Group.
Our current approach to determining the minimum levels of routine testing for cattle herds is risk-based and consistent with the requirements of EU Council Directive 64/432/EEC. Parish Testing Intervals reflect
the local level of bovine TB prevalence, and are reviewed each year to take account of any change in the disease situation. An increase in the levels of disease in an area triggers more frequent testing. Divisional Veterinary Managers (Animal Health) are already empowered to increase testing if local or individual herd circumstances indicate that such action is required.
Mr. Paice: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what estimates he has made of the number of cattle likely to be slaughtered under the bovine tuberculosis regime in the next three years. 
Jonathan Shaw [holding answer 15 July 2008]: My Department has not attempted to estimate the numbers of cattle likely to be slaughtered under the bovine tuberculosis control regime in the next three years.
It is very difficult to make such forecasts due to the chronic, multifactorial and insidious nature of bovine TB. The number of cattle slaughtered as tuberculosis (TB) test reactors and direct contacts largely depends on (i) the underlying prevalence of the infection in the cattle (and badger) population and (ii) the intensity and accuracy of the TB screening programme for cattle herds. The former is subject to cyclical changes in the endemic TB areas that are difficult to predict, whereas the latter is subject to annual changes as TB herd testing frequencies are reviewed every year in response to the incidence of herd breakdowns in the previous years. Furthermore, the enhancements to the TB testing regime introduced over the last two years (such as pre-movement testing and gamma-interferon blood testing) are expected to result in higher numbers of reactors being identified each year, at least in the short to medium term.
Mr. Paice: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs pursuant to the Statement of 7 July 2008, Official Report, columns 1157-8, on bovine TB, if he will publish the evidence which underlay his evaluation of the PCR test reported to the House on 7 July 2008. 
Jonathan Shaw [holding answer 15 July 2008]: A number of diagnostic tests for the detection of Mycobacterium bovis ( M . bovis) infection in badgers have been developed through DEFRA funded research projects at the Veterinary Laboratories Agency (VLA). The final reports of completed research projects have been published on the DEFRA website.
Bovine TB is currently confirmed by culture of M. bovis in the laboratory. However, M. bovis grows very slowly so culture results can take six weeks to several months to come through. DEFRA funded VLA project SE3008 (April 1999-December 2004), Detection and enumeration of M. bovis from clinical and environmental samples, aimed to develop PCR-based methods that may allow rapid screening of samples from infected cattle and monitoring of the environment and badger populations for the presence of M. bovis. This research showed that while the PCR test specific for M. bovis was found to be only 50 per cent. as sensitive as the gold standard of culture, the sensitivity of the M. tuberculosis complex PCR test (i.e. a less specific PCR able to detect mycobacteria that are members of the M. tb complex) was increased from 70 per cent., to 90 per cent., by the end of the project. While such low sensitivities for M. bovis detection rules out the use of this PCR test for use on environmental samples and excretions collected from
badgers, with further development and evaluation this test could be used in the laboratory to achieve faster confirmation and subsequent tracing of bTB infection in slaughterhouse cases.
Work funded by DEFRA to validate the PCR test developed by Warwick University to detect M. bovis in the environment is ongoing (Project SE3231: Validation and epidemiological application of molecular methods for monitoring M. bovis survival and dissemination into the environment). This is a joint project between the VLA, Warwick University and University College, London and includes validation of the test using field samples. A full project description is available on the DEFRA website. A final report on the work will be published following its completion in April 2010.
If it is shown to be usable as a robust practical field test, consideration of its potential use in any bTB control policy will need to take account of the results of the Randomised Badger Culling Trial, which showed that localised culling was associated with an increase in cattle herd TB breakdowns due to the perturbation effect on badgers and increased transmission of bTB.
Mr. Paice: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs if he will give a breakdown of his Department's expenditure on bovine tuberculosis expenditure in 2007-08 by main budget heading; what estimate he has made of such expenditure for the rest of the current comprehensive spending review period; and what assumptions underlay that estimate. 
Jonathan Shaw [holding answer 15 July 2008]: GB expenditure on bovine tuberculosis (bTB) in 2007-08 was £79.8 million. However, we are unable to provide an accurate forecast of expenditure on bTB in the period of the 2008-11 comprehensive spending review as budgets have not yet been finalised.
|(1) Figure does not include research into culling methods or the badger population survey.|
1. Cattle testingthe cost of carrying out the testing of cattle for TB by arranging, assessing and monitoring tests, conducting investigations of incident herds and diagnostic testing by local veterinary inspectors on behalf of DEFRA. Note: These costs include Scotland and Wales (funded by DEFRA).
2. Compensationincludes payments for reactors and contact animals which are compulsorily slaughtered. This includes salvage money received by the Government for those carcasses which are permitted to go into the food chain or are eligible for over 30 month scheme payments. Note: These costs include Scotland and Wales and are funded by their respective Governments.
3. Surveillance activity by the VLAincludes all DEFRA-funded work carried out by the Veterinary Laboratories Agency relating to TB in cattle and badgers including the supply of tuberculin.
5. HQ/overheadsincludes staff costs for veterinary advice and administration of TB policy in England, Scotland and Wales.
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