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Roadworks: Speed Incentives

Baroness Chalker of Wallasey asked Her Majesty's Government:

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions (Lord Whitty): Whenever planned roadworks are likely to cause unavoidable and significant disruption to users of the trunk road network, particular care is taken to introduce adequate incentives into

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contracts, such as "lane rental". These are designed to ensure the works are completed as quickly as possible.

However, on trunk roads during 1997-98, this form of contract was used for 31 out of 34 major maintenance schemes, plus 18 other schemes valued at less than £1 million.

Lane rental is not appropriate for all roadworks--for example, where the full extent of the necessary repairs, or potential difficulties, cannot be identified until work has begun. Experience also shows that the additional cost of lane rental cannot be justified on smaller contracts where traffic disruption is not expected to be significant. It is available to local highway authorities for use on their roads in appropriate circumstances.

There can be many reasons for apparent lack of activity on part of a road coned off to traffic. For example, newly laid road surfacing materials might be hardening or, at a bridge or culvert, work might be under way out of sight beneath the road. The putting out and taking in of road cones can be a hazardous activity, and so where works are staged, and the time period between stages is brief, then cones are sometimes left in place for safety reasons.

Badger Culling

Baroness Rendell of Babergh asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What action they propose to take in response to the recommendation of the Standing Committee of the Bern Convention on the badger culling trial.[HL798]

The Parliamentary Secretary, Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (Lord Donoughue): The badger is not an endangered species in this country. We give it statutory protection which goes well beyond what the Bern Convention requires. However tuberculosis is a serious disease of cattle (and humans and badgers). We have carried out a thorough scientific review and a wide public consultation. We have thus carefully explored the possible solutions for the effective control of bovine TB, We have suspended badger culling throughout most of Great Britain but have reluctantly concluded that we must test its effectiveness as one part of a broad strategy which includes vaccine research as well as checks on other wildlife species for TB. We therefore intend to continue the trial and will explain to the Standing Committee why this action is fully consistent with the provisions of the Bern Convention.

Farm Incomes

Lord Cledwyn of Penrhos asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What is the latest position on farm incomes.[HL797]

Lord Donoughue: Estimated figures show that total income from farming fell by 32 per cent. in real terms in 1998. The fall is in large part a result of lower prices

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for many agricultural commodities due to the oversupply of commodity markets. Detailed estimates of the income, output and productivity of United Kingdom agriculture in 1998 were published on 28 January and placed in the Library of the House.

Bovine TB

The Countess of Mar asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What proportion of cattle which are tuberculin test reactors are found to have active infection upon post-mortem.[HL651]

Lord Donoughue: In 1997, 3,298 cattle in Great Britain reacted to the tuberculin test. Of these, 1,477 (45 per cent.) were found, on laboratory test, to be positive for M. bovis. However, it is not possible to estimate from post-mortem results what proportion would be infectious to other animals or to humans.

The Countess of Mar asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What proportion of cattle showing inconclusive reactions to tuberculin tests are subsequently found to be clear on further testing.[HL652]

Lord Donoughue: An analysis of data for 1996 showed that 5,091 cattle in Great Britain reacted inconclusively to the tuberculin test at the standard interpretation. Of these, 3,817 (75 per cent.) did not react on the second test, and a further 797 remained inconclusive. Of these, 612 animals (12 per cent. of the original total) did not react to a third test. Available data do not indicate the final result for 215 animals, but these are likely to have tested negative.

The Countess of Mar asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What proportion of cattle which are tuberculin test reactors are found at post-mortem to have udder lesions caused by the organism.[HL653]

Lord Donoughue: This information is not routinely recorded, but it is rare that TB incidents which suggest spread via the udder are found.

The Countess of Mar asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they will list the current research projects funded by the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food to discover the cause of, and possible solutions to, tuberculosis in cattle.[HL655]

Lord Donoughue: In addition to the randomised badger culling trial designed by the Bourne Group, the Ministry is currently funding the following research projects:

    Analysis of European badger (M. meles) population dynamics and social organisation in a population naturally infected with M. bovis.

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    Badgers and bovine tuberculosis: a proactive strategy for the control of bovine TB in badger populations.

    Modelling badger populations, the epidemiology of natural infection with M. bovis, the risk of spread to cattle and the consequences of control.

    The consequences of perturbation caused by badger removal for the control of TB in cattle: a study of behaviour.

    Longitudinal study of natural Mycobacterium bovis in badgers.

    An epidemiological study of a badger population naturally infected with M. bovis.

    Development of vaccine candidates for protection of badgers against infection with Mycobacterium bovis.

    The development of animal models to test candidate vaccines for M. bovis in badgers.

    Blood tests to distinguish vaccinated from TB infected cattle; Interferon assay to improve diagnostics in reactors.

    Assessment of the humaneness, efficacy, usability and non-target risk of leg-cuffs for capturing badgers.

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    The effect on the viability of M. bovis of freezing samples prior to culture testing.

    An assessment of the validity of the current necropsy protocol to detect tuberculous lesions in the badger.

    A spatial analysis using GIS of risk factors associated with TB incidents in cattle herds in England and Wales.

    Perturbation study (culture and serology for M. bovis carried out at VLA).

    Bovine TB in badgers and the risks to cattle: a spatial analysis.

    DNA fingerprinting of samples from badger culling trial.

    NVL (no visible lesion) tuberculous badger: pathology, immunology and epidemiology.

The research programme for 1999-2000 has been reviewed in the light of the recommendations of the Krebs report and a research requirement document was published in April 1998. Research will be focused on understanding the causes of outbreaks of bovine TB and developing improved strategies to reduce the number of outbreaks, especially by creating a cattle vaccine. Contracts for this work are currently being finalised.

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