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Lord Carter: My Lords, can the Minister say more about vaccination? The Statement talks about the proposal to trigger an emergency vaccination campaign should the need arise. It refers to the recommendation of the Royal Society that research would lead to a vaccine—presumably a single vaccine—that could be used routinely rather than just in an emergency against all strains of FMD and for all species. I understand that it is called a polyvalent vaccine. How long would it take to produce such a vaccine? To return to the emergency situation, is the intention to have a stock of vaccines available for all the major strains of FMD that might occur in order for the emergency vaccination scheme to work?

Lord Whitty: My Lords, the Royal Society recommendation, which we accept, was that we should help initiate an international effort to try and find a single "polyvariant"—I think is the term—vaccine. We need to pursue that in the EU and the OIE. There is no such vaccine at the moment. I cannot give any indication of how soon science will produce one.

As regards the immediate situation and having vaccine on standby or available for an emergency situation, it is the intention that we would cover what

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I understand are the seven main strains of foot and mouth most likely theoretically to break out. That position should be achieved in the time needed to clear up the other difficulties in setting up a vaccine option. That is already under way.

Baroness Carnegy of Lour: My Lords, my noble friend on the Front Bench mentioned that at the back of the book the Government say that they will expect farmers to insure against foot and mouth rather than get compensation. No doubt before the Government contemplated this they discussed the matter with the insurance companies. What is their attitude to a risk which is largely determined by government action and not by individual farmers whom they would be insuring? Are the insurance companies happy about this?

Lord Whitty: My Lords, the last part of the main part of the report refers to discussions which are ongoing between the Government and the insurance industry as to whether some sharing of the risk of the cost of compensation should be established, either in an insurance form or on a levy-based form. There are no final conclusions. It would be right to say that at this point the insurance industry is unlikely to be prepared to take anything like the full risk. We are therefore looking more thoroughly at a levy-based system which could be phased in with the Government still taking the main responsibility in the early years of such a system. Final decisions have yet to be taken.

Lord Williamson of Horton: My Lords, the Minister will not be surprised if I intervene on that point. My first request is that he should keep the Royal Society report under his pillow every night, as it deals with the key issue of how we avoid a mass slaughter of animals, if there is another serious outbreak of foot and mouth disease. It goes without saying that slaughter is the right policy for the infective animals and direct contacts, but it also goes without saying that we must plan for and achieve the necessity of vaccination-to-live beyond that.

The report makes some direct references to what we should do, and I shall pose two questions to the Minister about that. The report states categorically that,


    "Important advances have taken place within the last year, both technically and in public attitudes, which would allow emergency vaccination to develop into a prime control strategy because we can distinguish vaccinated from vaccinated-infected animals".

The report also says:


    "With significant effort by DEFRA, this should be possible by the end of 2003".

That is to say that we can achieve the things necessary to put ourselves into that position. I have made that point before, but I make it again, for it is most important.

I was a little disappointed to hear the Minister say in his Statement that the Follett report should "play a major role". That sounds like the sort of drafting that I did, when I was in the Ministry of Agriculture,

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Fisheries and Food. We do not want the report to "play a major role": we want it to be carried into action by the end of 2003. Will the Minister make it clear that the Government intend to carry through the recommendations for specific action set out in paragraph 29 of the report, so that we do not have again the terrible circumstances that we had before? I am convinced that we can avoid such circumstances in the future and that only preparatory action is needed to achieve that.

Lord Whitty: My Lords, with regard to the feasibility of introducing vaccination, the Government are confident that the problems can be resolved. However, there are still problems. We are confident that the technical advances mean that we can now distinguish between vaccinated animals and diseased animals. That must be strictly validated, but it would be within the timescale.

There is still some public concern, but we do not see that there is any reason why vaccinated meat should not get into the food chain, subject to the usual rules. Therefore, the anxieties of the trade, which were said to reflect consumer anxieties, should not prevent us from using vaccination in some future outbreak. My noble friend—I call him "my noble friend"; I beg his pardon—the noble Lord, Lord Williamson of Horton, says that we are avoiding a mass cull. We are, of course, attempting to use all measures to limit the number of animals killed, but it is important to recognise that the categories to which he refers and to which the Royal Society and I have referred represent a significant number of animals in the kind of epidemic that occurred last time.

I hope that the other measures in the report will limit the initial cull problem with diseased premises and direct contacts. After that, vaccination would play a major role, but there may need to be other strategies as well, including the use of extensive, pre-emptive cull, as recommended by the Anderson report. The combination of that and greater emphasis on vaccination at that point will, undoubtedly, limit the number of animals killed.

The noble Lord said that I should sleep on the Royal Society report. I have done that for several months now, and I think I have absorbed most of its lessons. The Government have accepted some lessons in principle, if not necessarily entirely in detail, but we certainly accept the general strategy of the Royal Society report, including its views on vaccination.

Lord Soulsby of Swaffham Prior: My Lords, I share with my noble friend Lady Byford the view that we should welcome many of the points made in the report, although there has been little time to study the response in detail. There are one or two points that we should identify. One important issue is the national identification of livestock, so that we know where animals are and where they are going. The other, which has been mentioned in several debates, is the importation of meat and meat products. That is an important issue in the prevention of future outbreaks of disease—not only foot and mouth disease but many others.

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I am slightly puzzled about the "blue box" area restriction on the movement of animals for 10 kilometres around infected premises. Public rights of way are to be restricted for only three kilometres. I know that several committees have said that the dangers are minimal, but it would seem to be more sensible to have, initially, a ban on all movements—on footpaths and of livestock—within 10 kilometres. That could then, perhaps, be reduced to three kilometres in due course, once the local outbreak was under control and was no longer an immediate danger.

I welcome the report's clarification of the position with regard to infected premises, the cull of in-contact animals and the cull of contiguous animals. There is an important difference. In the past few months, people have been confused about in-contact animals and contiguous animals. Now, a contiguous cull will be restricted to in-contact animals, and vaccination will be used, something that we all welcome. However, if we are to get to the desired position with regard to vaccination, we will need a vaccine that produces prolonged immunity and can differentiate between vaccinated animals and infected animals. We can do that experimentally, at present, but we cannot do it on a wide scale. The vaccine must cover several of the main strains. It should be a polyvalent—the word that the noble Lord, Lord Carter, sought—vaccine.

It would not, of course, be realistic to try to produce a vaccine against all the strains of foot and mouth disease in the world. However, we know the main strains and where they come from. It will take a lot of effort, and we have, at Pirbright, a centre that is world-class in research into foot and mouth disease and other viral diseases. I hope that the Government will immediately provide the extra funding for that work, so that we are not left unprepared. Over the years, Pirbright has lost some good people through retirement, and there is a need to recruit good scientists immediately.

Lord Pearson of Rannoch: My Lords, I wonder whether my noble friend realises that questions to the Minister on a Statement should be fairly short and to the point. Other noble Lords may wish to intervene.

Lord Soulsby of Swaffham Prior: My Lords, I am coming to my question.

The £25 million that has been promised will last only five years. It must be for longer than that. Will the Minister assure the House that such funding for veterinary research and teaching will continue beyond the five years?


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