§ 14. Mr. Andrew Smith
To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if he will make a statement about the incidence of bovine spongiform encephalopathy in the United Kingdom.
§ The Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (Mr. David Maclean)
The incidence of confirmed cases of BSE over the past 12 months is 3.9 cases per thousand of the total adult cattle population in Great Britain and 0.24 cases per thousand of the adult cattle population in Northern Ireland.
§ Mr. Smith
Will the Minister confirm that the Government's advisory committee on BSE was forecasting a monthly incidence of 350 to 400 cases? Does he share my concern that the actual incidence for February was more than 1,500 cases? How does the Minister explain the actual incidence so greatly exceeding the estimate? What does he intend to do about that? In the interests of farmers, consumers and animals, will he now review his decision to close a number of veterinary inspection centres?
§ Mr. Maclean
All the safety measures are in place to protect the public and that is our prime concern. Independent experts are constantly reviewing the safety precautions that we have taken. As for the number of BSE cases, if the hon. Gentleman studies the figures and graphs that we produce on a weekly basis, he will see that the predicted pattern usually rises in February and March every year and declines during the rest of the year. This year is no exception. The BSE incidence is following the pattern of previous years.