HC Deb 19 February 1998 vol 306 cc1177-8
15. Mr. Whittingdale

What progress has been made in eradicating BSE from the United Kingdom herd; and if he will make a statement.[28759]

Dr. John Cunningham

As a result of the control measures already in place, the BSE epidemic is forecast to be close to extinction by the year 2001. That forecast was reiterated recently by Professor Sir John Pattison, chairman of the Spongiform Encephalopathy Advisory Committee, in his address to the annual meeting of the National Farmers Union.

Mr. Whittingdale

Can the Minister confirm that the requirements that were agreed at Florence for the lifting of the beef export ban have been met? In view of that, and in the light of the evidence that he has just given to the House that the measures are succeeding, what is he doing to get the ban lifted not just from Northern Ireland but from the United Kingdom as a whole?

Dr. Cunningham

I responded to the House on an earlier occasion on this issue. Two schemes for the lifting of the ban are being considered by the Commission in Brussels. The first of those, which is the export certified herd scheme, was submitted by the previous Administration. That was unanimously approved by the Commission and awaits a decision by the standing veterinary committee. As I said earlier, I cannot see any good reason why that committee should not reach the same conclusion as the Commission on that scheme.

The date-based export scheme, which will cover all animals, will be universal, and the hon. Gentleman is right to say that we need such a scheme. It was submitted by me in October, and has so far received favourable responses, but is being further considered. I assure the hon. Gentleman and the House that we are doing everything possible. Literally on a weekly basis, we are making representations in Brussels, as I did again earlier this week, to ensure that progress on both those schemes is as good as it can possibly be.