§ 3.38 p.m.
§ The Minister of State, Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (Baroness Hayman)
My Lords, with the leave of the House, I shall repeat a Statement made in another place by my right honourable friend the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food. The Statement is as follows:
"With permission, I would like to make a Statement on the foot and mouth outbreak. This is the 10th time I have updated the House on the outbreak. Once again, I would like to provide details of the latest position on the disease, set out the measures the Government are taking and give right honourable and honourable Members the opportunity to raise points with me.
"As of midday today, there had been 1,537 confirmed cases of foot and mouth disease In Great Britain. Since I spoke to the House last week, the average number of cases per day has fallen further, from 16 in the week ending 22nd April, to 11 in the 821 week ending 29th April. This continues the decline of the disease from the highest point of 43 cases per day in the week ending 1st April.
"Over 1.4 million animals have now been slaughtered for disease control purposes. A further 630,000 animals have been slaughtered under the livestock welfare disposal scheme. Perhaps I may remind the House that in the 1967 outbreak of foot and mouth disease, which lasted for over seven months, only 434,000 animals were slaughtered in total. The current outbreak is, as I have said before, unprecedented in scale and in the speed at which it spread.
"There is no longer any backlog of animals awaiting disposal anywhere in Great Britain. The disposal backlog in Devon to which I referred last week will have been cleared by the end of today. There are small numbers of animals awaiting slaughter but the position has improved greatly over the past few weeks. This achievement is the result of a concerted effort over the past few days and weeks, using all disposal methods—rendering, burning, incinerating, landfill and burial—according to need and as appropriate in the local circumstances.
"We have been able to lift restrictions in 10 different areas where there have been no new cases for 30 days and thorough veterinary and serological testing has taken place. Some 16,000 farms have now benefited from the lifting of the tighter movement restrictions associated with infected areas. This represents about 13 per cent of the number of farms which were ever restricted.
"We can therefore be optimistic about the future course of the disease, although the epidemiologists warn us that cases will continue to occur for some time yet. What is clear is that our policy was the right one: to bear down on the outbreak swiftly and prevent greater spread of the disease by rapid slaughtering within 24 hours of the report of a new case, and tracing dangerous contacts and tackling the disease on contiguous premises within 48 hours. This has been crucial to the control of the epidemic.
"Last week I was able to announce to the House a broadening of the existing areas of discretion for local veterinary judgment in relation to culling on a neighbouring farm. This has provided some relief from automatic slaughter of cattle and has been generally welcomed by farmers, as has the move towards making special arrangements for rare breeds of sheep and hefted flocks.
"It remains the position that the necessary support among farmers, consumers and the food industry for a vaccination programme in Cumbria and possibly Devon has not been forthcoming, and I cannot see that situation changing now, given the decline in the number of daily confirmed cases. Contingency plans remain in place for the rapid introduction of a vaccination programme should the situation change.
822 "I announced last week a number of ways in which we have re-established routes for healthy livestock to be sold into the food chain. I am pleased to say that we are now issuing instructions to veterinary staff so that they can issue licences which will allow healthy stock from premises within three kilometres of an infected place, after a period of time, to move to slaughter and use in the human food chain. Farmers who wish to take advantage of this should contact their local animal health offices. The livestock welfare disposal scheme remains open to anyone who can demonstrate a real welfare problem that cannot be addressed another way. My right honourable friend Lady Hayman will be meeting farming organisations tomorrow to review the operation of the scheme and its future.
"The Government also want to do something to help with welfare problems on farms in infected areas which cannot move animals because of the local intensity of FMD cases. I therefore propose to ask our veterinary staff to examine these problems on a case-by-case basis and to permit movements on farms provided that the fight against FMD is not compromised. The most common problem which this change will address will be where animals are not able to cross public roads to fresh grazing. The change will be introduced by the middle of next week at the latest.
"We continue to pay large sums in compensation and other payments to farmers resulting from the foot and mouth outbreak. We have already paid over £100 million in compensation, and the latest estimate is that this figure will eventually be over £600 million. The livestock welfare disposal scheme is expected to provide more than £200 million. This is all in addition to the £156 million being paid in agrimonetary compensation to livestock farmers and all the other funding that the Government are providing to support the rural economy and the tourist industry more generally. We are in discussion with the devolved administrations and the farming unions about a longer-term recovery plan.
"The Government have also taken steps to safeguard farmers' entitlements to CAP payments. Following consultation with the farming unions, the deadline for submitting IACS forms will remain 15th May. However, we have agreed with the European Commission that it will amend its rules on changes that may be made to IACS forms after 15th May. This flexibility will make it easier for farmers to adjust their claims to take account of individual circumstances. My department has written to all IACS applicants to give them full details of the flexibilities that we have secured and the procedures to follow. Farmers whose cattle or sheep have been culled and who are currently unsure as to their future prospects should take steps to safeguard their entitlement to future subsidy, if and when they decide to restock their farms. This means that they should submit an IACS form in the normal way by 823 15th May. Where appropriate, they should also tick the boxes on the form for hill farming allowances and extensification premium.
"When I reported to the House on 27th March, I drew attention to the need to enforce the rules of commercial and personal imports of meat and meat products into the United Kingdom. I should now like to inform the House of the steps that the Government have taken, and are taking, in this context. The control of meat and meat product imports into this country involves the inspection of commercial imports at border inspection posts, effective controls on personal imports and action in shops and other food premises against sales of illegally imported food. The Government are taking action in all of these contexts to build on existing controls.
"First, we have set up improved arrangements for the pooling of information within government about known or suspected illegal imports. This will help the authorities concerned—MAFF, port health authorities, local authorities, Customs and Excise—to target their activities on the areas of greatest risk.
"Secondly, the Food Standards Agency has undertaken a programme of visits of ports and airports to examine the effectiveness of public health controls on imported food.
"Thirdly, we shall be taking early steps to ensure that the restrictions on what may be brought into the United Kingdom from outside the European Union and the European Economic Area are made known to travellers by a publicity campaign involving the travel industry, airports and ports and FCO posts abroad.
"Fourthly, the Food Standards Agency has asked port health authorities and local authorities to ensure that as part of their routine inspections of food premises and imported food they should check for illegal imports. My right honourable friend the Minister of State has laid before the House an amendment to the Products of Animal Origin (Import and Export) Regulations 1996 which will clarify local authorities' powers to seize suspected illegal imports. I understand that equivalent action is being taken in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
"Imports of meat and meat products into the United Kingdom, as into other member states of the European Union, take place within the framework of European law. As I promised the House on 27th March, I have asked the European Commission to give urgent attention to ensuring that the law on personal imports into the Union is clear and robust. Commissioner Byrne indicated at last week's meeting of the Agriculture Council that the Commission attached great importance to ensuring that there is a high level of protection from disease at the Community's borders. I understand that the Commission's current thinking is that the main scope for tightening the EU's policy on imports lies in ensuring that the current rules are properly policed and in identifying and closing any loopholes.
824 "I referred last week to the banning of pigswill and undertook to make a further announcement. I can inform the House that we are today making an order that will ban the feeding of catering waste which contains, or has been in contact with meat as swill to livestock. The ban is extended to include poultry and fish waste. The order will come into force on 24th May after a three-week phase-in period designed to ensure that animals can be safely weaned off waste food and on to an alternative diet.
"The order has been made after consultation with the industry and other interested parties. The possible banning of all catering waste was considered in the consultation but subsequently deemed unnecessary, although the feeding of all types of catering waste coming from premises where meat or meat products are handled or prepared will be banned.
"As I have said, we can be cautiously optimistic that the worst is over. But we know that there will be sporadic outbreaks for some time to come and. that we cannot afford to let our guard drop for a moment. All the resources required to overcome the disease will remain in place where they are needed for as long as they are needed. We are determined to see this operation through to a successful conclusion. It is in all our interests to ensure that the job is done properly so that farming and the whole of the countryside can get back to normal as soon as possible".
My Lords, that concludes the Statement.
§ 3.49 p.m.
§ Baroness Byford
My Lords, I thank the noble Baroness for repeating the Statement, which we welcome, made in another place earlier today. Perhaps I may take this opportunity again to thank all those who have helped to combat the disease: UK vets and those from abroad, our Armed Forces, scientists and civil servants, both locally and nationally. Our thanks also go to the many volunteers who have supported those families directly affected by the disease. I also thank the many members of the public who have made generous donations to those charities concerned with stress relief. Our sympathies continue to go to the farming families who have had their lives shattered and their lifetime's work destroyed.
While we are obviously encouraged to hear that the number of reported case is falling, 1,537 farms have been struck down by this terrible disease, over 2.4 million animals have been compulsorily destroyed and a further 630,000 have been destroyed under the livestock welfare disposal scheme. That is eight times the number killed in the 1967 outbreak.
We are still concerned, although the numbers are fewer, about the continuing geographical spread of the disease in some areas; namely, the recent outbreaks in Satterthwaite in Cumbria because that is to the south of the Lake District and Wiveliscombe in Somerset which is a long way from nowhere, but also the spread of FMD across the Welsh valleys and across the country in the Borders of Scotland from west to east.
825 The Statement refers to vigilance, but at the same time the Government state a desire to enable farmers to return to "business as usual", which is understandable. First, perhaps I may refer the Minister to the 1967 report where the dangers of easing back too soon was one of its recommendations. I know she will agree with that. Secondly, I refer to the impact of the slightly warmer weather. That lessons outbreaks of the disease. Thirdly, will the Government systematically test every contiguous herd on a regular basis to make sure that it is disease-free?
The Statement stresses the need for continuing vigilance to be taken by farmers. Equally, as we come up to a Bank Holiday weekend, perhaps I may put in a plea that it is in the visitors' interests to be aware and observe those restrictions where they come into force. That is hugely important, particularly at a time when the situation is getting easier.
I now turn directly to some questions for the Minister: first, will the Minister tell us within what timescale farmers can expect compensation to be made? I know that it has been announced that payments will be starting. Secondly, the Minister's right honourable friend earlier today said that there were no cuts to the welfare scheme. Will the noble Baroness therefore confirm that farmers whose animals were accepted into the livestock welfare scheme prior to Monday 13th April will be paid at the originally agreed rate and not at the reduced rate announced last week? If the noble Baroness cannot do so, will she agree that some farmers will be disadvantaged? Thirdly, has the task force considered recommending the interest-free loan to businesses affected during the outbreak? It has talked about tax concessions but we have called for loans to businesses. We have waited some weeks for an answer on this matter. Has the noble Baroness any more information on that matter?
We welcome the extra help with the IACS payments announced in the Statement. We also welcome the greater freedom of movement of animals, although it is very much on a case for case basis, which we understand.
The Statements last Thursday and today have referred to the protection of rare breeds. Last week's Statement particularly referred to that issue; today's one refers to the "special arrangements", and gives greater flexibility locally to the vets. Does the Minister accept that these rare breeds and moorland sheep should not be culled until blood tests have been taken which prove that the disease is in the herd? I am still not clear exactly what the position on that matter is. Some farmers have rung me and said that their flocks are being taken and culled without testing, whereas others have managed to protect their flocks as a result of appealing. Perhaps the noble Baroness could clarify that matter because the Statement today did not deal with the matter. Some breeders are beginning to feel that they are being unreasonably pressurised to agree to the slaughter of some of these very important flocks.
826 While we on these Benches welcome many of the moves in the Statement, we particularly welcome the moves to control meat and meat product imports. That is something to which we have referred on many occasions. Can the Minister assure us that sufficient resources will be made available to the various departments which have to deal with these controls? The Statement speaks of ports and airports. But we know very well that Heathrow, in particular, has been aware of the problem but simply not had the resources to tackle it.
Can she further tell us of the links between the various departments—the trading standards officers who have to deal with the matter at a local level and those at, for. example, Dover and the airports? Furthermore, can she say what precautions can be put in place on the countries from which these illegal exports start if they come through Europe and into this country?
We welcome the improved situation today and the further actions which are put forward in the Statement. We further welcome the extra help given to the beleaguered tourist and farming industries. But we regret that at the beginning of the outbreak the Government took so long to take real control of the situation and to use the necessary resources, in spite of the pressure from this party and from all the evidence in the Northumberland report.
§ 3.55 p.m.
§ Baroness Miller of Chilthorne Domer
My Lords, we on these Benches welcome yet another Statement from the Minister on the outbreak of foot and mouth disease. Indeed, we thank her for all her hard work in answering our questions.
However, over time it has become quite frustrating to us on these Benches that we have Statements on the rural economy and the FMD outbreak issues separately, particularly as the economy issues are beginning very much to concern farmers. Everyone has tremendous sympathy for them because they suffer the difficulties of either having infected stock or being in an infected area with restricted movement while at the same time having their diversified businesses suffer. In future, we look forward to Statements which combine the two subjects, perhaps under less time pressure.
It is with huge regret that I heard of another outbreak of FMD in Wiveliscombe in Somerset, just as that had become an uninfected area. While we give a cautious welcome to the Statement, in line with other parts of the country, our optimism is still tempered with real fear. There are rumours that the Wiveliscombe outbreak came from a relief milk worker doing his rounds. I ask the Minister what guidance was given by MAFF to such workers who go from farm to farm? We have now had milk tankers as suspected carriers as well as staff going from place to place. The public should know what guidance has been given.
The Wiveliscombe outbreak highlights the issue of deer. The Statement last week mentioned that two deer were still being tested. Can the Minister confirm that 827 deer are still free of the disease? That is particularly relevant to Wiveliscombe because of its proximity to Exmoor. Can the Minister further confirm that she is satisfied with the precautions being taken on routes on to the moor to protect its deer herd?
I turn to the issue of rate relief. I believe your Lordships are likely to have the rating Bill that will enable diversified agricultural premises to receive extra relief. Is the Minister aware that that relief will go to farms in designated rural areas only? Is the noble Baroness aware of how many farms that will fall outside the designated areas that the Bill will not help unless the Government choose to widen that designation to all farm diversification?
Another critical issue for the Government's objective of increasing the output of organic agriculture is compensation: the welfare scheme. Why does the welfare scheme give the same price for organic and conventional stock? The fact is that the organic sector has had higher costs, particularly in feed, in producing its animals. It is really suffering because the prices paid to it not only were lowered last week but were already lower than the premium price they expected, having been encouraged—I admit by us on these Benches too—by the Government to go into organic fanning. That scheme should recognise the much higher costs involved and therefore qualify those farmers for higher compensation.
In the longer term, I hope that the Minister will implement in a generous way the early retirement scheme for farmers and tie it to a young entrants into farming scheme. Those of us in infected areas do not want to see the foot and mouth outbreak become the reason for a mass exodus from farming. The lack of a young entrants scheme means that farms that presently have 30 cattle or 200 sheep are likely to be amalgamated or, at worst, sold off to become establishments for those with one or two horses. It is a real worry that we will not see young people going into farming.
I turn to the issue of imported meat. The Statement refers to illegal meat imports, but the checking of legal meat imports is of critical importance. The Minister will have noted the replies to Written Questions that I have tabled about the source of Ministry of Defence supplies of meat. I accept that the meat comes from many countries which are not infected with foot and mouth, but it also comes from Uruguay and Brazil which are infected. What checks are carried out at our ports to ensure that the statements by producers in foreign countries that the meat comes from uninfected regions are true and that the meat is clean? Is the Minister satisfied that there are sufficient staff to carry out those checks? My colleagues in another place have tried hard to go to ports and airports to check on what is happening. They have been stonewalled, which is disappointing. We would have liked them to have the opportunity to check what is happening.
In conclusion, I have enormous sympathy for farmers who have had infected animals. I also have sympathy for those who have uninfected animals. They and others in the rural economy have been 828 through difficult times too. I doubt whether we shall have another Statement before we all disappear to our various regions. One of the obvious ways for noble Lords and the public to show sympathy is to support a "Buy British Meat" campaign, which the Government should be undertaking. When the crisis is over, I think that the public and farmers deserve a full public inquiry.
§ 4.2 p.m.
§ Baroness Hayman
My Lords, I am grateful to both noble Baronesses for their comments. I am particularly grateful for the comments of the noble Baroness, Lady Byford, about the enormous effort that has been put in on the ground by people who have not always been given a fair hearing by every element of the media and who have worked tirelessly over the past 11 weeks.
Perhaps I may deal with some of the specific issues. The noble Baroness, Lady Byford, asked about the time-scale for compensation payments. Our aim is to pay compensation within three weeks of receipt of the claim. The noble Baroness will understand that at the peak of the disease there was an enormous peak of claims as well. There have therefore been some delays. Although payments have already been made in a number of cases, we have recruited extra staff who are now working on a seven-days-a-week basis in order urgently to get that money through. The noble Baroness rightly pointed out that there are a number of sources of emergency financial aid, many of them generously supported by the public. I notice from my own correspondence that there was even a whip-round in the House of Lords. We have done everything we can to publicise those sources of emergency financial help. However, I quite take on board the point that it is our responsibility to ensure that compensation is paid speedily.
The noble Baroness, Lady Miller, asked about the case in Somerset. We are still looking at the exact circumstances of the case. I can quite understand the local despondency, people having felt that, the "all clear" had been given. The noble Baroness asked about the advice given to those involved in deliveries, whether of feed and so on, to farms, or the taking away of milk from farms. A number of guidance notes have been put out. I shall ensure that she receives copies. The noble Baroness may be interested to know that we are putting a new director of operations into Taunton immediately to co-ordinate operations there.
Both noble Baronesses asked about the import of meat. I have already set out the arrangements we have put in place across government to co-ordinate activities. It is necessary to back that up with resource. However, as the Statement says, it is important also that some of the resource is information, so that we know what we target most effectively and ensure that all the agencies involved are working together. I know that the noble Baroness, Lady Miller, has tabled a number of Questions about legally imported meat for the MoD from Uruguay and Brazil. It is important to make it clear that the MoD's purchases in those areas are legal. They are certificated, which is the main 829 means of inspection. The pan-Asiatic strain of foot and mouth that we are currently seeing in this country is not the same strain as is present in Brazil and Uruguay. It is important to make that point.
The noble Baroness asked about deer. I shall certainly look further into the issue, but my current understanding is that there have been no confirmed cases in deer during this outbreak.
Both noble Baronesses asked about the welfare disposal scheme. I think that the noble Baroness, Lady Byford, may have misunderstood the position. As was announced, the payments that will be made under the scheme will apply from Monday onwards and they will apply to animals taken from Monday past. That is because the arrangements between the intervention board and farmer are finalised only at the transfer of stock. On many occasions, the stock is withdrawn, after having been registered on the scheme; on many occasions, different numbers of stock are taken. For many people, different opportunities have arisen. I quite accept that in the course of a changing situation, where people have come into infected areas or gone out of infected areas, where they have been under form Ds or not under form Ds, or where they have had an abattoir that was functioning in their infected area or in their non-infected area, individual circumstances have become more or less beneficial to them. However, the scheme was not set up as an alternative market. It was set up as an option of last resort to solve welfare problems that could not be solved in any other way. I have to say to the noble Baroness that there was ample evidence on the ground that it was operating as an alternative market. The greatest long-term danger for the UK livestock industry is to suck in imports and to substitute for UK produce. That is why for stock that could go on to the market—not for first breeding stock—we have made those changes.
The noble Baroness, Lady Miller, was right about the rural economy. The intimate inter-relationship between agriculture and other parts of the rural economy has been demonstrated by this event. I am sorry about the frustrations. I shall write to the noble Baroness about her specific point on rate relief. I am sure that what she said, in terms both of early retirement and young entrants, will be considered in the detailed discussions on the long-term recovery plan.
§ 4.9 p.m.
§ Lord Biffen
My Lords, I thank the noble Baroness, Lady Hayman, for the qualified optimism of her report and hope that it will not be touched with hubris. Indeed, I do not think that it will be. After such a terrible few weeks, it is heartening to see some signs that the measures, albeit highly contentious, are now bringing the outbreak under control.
Is the Minister able to say at this stage that the authorities have concluded their investigations to determine what caused this outbreak? If so, can she say what is the present judgment?
§ Baroness Hayman
My Lords, I certainly would not want to give an impression that allowed anyone to accuse me of hubris. Furthermore, I would not want to be accused of complacency. The word that I should like to stress today is "vigilance". Any optimism must be qualified. We can expect to continue to see cases reported and if we do not sustain our vigilance, then we shall not see the current progress maintained. That is the only message that I should like to give today.
So far as concerns the origins of the disease outbreak, I have to say that, although it is as frustrating for me as it is for the noble Lord, investigations on the initial farm have not yet been concluded and therefore I cannot report on them to the House. However, I think that the analysis of the origins of this outbreak, along with the analysis of its epidemiology, will go beyond the single spark incident into the structure of the industry. We have seen how that structure led to the disease being geographically dispersed so widely. That of course underpins the current consultations on, for example, sheep movements.
§ Lord Lea of Crondall
My Lords, is the Minister aware that, while the watchword must be "vigilance" rather than "complacency", many noble Lords have noted that MAFF was remarkably accurate about the falling numbers of new cases which would follow the 48-hour cull policy in its forecast published a month ago? We recognise, too, that the logistics of this exercise have been, to quote an Army spokesman, "far more challenging than Kosovo".
Will the Minister ensure that all those involved, both from MAFF and from the Army, are informed that all sides of this House, as evinced today, greatly appreciate the extraordinary efforts that have been made?
§ Baroness Hayman
My Lords, I am grateful to my noble friend for his kind comments, in particular on behalf of those people whom I have met out in the field. They have been working every single day without a break and were rather distressed to find that they were being categorised as "bumbling bureaucrats", when they have been working their hearts out to try to help in this desperate situation.
None of us has attempted to make forecasts. The epidemiologists have offered a range of projections. My noble friend is absolutely right to say that those who have followed both the comparison with 1967 and the disease curves produced by this disease outbreak hope that they will continue to offer reliable information.
§ Baroness Masham of Ilton
My Lords, now that we have reached May, and possibly we shall see some hot weather in June, can the Minister tell the House what will be the clipping regulations, given that many small farmers use contract clippers?
§ Baroness Hayman
My Lords, there is a problem about this, in particular in infected areas. I shall correct this in writing if I am wrong, but I believe that, 831 so far as concerns non-infected control areas, guidance has been issued, but difficulties still remain as regards infected areas. I shall look into it and see what can be done. We have here the tension between wanting to return to normal husbandry and livestock practice and the difficulties posed by potential disease spread. As ever, we need to take veterinary advice.
The noble Baroness is right. I have been looking for sunshine since 20th February.
§ Lord Eden of Winton
My Lords, while today's Statement is greatly to be welcomed, can the Minister say whether the greater discretion given to vets in the matter of culling will extend to sheep and pigs, in particular to those which might be regarded as pets rather than as parts of large-scale commercial undertakings, and also to rare breeds? May I also press the noble Baroness on the matter of a public inquiry? Would it not be greatly advantageous if the public inquiry were to be set up immediately, along the lines consistently advocated by my noble friend Lord Jopling?
§ Baroness Hayman
My Lords, I have consistently noted the advocacy of such a public inquiry. What is important is not the form that the inquiry should take but that we learn the lessons that must be learnt—inevitably there will be lessons here—as a result of what has taken place.
As regards the adjusted policy on contiguous premises, sheep and pigs have not been included in the greater flexibility arrangements. That was because of the difficulties presented by sheep in the detection of disease due to their role as silent shedders of virus. The difficulty with pigs is presented by the level of virus which they exhale as soon as they are infected, sometimes before the symptoms become apparent.
The only exception to these non-exceptions is the policy on rare breeds and hefted sheep. Guidance has been produced. I pick up on a point made by the noble Baroness, Lady Byford. We do recognise the importance of safeguarding rare breeds. Some work has been done in relation to resources being made available to the gene bank at York University but, equally, special veterinary assessments can be made. They will not be able to give the all-clear in all cases but will allow some protection in some cases. The assessment procedure can be invoked in relation to rare breeds and hefted sheep.
§ Lord Williams of Elvel
My Lords, I hope that I am second to none in congratulating my noble friend on her role in this matter. I also welcome the Statement made today. It will come as a great relief to those of us whose homes are in infected areas because we are worried about this whole matter.
I should like to ask my noble friend two questions. First., in infected areas, is it the case that, where there has been an alleged outbreak and contiguous farms are under threat from Form D notices—I am under such a threat—the notice can be cleared only after all the 832 sheep on contiguous farms have been blood-tested? I should say that this is a big animal welfare problem in Radnor.
Secondly, rather than put a question, I should like to suggest to my noble friend that some people are a little confused as regards the respective roles of MAFF and the National Assembly for Wales. The Assembly has certain powers; MAFF has other powers. I very much hope that my noble friend will not feel it necessary to respond to this, but I am sure that people living in Radnor would like to have a definition of who does what, where and with whom.
§ Baroness Hayman
My Lords, I am certainly not going to respond to that request from the Dispatch Box, but I undertake to write to my noble friend. He is quite right to point out that, although the fount of veterinary advice is common to both Wales and England, responsibilities in some areas are devolved to the National Assembly for Wales. However, I shall feel much more confident if I write to the noble Lord with the detail.
I understand the frustrations experienced by those who live in Form D premises within the three-kilometre protection zone as regards the need to collect all the serology results before the notice can be lifted. I am afraid that clearly laid out EU regulations govern this matter, as well as veterinary advice on the dangers of being precipitate here. We must recognise that sometimes the serology may produce results that we would not have wished to see, or that sometimes the results may be uncertain and thus will take longer to process. As I said in the Statement, we have made some progress and, in some ways, that makes it even more frustrating for those like my noble friend who are waiting for advice. However, I know that work is being carried out in his area.
Finally, I thank my noble friend for his kind remarks.
§ Lord Marlesford
My Lords, the noble Baroness has repeated the Minister's Statement, which includes the sentence:There is no longer any backlog of animals awaiting disposal anywhere in Great Britain".At 11 o'clock this morning, MAFF issued its foot and mouth disease daily situation report. According to that report, at 1900 hours on Wednesday, 2nd May, some 59,000 animals remained to be disposed of.
The Minister also said that there are a small number of animals awaiting slaughter. That same document, issued this morning, stated that 107,000 animals are awaiting slaughter. Does the noble Baroness regard these figures as consistent with the Minister's Statement? If she does not, does she recognise that it gives one a little less confidence in MAFF?
§ Baroness Hayman
My Lords, I am not sure that I can give the noble Lord less confidence in MAFF because he never seemed to have any in the first place. The effort involved in ensuring that the statistics reflect the reality on the ground—because people have 833 been more interested in dealing with the reality on the ground than they have been in recording what has been done in terms of disposal—has been quite considerable. A lot of effort has gone into ensuring that the situation on the ground is accurately reported in the Statement. If I may, I shall take away the figures that the noble Lord has quoted from this morning's website and write to him with a detailed explanation.
§ The Countess of Mar
My Lords, I thank the Minister for repeating the Statement and for the way in which she has dealt with very anxious people over a long period of time. I mentioned at the beginning how sympathetic the noble Baroness sounded on the radio. That sympathy has been evident through the whole of this dreadful situation.
The Minister knows that our farm was declared to be in an infected area very early on in the outbreak. Fortunately, we are still only in an infected area; we are not an infected premises. How will a large area, which covers Herefordshire, Worcestershire, Gloucestershire, Dyfed and other areas be divided up in terms of the relaxation of restrictions? Will restrictions be relaxed over the area as a whole, or will it be done piece by piece? For example, there has not been a case since 12th April in Worcestershire. I touch wood very firmly.
The Minister has mentioned the possibility of sheep being carriers. There seems to be an awful lot of misunderstanding about vaccination and about consumer attitudes to vaccination. Sheep are vaccinated against all kinds of diseases throughout the year and everyone eats lamb with no problem at all. Will the Minister look again at this situation? Will she perhaps carry out consumer surveys to find out exactly what consumers do and do not know about vaccination and what happens to the animals, and to see whether consumer attitudes can be changed? I have a great fear that there will be a residue of foot and mouth disease which will resurge in the autumn when the cold, damp weather arrives. This fear has been recently iterated by a number of scientists.
Can the Minister say whether there will be a review of the State Veterinary Service? The Minister knows from our discussions about the Meat Hygiene Service that the State Veterinary Service has been under a great deal of criticism for a very long time. The foot and mouth disaster has highlighted the acute shortage of State Veterinary Service vets and, perhaps, their qualities. I make no criticism of the qualities of the vets who have been out in the field and who are doing their best under very difficult circumstances, but there would seem to be some problems at the top.
§ Baroness Hayman
My Lords, as to the noble Countess's last point, I gave the numbers employed in the State Veterinary Service over the past 20 years in a parliamentary Answer not long ago. There has been a decline. The support that Ministers in MAFF have received from the chief veterinary officer and his four deputies has been outstanding. I should like to place on record my personal thanks to them. We were 834 already involved in drawing up a surveillance strategy. One of the issues we shall have to look at in the aftermath of this outbreak is the structure, role and resources of the State Veterinary Service.
As to the issue of the very large area to which the noble Countess referred, we shall have to look very carefully at that issue. I hope that we shall be able to shrink the area in accordance with chronology rather than geography. That was the way in which we approached the classical swine fever regionalisation. I hope that we shall be able to do that in regard to this outbreak. As the noble Countess rightly said, some premises were infected much earlier than others, and it has been possible to do that in some areas.
So far as concerns vaccination, the noble Countess is right to pinpoint the issue of consumer confidence and the fact that many livestock animals are vaccinated against many diseases without incurring any lack of confidence. The evidence of the potential reaction of both manufacturers and consumers to vaccination in the midst of a disease outbreak has not been good. The noble Countess is wise to suggest that we should have discussions at a time when we are not at the height of the disease. I know that my right honourable friend believes that such discussions should be held throughout Europe. We have had discussions with the Dutch agriculture Minister, who shares the views expressed in some of the recent challenges in regard to the attitude towards vaccination. Public dialogue—I shall not say "education" because that sounds condescending—in regard to the issues involved should be undertaken as soon as possible.
§ Baroness Maddock
My Lords, perhaps the Minister will return to the question of my noble friend Lady Miller concerning the issue of organic livestock and the welfare disposal scheme. Do the Government intend to look again at this issue? Does the Minister agree that it seems very unfair that where production costs are so much higher the compensation rates should be the same as for ordinary production?
§ Baroness Hayman
My Lords, the same point has been made in regard to pedigree animals. As I said before when talking about the scheme, the prime objective of the welfare scheme is to deal with an outstanding welfare problem. It goes beyond simply taking the animal away at the cost rate and meeting the cost of disposal and slaughter; it goes towards making a payment to the farmer. It differentiates between breeding stock, for example, and different categories of animal; it does not differentiate, as the market place would do, between organic and ordinary animals. I can understand why those involved in organic fanning would wish that to be the case, as would those with pedigree animals, but the scheme was not set up to provide an alternative market place or to reflect the market place.
§ The Duke of Montrose
My Lords, I thank the Minister for repeating the Statement. According to a Written Answer given by the Minister on 1st May, in 835 response to the noble Lord, Lord Greaves, which appeared at col. WA 263 of the Official Report, the Government have a hierarchy of disposal options governing the disposal of livestock in a cull such as we have at present. Outstanding in her Answer was the fact that all the legislation governing disposal has been introduced since the previous outbreak. We seem to be operating under completely new rules. Has the hierarchy of disposal options changed since the Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions took over responsibility from MAFF? Given the fact that two ministries are involved in the cull, which. Minister has been required to serve the notice under the Animal By-Products Order 1999 requiring the disposal of carcasses by burning?
§ Baroness Hayman
My Lords, my understanding is that MAFF Ministers are responsible for the Animal By-Products Order. I do not believe that such orders require ministerial signing; they can be signed by officials on behalf of the Minister.
I am not quite clear what the noble Duke was referring to in terms of "since responsibility has transferred from MAFF to the DETR". These are technical issues and, as I do not have the answers that I gave on 1st May in front of me, I shall, if I may, study his questions in detail and respond to him in writing.