HC Deb 15 March 1999 vol 327 cc549-50W
Charlotte Atkins

To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if he will list the current research projects funded by his Department to discover the cause of, and possible remedies for, tuberculosis in cattle. [75830]

Mr. Rooker

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

Understanding the causes of herd breakdown: A spatial analysis, using GIS, of risk factors associated with TB incidents in cattle herds in England and Wales. Bovine TB in badgers and the risks to cattle: a spatial analysis. Modelling badger populations, the epidemiology of natural infection with Mycobacterium bovis, the risk of spread to cattle and the consequences of control. DNA fingerprinting of samples from badger culling trial. The effect on the viability of Mycobacterium 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. NVL (no visible lesion) tuberculous badger: pathology, immunology and epidemiology.

Evaluating the effectiveness of currently available strategies to reduce herd breakdown: Badgers and bovine tuberculosis: a proactive strategy for the control of bovine TB in badger populations. Analysis of European badger (Mycobacterium meles) population dynamics and social organisation in a population naturally infected with Mycobacterium bovis. The consequences of perturbation caused by badger removal for the control of TB in cattle: a study of behaviour. Perturbation study (culture and serology for Mycobacterium bovis). An ecological and epidemiological study of a badger population naturally infected with Mycobacterium bovis. An epidemiological and ecological study of a badger population naturally infected with Mycobacterium bovis (laboratory support project). Longitudinal study of natural Mycobacterium bovis in badgers. Assessment of the humaneness, efficacy, usability and non-target risk of leg-cuffs for capturing badgers.

Developing improved strategies to reduce herd breakdown: Development of vaccine candidates for protection of badgers against infection with Mycobacterium bovis. The development of animal models to test candidate vaccines for Mycobacterium bovis in badgers. Blood tests to distinguish vaccinated from TB infected cattle; Interferon assay to improve diagnostics in reactors.

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. For details of the research projects for 1999–2000 I refer my hon. Friend to the reply given to our hon. Friend the Member for Stroud (Mr. Drew) on 10 March 1999, Official Report, column 300.

Mr. Luff

To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what assessment he has made of(a) the likelihood of the UK's dairy beef herds losing their TB-free status and (b) the implications such a development would have for UK agriculture; and if he will make a statement. [76290]

Mr. Rooker

[holding answer 12 March 1999]: The officially tuberculosis-free (OTF) status of an individual bovine herd within Great Britain is suspended if an animal in that herd reacts positively to a tuberculin test or if, for any other reason, a veterinary inspector suspects that an animal in that herd is infected with tuberculosis.

The EU legislation (Directive 64/432/EEC), as it currently applies, does not provide for member states, or regions of member states, to obtain OTF status. Certain member states and regions have been exempted from the routine herd testing requirements of the Directive by virtue of a Commission Decision, although they have not been granted OTF status as such. This exemption has never applied to any part of the UK.

Amendments to the Directive, which were agreed during the last UK Presidency and will come into effect from 1 July 1999, provide for member states and regions to apply for OTF status. Outside such areas, the Directive allows cattle from herds with OTF status to be eligible for intra-Community trade provided that they are subject to a tuberculin test, with negative results, either 30 days before or 30 days after movement.

Similar testing requirements applied to live cattle entering intra-Community trade from Great Britain prior to 27 March 1996.