HC Deb 13 February 2004 vol 418 cc125-6W
Mr. Hoyle

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs if she will make a statement on the spread of bovine TB in(a) the North West and (b) each county in the North West. [153887]

Mr. Bradshaw

Statistics are collected by areas covered by Animal Health Divisional Offices (AHDOs). Carlisle AHDO covers Cumbria. Preston AHDO covers Lancashire, Greater Manchester and Merseyside.

In Cumbria, there were 3,969 registered herds in 2003, with 1,949 TB herd tests carried out. Provisional data show there were 70 new herd TB incidents in 2003, of which 15 were confirmed (three remain unclassified). In 2002. there were 4,041 registered herds, and 1,504 herd tests carried out. There were 33 new herd incidents, of which 10 were confirmed.

The increase in incidence in Cumbria is giving some concern. TB testing is now being carried out on all farms in an area of South West Cumbria known as the Furness Peninsula, concurrent with a survey of badgers (killed in Road Traffic Accidents) and deer (culled, or found dead, with suspicious lesions) in the same geographical area. It is hoped the data collected will help inform decisions about TB controls in the area.

In the area covered by Preston AHDO, there were 3,160 registered herds in 2003, with 918 herd tests carried out. Provisional data show five TB herd incidents, with one confirmed. In 2002, there were 3,303 registered herds, and 1,126 herd tests. These resulted in nine TB incidents, with none confirmed.

There has been a recent breakdown in a herd in Greater Manchester, but this has not yet been confirmed at post-mortem.

Mr. Paterson

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what the preferred foods of adult badgers are; and on what foods they rely when their preferred foods are in short supply. [153966]

Mr. Bradshaw

Badgers eat both animal and plant material and are considered to be largely opportunistic in their choice of food. Although they feed on a wide range of foodstuffs, earthworms are the most important single item in the diet of British badgers. Because these and other food types are taken according to their availability, the diet of badgers varies both geographically and seasonally1.

1The Handbook of British Mammals (1991). Third Edition. Edited by GB Corbet and S. Harris. Blackwell Scientific Publications, Oxford.

Mr. Paterson

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs to what diseases, other than tuberculosis, badgers are susceptible. [153978]

Mr. Bradshaw

Rabies and distemper have been found in badgers in other European countries but these diseases have not been detected in UK populations. Badgers are also susceptible to bacterial infections, including leptospirosis and salmonellosis.

Paul Flynn

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what the total paid in compensation to farmers for bovine tuberculosis was in each of the last five years; and what percentage of the total was paid in excess of the market value of the animals destroyed. [155000]

Mr. Bradshaw

The following table gives the compensation paid to farmers for cattle slaughtered under TB control measures 1998 to 2002.

Compensation paid
1998 3,605,242
1999 5,770,983
2000 7,307,797
2001 7,074,125
2002 23,138,512

There is evidence from a National Audit Office study carried out in Wales in 2002 and from other sources that, overall, average compensation payments are significantly higher than average market prices. However, it is difficult to quantify the extent of this disparity.