HC Deb 02 July 2003 vol 408 cc14-6WS
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Mr. Ben Bradshaw)

The Government made a statement on 23 January 2003,Official Report, columns 21–23WS, on the risk assessment work carried out following the two independent inquiries into the FMD outbreak, setting out the future work on biosecurity and other issues they proposed and announcing their conclusions on the livestock movement regime to be put in place for the spring.

On the condition that the farming industry worked towards improved disease protection and control, the Government announced a move to a six-day standstill for cattle, sheep and goats from March. However, key elements of the regime lapse on 1 August. The future standing arrangements therefore need to be determined now, in the light of the work done since that earlier decision, and other factors.


The Government now have two epidemiological reports based on different modelling techniques, an analysis of the costs of an outbreak and an integration report bringing these elements together in a formal cost-benefit analysis. These are all independent reports which have been peer reviewed.

The key lessons from this work are: the most significant single factor in reducing the size of an outbreak is early detection of disease; a 20-day standstill regime does not appear justified on cost-benefit grounds unless more than one large outbreak every five years can be expected; a six-day standstill cannot be justified on cost-benefit grounds alone unless outbreaks are expected more frequently than around one in l2 years (and on some assumptions they would need to be even more frequent); however, even if outbreaks occurred only once in 20 years, the six-day standstill is not greatly more expensive than a zero standstill policy; and standstill regimes do effectively reduce the size (and therefore the cost) of outbreaks, especially the more extreme outbreaks such as that in 2001.


The Government do not believe that they can determine future arrangements solely on the basis of this cost-benefit analysis. There is a strong case for a standstill as part of the livestock movements regime on precautionary grounds.

The Government's veterinary advisers are clear that a longer standstill is more effective in capping disease outbreaks but a six-day standstill is better than zero days because it reduces the spread of disease and increases the chances of early detection. Any standstill regime would also help protect against the spread of other diseases and foster improved animal welfare more generally.


The Government therefore support a standstill period as a valuable long-term element in the movement regime. However, the cost-benefit analysis clearly shows that a return to the 20-day standstill for cattle, sheep and goats could only be justified under very unlikely scenarios. The Government have therefore decided that the standing regime from 1 August should be based on a six-day standstill.

The existing arrangements for pigs will continue, except that the arrival of a pig on a mixed holding will impose a 20-day standstill on any other pig on the holding, but only a six-day standstill on any cattle, sheep or goats there.


The Government have listened carefully to arguments for specific exceptions to the general arrangements and have made some provisions where necessary. For this reason, an exemption was introduced on 30 May for show animals.

The Government now propose to introduce a further specific modification to the regime to facilitate the autumn sale and trading of male breeding livestock. In future, male breeding rams and bulls may move on to a farm during the period August to November without triggering a general six-day standstill for the farm, so long as it goes into a DEFRA-approved isolation facility, provided that a six day standstill applies to all livestock in that facility. Similarly they will be allowed to move from a farm under standstill to a market if placed in a DEFRA-approved isolation facility for six days beforehand. Similar arrangements will be put in place for goats. The Government believe that this new arrangement strikes the right balance between ensuring that farmers can trade successfully and ensuring that autumn breeder markets do not become a centre of disease spread.


The Government have made it clear that progress needs to be made to improve detection and biosecurity. They consulted recently on how to achieve this. As a result, from 1 August, there will be a limit of 48 hours for animals staying on market premises. There will also be some minor changes to the legislation on empty vehicles leaving markets without first cleansing and disinfecting.

Work on veterinary farm inspections, the presence of vets at markets, cleaning and disinfection at markets, the role of dealers and distance limits will continue over the coming months in the context of the Government's animal health and welfare strategy. In particular, we will investigate the proposals for a veterinary presence at markets and the possibility of annual veterinary visits to farms, as part of our draft action plan to take forward animal disease prevention and control in partnership with industry and other key stakeholders. We hope to consult on a draft plan in July 2003.