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Hansard

Avian Influenza

Keith Vaz: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs how often rural workers are being kept informed of precautions to take with regard to the H5N1 influenza strain; and by what methods. [41681]

Mr. Bradshaw: Defra has distributed guidance materials on avian influenza to a range of industry groups, including the British Poultry Council, the British Egg Industry Council and the National Farmers Union and these stakeholders are helping to distribute information to their members. A simple one-page leaflet on biosecurity and surveillance for smaller businesses and back yard keepers has been produced as well. This has been widely circulated, including to all veterinary practices. The leaflet has also been placed in the trade and specialist press to help with targeting the same audience.

Specific guidance on worker protection has been issued by an industry and cross-departmental working group. This is also available on the avian influenza pages of the Defra website.

Mr. Paice: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs how many wild birds have been tested for avian influenza in each of the last six months; whether each bird was (a) found dead, (b) shot and (c) trapped alive; whether each bird was (i) wildfowl and (ii) other species; in which country each was taken; and what the results were of the test on each. [42140]

Mr. Bradshaw: To date approximately 3,179 wild birds have been tested for avian influenza viruses as part of surveillance activities across the UK.
 
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Of these 131 were found dead, 326 were shot as part of legal wildfowling activities and 2,722 were caught and sampled live. 239 were sampled in Scotland, 2,621 in England and Wales and 319 in Northern Ireland. 3,078 were wildfowl and 101 were other species

Two birds tested positive for low pathogenic avian influenza viruses. A mallard shot in Scotland tested positive for the subtype H6N2 and a shelduck that was caught live in England tested positive for the subtype H2.

All other results to date have been negative.

Mr. Paice: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs how many poultry flocks have been registered under the Avian Influenza (Preventative Measures) (No 2) Regulations 2005. [42141]

Mr. Bradshaw: As of midnight on 10 January 2005, 1,677 eligible poultry premises have been registered on the GB poultry register under the Avian Influenza (Preventive Measures) (No 2) Regulations 2005 and the equivalent regulations for Scotland and Wales. All eligible premises are required to register by 28 February 2006.

Mr. Paice: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what steps she is taking to raise awareness among poultry keepers of the requirements of the Avian Influenza (Preventative Measures) (No 2) Regulations 2005. [42142]

Mr. Bradshaw: DEFRA has distributed guidance materials to a range of industry groups, including the British Poultry Council, the British Egg Industry Council and the National Farmers Union. These stakeholders are helping to distribute information to their members. We have also provided leaflets and posters to farmers and to many other people, including local veterinary surgeons and placed advertisements in poultry hobby magazines. Guidance is also available on the avian influenza pages of the DEFRA website.

Mr. Paice: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what assessment she has made of the implications for the release of gamebirds during 2006 of an outbreak of avian influenza. [42143]

Mr. Bradshaw: Restrictions on the movement of poultry in the event of an outbreak are contained within the Diseases of Poultry Order 2003. Gamebirds fall within the definition of poultry within this order if they are reared or kept in captivity and there are no plans to treat gamebird activity any differently from the remainder of the poultry industry.

Gamebird shooting parties are allowed provided birds are not brought together for the shoot from different premises and the event organiser advises the local animal health office that the event is taking place.

The provisions of the Diseases of Poultry Order 2003 include the imposition of movement controls on suspicion of disease, and where disease is confirmed, the imposition of a protection zone and a surveillance zone around the infected premises by declaratory order.
 
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These measures would prohibit the release of gamebirds in those zones. The order also allows the elimination of the disease by slaughter of infected and contact animals.

Mr. Paice: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what advice she has prepared for game farmers and gamekeepers regarding the release of game birds during 2006 in the event of an outbreak of Avian influenza. [42061]

Mr. Bradshaw: Working closely with industry Defra has issued guidance for all bird keepers, including those involved with the release of game birds. A leaflet on improving biosecurity and surveillance has been circulated to smaller businesses. We have also placed information in the trade and specialist press and on the Defra website. An industry and cross-Department working group has issued specific guidance on worker protection.

Mr. Paice: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what steps the Government are taking to prepare for the isolation of free range poultry flocks in the event of an outbreak of avian influenza in the UK. [42062]

Mr. Bradshaw: As part of the Government's current programme to reduce the risks posed by avian influenza bird owners would be required, wherever practicable, to move their birds indoors as soon as possible if a case of highly pathogenic H5N1 avian influenza were found in Great Britain. In cases where housing is not practicable, the keeper will be required to take all reasonable measures to minimise contact with wild birds.

These requirements would be invoked as a precautionary measure to avoid spread of the disease while an outbreak is investigated. As information about the source and nature of any outbreak became available, the Government's strategy would be to lift or reduce the requirements as soon as appropriate.

Guidance on separating domestic poultry flocks from wild birds has been issued to a wide range of industry groups and bird keepers. We have also issued advice for poultry keepers on how to improve biosecurity.

We have also established the Great Britain Poultry Register to gather essential information about certain species of birds held on commercial premises in Great Britain. This will help reduce the impact of an outbreak of avian influenza by enabling rapid communication with keepers, and help in targeting resources where they are needed most.

Anne Main: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs pursuant to the answer of 15 November to question 27526, when she expects to present the outcome of the consideration to the House; in what form; and whether legislative changes are being considered. [30756]

Mr. Bradshaw: I assume the hon. Member means the answer to question 27525 regarding financial resources being made available to publicise the procedures that should be followed by local authorities who suspect the presence of avian influenza. I apologise for the delay in replying.
 
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My officials are in regular contact with the Local Authorities Co-ordinators of Regulatory Services (LACORS), representing local authorities, who have produced a template for local authority contingency plans for animal disease control. Consideration of funding arrangements for local authorities for work following an outbreak of avian influenza is ongoing. It will not lead to a need for legislative changes.