Bluetongue Disease: Disease Control
Daniel Kawczynski: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what mechanisms are in place to provide him with interim assessments of the (a) effectiveness and (b) proportionality of restrictions
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on farmers' commercial operations introduced as part of initiatives to control bluetongue; and if he will make a statement. 
Jonathan Shaw: We work closely with a Core Group of industry stakeholders to help formulate proposals, seek solutions and hear views on the effectiveness and proportionality of bluetongue control measures. Members of the Group include senior individuals from the following organisations, attending in a personal capacity: National Beef Association, British Veterinary Association, Livestock Auctioneers Association, National Farmers Union, National Sheep Association and British Meat Processors Association.
With this Core Group, we are reviewing the disease situation and control strategy in order to ensure it is proportionate to the disease risks. In doing so, full account is taken of the latest epidemiological and veterinary assessments, and analysis of costs and benefits of disease control measures and their likely economic impacts. In addition, Animal Health is undertaking a comprehensive disease surveillance programme, which enables us to monitor the disease situation.
We are keeping the control measures under review as the bluetongue disease situation develops. We are very conscious that we must balance the need to reduce the pressure on the industry with the overriding objective of controlling the spread of this disease.
Daniel Kawczynski: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what steps he is taking to ensure that farmers and their representative organisations have the most up-to-date information available on the (a) details, (b) implications and (c) likely timetable of measures to control the bluetongue outbreak. 
Jonathan Shaw: It is a priority for DEFRA Ministers and officials to work closely with, and listen to, farmers and the leaders of industry during the bluetongue outbreak. DEFRA works closely with a wide range of farming industry stakeholders on a daily basis to ensure effective communication with farmers. Stakeholders have been kept in touch with the latest developments by email updates and regular telephone conferences. One of the major issues currently being discussed is the scope of the future control measures that we need, including the question of whether to extend the existing zones to cover a wider area. This will depend on the epidemiological situation and an assessment of the implications of our current measures.
All registered keepers of livestock within the bluetongue protection and surveillance zones were contacted within 24 hours of the zones being declared. Since the start of the bluetongue outbreak on 28 September, approximately 200,000 information messages have been sent to livestock keepers subject to movement restrictions. These include approximately 140,000 voicemail messages, text messages, e-mails and facsimiles. In addition, approximately 50,000 information packs have been sent to registered livestock keepers. Animal Health has also launched a public voice-recorded information line, which is intended to serve an audience who are unable to access the DEFRA website. Currently, the DEFRA Helpline is also available seven days a week for all queries relating to bluetongue.
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DEFRA officials are keen to receive any specific proposals from stakeholders and livestock keepers about how communication methods could be further improved in the event of a disease outbreak.
Daniel Kawczynski: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs if he will introduce measures for the testing and moving of continent bulls under special licence alongside measures to control the bluetongue outbreak. 
Jonathan Shaw: We assume the hon. Member is referring to the movement of domestic breeding stock.
All ruminants are subject to current bluetongue control measures, as outlined in EU and domestic legislation and the UK Bluetongue Control Strategy.
We are considering whether it is possible to introduce practical measures, which can mitigate the risk of disease spread if susceptible animals are moved out of the restricted zone to live. The conditions set out in the new Commission Regulation to allow such movements are very stringent and not easy to implement. They include the testing of animals and the protection of animals from disease vectors.
Through close partnership with industry stakeholders, we are keeping all movement controls under review as the disease situation develops. We are very conscious that we must balance the need to reduce the pressure on the industry with the overriding objective of controlling bluetongue.
Bluetongue Disease: Shropshire
Daniel Kawczynski: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what assessment he has made of the effect on the farming industry of measures put in place to control bluetongue with particular reference to the movement and sale of pedigree (a) sheep and (b) cattle in (i) Shropshire and (ii) Montford Bridge, Shrewsbury; and if he will make a statement. 
Jonathan Shaw: Assessments have been made, on the livestock industry as a whole, of the impact of current disease control measures. These assessments are informing DEFRA's cost/benefit analysis of those measures. Separate assessments of the effect on the pedigree sheep and cattle markets in Shropshire or Montford Bridge have not been made as these would be subject to considerable margins of error.
In agreement with a core group of industry stakeholders, DEFRA remains committed to a disease control approach which aims to contain disease within the current control and protection zones, in line with ‘Phase 1’ of the UK Bluetongue Control Strategy. This takes into account the epidemiological situation, the time of year (coming towards the end of the vector season), and the cost benefit analysis of disease control measures and their likely economic impacts.
This assessment remains under constant review, and recognises that efforts to contain disease may become disproportionate to the costs to industry, and therefore the strategy may have to change. However, using the above assessment, this point has not yet he overriding objective of controlling bluetongue.