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Standing Committee (4 Dec 2001)

House of Commons Standing Committee E (pt 3)

Animal Health Bill

Mr. Wiggin: When the Minister goes to the conference he may have a chance to research the prophylactic vaccination programme in Uruguay, which has been extremely successful, especially in cattle. I hope that he will meet Dr. Paul Sutmoller, who is an expert on the subject, and compare notes with him.

Mr. Morley: We will have discussions with a range of international experts. My information is that prophylactic vaccination in Uruguay failed to eradicate the disease, and it is still endemic. We may discuss the reasons for that, along with many other matters.

We want disease-free status in this country, and I strongly believe that vaccination is a perfectly reasonable tool to consider among a range of options. I do not want to give the impression that we rule out vaccination or that we think that the widespread culling that took place in the recent epidemic is desirable in future epidemics. We need to look for alternatives in a responsible and considered way, and the Bill gives us the range of options to do so.

Mrs. Winterton: I seem to recall that vaccination was used in two outbreaks in eastern Europe, one of which was in Macedonia, and it brought the epidemic to a grinding halt. Has the Minister any knowledge of that?
Will the Minister say something about compensation for animals slaughtered after vaccination? That is an omission about which many people want to be reassured.

Mr. Morley: Yes, I am aware of the Macedonian vaccination programme, but I do not know whether foot and mouth is still endemic there.
I repeat that vaccination is a very important option which we should not rule out, and we do not intend to do so. Indeed, there may be opportunities for new policies in the future. Even then, one would want to use the new clause not in a piecemeal way, but in a controlled way as part of a proper disease control strategy.
The Bill provides the power for compensation for vaccination and slaughter if required. At the moment, we do not have the power to pay compensation. It does not rule out full market compensation, but it may sometimes be necessary to consider a range of options and it is important that the options remain open to the Government. One option might be that for classical swine fever, for which 100 per cent. compensation is not paid in all cases. We need to consider the different circumstances and we do not want to paint ourselves into a corner on any one option. We want the freedom to discuss with the relevant stakeholders the most appropriate way forward.

Mrs. Winterton: Although the Minister is making a sound point from his point of view, his comments will provide no reassurance to the farming community because it knows that at the end of the day the Ministry has the upper hand. Does he not believe that reassurance on compensation should be provided in the Bill? That has been done elsewhere in connection with compulsory purchase and this is not a dissimilar situation.

Mr. Morley: It very much depends on the circumstances in which a slaughter policy is used. It depends on disease control circumstances and on negotiations that might have taken place with those affected. Nothing in the Bill rules out full market compensation, and it should be negotiated in the circumstances in which such a measure is used. The NFU and other organisations have been very successful in getting a deal for their members and looking after their interests. I am sure that that will continue.

Taking everything into consideration, although vaccination is a respectable tool in disease control and a matter to which we must give further thought as technology and science progress, the new clause is not workable and I invite the hon. Lady to withdraw it.

Mr. Wiggin: Will the Minister consider carefully the research that has been done on vaccination? I am not yet completely convinced that the Dutch policy was started with the understanding that it would continue to slaughter. The Minister alluded to EU intervention. I suspect that that is why the Dutch continued down the slaughter-after-vaccination route.

The situation in Uruguay is not clear and I should be grateful for any research to be made available, perhaps through the Library, so that we can discover how effective vaccination is in Uruguay. My impression is that it is effective and has prevented the disease from becoming endemic. We import meat from Uruguay, so it is essential to ensure that the policy is effective; if it is not, that could be a source of the infection. It is essential that the research is carried out and I hope that it will take place in the near future.

See also Information from the Uruguay Embassy, Information about Uruguay from Dr Simon Barteling and Dr Sutmoller. Information about the vaccination programme in Uruguay.