EFRA Committee Dec 10 2007
House of COMMONS
MINUTES OF EVIDENCE
ENVIRONMENT, FOOD AND RURAL AFFAIRS COMMITTEE
FINAL REPORT OF THE INDEPENDENT SCIENTIFIC GROUP
Monday 10 December 2007
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Taken before the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee
on Monday 10 December 2007
Mr Michael Jack, in the Chair
Mr Geoffrey Cox
Mr David Drew
Dr Gavin Strang
Witness: Lord Rooker, a Member of the House of Lords, Minister for Sustainable Food and Farming and Animal Health, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, gave evidence.
Q537 Chairman: May I welcome to the Committee Lord Rooker, an old friend of our inquiries. He is the Minister for Sustainable Food and Farming and Animal Health. I know he has taken a particular interest in this inquiry, coming to some of our earlier evidence sessions. Minister, we are very grateful to you for the fact that you have followed closely the work of the Committee in this respect. I wonder if we could just try and put a little perspective onto the present state of matters connected with bovine TB and particularly the amount of money that the disease is currently costing the government. In chapter four of the document published in February 2004, entitled "Preparing for a New GB Strategy on Bovine TB" on page 23, your department published a projection indicating that by 2012/13 the disease could well be costing an annual expenditure of some £300 million. Does that number still remain the long term projection for Defra of the costs of bovine TB?
Lord Rooker: I would imagine that is the state of play because not a lot of work has been done. There were recommendations from the ISG as well which would cost a lot. It pre-ordains the fact that you have a policy to operate. That figure would have been produced on the basis probably of maybe the current situation, the current spread, but things change of course, levels of compensation, levels of research. Nevertheless, it is costing a fortune. It is the best part of £100 million a year now. It takes up 40 per cent of the Animal Health Agency's resources and it is growing. The disease is spreading. I would not argue about the figure that was projected quite a while ago for some time in front of us. It is a serious issue and it is costing a lot and it is going up.
Q538 Chairman: Given the fact that interestingly this document did predict with some accuracy that the current figure is the one you have just given to the Committee, I think we can safely assume that unless something changes policy-wise that is the order of magnitude of public expenditure on this. You have made it very clear that you are not going to make a final decision on this matter certainly until this Committee's report has been produced, but I think it would be helpful for the Committee to know, once our report which will be amongst many pieces of information that you will have before you has been produced, what is going to be your methodology in coming to a conclusion on this matter? Are you going to simply make a decision on the question of whether to cull or not to cull or are you going to ultimately, in your response, produce a more comprehensive, updated strategy to deal with bovine TB?
Lord Rooker: It has to be the latter. Obviously I will answer your question but I have not come here to spend all afternoon on culling or not culling. The issue is bovine TB. We have a serious disease in a food production animal. There is a reservoir of it in the wildlife. It is growing and everything we seem to do is not constraining it at the present time. There are all kinds of economic ramifications, let alone the animal welfare ramifications both for food animals and wildlife. Therefore, we have to come to an arrangement, after the Committee has reported, to make a decision. There is an imperative to this. I have not followed all of the Committee's evidence that there is an imperative because there is legislation on the statute book that allows licences to be issued for disease control, part of which says at section ten, paragraph nine, that the licences shall not unreasonably be withheld. We have to have a reason if the answer is no. There are applications in the system based, believe it or not, on the ISG report - i.e., prolonged, regular culling over larger areas could actually reduce the disease in those areas, but they do not believe the farmers could organise it and that is the other issue. We have to come to a decision in the round. It cannot be a decision to cull or not to cull because the legislation, unlike for other wildlife, is different. There are applications there and we cannot simply say we do not want to know about it because we will be up for judicial review if we do not do anything about it. The ISG has performed a valuable role. I was there right at the beginning ten and a half years ago, having received the Krebs report initially in 1997. As ministers, we have to take advice in the round from the economic side, the trade side and the vets. Vets never get mentioned in this. The Animal Health Agency is out in the field. I have been to their local offices. I have seen the paperwork involved. I know why it costs so much, by the way, and I can show you the paperwork trail. It costs a fortune. The computer system is out of date. It has black and white screens. I have not seen those for years. There is a massive paperwork trail both for the testing and also the checking and the tracing. Administratively, it is a nightmare. It is almost a paper-based system although there are obviously computers used. We have to take a decision in the round based on the ISG, based on the scientists. Defra has its own scientists, sometimes much maligned, and scientific advisers. We have to take a decision in the round, taking into account the constraints we have of legislation that is there, that can be activated by citizens.
Q539 Chairman: You mentioned a number of sources of advice and you specifically underscored the importance of some of the quality of the advice that you can receive from within government. To date, have any of the bodies that report either to you directly or to Defra as a collective made a recommendation that culling would be an effective form of control of bovine TB?
Lord Rooker: On the package of documents that I think you have received along with the report that Sir David King did, the Defra family of the Animal Health Agency, the VLA, the CSL and Natural England supplied letters which I think the Committee has had. If you read the letter from the chief executive of the Animal Health Agency, he makes it abundantly clear that whilst there is a reservoir in the wildlife they are in real trouble. They cannot do anything about the situation. I can quote it if need be. This is a letter dated 26 July. The letter from the VLA makes it clear that whilst there is a reservoir in the wildlife it would be virtually impossible to eradicate it in cattle. They were commenting on the ISG report, by the way. We asked them for their views and this was done in a series of answers to particular questions. From that point of view, particularly in the West Country where 70 per cent of the breakdowns are attributed to badger to cattle transmission according to the Animal Health Agency, we have a serious issue on our hands. I am not saying they are all saying the same thing. Natural England has its view and CSL of course is slightly divorced because of the research it is doing. That is very useful information but you ask me have any of the agencies said that culling would help. The Animal Health Agency makes it clear we cannot do much if we do not do anything in terms of attacking the wildlife reservoir. Anyway, they are on the front line. That is where we are spending all the money.
Q540 Chairman: You are quite right in saying that you have to tackle the wildlife reservoir but, as you have mentioned the papers, I too shall mention them. I could not find a clear recommendation in any of those papers from your advisory bodies to say that culling was the answer. They did point to many other elements of a strategy but it sounded to me as if they were unclear about culling. They also indicated that there were large areas of knowledge which you still do not have a clear answer on - for example, the way in which the disease was transmitted. Perhaps you could tell us about way you think the holes are in terms of your department's personal knowledge in understanding how this disease operates.
Lord Rooker: You asked me a question about their recommendations. All their views on the ISG were predicated on the basis that there was no single action to deal with this issue. They all raised the issue of cattle movements. In the letter from the Animal Health Agency, as indeed from the VLA information, the nature of the cattle to cattle spread is not quite as generally supposed on the basis that the molecular structure of the TB in the areas with cattle and badgers in, say, Cornwall is unique to Cornwall and there is another one that is unique to the Gloucester area. In other words, if it was cattle moving all around the country, there would be a more uniform molecular structure. In terms of what we do not know, you do not have to look any further than page 173 of the ISG report, paragraph 10.49. It is replete with "it is not known whether", "it is unclear", "the lack of information". There is an awful lot we do not know. Five or ten years ago when this started, we were assured by the scientists that they would do this over a five-year period. That was the original plan although I think the five became seven. The seven became ten because of foot and mouth. If we did this work, we would know within this period of time what the method of transmission was, if presumably there was a method of transmission - Krebs had made it clear there was a big connection; that is why we went ahead with it - but we do not know that. What we do know is that there is a correlation in the reservoir of wildlife with bovine TB.
Q541 Chairman: The reason I asked you that question - I am glad to hear you confirm that because it is still an area of evolving science - was to know, when you have to sit down in the new year and make your decision, how comfortable you are that there are still quite large areas of knowledge that incomplete. These papers make it very clear that here you have a disease but you do not know for example all that there is to know about the way it is spread. These papers make it clear that in terms of workable biosecurity solutions there is still a lot of lack of knowledge. The papers make it clear that in terms of vaccination that we will come on to talk about in more detail there is still a lot more work to be done. The papers also make it clear that culling is not, in the judgment of these authors, the silver bullet solution. Given all those unknowns, are you comfortable that you will still have at some stage in January or February a sufficiently robust body of opinion to be able to make a decision that you will feel comfortable with that is not going to end up being challenged?
Lord Rooker: That is the point. If we do not do that, the way the law stands at the moment, we could end up by being challenged by those who want to push us. We would be held to be unreasonably withholding licences because we do not have a reason. I sat here whilst David King and John Bourne gave their views. They were not arguing about science. They were arguing about the implications. The ISG makes it quite clear they do not trust the practicalities and the economic is in the farming industry to do a large, sustained cull over wider areas, the 300 square kilometres as opposed to the 100 square kilometres. That was what was predicated. There is no evidence in the report in the report as to why the farmers could not organise it or the economics but they made that clear. That was their opinion, that it could not be done, but if it was done it would assist in attacking the disease. That point is made clear. If you know that and you also know there are issues relating to cattle movements - it is still too early in some ways to get the results of the changes we have made in cattle movements - and other recommendations which we have not fully costed, it is tens of millions of pounds we do not have in the ISG report, and we have to take a decision in the round to operate on more than one front. At the moment the routine testing and slaughter is the baseline of the policy. That is what happens. That costs a fortune.
Q542 Chairman: Your argument so far in front of the Committee is predicated on the grounds that challenge will come, for example if you were to say no to culling, from those who want to cull. I am equally interested in whether you feel confident that you have a body of knowledge to defend the decision that went in the opposite direction where, if you did decide to come down in favour of culling and you were challenged, you would have sufficient knowledge to be able to defend such a decision.
Lord Rooker: It is a bit difficult in this case when in this case the science is not clear-cut and you have different scientists, all eminent in their fields and in each other's fields, maybe agreeing to the science but agreeing to different conclusions from a practical point of view. The buck stops here. That is not the issue. We are not leaving it to the scientists to decide the policy. The policy has to be decided by ministers inside government. The point is the present situation is unsustainable. The cost is unsustainable. We cannot tolerate the costs that we are spending, from the taxpayers' point of view, on this. This is a warning to all that things have to change. No decisions have been taken. Ministers have had discussions although obviously there is a different team there are now to what was there before the summer. If there is a decision taken, it has to be taken in the light of the constraint that we have of the legislation with a queue of applications for licences. If you are going to take issue and say no, under no circumstances do we issue any licences, it therefore makes you wonder why the legislation is there, but it is there I am also informed by officials in case rabies ever comes into the population. The legislation was there to protect the badger before we found out about TB in badgers so it was never put there for that reason. It was put there for another reason altogether. We have to take the decision in the round. Nothing is perfect here but there is enough evidence from the science, from a practical point of view, because we are not going to pay for anything. The government will not be paying for any action to operate licences other than the supervision, setting up and monitoring. If we went down that road, we would not be employing teams like we did during the trials. It is made quite clear in the ISG report that culling as practised by the culling trial does not work. There is a conclusion here. We found out that it does not work on the small areas where you are only culling eight nights a year, maybe only four, five or six years out of ten. It does not do the job. Was not the implication is, done another way, it might. There are scientists who take the view that it could and if the industry took that view they would have to pay for it. One cannot be absolutely perfect about this. And there are the other economic implications of the industry as well in terms of trade and the spread of the disease. The disease is spreading. What is our policy? If you are asking me: is our policy to eradicate bovine TB, I cannot say yes to that. We do not have a policy in that respect. Are we trying to control it, stop it spreading, close it down in the hotspot areas? Until we can get a decision one way or another on what we seek to do with or without the wildlife, it makes it impossible for us to talk to industry and anyone else about this.
Q543 Chairman: You have just given us a shopping list of things you would like to do. What do you want to do? Do you want to control it, stop it, deal with the hotspots? You must at this stage have an idea of what you want to do. That is why I asked you. I said, "When you come to make your decision, are you going to come out with a complete policy?" You indicated of course you have to have all the elements together. What is going to be the aim of the policy with all the elements together that you are going to announce? Could you give us whichever of those items on the shopping list will be covered by it?
Lord Rooker: Quite clearly, eradicating bovine TB would be quite helpful. However, from a practical point of view as all the papers make clear, eradicating bovine TB in cattle whilst it is present in wildlife is impossible. Therefore, the question is can you control it, cut it back and stop it spreading. That is number one. That has to be a practical starting point. One has to be practical about this. The rest of mainland Europe have it done with the testing policy but not in the wildlife so they do not have that kind of issue. It is more on the boundaries of Europe, but we have it in the wildlife. As the evidence makes clear, you have to take other action is with it in the wildlife if you are not doing anything about the wildlife. The fact is, if it is eradication you are going for, you will not do it. Therefore, we have to stop the spread. So far, we have not stopped the spread in the last ten years geographically. It is much higher and obviously the hotspots have become worse but geographically the spread has become quite serious and is getting worse. That has to be an objective: to cut it in the hotspots and stop it spreading geographically. That has to be a number one priority. How do you go about that if you ignore it in the wildlife? There are things you can do but will they be effective from a cost point of view? Someone has to pay for this and the taxpayer is not going to pay for it all. I have to make that abundantly clear to the Committee and the industry. The taxpayer has come to the end of the line in funding at this scale so we have to take action in other directions
Q544 Dr Strang: We will come later to the taxpayer point but I think the Committee will be in agreement with what you have said. The science has turned out to be much more complex than I reckon was envisaged at the start of the whole Krebs process. It is a very complex disease. It seems to me that you are saying, when you announce a new policy, this will probably include a package of measures. It will not just be one thing directed at the very important reservoir and the badger population issue. I want to ask you about the actual spread. When you look at what has happened - okay, the costs are 90 million on the testing and compensation and 20 million to the industry - there is no dispute about the enormity of this issue and the need to see if we can produce a range of policies, not just the one, which can begin to turn it round. Much as I accept that we have to concentrate on the hotspot issue and the badger reservoir, do you not think we could look more rigorously at this question of the movement in the non-hotspot areas to see if there is a case. Rather than just looking at the hotspots and saying, "We have to deal with these because they are urgent" and the farmers feel that way, we also should be trying to take action to stop it moving to other parts of the country in significant numbers because, as you rightly say, the costs are unacceptable.
Lord Rooker: With respect, I am not sure what the question is other than how we can stop it going on. Stopping trade in cattle and movement is one thing. We have pre-movement testing now and post-movement testing. The farmers are paying for that. A good deal of the outer TB that has arisen in the northern part of the country, I am told, has come about because of trade but generally speaking, if you look at where the hotspots are in the south west and the southern Midlands and Wales, the hotspot areas themselves have been growing, not necessarily all as a result of trade. The Veterinary Laboratories Agency and the Animal Health Agency have made the point that the type of TB in cattle and badgers is unique to different areas of the country. You can distinguish it. If the issue was all about cattle movements, it would not be identified as different molecular strains in different parts of the country; it would be more uniform across the country. In other words, they are making it quite clear that the correlation in different areas of the type of TB is unique to that area, both the cattle and the wildlife. While we have to do things with movements within the areas of the hotspots, as you know there are areas in the hotspots where there have been no breakdowns. It is very difficult to explain. That is what makes it so complex. There is no easy answer to this. You are quite right in terms of the movements but trade is bad enough anyway. At any time, you have four per cent of the herds, slaughtering over 20,000 cattle a year, restricted from trade and you cannot use the milk. The costs I have been given taxpayer costs and the costs to the farming industry are horrendous, both emotionally as well as financially. I am not devaluing that at all. The costs of this disease to the industry are already very substantial. It is very frustrating for farmers and the industry but it is much easier for the government to be able to measure the taxpayers' costs. You are absolutely right. There is no magic solution to this, whether it is controlling movements, restraining trade, zoning the country or cordon sanitaires which we discussed back in 1998 around parts of the country, so no cattle were allowed to move in and out, but of course that would destroy our cattle industry because of the nature of what happens in different parts of our land.
Q545 Dr Strang: When you were saying that you knew where the money was going and that is taxpayers' money, I was not quite clear what you were saying. We know the costs of the compensation but when it comes to the control measures, the reactors etc, I was not quite sure whether you were saying we have a ramshackle, inefficient policy in relation to the testing and monitoring of the movement of the cattle and that that is something which is not working satisfactorily or that it is not being an adequate use of these resources. Is that what you are saying?
Lord Rooker: No. It is not a modern system. It is an incredibly complicated system. 40 per cent of the resources of the Animal Health Agency, on average, are on bovine TB. It is our most serious disease. In foot and mouth is important. Blue tongue is important. Even influenza is important. Bovine TB is much more important in terms of costs and resources to Defra over a period of a year than any of those other diseases. We have learned to live with it in that sense. We have come to the point now where it is getting so expensive that we are going to have to say, hang on, we cannot carry on like this. The system has not been modernised because everyone is waiting for a policy. If you go to an animal health office and ask to see the paperwork flow and the systems that they use, they have not been modernised. I have given you an average figure of 40 per cent of resources. In the south west and the southern Midlands, it will be 70 to 80 per cent of the animal health office there that are devoted to bovine TB. It is not a national disease in this sense. It is highly regionalised, as you are well aware from your constituency experiences.
Q546 Dr Strang: This brings us right into the proposed levy. Obviously, the session is not just going to be on the levy which is very controversial but is this levy going to apply across the board in GB? Is it envisaged to apply in England, Scotland and Wales or is this an England only levy?
Lord Rooker: Levy is a shorthand and it is not a word that I have used. The cost and responsibility sharing document for long consultation should hopefully be published before Christmas. One can never be certain as a minister when things are going to be published but it is due to be published before the break. It is not a policy but a series of questions. I visited Cardiff, Edinburgh and Belfast to discuss this during recent months. I get a very personal welcome but everybody wishes I was not in the room when I am there with the ministers and the farming unions in all three of those countries. We would like it to be GB. If it is not, we will get something forced on us by Europe anyway so this is not an issue where we can say, "Go away". On the question of who it applies to, it is talking in terms of disease control. The document will go quite wide because a third of the crops we grow feed our animals. If that is the case, I do not see why the people who grow the animal feed should not be involved in these kinds of arrangements as well.
Q547 Dr Strang: Are you saying that the European Union will seek to try and implement a policy?
Lord Rooker: Yes indeed. There is a proposal coming down the tracks from Brussels for cost and responsibility sharing in animal disease. If we do not in the UK have some consensus of our own, when it gets to Brussels and we are sitting there with nothing, the chances are because various countries in Europe already do something - Spain does something to a greater or lesser extent; France, the Republic and Germany and Holland, I believe, to a greater or lesser extent - they all have policies they are using. They will build their policies into the Euro policy, maybe none of which suits us. If we have nothing to put on the table, we could end up with something dumped on us that is completely anathema to the whole of our industry. There is a good reason why we should try to build a consensus within the UK about cost and responsibility sharing for animal disease on those grounds alone, let alone trying to share more of the cost. We have to be prepared as a government to share some of the responsibility.
Q548 Dr Strang: As I understand it, what is envisaged - and this is not meant to be a criticism necessarily - is that sheep producers in the north of England would be paying the levy which would be used for animal diseases across the whole of England. It could be used for brucellosis or whatever.
Lord Rooker: No, it is not like that. The paper is not that prescriptive. It is done with consultation and lots of questions. I will take a roadshow along with officials around the country to discuss it with the industry. It is not a policy paper. It is a paper to have discussions about building a policy. Unless I have something written down as a document, frankly no one will talk to me about cost and responsibility sharing. Therefore, we could have this paper and a long consultation - 16 or 14 weeks - well above the normal 12 weeks anyway, and then we will go away, think about it and then come back hopefully with a consensual policy and then consult on that. Nothing is going to be rushed about this but we have to make a start on it. There is never a good time to make a start. We were told that it was planned to be in September and for various reasons it did not occur, but the intention is to publish a discussion document before the Christmas recess.
Q549 Mr Drew: Was it a mistake, with the benefit of hindsight, to get the chief scientist as was to launch his own enquiry into this and not even tell the Independent Scientific Group what was going on?
Lord Rooker: No. You talk about the chief scientist as was. Sir David King has not quite gone yet.
Q550 Mr Drew: Soon to be no more?
Lord Rooker: He is coming to the end of his term in the normal course of events. No, of course it was not. We had this report that had been in gestation since 1998 when the ISG was set up, when Jack Cunningham was Minister and I was the Minister of State. It has taken a long time. Various bits have been shared with us. A lot has been published over the years. We knew there was a large team coming. The pressure from the industry and everybody else on us about what are you going to do and what is your policy going to be is quite clearly on hold. We had issued no licences, other than very exceptional circumstance licences. People were beginning to think about that because the legislation is there. We had asked this group to do this job and we needed to know ourselves about this. We have our own scientific adviser. He has just retired. We have a new one now, part of the Nobel Prize winning team. Both are quality people. We have the vets inside Defra. We have our own agencies. We are very much a science-based Ministry, more science-based I think than any other Ministry other than Defence. It was natural that ministers discussed these issues. Ben was the day Minister on this job but I was the Lords Minister and sat in on as many meetings as I could with both Ben and David on this before the reshuffle. It made common sense that we had a government chief scientific adviser with a team to say ----
Q551 Mr Drew: Why did you not to tell the ISG that this was going on?
Lord Rooker: At the time we asked David King to do this, we did not have the ISG report.
Q552 Mr Drew: The ISG did not know that David King was going to look at their findings until he produced his report?
Lord Rooker: Yes, but we asked him as ministers. He is the government's chief adviser. He is not the ISG's compadre in that sense. No discourtesy was intended but they did not need to know. It did not affect their report. It would not have affected their report anyway. We did not have their report at the time he was asked, as is made clear in the letter he sent you subsequently. We asked him to run over this and he did this with a team he put together. We did not tell him who to talk to. We asked our own family - the Defra science based agencies and the vets out in the field, much maligned, but nevertheless they have some experience to share with us - to do this. You have seen all the dates on the letters. They all came in right at the end of July/early August just as foot and mouth hit us and that was a priority. Bovine TB is more important and damaging financially but the emergency of foot and mouth was crucial. It was all hands on deck. Therefore, we parked that. A new team of ministers had arrived and it was simply parked. There was no ulterior motive in that at all. The issue that we discussed before Sir David King came in was that the report of he and his colleagues who had looked at this ought to be in the public domain. All right, it was done very much at the last minute and that is to be regretted but it has not altered the science. It does not alter the practicalities of what is said in terms of recommendation. It happens probably every week that government ministers ask the chief scientist for advice on various things that are happening. To be honest, I am looking for as much advice as possible on the issue of bovine TB and Hilary will be the same, not just on culling. We want the economists to talk to us. We needed the vets to talk to us and we need the scientists to talk to us. The scientists do not speak with one voice. The science is there. It is the conclusions and recommendations.
Q553 Chairman: You have given us another shopping list of all the people you want to talk to.
Lord Rooker: That is right.
Q554 Chairman: What I am interested in is to know who you have been talking to up to now. It is almost as if these people have been silent and yet they have not. You have had an absolute ocean of advice from everybody on this particular subject so when you say you want all these people to come and talk to you can you be a bit more specific about what you are going to talk to them about? What is going to be on the shopping list of knowledge?
Lord Rooker: Do not misunderstand me. What I'm trying to say is that, as ministers, we have to reach a conclusion. We want to take in as wide a range of opinions as possible. We have loads of opinions. It is not a question of going back to people. We have an awful lot now. Your Committee started an inquiry, quite rightly, on the report. We took a view that if the select committee was going to have an inquiry on this, which would be quite useful because you take external evidence as well, we have our own forays which we have made clear - you have the documents; we have not hidden anything from you in that respect - we have a new team of ministers anyway and a new Secretary of State who will want to listen to a lot of voices. He has not had an opportunity with the flooding and foot and mouth to listen face to face to some of the groups, scientists, the wildlife groups and others as I have had over the years or as Ben has had over the years. We are not going to start a new inquiry. We would welcome your report as a key input into the decision-making process. We need to get on with this.
Q555 Chairman: Let us say we report some time in the middle of January. What is your timetable from there on in terms of coming to a conclusion? What is the methodology that you are actually going to use to hear these voices? Are you going to postulate a series of policy options and ask for opinions?
Lord Rooker: We have done that.
Mr Cox: 2006, three months.
Q556 Chairman: You have a series of policy options?
Lord Rooker: We have a series of policy proposals in the ISG which we have to look at costing because they were not costed.
Q557 Chairman: Those are the ISG's. I am talking about your agenda. In other words, you said a little while ago, "We are going to have to talk to all of these people", so you are going to have to talk to them about something which will be the sum total of the body of knowledge which I guess exists at the present time, but you are going to have to formulate that in terms of the questions you are going to be asking these people in the light of all the knowledge that has accumulated over time. What are you going to be asking them?
Lord Rooker: First of all, in order to be able to discuss with the cattle industry and everybody associated with it about what we do about bovine TB, they are going to come back to us and say, "Are you going to let us deal or deal with the wildlife?" If the answer to that is no, then you have a different debate as to whether the answer is yes under a licensed procedure. The starting point comes into will you issue licenses or do you put the barriers so high ----
Q558 Chairman: You said, "Are we going to deal with the wildlife?" When it comes to all the people who are advising Defra, all of the scientists, the vets, and the people that you can draw on, are you first of all going to say to them, "Right, here is the body of knowledge. We as ministers want to know, yes or no, do we start with dealing with the wildlife reservoir?"? Is that going to be your first question?
Lord Rooker: It is a question that we will have to answer. I am not sure if it is the first one, but it has to be answered.
Q559 Chairman: What will be the first question?
Lord Rooker: First of all, if you take the issues I have mentioned in terms of controlling, stopping the spread or go for the ultimate, do we have a medium to long term idea of eradicating bovine TB in this country? If that becomes a policy objective long term, a set of policies flows from that.
Q560 Chairman: I am still struggling to understand.
Lord Rooker: I am not saying that that is the objective.
Q561 Chairman: I want to know what are the questions that you are going to be asking for answers to. Which is going to be at the top of the list? We have all reported. You have all the body of knowledge. Now you have to sit down and distil out what the policy is going to be. Where are you going to start? What is going to be the first issue which you as ministers are going to want to resolve to decide the internal Defra road map towards a conclusion?
Lord Rooker: This is somewhat below the belt but the first decision is probably that we are not paying for it. Once we make a decision that we, the government, are not paying for this, we are paying so far ----
Q562 Chairman: Does that mean the end of compensation?
Lord Rooker: No, I did not say that. What I said was a set of new policy options start to cost money. We have reached a limit. We are not going back to the Treasury. We have no plans to do that. The Defra budget is under severe pressure, as you know from the Permanent Secretary. The cost and responsibility sharing debate will start in serious earnest once we have published our discussion paper because this is part of it, although it runs in parallel at the same time. If you start looking at costs or put figures on some of the costs of the options, whether it be vaccines, greater use of the gamma interferon test and other things like that, and you start to say, "Hang on, we have reached the point where we are not going to raise any more money" - we may spend less than we are at the moment, by the way - but no decisions have been taken. I do not want anyone to misread what I am saying. The status quo is not an option. If you start off with the premise of that, you can then talk to industry. Someone is going to have to pay for this if we are not, if action is going to be taken. That predicates part of the policy arrangement. That is not to say it is more important or less important than saying, "Do we deal with the wildlife?" We have abundant knowledge from the scientists but if we do not do anything with the wildlife we cannot eradicate bovine TB. That is axiomatic. It flows from the vets, from the Animal Health Agency, the VLA and the ISG. Their view is you cannot do it the other way because the practicalities are such that the farmers are not organised enough to do it; the industry is not organised. It would be too expensive for what you get back as a gain. Until you do the sums on that - because they have not been done - you do not know. You need to have discussions with those who are going to operate the policy and pay for it before you can reach a consensus on what is a very serious, complex issue. I am sorry but it is not possible to say what is the top one. If you start off with the premise that we are not paying any more for this - indeed, we may pay a lot less for bovine TB - therefore, what do we do? Who is going to pay and what are the actions?
Q563 Dr Strang: Were you satisfied with the ISG's cost benefit analysis of badger culling?
Lord Rooker: The cost benefit analysis basically was using Defra work anyway and they did not do any cost benefit analysis on their recommendations of the practical work in cattle movements and everything, as far as I know. We have to do that. We have not done that.
Q564 Dr Strang: Will the department be doing some cost benefit analysis in relation to cattle based policies?
Lord Rooker: We have not done any work on that at the present time.
Q565 Chairman: You have done no cost benefit analysis?
Lord Rooker: Not on the recommendations of that report. We know from officials it will cost tens of millions. We have not set a team up to go to work on this at the present time.
Q566 Chairman: Are you going to do that once all the information is in?
Lord Rooker: We will have to have a look at that, to be honest, because someone is going to have to pay for it. I repeat: the money is a key issue because it dictates where the policy goes. The implications of some of this are, for example, 50,000 more tests of gamma interferon. We would find a lot more reactors than under the present arrangement, a lot more compensation. That in itself would put our moneys through the roof. We do not have it. Therefore, that is not a starter. That would cost £1 million more or less before the compensation is paid. If you start down that route, we are committing ourselves to more public expenditure and we have no change in policy. We have no package, if you see what I mean, so we are not going to go down that route. We have to be very careful about the way we do it. That may be unsatisfactory but it is the best you are going to get on the money.
Q567 Paddy Tipping: I wanted to pursue the money bit. It is clearly the case, as you have told us, that Defra's budget is in real financial difficulty and that savings have to be made across the board. As I understand it, what you are saying is that one of the ways of reducing spending - this was the point with Gavin Strang - is to cost share presumably around compensation.
Lord Rooker: Yes. I got this everywhere I went, more so in Cardiff rather than in Scotland because it is not a major issue there and Northern Ireland is slightly different. I get this at every meeting I go to in England, wherever I am, without exception, when the issue of cost and responsibility sharing is raised. Someone will say, "By the way, are you going to share responsibility about the wildlife reservoir?" Therefore, in some ways, if a decision is made in principle not to operate the Badger Protection Act licensing and we say so, another set of policy options flows. If we say we will operate it with licences, a different set of policy options will flow. We can only look at that once we have made that decision. We have not made that decision yet. That decision has not been made by the Secretary of State or ministers. I do not say we have not discussed it. Of course we have, with the ISG and even before the ISG. It is not clear cut on the science. In some ways that is not very helpful to us. Therefore, it is our decision to make. Whichever way we go, we will be in trouble with one group or another. We realise that. The buck stops here. Once that decision is made, do we do anything at all about the wildlife or do we simply say, "No, it is more cattle restrictions in terms of separating wildlife and cattle", which is virtually impossible in many areas. In sheds you can do it but you cannot do much in the fields. Movements, more restriction on trading - if you take that decision, a set of policy options will flow. If we then take the decision, well no, the Act is there; we can issue licences; it is conformity with the law; Parliament expects us to issue a licence if disease is prevalent and do something about it, does the science justify it? One group of people will say yes; the other group will say no. We need to pick the bit you want from the science. Take a bigger area. Change the policy. In other words, if we make that principal decision, do we ignore the wildlife reservoir? That is a fairly important decision to make and other things will flow from that. We have not made that decision yet.
Q568 Paddy Tipping: I am just keen to focus on your desire to reduce the budget and you have made that crystal clear.
Lord Rooker: I am not going to let it grow anyway. It has to be reduced.
Q569 Paddy Tipping: One way is to cost share. In crude, political terms, is there not a trade off between saying to farmers and land owners, "Yes, you have to cost share but we are going to have a cull"? That is a straight trade off and you are going to do the cull.
Lord Rooker: It would be crude and the wrong way to approach it. I do not think that would be fair to the industry and I do not think it would be a legal way, to simply say, "We will chop your compensation and, by the way, as a quid pro quo, you can go culling." That would not be legal and I do not think that would be anything I would recommend to the Secretary of State. You have to be more targeted about the cost sharing around the country. Once you have made that principal decision about whether you are going to touch the wildlife or not, I do not think we are going to sell culling as a way of cost and responsibility sharing. I think it would be quite wrong to do that. Others who will want to take a crude view, looking at black and white headlines, might look at that but I think that would be the wrong way to approach the decision making process. I am sure it would not be done like that.
Q570 Paddy Tipping: That is helpful but let me go back to a point you made earlier on around culling. I think you made it very clear that you, the department or its agencies were not going to cull. Therefore, it has to be farmers and land owners. There is an immense cost there, is there not?
Lord Rooker: It is up to them whether they decide to take that cost. They know how not to cull - i.e., eight nights a year for a four year period - because it says in the report, "Do not do it this way. This does not work." Therefore, there are other opportunities and other ways of doing it. What it clearly indicates is more regular culling over a long period of time would make a difference in the hotspots. There are all the issues around the area, the size of the area and the licences.
Q571 Chairman: You have just commented about the ISG's report on culling and you also indicated that decisions might have to be made in terms of licensing. In the various reports that have been produced, whether you take the randomised badger culling trial, the interpretation by Sir David King, the work that was done in Ireland, the work that has been done in various culling exercises that predate the ISG, there is a whole different variety of results. In terms of methodology, you can either shoot, gas or trap. There may be other methods that I am not aware of to deal with it, such as snaring. How, when you come to consider the outcome, are you going to determine what are going to be the results of these different exercises when you are going to have to think about licensing? How are you going to decide on the effectiveness of the policy that you might have to decide on and you can have a menu of options? How are you going to do that?
Lord Rooker: With respect, the scientific trial is over.
Q572 Chairman: I am talking about the real world.
Lord Rooker: The real world is not a science trial. The real world is ordinary, active management of the countryside. We are not talking about an experiment or a trial in which we will get results comparing one with another.
Q573 Chairman: You made a point to us. You said the taxpayers' buck stops here and we want it to be smaller. You are going to have a certain amount of money to spend in this area and you have to decide how you are going to spend it. In terms of the efficiency of the different control measures, whether it be culling, whether it be cattle movement, whether it be biosecurity and ultimately whether it be vaccine, you have to do know how effective, however they are done and by whomever they are done, these various mechanisms are. You have to make certain that if you were for example to sanction a cull it was going to be effective, properly carried out and done rigorously over time. How are you going to come to decisions on all of those parameters because surely they will be central to the decision that you might have to make about whether to licence a cull not?
Lord Rooker: That is right.
Q574 Chairman: How are you going to make the decision about it?
Lord Rooker: First of all, it would not be a free for all. Our advisers, Natural England, are our statutory advisers and deal with wildlife culls anyway. That is something they actively deal with; it is not as though this is new. There would not be a free choice. If there was a cull, the method would be pre-ordained.
Q575 Chairman: You would decide the methodology?
Lord Rooker: This would be part of the process.
Q576 Chairman: What do you mean, "This would be part of the process"?
Lord Rooker: Part of the process of issuing a licence. You would set the parameters, the amount of land involved, the commitment to doing it over a long period and on a regular basis. This is all going to cost somebody some money. We ruled out snares a long time ago. Cage trapping, shooting or lamping, gassing has been ruled out but the work goes on in the laboratories, but the methods would be pre-ordained. The people employed to do it would not be employed by the government. We have abandoned the wildlife units. Regrettably, they have been made redundant. There were no other opportunities. The government would not be paying but the set of licence conditions which would be issue disability Natural England would cover the points that you have raised and they may be ----
Q577 Chairman: The point I am getting at is the effectiveness rating determines what else is going to be paid for by Defra because you said earlier you were not going, in the new world of reduced money, to abandon the testing of cattle and the slaughter.
Lord Rooker: I did not say that.
Q578 Chairman: Would you like to make it absolutely clear?
Lord Rooker: I did not say that. I just said the routing, testing and slaughter is the baseline for what happens at the moment, paid for by the government.
Q579 Chairman: That policy, in a world of culling, goes, does it?
Lord Rooker: No. I am not saying you are trying to put words in my mouth but you must not assume that what has gone on in the past goes on in the future. Routine testing, the one year up to the four years, and the recommendations for doing it more - if we had a recommendation to do the whole country, let us say, biannually, we do not have the resources for that and it would cost a lot of money. Frankly, that would not be part of our budget. The ISG says that routine testing and slaughter are the baselines from where they start. They have no reason not to say that because that is the status quo. We have already said that the status quo is not an option. I am not saying this will continue in the form that it is continuing now. This has to be reviewed as a policy in terms of the financial constraints and how to deal with the disease. That does not mean to say we have to carry on what we have been doing in the past.
Q580 Mr Drew: I understand what you are saying and I think there would be unanimity for saying that what has gone on in the past cannot carry on. The problem some of us are having is that with all the investigations we have undertaken, in the short run at least, there would be an implication of higher public spending. The very nature of trying to do what you want to do, even if it is a full cull policy, means you would have to do a great deal of mapping. You would have to have proper procedures by which you could remove the wildlife reservoir. That could only be done by the state. It would be absolutely impossible to think you could abdicate that responsibility to another organisation in the short run. If you therefore take that as read, the only way you can find that money from within existing resources is if you reduce the compensation scheme and yet you are then putting yourself on a pedestal to be knocked down by those whose moneys you would wish to reduce. It would put you in a very invidious position about how you could manage this policy.
Lord Rooker: I am sorry, David. I have to disabuse you of the first part of your question. I have repeatedly said that the government will not be organising or paying for any culls if culls take place. We will not be paying for the operational mapping, the employment of the staff. The issuing of licences if it takes place will be a cost, it is true, on the taxpayer because you have to organise what you have to do in order to get a licence issued. The idea that you presuppose is a give and I am afraid is not. We are not going to do it. Because people think we are, the government is there as the backup of the last resort and that causes the hiatus of not getting on with a policy to deal with bovine TB. We have reached the point where we have repeatedly said we are not going to organise a cull. We are not going to pay for one even if we sanctioned dealing with the wildlife. Industry has do deal with that. The ISG has said that they are not capable of doing it from a practical or cost benefit point of view without any evidence. If the industry has the evidence to counter that, they will know what they need to do, as long as we make it clear that government isn't going to do this. I cannot make it any clearer.
Q581 Mr Drew: Can you give me an international example of where the state with a problem - it does not even have to be bovine TB; it can be another animal disease and we could make the same arguments with avian influenza or foot and mouth and say the state has no responsibility that this - can you give me an international example where that would be the case at the moment?
Lord Rooker: No. It is very unfair to say the state has no responsibility. The whole point about this is that the state has responsibility. That is why the legislation is there in this case for issuing licences. We do not have it with the other diseases. As you know, we pay for compensation and we want to talk about this. We slaughtered some animals recently that we should never have needed to slaughter at vast public expense because of the poor biosecurity on the farms concerned. That has to be dealt with. I cannot countenance that happening again will stop we have to change the policy because taxpayers are paying out unnecessarily or stop we have the responsibility.
Q582 Mr Cox: Quite a few were slaughtered because the government's IAH allowed foot and mouth ----
Lord Rooker: I was not referring to that. I was referring to avian influenza where we slaughtered at least 50,000 turkeys that should never have needed to be slaughtered. It was pure biosecurity. That probably cost us £1 million. Because we slaughtered them compulsorily, we will have to pay for it. It was pure biosecurity and that was made abundantly clear publicly.
Q583 Dr Strang: On the possible badger culling, you have said that the government will specify the method if there is badger culling. You have ruled out snares. You have ruled out gassing. Have you ruled out shooting?
Lord Rooker: No. We have ruled out the way that gassing was done in the past. I am not saying we have a plan for gassing but it is well known that our laboratories have tested these things. They have tested some of the different types of snares as well. There is more than one kind of snare that has been ruled out. Cage trapping, shooting and lamping were acceptable and thought to be humane. I accept the difficulty with the wildlife but we have disease in a food animal that not many people seem to want to talk about. This is quite a serious issue. It is a zonotic disease. Not many humans get it but they can and it is spreading up and down the country. We are the sick man of Europe on this issue along with the Republic of Ireland. To say we are abdicating responsibility simply because we say that if an action is taken on the field, on the ground, it could be done by the practitioners and the country people under licence by government, is not an abdication of responsibility by the government.
Q584 Dr Strang: Whatever the attitude in terms of it being humane or not, it does seem to be impractical. Are you saying that you are looking at the possibility of having a method of gassing which is more practical than has been suggested by some of the scientists?
Lord Rooker: No, I have no up-to-date knowledge. Gassing is not an option, period. We have ruled out snares.
Q585 Mr Cox: Would it not be possible to envisage a situation perfectly easily where Defra approved certain types of particular contractors who might have undertaken a programme of training, who would have understood the particular parameters that Defra set, who could be gone to by land owners and farmers to carry out these culls? They would be Defra approved contractors. That would be one way of doing it. It is often done in other spheres, is it not?
Lord Rooker: That would be the way it would be done. If it was done this way in large areas, the ISG has made it quite clear, in a minimum of 264 square kilometres, 300 in round terms, it is not a massive area. It is about six by 18 miles roughly. We are not talking about counties. It can include a lot of farms on a piece of land like that. You could have well over a hundred farms. You would have to have the minimum amount of promises of land owners. Otherwise you would not have a consortium to put together. They would have to employ someone. They would have to be regularised people. We know people can do it.
Q586 Mr Cox: Would you envisage that as a single application or a number of applications bunched together?
Lord Rooker: It is a bit difficult because, with the way the law is on the issue of a licence, I think it has to go to a single person but I think that person could operate on behalf of a group. If we went down this road, licences would not be done for areas that were small or did not fit the parameters of the external boundaries. They do not have to be hard boundaries necessarily, rivers and motorways, because we do not really mind if the badgers are perturbed as long as they are not going to be perturbed towards cattle. If it is a hundred acres of arable, okay.
Q587 Chairman: Are you a hard boundary or a soft boundary man?
Lord Rooker: As long as it does not have cattle on it.
Q588 Chairman: That is the question that has been imposed in terms of the scientific findings. Sir David King softens his boundary analysis. The ISG are hard boundary men. Which boundary type do you fall into?
Lord Rooker: You have to be practical about it.
Q589 Chairman: I am asking you the question. The question was do you believe in hard boundaries and the analysis that goes with them or do you accept Sir David King's specific finding that he regards a different type of boundary as acceptable in a 300 square kilometre area? Which bit of science do you back?
Lord Rooker: If the boundary is such that the risk of cattle getting TB outside the area is diminished because they are not there, then I do not mind whether it is hard or soft.
Q590 Chairman: Who, in your assessment process, will determine the risk characteristics of the boundaries?
Lord Rooker: The licence issuer.
Q591 Chairman: Who is going to set the parameters?
Lord Rooker: The risk of perturbation ----
Q592 Chairman: Natural England are going to have to decide all of these parameters, are they?
Lord Rooker: If the risk of perturbation ----
Q593 Chairman: They are the licensing authority.
Lord Rooker: If the risk of perturbation is not there to cattle from badgers that have been moved out because of this, either because of a river, a motorway or two miles of arable land without any cattle on, it does not really matter whether it is hard or soft, does it? It is a shame for the badgers that have been moved out because they will still be ill if they have TB but if they are not transmitting it to cattle because they are not there, from a practical point of view, it does not matter. You have to be realistic about this.
Q594 Mr Cox: You have a note. May we hear what the note says?
Lord Rooker: It does not alter what I have said.
Q595 Chairman: You mean it is different on the note from what you have said but you think you can get away with it.
Lord Rooker: Natural England would issue the licences. We would set the framework but we would tell them the methods of culling for example. We would fix issues at the centre like the land area and the amount.
Q596 Mr Cox: This is a very familiar situation. It happens in all sorts of areas. The government sets the framework for the licensing but you would have to have published guidelines, would you not, about the nature of the boundary you would be looking for? It would be only sensible to publish guidelines so that possible or potential licence applicants could know whether they stood a reasonable chance.
Lord Rooker: Precisely.
Q597 Mr Cox: In issuing those guidelines, what sort of boundaries do you think you would be looking for in order to fulfil a condition for a licence?
Lord Rooker: Practical ones.
Q598 Mr Cox: You have mentioned a few. You have mentioned rivers.
Lord Rooker: I have but I have mentioned those that alleviate the spread of TB outside the area you are working in due to perturbation. As long as there are no cattle around ----
Q599 Mr Cox: The point is this: some boundaries will not be impermeable to badgers but they will restrict and impede them. I am told by Professor Bourne that a badger can swim the River Torridge. I would like to see it done but the point I am making is that he agreed with me when I said that not many have done it. He said probably that was true. A river for example might impede a badger but it might not, if push came to shove, stop the badger. Presumably there would be a question of judgment there, would there not?
Lord Rooker: You would look at what is the other side of the river. If there are loads of cattle grazing on the other side of the river and the risk of the badger swimming is such that we got to perturbation ----
Q600 Mr Cox: In the West Country they are likely to be both sides of the river.
Lord Rooker: If on the other side of the river there is a load of arable land that is not going to be used for cattle grazing, then you have what you are looking for. The risk of perturbation and transfer ----
Q601 Chairman: Help us out here. I want to get you off the hook from having to rely on bits of paper because you have had copious briefings.
Lord Rooker: I have had two so far.
Q602 Chairman: You have plenty of notes and briefings from everybody. You mentioned earlier that you had received some advice from a number of bodies, including I think Natural England, and they are the licensing body so perhaps you could let the Committee into the views that you have heard from Natural England. What do they think about the parameters for a successful culling operation? What do they think needs to be done in general terms to make it successful, effective and humane?
Lord Rooker: I do not think I can go into that, to be honest, because I am not qualified. Earlier this year we had a brief discussion with Natural England before the ISG report was published. I was not privy to the meetings because it was Ben's day job, if I can put it that way, before the reshuffle. I was not present at any of their meetings but there were brief discussions about what might happen. The issue was, if there was a licence, who would issue it? We had to make a decision. Did Defra do it or did we ask Natural England because they do the licensing of wildlife issues? Now, this is a very sensitive issue, it is an emotional issue as well and there were arguments played both ways in the Department, is it something we should give the sender. David and Ben took the view there was no good reason why the licences should be issued by Defra when we have got a perfectly good non-departmental public body dealing with wildlife and, therefore, discussion was had but they were not discussions in anything like detail because, first of all, no decision was taken in principle at all. We have not got the ISG report anyway. If a decision in principle is taken, and I say "if" a decision is taken in principle, by the Secretary of State on advice that we were going to do this, then we would open up discussions about the parameters of a licence with the licence giver.
Q603 Chairman: How can you take a decision in principle to do something without having decided how you are going to make the judgment on taking the decision in principle?
Lord Rooker: No, no, no.
Q604 Chairman: You have got to know how a policy works.
Lord Rooker: No, it is like a piece of string. Maybe a decision could be taken ---
Q605 Chairman: A piece of string you can describe with some accuracy, I am not getting any accuracy at the moment about how these decisions are going to be made.
Lord Rooker: Yes, but you did not expect this to be simple, did you?
Q606 Chairman: Nothing in this field is simple. We have all been at it for many years.
Lord Rooker: That is right.
Chairman: You have been at it for at least a decade and so have we. I am not getting the degree of clarity and precision that I had hoped for this evening. I am not asking you for absolute numbers but I would like to know, you are sitting there and you have to make a decision in principle ---
Q607 Mr Cox: How you are coming across, Lord Rooker, is that you do not have a clue. You do not have a clue what you are going to do.
Lord Rooker: The Department ---
Q608 Mr Cox: You do not have a clue. You have said until we get a decision on what we want to do we cannot do X, Y and Z, well you are the ones making the decisions.
Lord Rooker: That is correct.
Q609 Mr Cox: Everyone is waiting for a policy.
Lord Rooker: That is correct.
Q610 Mr Cox: You are the one who is supposed to come up with a policy.
Lord Rooker: Yes.
Q611 Mr Cox: We have been waiting for it for years, and in fact it is two years since we were told it was going to happen.
Lord Rooker: That is probably why you could argue we have spent a billion quid to no good effect in the last decade in reality, because that is what it has cost us.
Q612 Chairman: It may have done, but what we are trying to do this afternoon is tease out how you are going to deal with the body of evidence which is presently available. Some time in the middle of January, if you like, and we put our little two pennyworth in, you will have - you have them there - a pile of reports, you will have our modest contribution and you will have no doubt a load of other material. You will have to sit down and work out what you are going to do. In terms of making the decision, as you say, in principle, no secretary of state can make an in principle decision without it being well-formed. There have got to be some facts and information that stack up underneath it. If in terms of culling the Secretary of State is going to reach a view "yes" or "no", which I presume he is going to, somebody is going to have to describe the parameters. One of the things we are just exploring is the effectiveness and the terms under which a culling process might or might not be granted. What are those terms?
Lord Rooker: Sorry, it is perfectly possible in this case to make a decision in principle to say we are not going to deal with the reservoir in the wildlife, irrespective of all the evidence, and to make that decision and then try and argue the case, if you are challenged in court, that you have acted quite reasonably because of the series of issues. You can make a decision in principle, in some ways that partly is the key decision, the policy will flow from that decision. Are we prepared to deal with the reservoir in wildlife or are we not? That is a fair question to ask people. I have not come here with an answer "yes" or "no" to that today because I have no authority to give you an answer "yes" or "no".
Q613 Chairman: Give us a hint here. Let us assume that you went down the route you have just enunciated, you decided you were not going to deal directly with the wildlife reservoir. You said earlier that the taxpayer's buck had stopped. If anything, we want it to be smaller, so when you make this decision or any other decision, are you going to publish, if you like, a menu of options about what you will use the remaining taxpayer's money for in whichever direction you decide to go?
Lord Rooker: No, that is too simplistic a way of doing it in that respect. If that was the decision, you have immediately then got an over-arching policy. You can then say to industry it is the over-arching policy so we can put aside any aspirations people might have had of, say, dealing with the reservoir in wildlife. This is what we now are faced with. How do we deal with it? We still need to work in partnership on this, Defra cannot deal with this on its own.
Q614 Chairman: We know all that.
Lord Rooker: I am just telling you.
Q615 Chairman: What I am trying to get out of you is are people going to have some idea of the resource which Defra is going to be making available for whichever route you go down? Is there going to be a menu of options? For example, if you decided that you were going to deal with the wildlife reservoir, and you said Defra are not paying for it, then there is only one body of people who are probably going to go out and deal with the wildlife reservoir but there are some consequences which come from that. The consequences are what are you then going to do about the cattle testing policy, the compensation policy as is at the moment, there may have to be changes in that, what is Defra's input to further work if any on biosecurity, what is Defra's commitment to the work that is going on with the VLA on vaccination, are people going to be shown what the consequences in financial terms are of the options that you decide?
Lord Rooker: Not before we start. You raise ---
Q616 Chairman: When you come to a conclusion you are going to do this?
Lord Rooker: No, no, even the issue of vaccinations is not that clear-cut. Vaccination of cattle might look all right but it could be catastrophic for trade purposes, major, major problems. Obviously it is a lot easier to administer vaccine to cattle than it would be to wildlife. If we found a vaccine for the wildlife who would pay for it? Who would pay for it?
Q617 Chairman: That is exactly the point I am getting at.
Lord Rooker: That is the point I am making. That is why there is no clear-cut answer.
Q618 Chairman: This is why I come back to ask the question again. When you make your decision, and no doubt you may want to consult on certain aspects so you are going to have to have some hard information as a result of all this enquiring and knowledge which you have been accumulating, are we going to see some cast-iron costed options of what Defra is willing to pay for under whatever scenario you eventually decide?
Lord Rooker: I think you may see that anyway once we have made our decisions on the Comprehensive Spending Review for the following three years. I cannot go beyond that. As I speak at this time, no decisions have been made but the implications of what you have just asked me in your question will be apparent by the time we have made the decisions quite outwith bovine TB, as you understand, but because bovine TB is such a big part of animal health and animal disease it is implicit in that ---
Q619 Chairman: Does that reflect the fact that you have already raided the animal health budget to keep the RPA going in the current financial year?
Lord Rooker: When did we do that?
Q620 Chairman: It is in the supplementary estimates.
Lord Rooker: When was that?
Q621 Chairman: Which were published last week.
Lord Rooker: How much was that?
Q622 Chairman: I cannot tell you without looking at all the detailed figures but my understanding was that the animal health budget had been reduced and some of the money had gone in to fund the RPA.
Lord Rooker: The consequences of RPA, we have had this time and time again about the RPA have cost more than we intended but the fact is we have not had to go round raiding everybody else's budgets for it. Our cost and our cuts, if I can put it that way, or adjustments to the budget of various bits of our Department are completely --- The RPA was about 10 per cent of the total adjustments to the budget, the other 90 per cent was because of other issues, nothing to do with the RPA. I would be very surprised if there is a Defra document, and I have not seen this by the way ---
Q623 Chairman: If I am wrong, I apologise but I can re-read it.
Lord Rooker: No, I think the idea was we published a document saying "we have chopped the animal health because of the RPA". You will be very pleased, by the way, although I do not want to divert you from what you are asking but as I sit here some farmers in England today have had money in their banks for their Single Farm Payment from a test run we did late last week.
Q624 Chairman: There we are. Some people are lucky. I want to move back to the main agenda. Mr Cox wishes to pursue this.
Lord Rooker: You raised the RPA, I did not.
Chairman: We will have you back on the RPA, do not worry. If you want to talk about that we will have you back to talk about it but Mr Cox wants to go back to bovine TB.
Q625 Mr Cox: That would be useful, I think. Lord Rooker, could I just understand, you mentioned earlier on in your presentation to us that there was a problem with section 10 of the Badger Protection Act which requires the consent to a licence of the licence authority not to be unreasonably withheld. I have got two questions really, the first part of which I will ask now. What has been the reason for the last ten years for withholding consent to a licence?
Lord Rooker: Because of the randomised badger culling trial.
Q626 Mr Cox: The justification for not issuing licences has been that there is a scientific inquiry going on.
Lord Rooker: We stated there was a moratorium on issuing licences whilst the trial was going on.
Q627 Mr Cox: Now that is over, as you rightly point out, and has been over essentially practically for some considerable time ---
Lord Rooker: Yes.
Q628 Mr Cox: Because the actual trial stopped ---
Lord Rooker: 18 months ago.
Q629 Mr Cox: ---- 18 months or more ago now. You have a situation, as you rightly point out, do you not, where if you have applications on the table you do need to move fast because the justification that Defra would have put forward in law has disappeared.
Lord Rooker: That is correct.
Q630 Mr Cox: A court would be likely to say, "Well, unless you reach a judgment fairly soon, your withholding of the consent is likely to be unreasonable".
Lord Rooker: That is absolutely correct. That is why a decision cannot really be delayed much longer from when you issue your considered report. I have no doubt that there will be some fast decision-making in Government, I do not mean overnight but the fact of the matter is the industry or those who want to apply, or who have licences in the queue, by the way, we are sitting on them as far as I am aware but they are ready to come in anyway, and we will be asked for it and the fact of the matter is it makes it quite clear in the legislation, which is very brief, a licence under this section shall not unreasonably be withheld or revoked.
Q631 Mr Cox: Yes.
Lord Rooker: We have had a good reason for that over the last ten years.
Q632 Mr Cox: You say so, I am not sure that is true.
Lord Rooker: Yes, but we have not been challenged.
Q633 Mr Cox: You have not been challenged, that is very true.
Lord Rooker: We have not been challenged and that is the test in a way.
Q634 Mr Cox: Yes.
Lord Rooker: The risk of challenge is very substantial, there is no question about that. Are we satisfied in having the situation where there is no clear-cut policy that we want a judge to decide? I am not sure if that is something I would be too happy about, I would rather we can get a policy that has got a consensus to it, parliamentary wise and industry wide, and preferably wildlife groups as well. That is much better than having a judge decide that you have unreasonably withheld the licence and therefore we have to issue one and we have got less control over it, I would imagine. That is the situation. Not many people raise this issue, it is almost unique, simply because the legislation there is for badgers but not other wildlife in that sense.
Q635 Mr Cox: What you could argue is that the state protects the badger by virtue of the legislation. It prevents a landowner, farmer, from managing the wildlife on his land and, as you will know, that is an integral part of any farming activity, to manage the wildlife responsibly on your land. It has interfered with his rights to manage his own land, to manage the property on his own land, the wildlife on his own land; it has interfered with his right to take reasonable precautions to prevent disease on his own land. It really is incumbent on the state to provide him with a solution and the solution the Badger Protection Act came up with was to enable the state to grant licences. This Government has prevented even that. We are now looking, ten years having gone by, at landowners having been prevented from carrying out perfectly reasonable actions on their own land where we really do need a decision or a justification at least for not allowing them to get on with it.
Lord Rooker: That is absolutely correct, it is the timing of it. As I said, this legislation came in originally in 1973 and 1991, the 1992 Act is a consolidation in a way, but it came in to protect the badger, and rightly so, from badger baiting and all the other horrible acts that were taking place. It was nothing to do with TB, TB had not been discovered in badgers. The issue of being able to issue a licence, and the legislation when it is drafted these days you get about a volume of 50 pages rather than a dozen, makes it quite clear for the purpose of preventing the spread of disease you can issue a licence. It is not classified what the disease is, and I discussed this with officials last week. I have to say, and I will be quite frank with you because this is not an issue you should deal with, my challenge to your Committee was if you came down hard and fast against any dealing with the wildlife reservoir you would ask yourself what is the purpose of that piece of legislation, when would you ever use it? The answer came back to me, quick as a flash, rabies, in other words, therefore, it is a long-stop so the disease is not qualified ---
Q636 Mr Cox: It does not say "rabies" it says "disease".
Lord Rooker: It says "disease", that is why I am being open and candid with you.
Q637 Mr Cox: It was open-ended precisely because wildlife could be a vector in the spread of all kinds of diseases.
Lord Rooker: The Act of Parliament there has not been operated, as I have said, during this trial, because ---
Q638 Mr Cox: And many would say possibly unlawfully but the situation now ---
Lord Rooker: It has not been challenged.
Q639 Mr Cox: I accept that. That may be the timidity of those who are anxious not to undertake against the state a very expensive legal action. The reality is now there is no justification, you have accepted that, and the Act of Parliament presumes the granting of licence.
Lord Rooker: It does, yes.
Q640 Mr Drew: Whatever policy you come up with, Jeff, there is going to be opposition. You already quoted it.
Lord Rooker: Yes, sure, I realise that.
Q641 Mr Drew: Possibly vaccinating cattle could lead to the loss of TB free status so the NFU are highly likely to object to that. If you go for a culling policy there will be a large number of organisations, we know historically and that has been restated in the evidence to us, which will oppose it who are large landowners and that therefore leads to huge management issues in terms of what you would want to happen out in the countryside.
Lord Rooker: Sure.
Q642 Mr Drew: In a sense what I am concerned about now is if it seems we are unclear exactly what the Government wants to do, given that it is waiting for our report, it is waiting for various other reports, how do you manage that opposition?
Lord Rooker: Building a consensus on this is not easy. I have tried always not to use inflammatory language, and I am seeking not to do that today, I am trying to tell it as it is. We deal with other areas of wildlife, whether it is the ruddy duck, the deer, the grey squirrel, almost satisfactorily by and large. There can be a consensus and I would want to build as much consensus on this because number one, and this was what was set out originally for the ISG, Jack Cunningham and I made it absolutely clear and Elliott as well at the time, there was only a small team at MAFF, under no circumstances would the Government countenance a policy to eradicate badgers, and that remains the position. There is a hardly a badger alive today that was alive ten years ago, do not forget, 300,000 or 400,000 population, average lifespan four years, 50,000 killed by motorists allegedly. Some of them live a lot longer than that but the motorist does more killing than any of the farmers. The fact of the matter is you have to build a consensus. There are people who will not go for a consensus, do not agree with eating meat, do not agree with animal trade, therefore you have got to see where you are coming from. We have got an important economic issue that has to be dealt with, it is a countryside issue, it is a jobs' issue, it is disease control in a disease that is a zoonotic, it is a reportable disease. It is an offence not to report it. There is enough going here, I would have thought, to hope to build a consensus as long as there is clarity at the top, and there is not, I freely admit that. There is not that clarity at the top because of the difficulty of setting up Krebs, Zuckerman, the lot. You can look at the history of this. We have reached the point now where the buck has stopped, we cannot have another two years, say, of doing a pilot or a trial, we have gone past that stage because, literally, someone will operate the Act and in mentioning the Act, as I have done today, I am not inviting anyone to do that. The fact is it does not figure in the discussion. The vets do not figure in the discussion and yet they are the ones out there telling me that 70 per cent of the cattle TB in the West Country is directly responsible from the wildlife.
Q643 Mr Cox: That is on the forms that the Animal Health Agency had to fill out. If you look at the forms that they fill out it will say "attributable to..."
Lord Rooker: And leaving aside the costs which I have elaborated on at some length, which is an issue, lots of things were not tested in the ISG. The frequency of culling was not tested for example, that was not an issue, they did not set out to do that. There is a lot of do not knows. I have often quoted paragraph 10.49, it is all the do not knows we do not know. That does not mean to say we cannot go forward and try and build a consensus to deal with this issue but that will not happen unless some principal decisions are made.
Q644 Chairman: Can I just explore with you this consensus building operation. Is that going to be a part of the process before you come to a conclusion? For example, will industry, those who favour badgers, all the other people who have their two pennyworth to put into this, are they going to be brought in for a discussion before you reach a conclusion? Lord Rooker: Yes. I can say yes to that positively because Hilary has not met most of them and he intends to do so before he reaches a final decision.
Mr Drew: He is going to be very busy.
Q645 Chairman: Is there going to be a more formalised part because you have a parallel agenda, you are going to be talking about cost-sharing and one of the arguments which the Secretary of State made clear was that the reward for putting some money in the pot was a seat at the table where decisions about the handling of animal diseases will be made. Will the decision on cost-sharing be made first so that those who are sharing the cost can take their seat in order to make decisions about the handling of this particular animal disease?
Lord Rooker: I think the answer to that is no because the timing is wrong. The fact of the matter is we have to make a decision on bovine TB. It has to be done pretty imminently, early in the New Year. I was using the ministerial early in the New Year ---
Q646 Mr Cox: Any time up to the autumn!
Lord Rooker: --- the way you understand it. The cost and responsibility sharing agenda for a paper we publish hopefully before Parliament goes to recess, a 16 week consultation, say a period of chats in the Department with others, then a policy later, that is a long way off and with the negotiations and discussions starting in Brussels ---
Q647 Chairman: It is a bit odd this.
Lord Rooker: Yes, it is, is it not.
Q648 Chairman: At the beginning this was the biggest single animal disease cost-wise, particularly for Defra.
Lord Rooker: Yes.
Q649 Chairman: The decisions which are going to be made on it are not going to be ones built by a consensus of the people who may be in the cost-sharing group later on but who are very much involved in the disease as of now. You are going to make your mind up for the people who will then take a place at the table. They are going to feel a bit left out, are they not?
Lord Rooker: Put it this way, it is going to be difficult to discuss cost and responsibility sharing in the absence of a principal decision on this. That was made abundantly clear to me when I went to Cardiff, it was made clear by the way in England. I do not want anyone to think the NFU and the rest of them have not put their case, they have. It is almost axiomatic that people say, and they have said it to me, we are not even in the business of cost and responsibility sharing unless you make a decision about a policy on bovine TB. For example, some would say, to cull or not to cull, obviously from the farmers' point of view, the majority, not all of them, would want the ability to be able to cull before they start to discuss this. That is why it is going to be difficult, I freely admit that. The fact is the bovine TB policy and issue is almost in parallel with the cost and responsibility sharing discussions that we are having.
Q650 Mr Cox: Can I raise one other issue and that is the question of the compensation, Lord Rooker. I think you have covered it in the sense that you said the status quo is not an option. At the moment the compensation is producing real injustice at the upper end of the market for high genetic value animals. I have an example in my own constituency currently which I have written to Hilary Benn about.
Lord Rooker: I have the letter here.
Q651 Mr Cox: You have got the letter. £20,000 that animal, probably one of the best breeding stock in the country, and he is going to get £1,400.
Lord Rooker: Sure.
Mr Cox: All he wants in that case is a retest. I am not going to raise the individual case with you now but that is an example of the kind of deep injustice that is being done at that end of the scale, I am not saying in the standard and ordinary situation with high genetic value animals. I had another case recently, 89 gone down on the gamma interferon test at one go, Tony Udell (?), who is well known I think to the Ministry, suddenly the gamma interferon test produces 89 when the skin test produced only one. Firstly, you are right, gamma interferon is bound to produce a hell of a lot more for culling but, secondly, there has to be an examination at the same time when you are looking at cost-sharing, when you are looking at putting culling as an instrument of policy at this end of the compensation spectrum.
Q652 Chairman: We want to hear this answer.
Lord Rooker: I know you do.
Mr Cox: I was told by officials a year or so ago ---
Q653 Chairman: Hang on, let the Minister answer because we are hanging on your every word.
Lord Rooker: I know you are, that is why I am being very careful about what I say.
Q654 Chairman: Right. Do you want to phone a friend!
Lord Rooker: No. The status quo is not an option and that is what I am sticking to.
Q655 Mr Cox: A year and a half ago officials told me, sitting in Ben Bradshaw's office ---
Lord Rooker: Am I safe to say the status quo is not an option? I am, am I not?
Chairman: Asking a member of the audience, that is one life gone!
Q656 Mr Cox: The pendulum had swung too far against the farmer in that situation, that is right, is it not? Your own officials said that. Ben Bradshaw's did to me in a formal meeting.
Lord Rooker: I cannot comment on that, that is hearsay.
Mr Drew: Can I try another angle of attack!
Mr Cox: Exploration!
Chairman: Probe. We do not attack a minister, we probe him.
Q657 Mr Drew: It is interesting what Lord Rooker has to say. Let us say that you make the decision in the New Year for a particular policy option and by the nature of this disease it does not solve the disease problem because if it was all that easy not only the Irish would have felt more satisfied with where they got to but New Zealand, which is another country which faces the ravages of bovine TB. These policies have always been interim because I have always believed, unless I have got this wrong, that eventually we would move to some form of vaccination. Now you have somewhat dampened my enthusiasm for the animal reservoir vaccine approach if you say, "Who is going to pay for that?" I cannot really see anyone paying for it, apart from the state, but that may save the state an enormous amount of money if you could prove that you could dampen down the disease. How can we feel that what is decided early in the New Year is the right policy if there are possibly alternatives which could arise in the due course of time? Is that something you will look at the options of or could you say, "Vaccination, nice idea but we are not prepared to wait ten years" or even, as we have learned, until 2010 where the inhaled vaccine will be available for badgers?
Lord Rooker: First of all, whatever is decided it is a bit like the premium testing as a policy, what has the effect been in terms? It takes a while, the incubation period and everything else. You are not going to get an instant answer and, by the way, on the cattle vaccination it would be quite illegal at the moment to do it, even if there was one, we would have to go to Europe and get the law changed. This is not a straight forward issue, leaving aside the economics of the vaccination and not losing the TB free status and hiding TB in the cattle over trade issues, the fact is we would have to go to Brussels to get permission, to get a law changed. It is something only time will tell.
Q658 Chairman: Why are you funding research into it then if you think there are all these problems about using it?
Lord Rooker: I am being realistic with you. That is not a reason not to do the research and not have a vaccine.
Q659 Chairman: I thought you were trying to save money.
Lord Rooker: We have been under pressure for years. One of the recommendations of the Krebs report was that we went in to look for a vaccine. We had always been told it had been looked at before, we were always told ten years away, as you have heard yourself, slightly less than that now. We have always been told that. It was classed as a Holy Grail, get a vaccine for the cattle or the badger but delivery is difficult for the one. That does not alter the fact, it is a bit like if we went for vaccination, as we did not have to for foot and mouth, but we were ready to, that in itself has those implications. In this case, getting the vaccine gives you the option, we have not got the option at the moment because we have not got a vaccine. If we had got a vaccine and got an option that was worthwhile economically, a case could be made probably to Brussels because we are the odd one out in Europe along with the Irish in terms of this disease and, therefore, I am not saying it would be impossible. What I am saying is if there was a vaccine there tomorrow we could not use it legally, we would have to go to Brussels to get approval for it, that is all I am saying. That is not a reason for stopping the research.
Q660 Paddy Tipping: Let me ask you specifically about that because vaccine is an option which might well build up a consensus and you have invested in it heavily. You made a point a little while ago about the CSR and decisions, could they be made, and if we look closely at the CSR we would see some indications of policy. Put bluntly, are you going to continue to invest in vaccine development?
Lord Rooker: There is no plan to stop that. That programme is underway. We have been encouraged to do more. I do not think there is much of a chance of stepping it up, bringing forward the dates which are already planned but the funding that is in place at the present time for both the cattle vaccine and the badger vaccine, to the best of my knowledge, is not being interfered with and we will proceed. The timescales are far less than they used to be and, as far as I am aware, I am not aware they are on the agenda. There is an agenda obviously, there is a set of options but we have not made any decisions yet.
Q661 Chairman: I want to move to one area we have not touched on in our discussions so far by way of conclusion and that is on-farm bio-security. There seems to be a lot of talk about it but there does not seem to be much by way of effectiveness. What is Defra doing to try and devise truly effective on-farm bio-security strategies and advice and, secondly, what is Defra doing to ensure that message gets through and is acted upon by farmers?
Lord Rooker: I cannot give the figures off the top of my head but we have spent a fair bit. On-farm bio-security covers two areas in a way. The buildings are easy. I have been on farms where I have been in the farmyard, I have looked at the sheds, huts and the hole called a doorway and I have looked at the door and thought, "Bit of a gap when that door closes, top and bottom", and I have seen this in the recent past and think, "Haven't they learnt the lessons?" The buildings are the easy bit - we have given advice, leaflets, it is on the website, we have had workshops. If you then come to on-farm bio-security, essentially what you are talking about, because of the implication, is separating the badgers from the cattle because it is accepted there is a link. If you do not accept there is a link, you have not got a problem, have you? It is accepted there is a link, what we do not know is what the transmission route is. Electrified fences, I do not think, are a runner ----
Q662 Chairman: Sorry, you said you do not know what the transmission route is?
Lord Rooker: We do not.
Q663 Chairman: It is a bit central to a strategy to deal with the disease, is it not?
Lord Rooker: That is the whole point I am making. You can keep the badgers out of buildings because you can lock them up ---
Q664 Chairman: If it is that easy, why is it not being done more?
Lord Rooker: It is amazing, is it not?
Q665 Chairman: What do you think the reason is?
Lord Rooker: I do not know. Maybe farmers think, "If I do get TB, it is bad but I've had it before and the Government paid compensation, and I do a lot of testing", maybe, I do not know.
Q666 Dr Cox: Or they may just be thinking, "We have to put our animals out on the fields, they will catch it there if they do not catch it in the sheds."
Lord Rooker: Yes, and of course if the cattle winter inside the buildings anyway where they are herded together in greater numbers, that is a recipe for getting TB anyway, like the badgers do in the over-badgered setts. Because you said on-farm bio-security, I am dealing with it as the buildings and the land, the grazing, the interaction with wildlife, and people have come up with all sorts of issues - badgers can jump and dig, electrified fences I just do not think are a runner - but when you do not know what the transmission route is, it is very difficult. I go back to my paragraph 10.49 which is quite clear, Professor Krebs said in 1998, "Do this and we will know in five years' time what the transmission route is, what the effect of it all is", and I am not complaining to you about John's view but he said, "This was the purpose", and at the end of all this we still do not know what the transmission route is between badger and cattle. If that is the case, how can I say to a farmer, "Under the cross-compliance rules and all the other rules, you have to do this", or "Natural England, the RPA, say these are the rules you have to follow for keeping badgers away from cattle", and he will say, "Why should I spend all this money when I do not know if what I am going to do is going to work? There is no cause and effect here." So it is almost impossible. You can do the farm buildings, it is true. I was on a farm a few months ago and the guy said to me, "I could live with ten setts on the farm, I've got 16", what am I supposed to tell him in terms of bio-security? You tell me. There is not an answer. He would laugh at me if I gave him advice, to be honest, on that scale. That is why it is so complicated and serious, there is no easy answer. I have been on farms where they have closed herds for 30 years, bought nothing in, and they have still got TB.
Q667 Dr Cox: So have I. Exactly. We know the badger is a factor, particularly in the West Country but the question comes back really, does it not, Lord Rooker, to when are you going to do something about it?
Lord Rooker: You asked me that an hour ago.
Q668 Dr Cox: With respect, I have listened to ministers and they told me in 2005 and 2006 that a decision was nigh. We were told by the Minister of State, the Secretary of State, in March 2006 that there would be a three month consultation and then we were going to have a decision. That was over a year ago, 18 months ago, and no decision. So we have heard ministers talk of the game before, and you are talking a great game, but it has to be followed by action this time, Lord Rooker, otherwise the consequences are going to be devastating.
Lord Rooker: It is not for me to do your job for you but I have brought with me my own words from 1998, so it goes back a lot longer than that, as far as I am concerned.
Q669 Chairman: What did you say in 1998? Do tell me!
Lord Rooker: I thought you had done your homework! A previous Agriculture Committee, Bovine TB Reports. I have been here before! Other ministers have come after me but I had responsibilities at the beginning. I have read my own evidence and I am gratified that I agree with it all today as well, so that is quite helpful, having been away from it.
Q670 Dr Cox: Are you confident you can get a decision?
Lord Rooker: That is what I am coming to. Given the procrastination of this over the years - I can defend the procrastination for the science and the research and the reports ----
Dr Cox: The last one was because of the statistics ----
Q671 Chairman: This is the build-up, let him finish. This is the peroration part of the evidence, I have been looking forward to this.
Lord Rooker: I will not be able to defend a non-decision for too long after you report, because what else do we need to know, what else do we need to do? 2008 - I did say early - is a year when a decision about our policy has to be made so we can take it forward.
Q672 Chairman: We have gone from "early" to a year, so there has been a bit of slippage already in this.
Lord Rooker: No, I mean early.
Q673 Chairman: Early in the year, to be precise?
Lord Rooker: My view is, you, your Committee, have to insist. You have heard this, as you have said in the short time you have been in the House, and I can quote you chapter and verse about this from ten years ago and there will be other ministers, former ministers, Douglas and the others, who appointed Krebs in the first place back in 1996, who would have said the same thing, "We have another inquiry, let's wait for it". My view is, do not fall for another inquiry if one comes. There is no indication there is going to be one, we do not want ----
Q674 Chairman: You have said you are not affording anything, so another inquiry I think we would ---
Lord Rooker: The fact is, we have to be practical and see if we can deal with the disease and stop it spreading, see if we can reduce it in the hot-spots in a way which is commensurate with good husbandry, respect for wildlife, respect also for the fact we have a large industry of food animals there with a huge trade potential once we get trading live animals again, or animals on the hoof as it were, if we can, and we have to do that in the round.
Chairman: Minister, upon that happy note, which possibly might be the only point of consensus we have reached all afternoon, I am going to bring this to a conclusion. Whilst I think it is clear you have described the problem and the elements which might ultimately make up the solution, the Committee will want to study very carefully the words you said about the way in which this decision is going to be made. I think there would be, however, unanimity of agreement that as early as possible in 2008 a real world, practical decision and a plan encompassing all the elements you described has once and for all got to be made. Thank you very much for coming to give evidence.