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Backbench Business — Badger Cull

Part of Royal Assent – in the House of Commons at 2:15 pm on 13th March 2014.

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Photo of Andrew George Andrew George Liberal Democrat, St Ives 2:15 pm, 13th March 2014

I think those who called for this debate were anticipating, or hoping, that the IEP report would be out by now, as it should have been. That would at least have ensured that the information was already in the public domain and had not been disputed by the many people who will have seen it. I think we can make a number of reasonable assumptions about the figures in the report regarding the lack of effectiveness of the two pilot culls. We have a significant amount of evidence to go on—and it will be found to be sound—that those projects failed to achieve even a 50% cull of badgers, even in the Somerset area where it is considered to have gone slightly better than in Gloucestershire. In these unfortunate circumstances, we have to move forward on the basis of the information that is currently in the public domain.

I wish to conclude my remarks with a couple of straightforward points. First, a number of people have alighted on a report from DEFRA this week that has highlighted the fairly significant fall in TB reactors in the herd across the country—down from 37,734 in the period until December 2012 to 32,620 last year. That has happened before the impact of the pilot culls or anything else can be taken into account, which might mean that a lot of the other measures that this Government and the previous Government have engaged in are beginning to show some effects. That cannot be ignored.

Secondly, I want to refer to the collective research that was brought together by Professor James Wood at Cambridge about a year ago. I do not have the document with me, but it showed that even in the herds that had been given the all-clear after a reactor, up to 25% continued to have latent TB within them. In this debate we are concentrating significantly on vaccinating rather than killing the badger population, but we should be concentrating a great deal more on biosecurity measures and ways in which we can bear down on the latent disease that still remains in the United Kingdom livestock industry. Even though it has been given the all-clear—