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Backbench Business — Badger Cull

Part of Royal Assent – in the House of Commons at 4:45 pm on 13th March 2014.

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Photo of George Eustice George Eustice The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs 4:45 pm, 13th March 2014

I begin by picking up on a point made by Jim Fitzpatrick: this is an incredibly difficult disease to fight, and there are no easy answers in the war against TB. There are several reasons for that. First, it is a very slow-growing, insidious disease, which makes it incredibly difficult to detect. It has been hard to get a reliable means of diagnosis. Secondly, the disease lives within the cell wall of blood cells, and that makes it very difficult to get a vaccine to work. That is why the BCG vaccine, which is the only thing that we have, is only partially effective and provides no cure. That is why the Government have been very clear that we need to pursue a range of options to roll back the disease. We are clear that no one measure on its own will work; instead, we need to pursue a range of strategies to bear down on the disease. We set those out clearly in our draft TB eradication strategy, the final version of which will be published shortly. It sets out a range of options; I want to come back to that, because this is an area in which I think there will be consensus across the House.

There is one area where, clearly, we take a different view from the Opposition. Our view is that nowhere in the world has managed successfully to tackle TB without also dealing with the reservoir of the disease in the wildlife population. A couple of hon. Members have attempted to cast doubt on that—they have mentioned possums in New Zealand and asked whether the case is the same—but in Ireland and France, cull strategies have been successfully pursued.