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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 expect my hon. Friend will do better next year.

As I said, we are spending £1.6 million a year developing an oral vaccine. We have made some progress on the dose required for that vaccine, and it is around 10 times more than would be needed for an injectable vaccine. We have also made some progress towards identifying a bait that would be successful, and we have made some progress towards linking the vaccine to fats that can help get it through the digestive system. But there are drawbacks even to an oral vaccine. Not all badgers will take it, and some badgers may eat more of it than others, so it will never be 100%. But we accept that nothing in this challenge is 100% and that is why we are pursuing it.

On injectable vaccines, I have had representations from my hon. Friends the Members for Morecambe and Lunesdale (David Morris) and for Brighton, Kemptown (Simon Kirby) to look again at whether we could refocus some of our vaccination efforts, either in the edge area, as Sir Andrew Stunell suggested, or around the east Sussex area. I have said that we will look closely at that. As several hon. Members have pointed out, we are doing some work in that area now, and we would be willing to develop that further.

On cattle vaccines, the Secretary of State met the commissioner on this just last week. We are continuing to do some work to develop a DIVA test. Field trials will take three to five years, so as a number of hon. Members have pointed out, it will be eight or nine years before we can get export clearance for the use of such a cattle vaccine. However, we are committed to taking this forward.

I agree with hon. Members that improving the control of cattle movements is an important tool in the fight against TB, but I simply point out that we have done a lot already. We now have annual testing in the high-risk area, and four-yearly testing across the whole country. We have banned practices such as approved quarantine units. We now have radial testing in the low-risk areas where we get an outbreak. We have stopped cattle going to major shows since July 2012. We have introduced risk-based trading to help farmers manage the risks. We have an ongoing consultation about restricting movements and introducing pre-movement and post-movement tests to common land. We are introducing deductions for farmers who are late in having their TB test, and we have reduced the pre-movement testing window from 60 to 30 days. So we are doing a huge amount, but I accept that we should be constantly looking to improve and do more, and we are looking, as Mr Sanders suggested, at whether more could be done, for instance, on biosecurity measures.