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To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs with reference to the answer of 17 April 2013, Official Report, column 391W, on bovine tuberculosis, when his Department plans to assess the effect of measures introduced in January 2013 to improve the testing regime and restrict cattle movements on the incidence of bovine tuberculosis.
We already have a wide range of mechanisms in place to monitor the progress of bovine TB in England, including the publication of monthly national and regional statistics on the TB incidence in cattle, annual reports of bovine TB surveillance for England and GB and quarterly field epidemiology reports for the low risk and edge areas of England. The introduction of a simplified TB surveillance testing programme in for cattle herds in England last January has also created a stable monitoring regime that will provide comparable data over several years, which will improve the ability to detect trends.
However, the new surveillance arrangements for cattle are part of a series of additional measures and improvements to the bovine TB eradication programme that my Department has recently introduced and will continue to roll out over the next few months, including risk-based trading and the edge area strategy. Therefore, it will be very difficult to attribute any change in disease incidence to one particular measure.
We are committed to adapting our management of the disease as new data and improved understanding of how the disease is transmitted becomes available. In the current consultation on the draft strategy for achieving bovine TB-free status in England, we propose to set clear, measureable targets for disease incidence, for which we can be held accountable and measure success against. These targets will take account of the aim to achieve bovine TB-free status in England within 25 years.