DEFRA – AVIAN FLU – 20 October 2005

Dr Julian Lewis: No one can envy Ministers as the danger of avian flu inexorably approaches this country. Can the hon. Gentleman assure us that, when this crisis reaches our shores and given the warning that has been given, the Government's response will be a little more effective, open-minded and efficient than the response to foot and mouth disease? That was a terrible burden for Ministers. They did not entirely measure up to it. We have had plenty of warning of this one. Is he confident that preparations are ready?

[The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Mr Ben Bradshaw): Yes, I am. As I say, we have been working on a contingency plan for years now, and doing so very closely with the industry, which is supportive of both the contingency plan and the measures that we have taken to date. The hon. Gentleman may or may not be aware that the contingency plan has been tested already in July, when we had an outbreak of another serious avian disease – Newcastle disease – in Surrey, where it was successfully contained and eradicated on one pheasant farm, which is a potentially more difficult situation than with chickens.]