Dr Julian Lewis: If she will make a statement on bovine TB?
[Margaret Beckett: TB in cattle is one of the most difficult animal health problems we face, and the increase in its incidence is continuing to give considerable concern. The Government are seeking to proceed on the basis of sound science drawn from independent scientific and veterinary experts. Action is centred around a five-point strategy which involves protecting human health, developing a TB vaccine, carrying out research into bovine TB, testing cattle for TB and putting controls in place, and the badger field trial. ]
[SUPPLEMENTARY:] I thank the Secretary of State for that reply. Outbreaks of bovine TB more than doubled between 1995 and 2000. Does she think that that had anything to do with the decision in May 1997 to abandon the interim badger culling strategy?
[Margaret Beckett: No, I do not. We are examining the risk factors now, but there is strong scientific support for carrying out the long-term research programme that is now under way, to settle once and for all whether there is a reservoir of disease in badgers specifically and in wildlife more generally, and whether there is cattle-to-cattle transmission—something that has not been looked at much in the past. We want to identify the problems once and for all so that we can tackle them.]