§ Baroness Byford
asked Her Majesty's Government:
Further to the answer by Lord Whitty on 6 November (HL Deb, col. 131), whether they will clarify the number of Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs personnel who were transferred from work on the environmental regulatory framework to help with the foot and mouth outbreak and, of these, how many have not subsequently returned. [HL1256]
§ The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Lord Whitty)
It is not possible to provide a meaningful answer in the form requested by the noble Baroness. At the height of the foot and mouth outbreak some 5,000 staff, including casual staff and those from other government departments, were employed in dealing with it. (This figure excludes personnel from the Armed Forces.) The numbers and composition of this workforce varied greatly over the months of the outbreak and cannot be readily broken down to identify the total contribution by staff who would otherwise have been engaged, wholly or partly, in environmental regulatory work. The development and implementation of the environmental regulatory framework involves input from a large number of divisions across DEFRA, as well as some of its associated non-departmental public bodies, and it would be disproportionately expensive to estimate working hours lost to this during the foot and mouth outbreak. Such an estimate to be meaningful would have to include, as well as staff movements, re-prioritising of work due to the demands of foot and mouth.
An assessment of the impact of foot and mouth disease on the progress of the department's environmental regulation work would also need to include the effects of the outbreak upon the farming industry. The preoccupation of the industry itself with fighting the disease and the effects on the viability of some farm businesses meant that it would have been both insensitive and unproductive to continue consulting the industry on all environmental proposals in the pipeline and work was accordingly slowed down.