§ Mr. Cameron
To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs when the Government will set a timetable for coming to a conclusion about the issue of TB in badgers; and if she will make a statement. 1622W
§ Mr. Bradshaw
The question of what to do about a wildlife reservoir of bovine tuberculosis is a complex one. The Government are determined to base its future TB policy on sound scientific evidence. The Randomised Badger Culling Trial (RBCT), due to be completed in 2006, should help decide whether culling badgers can form part of a cost-effective, sustainable and practical TB control policy.
On 9 February, Defra launched a consultation on the key principles on which a new long-term strategy for tackling bovine TB will be developed. This consultation asks questions on a wide-range of issues, including how the Government can establish targets, balance costs, benefits and risks, work in partnership with all the key interest groups and how policy can be developed in the light of emerging scientific evidence. That will include evidence from the ongoing RBCT and elsewhere (including the Four Areas badger culling trial in the Republic of Ireland, when published).
On 6 April, Defra announced the publication of a report from an independent scientific panel chaired by Professor Charles Godfray FRS. The report reviewed the progress of the RBCT and associated Defra research, as part of a wider review of Defra's science. The Government are giving careful consideration to the complex recommendations of the report, and the review's conclusions will inform Defra's wider review of TB strategy. Defra has extended the deadline for the public consultation on the TB Strategy review until 4 June, to allow sufficient time for this report to be assimilated and commented on.