Wednesday, 10 October 2007

"The attempt to pin the blame on Merial was shabby and dishonest"

In Monday's debate (Hansard) , Peter Ainsworth went on the attack, accusing the government of picking on a scapegoat to mask its own negligence: "Will the Secretary of State confirm that, by a cruel twist of irony, work on a vaccine to protect against bluetongue has been put on hold? When does he now expect a bluetongue vaccine to be available?"
But no answers to his questions were forthcoming.

None of Hilary Benn's ponderous replies throughout the next hour gave any hint that he was even aware that his Department had stopped production. Is it possible he not quite taken in that part of his own Ministerial Statement that spoke of the "rigorous Improvement Plan" for the Pirbright site, to be
"implemented before full operations with live viruses can recommence"?
Apparently unable to see that his "rigorous plan" was putting an indefinite stop to production, he even followed Henry Bellingham's warning that bluetongue had the capacity totally to devastate the livestock industry with this blithe assertion:
      "...the best route for preventing the
      situation that the hon. Gentleman
      describes is to develop a vaccine as quickly as
      possible, and to make sure that it is used to protect livestock."
Well yes Minister - but in the course of the hour long debate on FMD and Bluetongue, nothing more was said to answer Peter Ainsworth's questions about when that vaccine was going to be allowed to see the light of day.
We learnt only that the review Sir Bill Callaghan is to carry out does not even report until which time the overwintering midges will be on the point of gathering themselves for a new assault on the unprotected livestock of Europe.

Oct 10 ~ " ...vaccination was rejected then, and it appears that vaccination has been rejected once more. Will the Secretary of State tell me why it has been rejected and under what circumstances we will use vaccine in the future?"

    In Monday's debate, Carlisle's MP, Eric Martlew, tried to highlight the extraordinary doublethink that has been going on in the past weeks. Those who oppose vaccination for FMD on economic grounds tie themselves in knots ( Hilary Benn's attempt to answer Mr Martlew takes some wading through) trying to suggest that vaccination for bluetongue is somehow 'better'. We note with great dismay that certain MEPs - the very people who could help change the outmoded rules that penalise vaccination - have been writing to constituents such objections to FMD vaccination as "it does not cure the disease" and "vaccinated animals are often still culled" or that vaccination is only really of use in a "massive outbreak"
    One thin ray of light however came from the Animal Health and Welfare Adviser of the NFU who wrote to Jon Dobson (after his complaint at the misleading information warmwell highlighted last week)
        "We will amend the NFU vaccination Q&A to clarify the issue of safety around an FMD vaccine and thank you for pointing out the potential confusion that could have been caused by our original text."
    If the NFU is taking seriously " its obligations and commitments to present accurate and balanced information" it is managing rather better than it did in 2001 and considerably better than those making such a miserable hash of FMD in 2007

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