Back to warmwell.com


Conservative Party

Press Release

Tel: (Press): 020 7984 8121

Tel: (Broadcast Desk): 020 7984 8100

Fax: 020 7984 8272

www.conservatives.com

CONSERVATIVES

 

15th January 2006

Ref: 0051/06

 

Government is behind schedule on bird flu contingency plans

 

Shadow Minister for Agriculture, Jim Paice has written to Margaret Beckett expressing his astonishment that a Government exercise to review current contingency plans for a national outbreak of avian flu is not taking place until after the spring migration, thought to be the most risky time of year for the disease to spread to the UK.   

 

Exercise Hawthorn is currently due to take place over the 5th and 6th of April and a subsequent report identifying the lessons to be learned will not be published until the summer. Mr Paice said:

 

 “The Government’s leisurely timetable for reviewing the contingency plans is astonishing considering the seriousness of the threat and begs the question of whether there is a comprehensive plan in place at all.

 

“Any simulation exercise to test the UK’s preparedness for an outbreak of bird flu must take place immediately, not after the spring migration when many experts believe we are most likely to be exposed to the disease.

 

“Given the implications of a national outbreak it is imperative that the Government’s contingency plans are reviewed now so that the current state of readiness can be assessed and improved before the threat increases.  It seems complacent in the extreme to delay this exercise until April, by which time it might be too late.”       

                                                                                                                                        

Mr Paice also drew attention to the fact that on the Defra website the first point under the heading ‘Benefits of holding the exercise’ is ‘Demonstrating that the Government is taking the threat of avian influenza seriously’.

 

http://www.defra.gov.uk/animalh/diseases/control/contingency/hawthorn/buscase.htm

 

He commented: “If Minister’s are so keen to demonstrate that they are taking avian influenza seriously they might like to conduct Exercise Hawthorn now, rather than three months down the line.”

In his letter to Environment Secretary Margaret Beckett, Jim Paice asks the following questions regarding Exercise Hawthorn:

 

‘I would urge you to conduct Exercise Hawthorn at the earliest opportunity so that any necessary improvements to contingency plans can be made before the threat of a national outbreak increases.’

 

ENDS

For further information, please contact the press office on 020 7984 8121

 

Notes to Editors

 

·         According to Defra, “The Government, in partnership with the Devolved Administrations, will be undertaking a real-time simulation of an outbreak of avian influenza disease in poultry in this country on the 5/6 April 2006 in order to check its contingency plans for the control of any such outbreak and those of its agencies and operational partners.”

 

“The aim of Exercise Hawthorn is to review, check and update the Government’s current contingency plans for a national outbreak of avian influenza and thereby establish the current state of readiness for such an outbreak whilst identifying improvements in the plans, instructions, structures and procedures employed in managing an outbreak.” http://www.defra.gov.uk/animalh/diseases/control/contingency/hawthorn/index.htm

 

·         The full text of Jim Paice’s letter to Margaret Beckett follows:

 

I understand that the Government is planning an exercise to review, check and update the Government’s current contingency plans for a national outbreak of avian influenza. Given that many experts believe we are most likely to be exposed to the disease during spring migration, why are you waiting until April 5/6 to conduct this exercise, by which time Avian Influenza might already have arrived? Is it because there currently isn’t a comprehensive contingency plan in place?

 

Surely it would be better to discover now which aspects of the UK’s contingency plans need updating and improving rather than in three months time? Furthermore, isn’t the best test of a plan one that has to be implemented at short notice?

 

I would urge you to conduct Exercise Hawthorn at the earliest opportunity so that any necessary improvements to contingency plans can be made before the threat of a national outbreak increases.