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Foot and Mouth Disease: Disease Control
Bill Wiggin: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (1) what the likely effects on the UK economy are of producing foot and mouth disease vaccine in Britain; and if he will make a statement; 
Jonathan Shaw: DEFRA has not made an assessment of the financial merits to the economy of producing foot and mouth disease (FMD) vaccine in the UK. However, having a readily available stock of FMD vaccine is of clear benefit in terms of ensuring timely access to vaccine in the event of an outbreak.
Foot and Mouth Disease: Farmers
Jonathan Shaw: On 8 October, DEFRA announced a package of assistance worth £12.5 million aimed at supporting those livestock farmers in England most severely affected by the outbreak of foot and mouth disease (FMD), including those in the restriction areas. Implementation of all elements of the package is well under way and some are almost completed.
£1 million was allocated to raise the level of subsidy from 10 per cent. to 100 per cent. for the National Fallen Stock Scheme for farmers in the FMD Restricted Zone while it was in place. This scheme closed when the Restricted Zone was lifted on 19 November.
£2 million was to promote the sales of lamb, beef and pork domestically and in our export markets. The first payment of £250,000 has been made. Lamb promotion activity has begun and additional beef promotion will start later this month. The demand for lamb from European partners is proving strong. Preparatory work has started for promoting third country exports of pork once we have regained World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) freedom, and additional domestic pork promotion will start in January.
A donation of £1 million was made to the Arthur Rank Centre for disbursement to Farming Help charities, which provide advice and practical and emotional support to farming families. £500,000 has already been transferred.
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Merial Animal Health: Pirbright
Bill Wiggin: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what (a) economic and (b) other factors he took into account in granting licences to produce vaccines to Merial at Pirbright. 
Jonathan Shaw: Specified Animal Pathogen Order (SAPO) licenses are only granted if the laboratory can demonstrate that they have the necessary management processes, trained staff, documented operating procedures and facilities to ensure the safe containment, handling and disposal of the specified animal pathogens concerned. Laboratory inspections are carried out to assess this, and economic factors are not a consideration.
Bill Wiggin: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs pursuant to his written ministerial statement of 22 November 2007: Specified Animal Pathogens Order (SAPO) Licence Conditions at Merial Animal Health, whether the valves on the steam lines used to sterilise the associated pipework were inspected by his Department’s officials prior to restoring the SAPO licence to Merial Animal Health on 6 November 2007; and if he will make a statement. 
Jonathan Shaw: The facility was inspected prior to restoring the Specified Animal Pathogens Order (SAPO) licence on 6 November. Following inspections and documentary evidence from Merial, we were satisfied that they complied with all of the required licence conditions and had in place all the necessary measures to ensure strict biosecurity throughout the site.
As part of the SAPO licence, we require Merial to apply rigorous standard operating procedures. In relation to the valves, these mean that each time the centrifuge is used, two operators must certify that the valve is locked shut and its integrity is confirmed by pressure tests before and after each batch. In addition, the preventive maintenance system includes regular inspections and although the valves on the centrifuge have a three-year life expectancy, they are replaced annually. All these checks must be recorded.
Bill Wiggin: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs pursuant to his written ministerial statement of 22 November 2007: Specified Animal Pathogens Order Licence Conditions at Merial Animal Health, what risk assessment he has carried out to the risks to British livestock of contamination from the live virus leak reported; and if he will make a statement. 
Jonathan Shaw: An assessment carried out by the inspection team, on 20 November, concluded that live virus had not been released to the environment. This was the result of the extensive layers of biosecurity that we require under the Specified Animal Pathogens Order licence, which effectively contained the virus in the enclosed, re-lined drainage system before deactivation in the chemical treatment plant within the Pirbright site.
Bill Wiggin: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs pursuant to his written ministerial statement of 22 November 2007: Specified Animal Pathogens Order (SAPO) Licence Conditions at Merial Animal Health, and the decision to suspend the SAPO licence, what assessment he has made of the effect this will have on the production of a bluetongue vaccine; and if he will make a statement. 
Jonathan Shaw: On 20 November, Merial informed DEFRA of a biosecurity incident at Pirbright and, although the incident was contained, the use of live virus was immediately suspended as our paramount concern is the security of the site. An inspection team urgently conducted detailed checks and we are considering what further action needs to be taken.
It is too early to say what implications this may have on the production of a bluetongue vaccine. However, this suspension does not prevent Merial from conducting development of a bluetongue vaccine as their Pirbright site is primarily a production, rather than research, facility; Merial conduct the majority of their research elsewhere. There are also two other manufacturers of bluetongue vaccine, Intervet and Fort Dodge. We are currently considering bids from all three companies that were submitted following our recent tendering exercise and we plan to make an announcement on the outcome shortly.