24 June 2010
Speaking in the House of Commons, Harriett Baldwin called on the Government to ensure that the Animal Health Agency spent more of its time and money on its veterinary duties and less on administration and computer systems. Harriett Baldwin (West Worcestershire) (Con): What recent discussions she has had with the farming industry and other interested parties on the Animal Health Agency; and if she will make a statement. [3951] The Minister of State, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Mr James Paice): As has been mentioned already, the most urgent issue in animal health and welfare is bovine TB. I have reviewed the badger vaccine deployment project and have decided to proceed with one area near Stroud for the time being, in order to help maintain the capacity to train lay vaccinators. Badger sett surveys will also be completed in the Gloucester area, near Cheltenham. That change reflects the need to consider all our public expenditure carefully. The previous Government appointed Rosemary Radcliffe to examine options for responsibility and cost-sharing for animal disease control. Unlike that Government, though, we will await the outcome of that report, as it may well include options for the agency's future. I have had a number of discussions regarding that review. Harriett Baldwin: I thank the Minister for that answer, and may I also add my welcome to some fellow meat-eaters in the Front Bench team for this particular portfolio? I want to emphasise how important animal welfare is for farmers in West Worcestershire. A vet came to my constituency surgery recently and highlighted the fact that, while the AHA seemed to have spent a lot of time on management, computer systems and office work, it was not placing enough emphasis on its veterinary function. Does the Minister have any plans to tackle that? Mr Paice: I am grateful to my hon. Friend, and I welcome her to this question session. She is absolutely right and, as part of our overall review of all arm's length bodies, we are looking for the sorts of efficiencies to which she has referred. However, I can tell her that the AHA has already instituted a road map for change that should deliver a significant tranche of savings, and a much more efficient business as well. | Hansard