In today's Daily Telegraph, a story by George Jones, Political Editor, which we reproduce in full:
The Conservatives yesterday called for farmers whose cattle herds are hit by tuberculosis to be allowed to destroy badgers, which are believed to spread the disease.
John Whittingdale, the Tory agriculture spokesman, accused the Government of allowing TB to run out of control in Britain's herds. Unless action was taken now, half the country's livestock could be wiped out before the results from trial culls were available, he said.
Test culls in 30 randomly chosen areas, designed to decide whether badgers are responsible for the spread of bovine TB, began in 1999 after the publication of the Krebs Report. They were initially intended to be completed this year.
Because of disruption caused by the 2001 foot and mouth outbreak, results are not now expected until 2006.
At a press conference to announce Tory plans to eliminate waste from the budget of the Department for Environment, Food and Farming, Mr Whittingdale called on the Government to issue licences for localised badger culls while awaiting the completion of the tests.
At present, Defra is attempting to control the spread of bovine TB by a policy of slaughter and movement restrictions on affected herds.
Mr Whittingdale accused the Government of "doing nothing" while waiting for the results of the Krebs trials.
Bovine TB currently affects around 3,500 farms, with about four per cent of the country's 94,000 herds infected. Incidence of the disease is increasing by 18 per cent a year.