Peter Jinman, a veterinary practioner from Hereford and former president of the BVA (British Veterinary Association) is to head a new advisory group on bTB.
Established by Defra, the group will replace the Tb forum, and will advise ministers and the Chief Veterinary Officer on practical policies to help control the disease. It will also play a leading role in Defra's "engagement with interested organisations". We hear that members of this elite squad will meet Mr. Jinman in small groups, thus leaving him the role of 'referee' in Defra's proposed 'engagement', whose remit includes:
* Working in partnership with Defra to develop Tb control policies in England and providing a practical perspective on delivery.
* Ensuring the views of all interested parties are taken into account in developing Tb control policies, and to help develop a shared understanding on possible control options.
* Acting as a conduit of information between Ministers and the CVO by responding to their requests for advice, and advising on issues of concern to interested organisations.
Defra was keen to point out that members of the group would serve as individuals, as would Mr. Jinman, and would not represent any organisations that they may be associated with. And our own 'little Ben' , Minister for animal health and welfare, Mr. Bradshaw commented that effective control of Tb would only be possible in partnership with farmers, veterinary surgeons, wildlife groups and other interested parties. He welcomed Peter Jinman's role in this.
We wish the group every success. But from Lord Recycled-Rooker's comments on BBC 5 live this week coupled with David Miliband's political expectations and the Badger Trust's scurrilous attempts to kneecap the meat industry, don't expect it soon. We would also take the opportunity to remind readers (and Mr. Jinman ) that control of bTb - a group 3 zoonosis, already spilling into other species - is the responsibility of Defra. Talk of 'partnerships' make are good soundbites. But they are a comfort blanket of prevarication and hot air when it comes to infectious disease control. Defra may be 'talking the talk', but we do not expect them to 'walk the walk' any time soon. And Parliamentary Questions 27/01/2004 Col 246W 150543 tells us that:
" Ministers consider carefully the advice of these bodies in formulating policy. However, there is no requirements for Ministers or the Department to abide by their advice, nor do these bodies have any formal power to veto departmental proposals".