In March 2003 the House of Commons' Committee of Public Accounts reported on the 2001 outbreak of Foot and Mouth Disease (5th report, HCP 487, session 2002-03, ISBN 0215008693). The Committee made a number of recommendations to improve the management of future livestock epidemics by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA). This report examines the Government's response to the Committee in May 2003 (Cm. 5801, May 2003, ISBN 0101580126) and the progress made since then. The NAO finds that DEFRA has implemented most of the actions promised to the Committee. The main findings on the Department's preparations for a future outbreak are: (1) The Department has taken action, through improved animal health policies, to reduce the risk of an outbreak on the scale of 2001 - although further outbreaks can never be ruled out; (2) Preparedness for another outbreak is much improved in terms of contingency planning, staff training, the availability of vaccination as an adjunct to culling, improved dialogue with stakeholders and standing arrangements with contractors to make resources available to fight any future outbreak. In addition, the Department's disease control strategy is now better documented, and further research into disease control strategies is underway; (3) Some arrangements to control the cost of a future outbreak have been improved but new compensation arrangements await legislation, and discussions continue on establishing a levy scheme to share the cost of future outbreaks with the farming industry.
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