Go back

MPs demand clarity on plans for animal lab cuts

The House of Commons Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee has written to food and agriculture minister James Paice demanding further evidence on plans to cut laboratory services at the Animal Health and Veterinary Laboratories Agency.

In a letter dated 7 March, Anne McIntosh, chairwoman of the committee, said she had heard concern that there had been insufficient consultation and analysis behind the proposals.

The committee is currently undertaking an inquiry into the matter, which follows an announcement by environment secretary Caroline Spelman last September that eight of the AHVLA’s 14 regional laboratories would close in the next two years.

The committee is giving Paice until 10 April to respond to several points raised in the letter, including a potential lack of consultation, insufficient analysis, and evaluation of cost and impact on diagnosis.

In particular, says the letter, the committee is worried about the impact the closure of certain services could have on the AHVLA’s ability to identify and tackle emerging threats.

“This concern has been brought into sharp focus in recent weeks with the spread of Schmallenberg virus in the UK,” reads the letter.

McIntosh says there is concern that the closure of certain sites could lead to the transport of animal samples to distant laboratories—causing a deterioration in samples which could make it difficult to diagnose animal disease.

The committee is also worried that the rationalisation could lead to a drop in specialist skills at the agency.

“Several of our witnesses expressed concern that there had been insufficient consultation about the proposals to remove laboratory services from certain AHVLA sites,” reads the letter. “We are concerned that such a major change should take place without a full consultation with professional bodies and the providers and users of the agency’s laboratory services.”