The government is playing down the seriousness of bovine TB, a cross-party committee of MPs has said.

The Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee said it was “disappointed” with the government’s response to its report on TB in cattle and badgers.

Focusing on developing cattle and badger vaccines meant DEFRA was “putting all its eggs in one basket” when it was likely a vaccine would not be available until 2014 at the earliest, EFRA said.

There was little in the government’s TB strategy to tackle the disease in the short-term, beyond the current policy of surveillance, testing and slaughter, it added.

Criticised

DEFRA was also criticised over for “opting out of leadership of the issue” by passing on important decisions to the proposed TB partnership group.

EFRA said discussions on cattle-based measures to tackle the disease needed to be postponed while the livestock industry was not prepared to work with DEFRA or take part in the group.

“The committee unanimously felt that the response by the secretary of state was less than satisfactory and that certain key deficiencies in it should be highlighted,” Michael Jack, EFRA committee chairman, said.

“We look forward to hearing from Hilary Benn again on this subject in the autumn.”