DEFRA secretary Caroline Spelman has been urged to announce the government’s badger cull decision in front of MPs.
A decision on a badger cull to combat bovine tuberculosis in cattle is believed to be imminent, following a Cabinet meeting on Thursday (7 July).
Shadow DEFRA secretary Mary Creagh has written to Mrs Spelman saying any decision should be announced in the House of Commons.
“I am writing to seek your assurance that you will provide an oral statement to the House once the Cabinet has made its decision on whether to proceed.”
Ms Creagh said Mrs Spelman released the contents of the letter to the media on the basis of “significant public interest” in the badger cull decision.
“DEFRA’s record on making major announcements to the House is poor,” wrote Ms Creagh.
Recent months had seen major announcements made through written ministerial statements.
These included announcements on the Natural Environment White Paper, the government’s waste review and a decision on circus animals.
“In 2008, your predecessor, my colleague Hilary Benn announced his decision on bovine TB in an oral statement to the House,” Ms Creagh wrote.
“I expect nothing less from you.”
Ms Creagh said it would be unacceptable for the media to be briefed of the government’s decision before MPs could question ministers.
“The issue is of significant public interest and members will wish to discuss and respond to it,” the letter says.
“Strong feelings are held on all sides about the most effective way of tackling with this terrible disease.
“The public will quite rightly expect MPs to be able to hold ministers to account.”
Mrs Spelman is believed to favour a limited cull in designated TB hotspot areas over four years as part of a package of measures to control the disease.
Livestock farmers are banking on a cull going ahead; but conservationists have condemned the idea.
The RSPCA said people opposed to killing badgers should make their voice heard as a matter or urgency.
The charity is urging its supporters to contact MPs to voice their opposition to DEFRA’s proposals, claiming it is the “Last chance to save badgers.”