Asked by
Lord Trees Portrait Lord Trees
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To ask Her Majesty’s Government, further to the Prime Minister’s address to the United Nations General Assembly on 26 September 2020 in which he called for the creation of “a global network of zoonotic research hubs”, what progress they have made towards establishing a zoonoses research centre in the United Kingdom.

Lord Benyon Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Lord Benyon) (Con)
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My Lords, the Government are committed to developing the scientific capability needed to protect the UK from zoonotic pathogens as part of the vision for a global network set out by the Prime Minister. In support of this, we are investing in new technologies, such as whole genome sequencing, and supporting our zoonotic and emerging disease research programmes. We also engage international partners on multilateral initiatives that support global health security and surveillance through one-health approaches.

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Lord Trees Portrait Lord Trees (CB)
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I thank the noble Lord for his Answer and acknowledge what is being done, but is it enough? A critical issue here is the animal-human interface. Past and present emerging human infections which have spilled over from animals to humans include HIV, SARS, MERS, Ebola, various influenzas, Covid-19 and monkeypox. Does the Minister agree that scaling up UK research in a virtual national zoonoses centre with global reach and a one-health approach will not only fulfil the Prime Minister’s pledge but be a significant demonstration of the UK’s commitment to aid the global effort to limit and prevent future pandemics?

Lord Benyon Portrait Lord Benyon (Con)
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The noble Lord is absolutely right. This is a major threat and was identified as such in the integrated review. We are corralling expertise within government, academia and the private sector, and our priorities are around genomics research, vector-borne disease research and projects to improve the use of surveillance. We think this is the best way that we can abide by not only the Prime Minister’s commitment but the leadership Britain has given in the G7 and G20 to make sure we have a global response to these threats.