HC Deb 27 January 1913 vol 47 cc956-7

asked the President of the Board of Agriculture whether, in view of the proved utility of the control experiments of the Irish Department of Agriculture in confirming or revising the decisions of departmental officials with regard to supposed cases of foot-and-mouth and other contagious diseases, he will, in order to ensure the greater confidence of British stockowners, institute similar control experiments in Great Britain; or, alternatively, whether he will permit independent veterinary opinion to be taken in all suspected cases to confirm the diagnosis of the Board's officials prior to the publication of the results of such diagnosis?

The PRESIDENT of the BOARD of AGRICULTURE (Mr. Runciman)

As the hon. Gentleman is aware, the Departmental Committee, of which he was himself a Member, unanimously recommended that experiments with the virus of foot-and-mouth disease should not be carried out in this country. In view of the risk which, in the opinion of the Committee would be involved, I am not prepared at present to adopt the suggestion made in the first part of the question. With regard to the experiments in Ireland to which the hon. Member refers, I would point out that the veterinary officer of the Irish Department had already satisfied themselves by close observation of the animals for a considerable time that foot-and-mouth disease did not exist on the farm before the experimental inoculation was undertaken. The Board are always prepared to consult independent veterinary opinion, where necessary and practicable, in cases of doubtful diagnosis, but it must be remembered that any delay in imposing restrictions upon an infected area may lead to diastrous results.


Would it not be possible to have control experiments of a limited character as in Ireland?


As I have pointed out, the experiments in Ireland were not in connection with foot-and-mouth disease but with another disease.


asked whether the Board of Agriculture are satisfied that all the cases of the examination of the blood and other symptoms of the animals supposed to be suffering from foot-and-mouth disease and returned as diseased have been clearly proved to have been diseased; if any cases have been given as doubtful; and, if so, who is the expert who decides what is done and the future action of the Board?


No suspected case of foot-and-mouth disease is confirmed except by a veterinary officer of the Board who has satisfied himself by a personal examination of the suspected animals that the lesions present are indicative of the disease. Sir Stewart Stockman is the Chief Veterinary Officer of the Board, to whom in cases of doubt it has sometimes been necessary to refer, and with whom the final diagnosis has rested, but in all cases precautionary measures are immediately taken to prevent the possible spread of infection. Foot-and-mouth disease cannot be detected by microscopical examination of the blood.


Does Sir Stewart Stockman diagnose every one of these cases?


No, it is not necessary in every case, but we endeavour to use Sir Stewart Stockman's ability in any doubtful case which may arise.

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