HC Deb 13 July 1950 vol 477 cc1547-9
52. Mr. Hurd

asked the Minister of Agriculture if, in order to safeguard the British poultry industry from further outbreaks of fowl pest, he will prohibit the importation of all poultry, except cooked carcases, from countries where this disease has become endemic.

58. Mr. Nugent

asked the Minister of Agriculture if he is aware that over the past two and a half years over 400,000 poultry have either died or been slaughtered as a result of outbreaks of fowl pest; and what steps he is taking to bring this dangerous infection to an end.

Mr. T. Williams

About 165,000 birds have been slaughtered on account of fowl pest during the last 2½ years. I have no precise information about the number that have died, but my Department estimates the total losses during that period, including birds slaughtered, at about 200,000. Under the Poultry Carcases (Importation) Order, 1950, imports of poultry are permitted only from four countries where fowl pest is endemic, and these birds must be eviscerated, marked with the country of origin, and sold only within five areas in England and Wales which are mainly industrial or residential. In addition, veterinary officers of my Department have visited the two countries chiefly concerned and concluded arrangements which should materially reduce the risk of infected carcases being sent to this country. I am advised by my right hon. Friend the Minister of Food that supplies of poultry would not be adequate, particularly for the Christmas trade, if imports from all countries where fowl pest is endemic were entirely prohibited.

Mr. Hurd

Is it not really time that the Minister took serious and effective action? Otherwise, we shall have fowl pest endemic in this country, too. Will he not redraft his regulations? Does he not realise that what he is now doing is concentrating the plague spots around the towns? Inevitably, the disease will spread to the rural areas?

Mr. Williams

The information at my disposal does not justify that observation. The number of outbreaks in 1949 was 582, and so far this year there have been only 94, thanks to various Orders which we have introduced limiting the movement of birds.

Major Sir Thomas Dugdale

Is the Minister aware that only yesterday there were four new outbreaks in Lancashire alone? Will he reconsider the whole position, especially in regard to the four countries which are now exporting these birds here? If we get a further outbreak here we shall be much shorter of poultry than we should be if we stopped this importation right away.

Mr. Williams

I believe that one outbreak in Lancashire was due to the use of unboiled swill, and I think that the person responsible for it may be in trouble.

Mr. Nugent

Is the Minister aware that the outbreak of which he is speaking was due to a carcase imported from Poland?

Mr. Williams

And probably not boiled.

Mr. Baldwin

Does not the last answer mean that whatever steps can be taken or are being taken to deal with this poultry which is brought in from these countries which are ravaged with this disease, cannot be effective merely by confining it to any particular area? It must be spread by birds or swill, or whatever it may be.

Mr. Williams

Yes, but as I have said, if the remains of the poultry were boiled before it was allowed to be used, these outbreaks would cease.

Colonel Gomme-Duncan

Is the Minister aware that all these "ifs" do not get to the root of the matter, and that the only possible remedy in this dangerous situation is absolutely to forbid the importation of these birds from infected countries? In the same way that we have stamped out rabies we can stamp out this disease very quickly.

56. Captain Duncan

asked the Minister of Agriculture what steps he is taking to prevent a recurrence of fowl pest in Scotland as a result of the new order permitting imports of certain poultry.

59. Mr. Snadden

asked the Minister of Agriculture what steps he is taking to prevent the importation of fowl pest into Scotland in view of the serious losses incurred from this disease during the past two and a half years

Mr. T. Williams

The recent series of outbreaks of fowl pest in Scotland appears to have had no connection with imported poultry, and there is some evidence that sea-birds were responsible for spreading the infection. For some time now poultry imported from certain countries in which fowl pest is endemic has not been distributed in Scotland, and the effect of the recent Order is to strengthen and give statutory force to this arrangement. I cannot, of course, prevent the accidental introduction of infection by agencies outside my control, but this arrangement, together with the regulations already in force for controlling the movement of live poultry, should provide adequate safeguards against preventable risks.