HC Deb 05 April 1951 vol 486 cc377-9
50. Mr. Dye

asked the Minister of Agriculture whether he is now in a position to make a statement on the import of dead poultry from countries when fowl pest disease is endemic.

47. Brigadier Medlicott

asked the Minister of Agriculture if, in view of the continuance of outbreaks of fowl pest in this country, he will now impose a complete ban on all imports both of live and dead poultry from abroad until the disease in this country is stamped out.

Mr. T. Williams

After very careful consideration the Government have decided that, in view of the serious risks involved for our own poultry industry, imports of poultry carcases from countries where fowl pest is endemic must be prohibited for the time being and that, accordingly, the special exception for imports from certain countries will be withdrawn from 1st May next. An amending order under the Diseases of Animals Act will be made before then. At the same time, we recognise that this will deprive us of some of our supplies of poultry, which is something we can ill afford. We are, accordingly, asking the United Kingdom poultry industry to do its best, with the resources available, to rear more birds for the table, particularly turkeys for next Christmas. We hope that the industry in the Irish Republic will also send us larger supplies. It has been decided to review the matter later in the year in the light of the supply and disease considerations. The present decision is, therefore, an interim one, but since our need for more table poultry is likely to remain, I hope that the home industry will in any case expand its output.

Mr. Dye

Is my right hon. Friend aware that the home industry will greatly welcome his statement? Will he give an assurance that he will not lift the ban on imported poultry from those countries where the disease is endemic until they have taken adequate steps to ensure that never again will poultry sent to this country be a danger to our own industry? Otherwise, how can the home producer increase his production for Christmas or any other time?

Mr. Williams

I have already indicated that it is our intention, in a few months' time, to review the whole matter not only in the light of our own requirements but also with regard to the disease.

Sir T. Dugdale

Does the Minister recollect that my right hon. Friend gave him advice on the subject for the last two and a half years, and would it not be much better if he had taken this step about that time? Will he also bear in mind that we on this side of the House will do all in our power to encourage farmers to increase the country's poultry stocks?

Mr. Williams

I hope that the hon. Member and his colleagues will carry out the suggestion in the last part of his supplementary. With regard to the former part, it is true that hon. Members were giving me advice that I did not need.

Mr. H. Hynd

Can the Minister say what precautions are being taken lest advantage be taken by the home producer to put up prices?

Mr. Williams

The Minister of Food will keep that constantly in mind.

Mr. Grimond

Does the Minister's statement mean that he is now satisfied that the commonest cause of the disease is imported poultry? Secondly, will he consult his colleagues to see if they will make available larger supplies of feeding-stuffs?

Mr. Williams

The hon. Member is well aware that it is not a question of consulting my colleagues but of the availability of feedingstuffs.

Brigadier Prior-Palmer

Can the Minister explain how our poultry stocks can expand unless farmers get an extra allocation of feedingstuffs? I myself should like to know the answer.

Mr. Williams

By farms becoming more self-sufficient in the production of their own feedingstuffs.