§ 52. Brigadier Medlicott
asked the Minister of Agriculture if he will make a statement on the renewed and increased outbreaks of fowl pest and the measures that are being taken to meet the situation; and if he will now order the immediate cessation of all further imports of poultry from countries where the disease is known to exist.
§ 56. Captain Duncan
asked the Minister of Agriculture what steps he proposes to take to stop the further spread of fowl-pest; and if he will make a statement on the recent outbreak in East Anglia.
§ 58. Mr. Renton
asked the Minister of Agriculture whether he will make a statement upon the recent outbreaks of fowl pest, with particular reference to his policy with regard to birds imported dead or alive, and the future of the policy of slaughter of, and compensation for, infected flocks.
Mr. T. Williams
I am circulating a detailed statement in the OFFICIAL REPORT, but the gist of it is that there have been over 260 outbreaks of fowl pest since the beginning of October, most of them of a less virulent type than that common on the Continent of Europe; we are doing our utmost, in consultation with the poultry industry, to prevent the spread of infection and to eradicate the disease by restrictions on movement and by slaughter of all affected and contact birds. This policy will be continued so long as there is any reasonable prospect of its achieving its object, but if it becomes clear that eradication of the disease cannot be secured by slaughter the policy may have to be changed and other means adopted to try to control the disease.
As regards imports, the importation of live poultry from countries where fowl pest is prevalent is prohibited and the importation of poultry carcases is only allowed from countries which are free of the disease and from certain countries where special control measures have been established. The question of import restrictions is under review with the other Departments concerned, but it raises a number of important and serious issues which require very careful consideration.
§ Brigadier Medlicott
Is it not fairly clear that imports must be a contributory factor, that in any case they amount to only 7½ per cent. of the total needs, and that there is an overwhelming case for at least a temporary exclusion while trying to stamp out the disease here?
I have already said that this matter is under consideration between my Department and the other Departments concerned.
§ Mr. Renton
Are we to understand from the Minister's statement that he intends to make no change in his present policy of slaughtering infected flocks?
I have already said that this matter is under consideration between my Department and other Government Departments concerned.
§ Major Sir Thomas Dugdale
Is the Minister aware that he must hold himself largely responsible for the present position, as he has never fully appreciated the risk to our poultry industry from fowl pest in spite of the repeated warnings for two and a half years by Members on this side of the House? Is he further aware that the overall fowl imports amount to only 7½ per cent., and that in the national interest there should be a stop put at once to all poultry entering this country?
If we were to restrict imports to this country from countries where this fowl disease is not in existence it would amount to approximately 40 per cent. of the total imports at the moment.
§ Mr. Harrison
Can my right hon. Friend say what effect the restriction on imports would have on the price of poultry in this country?
Mr. Geoffrey Wilson
Is the Minister satisfied that there has been no undue delay in ordering the slaughter of birds found to be infected while the question of compensation is negotiated?
Yes, Sir. The officers of my Department have been working 18 hours a day during the past month or two, and there is no doubt at all about slaughtering where contacts or blood tests prove a positive result.
Following is the statement:Since the beginning of October, there have been over 260 outbreaks of fowl pest in Great Britain of which only about 10 have been of the virulent type known in this country since 1947 and common on the Continent of Europe. About 60 per cent. of these outbreaks have been in East Anglia and the prohibition of the movement of live poultry out of that area has doubtless prevented some spread of infection to other areas. Many of the outbreaks that have occurred elsewhere have a common origin, but in at least one area outside East Anglia it seems that some undiscovered foci of infection exist. Although the position in East Anglia and in two or three other small areas is still causing anxiety, there is little evidence of infection at present in many parts of the country.Every practicable step has been taken to prevent the spread of infection and to eradicate the disease by slaughter wherever it has been found to exist. All farms on which there is reason to suspect the presence of fowl pest are placed under restrictions immediately the Ministry of Agriculture knows of the suspicion, and all the affected birds as well as all those in direct contact with them are slaughtered as soon as practicable after the existence of the disease has been confirmed. The premises are disinfected, and so long as there is any risk of infection on the premises, restrictions are maintained on the movement into and out of the premises.In addition, restrictions have been applied to East Anglia and to the whole of England and Wales. No live poultry or hatching eggs may be moved out of England and Wales into Scotland and no live poultry other than day-old chicks may be moved out of East Anglia into any other part of Great Britain. In the whole of England and Wales, the holding of shows and sales of poultry is prohibited other than sales of poultry intended for immediate slaughter. There are also restrictions prohibiting the movement of poultry from any premises into which poultry have been moved within the previous 28 days, and poultry dealers may not bring together on any premises poultry moved from more than one farm.Advice and guidance has been issued to all those concerned, so as to help them to recognise the disease and to report suspected outbreaks, and to tell them what steps they should take, by disinfection and similar measures, to reduce the risks of spreading the disease.It is intended to continue the slaughter policy for the eradication of fowl pest so long as there is any reasonable prospect of attaining that object by this method. But if it becomes clear that eradication of the disease cannot be secured by slaughter, the policy may have to be changed and other means adopted to try to control the disease. Any alternative methods of control at present known would, however, be less satisfactory than the present policy.
§ 54. Mr. Peter Freeman
asked the Minister of Agriculture how many cases 305 of fowl pest have occurred in the last 12 months; how many birds have been involved; and what compensation has been paid.
Mr. T. Williams
Between 1st January, 1950, and 21st January, 1951, there were 364 outbreaks of fowl pest, involving the slaughter of about 133,000 birds. Compensation payable in respect of these outbreaks totals about £175,000.
§ Mr. Freeman
Is it the intention of the Minister to continue to pay compensation on the present basis, in view of these further outbreaks?
Yes, as long as we feel that the slaughter policy is in the best interests of the poultry population of this country.
Mr. T. Williams
The latest outbreak of the virulent type of fowl pest prevalent on the continent of Europe occurred on 23rd January among poultry at Birmingham. I am satisfied that the methods adopted by my Department to eradicate the virulent type of fowl pest are the most effective that can be devised.
Yes, but in the whole of last September there was no outbreak of fowl pest at all in Great Britain. From August until 16th November no outbreak of the virulent type was confirmed.
§ Captain Crookshank
Is this great reluctance to check the imports of poultry due to the complete failure of the meat policy of the Government?
The right hon. and gallant Gentleman is entitled to allow his imagination to run riot, if he wishes.
Mr. T. Williams
It has not been possible to trace the original source of the present series of outbreaks of the sub-acute type of fowl pest now occurring in this country. The initial spread of the disease occurred mainly through the congregation of birds at markets and at dealers' premises. About 123,000 birds have been slaughtered on account of this type of the disease.
My chief veterinary officers are not yet able to say that they have verified the actual source of origin. They have been in touch with the American authorities, who are co-operating with them to the best of their ability to prevent any further spread.
Because there was no outbreak at that time, and no sign that any such outbreak was likely to occur.
§ 64. Captain Duncan
asked the Minister of Agriculture what steps he has taken to prevent the spread of fowl pest to Scotland.
Mr. T. Williams
For a considerable time the movement of live poultry into Scotland from most of England and Wales has been prohibited except under licence. On 26th December, 1950, the movement of day-old chicks and hatching eggs into Scotland from any other part of Great Britain was also prohibited; and the issue of licences for live poultry was suspended. Since 10th July, 1950, it has been illegal to sell by retail in Scotland poultry carcases imported from any country in Europe in which fowl pest is prevalent.
§ Captain Duncan
As this disease may well have become endemic in England, is it not in the interests of both England and Scotland to keep Scotland clear of the disease? Will the right hon. Gentleman ensure that this is done?