§ 9. Mr. J. E. B. Hill
asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food whether he will extend the system of fowl pest warning notices, which prohibit unauthorised traffic upon farm premises, so as to cover the potentially dangerous period before a suspected case of fowl pest can be either confirmed or negatived by the laboratory findings of the Animal Health Division.
My hon. Friend should now have received a letter from my hon. Friend the Joint Parliamentary Secretary explaining why we do not feel able to adopt this suggestion.
§ Mr. Hill
Whilst appreciating the practical difficulties, may I ask if the Minister is aware of the delay in diagnosis in difficult areas which now may last up to six days? Is my right hon. Friend aware that, on balance, in a very difficult question the opinion of responsible producers is in favour of further restriction?
I can only assure my hon. Friend that I want to take every reasonable step to stamp out this disastrous scourge. I think possibly we may reduce 798 the period of the delay he has mentioned. I am attending to that matter straight away.
§ 10. Mr. J. E. B. Hill
asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food whether, in combating fowl pest, he will make his control of movement orders effective and enforceable immediately upon publication.
I am examining the present arrangements to see to what extent they can be improved. I will certainly bear in mind my hon. Friend's suggestion.
I realise that that may be so, but at the same time I think one must be careful in any arrangements one makes to be as sure as possible that they will conduce towards the object we have in mind and not weaken what we want above everything else—the encouragement of early notice of a suspected outbreak.
Fifty-one premises in Mattishall where fowl pest was not definitely suspected were visited by my officers, who took 394 blood samples. In one case the subsequent test gave positive results, and fowl pest has been confirmed, and another is still under investigation. The remaining 49 tests were negative.
§ Mr. Dye
Is not the position then that the officials dealing with this matter are spending a lot of time looking after domestic poultrykeepers and have left the stable door wide open for the big ones, and the consequence is that fowl pest is now spreading right throughout the country? Does he not agree that it would have been better for those people to have been engaged in other directions?
Before I could agree with the hon. Gentleman, I should require the details of what the hon. Gentleman means.
§ 36. Mr. Alport
asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what further outbreaks of fowl pest there have been in north-east Essex since the introduction of the present standstill order.
Since 2nd December, when the Essex standstill Order came into force, five outbreaks of fowl pest have been confirmed on premises in the northeast of the county.
§ Mr. Alport
May I ask my right hon. Friend what other considerations his Ministry bears in mind when deciding to end a standstill order? Does an area have to be completely free from disease, and, if so, for what period of time?
It is very difficult for me to give a specific answer. We have to use our judgment as to when the improvement has reached a point at which it will be safe to remove these very onerous restrictions.