HC Deb 26 November 1959 vol 614 cc542-4
12. Sir A. Hurd

asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if he has identified the source of infection which has brought the present widespread outbreaks of fowl pest; and what steps he is taking to safeguard the poultry industry from such infection.

Mr. John Hare

It is not possible to give a specific reason for the numerous widespread outbreaks that have occurred since October. All known ailing birds and poultry that have been exposed to the risk of infection are being slaughtered. Special restrictions on the movement of poultry have been imposed in the districts where the risks of spread of disease are greatest.

Sir A. Hurd

Does my right hon. Friend agree with the view of some leading veterinary scientists that the very bad dose of trouble in the virulent form it is has been brought in by the smuggling in of hatching eggs from America for the purpose of the development of the broiler industry? Will he have very close consultation with some representatives of the broiler industry about whether this has in fact happened and whether they will stop it in future?

Mr. Hare

I have no evidence of that, but I will certainly look into what my hon. Friend has said.

16. Mr. Peart

asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if he will make a statement on the recent outbreaks of fowl pest.

Mr. John Hare

The present serious epidemic of fowl pest began early in October after a period during which spread of the disease had been kept within reasonable bounds. During the past two months infected areas have been declared in Gloucestershire and adjoining counties, the North-East Midlands, and East Anglia, and my Department has purchased and destroyed more than 1½ million birds in order to check the spread of the infection. The epidemic does not seem yet to have run its course, but my veterinary staff are doing everything possible to maintain control.

Mr. Peart

How far have egg supplies been affected by this? The Minister will be aware of the statement made by Mr. Harvey, the general secretary of the Poultry Association of Great Britain, which says that there is need now for a major frontal attack to isolate this virus. Can we be assured that everything will be done by the Ministry so that there will be a drive, as indicated by the Association, against this outbreak?

Mr. Hare

The hon. Gentleman has asked two questions. As to the second, I can assure the hon. Gentleman that we are doing everything that is possible. We believe that the present methods used by the Ministry are the best so far devised, but, of course, we are always on the lookout to take the benefit of any new techniques which come along. As to the other question, about egg supplies, I am in a position to be able to inform the hon. Gentleman that there are ample egg supplies available at the moment.

28. Mr. Ridsdale

asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what is the total number of poultry slaughtered on account of fowl pest since the beginning of October; and what effect these losses are expected to have on the supply of poultry for Christmas.

Mr. John Hare

The total number of birds slaughtered in Great Britain on account of fowl pest from 1st October to 22nd November was about 1½ million. The number of table poultry slaughtered was about 1 million, of which it is estimated that about 90 per cent. were broilers and less than 5 per cent. turkeys. There is at present no cause for concern about supplies of Christmas poultry.