HC Deb 14 November 1960 vol 630 cc10-2
14. Mr. Bullard

asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if he will make a statement about the present serious outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease.

19. Sir A. Hurd

asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if he will make a statement on the recent outbreaks of foot-and-mouth disease over a wide area; and what proportion of the primary outbreaks are attributed to infection brought by meat imported from South America.

Mr. Soames

During the past eight days, 94 outbreaks of foot-and-mouth disease have occurred in parts of eastern England and Scotland. The most seriously affected areas are in Norfolk and Suffolk and in Northumberland, and wide movement restrictions have been imposed in East Anglia, Northumberland, Durham and in most of Scotland because infected cattle are known to have passed through markets in these areas. My veterinary staff are doing their utmost to trace the origin of the outbreaks, but so far there is no clear indication of the cause.

Mr. Bullard

In view of the extreme severity of the outbreak in the county of Norfolk, in particular, where, I believe, half the cases are—the county already being very seriously stricken by fowl pest—will my right hon. Friend have closely in mind the very widespread misgivings which exist about this whole matter? If this outbreak should be traced to importations of diseased carcases, will he take the very strongest action to prevent disease being brought into this country in that way on future occasions?

Mr. Soames

Our first job here is to try to trace the cause before I start commenting upon what we should do following upon that.

Sir A. Hurd

Is my right hon. Friend aware that on previous occasions when we have had a series of outbreaks like this it has been possible for his Ministry to attribute it to some particular source of infection, either migrating birds from the Continent, which is often common at this time of year in the Eastern Counties, or meat from South America? We need an assurance that we are not unwittingly importing infection. Can my right hon. Friend comment on the report in The Times this morning that the Government have asked the Argentine Government to stop sending any more pork, and possibly other meat, to this country after 1st February? If that is the principal cause, why should we wait until 1st February?

Mr. Soames

A formal announcement is being issued that importation of pork from the Argentine, Chile, Uruguay and Brazil will be prohibited as from 1st February, 1961—

Mr. Lipton


Mr. Soames

The reason why that is some months ahead is that notice had to be given to those countries for trade purposes.

Mr. Willey

Can the Minister say what progress we have made in joint European action on foot-and-mouth disease and whether we are making substantial progress to eradicating this disease, not only from this country, but in Europe generally?

Mr. Soames

Progress is being made, but it is not nearly as fast as we should like it to be.

Mr. Hilton

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that in Norfolk, where the majority of these outbreaks have taken place, this is regarded as the most serious outbreak ever? Is he further aware that there have been complaints about delay in burying carcases? Can he assure the House that this matter will be dealt with as expeditiously as possible, because if these carcases are to lie around unburied, that may be a means of spreading this awful disease further?

Mr. Soames

I am aware that this is a particularly serious outbreak. I had not heard about the difficulty of burying carcases before, but if the hon. Member has information to give me on that, I shall gladly look at it. Our veterinary staff are working absolutely flat out on this problem and are to be commended for all the work they are doing.

Mr. Turton

Is my right hon. Friend aware that there is great concern about this particular chain of outbreaks in view of the large number of cattle which seem to have passed through the market undiscovered and to have travelled large distances all over the country? It is quite different from other outbreaks experienced in recent years. Will he make a very careful inquiry and, if possible, make it public and take steps to prevent a recurrence of such outbreaks in future?

Mr. Soames

It obviously is an important feature of this outbreak that cattle have been through different markets and abattoirs. I shall bear in mind what my right hon. Friend has said.