HC Deb 06 November 1961 vol 648 cc595-7
12 and 13. Mr. Hilton

asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (1) how many outbreaks of fowl pest have been confirmed in Norfolk during the past three months; how this number compares with outbreaks in previous years; and what new measures are proposed to reduce the outbreaks of this disease;

(2) how much has been paid in compensation in Norfolk in respect of fowl pest during the past three months; and what is the largest amount paid to any one breeder during the same period.

Mr. Vane

In Norfolk during the three months ended 31st October there were 59 outbreaks of fowl pest. The comparable figures for the three previous years are 87, 15 and 38 outbreaks. Compensation in the last three months has been assessed at £664,000, about half of which is payable to one breeder, but the amount is subject to arbitration. The control measures to support the present slaughter policy are being enforced vigorously and the hon. Member will have noticed that a committee of the industry is helping us to give the widest publicity to preventive measures and to symptoms of the disease. The Government set up a committee under the chairmanship of Sir Arnold Plant to review the arrangements for fowl pest. This is a very considerable and complex problem. The committee are well aware of our wish that the report should be made as soon as possible and we hope that it will be by the end of the year.

Mr. Hilton

Is the Parliamentary Secretary aware that it is a very serious matter that we should have these outbreaks of fowl pest so frequently? They are very costly to the breeders and to the Government, who must foot the bill and pay the compensation. Many people in the poultry industry are of the opinion that the Government are not spending nearly enough money on research into the causes of this dreadful disease, and will the Parliamentary Secretary see that more money is provided for this purpose? Regarding compensation, I agree that breeders must be compensated, but is there any reason why workers who lose their jobs as a result of these outbreaks should not also be compensated? Will the hon. Gentleman look into the whole question of assessing and paying compensation which many people consider is open to serious criticism and is a subject which has not been revised in recent years?

Mr. Vane

On the first Question, there is no doubt whatever that this is a line of research which has great claims upon us. With regard to compensation to workers, where the employer receives compensation for the loss of healthy birds, then I think it is up to him, if he considers it right and proper, to share it with those who may have a claim on him. As to the methods of assessment, that is one of the questions on which we are hoping this committee will be able to help us when it has completed its very arduous work and we receive its report, which we hope will be shortly.

Mr. Peart

Would the Parliamentary Secretary give details of the amount of money spent on research last year, how he thinks it will compare with the proposed figure for this year, and whether there is to be an increase?

Mr. Vane

I do not have the figure with me. If the hon. Gentleman will put down a Question, I shall be pleased to supply the information.

20. Mr. Hayman

asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food how much has been paid in compensation for birds destroyed on account of fowl pest during 1961, to the latest convenient date; and how many of the beneficiaries have benefited a second or third time.

Mr. Vane

Poultry and hatching eggs destroyed this year up to 31st October were valued at £2,795,000. Some of these valuations are subject to arbitration. As to the second part of the Question, I regret that this information is not available and could not be provided without a disproportionate expenditure of time and labour.

Mr. Hayman

Will the Parliamentary Secretary take into account that there is widespread concern about these claims for fowl pest, especially where they recur, and will he ask his right hon. Friend to reconsider the matter so that any suspicion of fraud may be removed?

Mr. Vane

The last thing we want is any suspicion of fraud to remain. The Government do not easily part with money without good reason being shown, and, although I do not say that abuse has never happened, I am certain that it does not occur in the general run.

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