HC Deb 22 July 1963 vol 681 cc1030-1
6. Mr. Bullard

asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food how many outbreaks of fowl plague have occurred in the present year; and whether he will give information about the source of infection concerned in recent cases of the disease.

16. Mr. Hayman

asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what types of bird have been affected by the recent outbreak of fowl plague in Norfolk; how many of each type have been slaughtered; what sums have been paid in compensation for each type; and how many firms or persons have received compensation.

18. Mr. Hilton

asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what steps have been taken by his Department to trace the origin of the two recent outbreaks of fowl plague in Norfolk; and if he will make a statement.

19. Mr. Hilton

asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food how much compensation was paid in each of the two recent outbreaks of fowl plague in Norfolk.

The Joint Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (Mr. James Scott-Hopkins)

Two outbreaks of fowl plague have been confirmed this year. Only turkeys were affected, and 31,820 were slaughtered. In addition, 44,631 eggs were destroyed, and 300 fowls and 23 other birds considered to be at risk were slaughtered. Eleven owners were involved altogether. Compensation is estimated at £160,000, but the Ministry's valuations have been disputed in some cases and may be referred to arbitration. Our veterinary staff have carried out a great many investigations into the outbreaks, including the inspection of all stock in the neighbourhood; the inspection of stock belonging to the owners' employees; the inspection of stock held elsewhere by the same owner, and investigations at his slaughtering plant; the tracing of visitors to the owner's premises; inquiries at veterinary laboratories which investigated disease on the premises before fowl plague was confirmed; the investigation of deaths of rooks in the area; and the blood sampling of wild birds at two bird sanctuaries.

Despite these investigations, it has been impossible to establish the origin of the first outbreak. The second outbreak was connected with the first through the movement of persons and equipment between the two premises before the first outbreak was confirmed.

Mr. Hayman

Will the Department go very seriously into the incidence of these outbreaks of fowl plague occurring, apparently, on the same farm at which fowl pest occurred previously and, moreover, occurring there after compensation for fowl pest was stopped? Will the hon. Gentleman realise that there is considerable uneasiness throughout the farming world about the high cost of these outbreaks?

Mr. Scott-Hopkins

I hoped that the House would realise how seriously we view these outbreaks having regard to the action taken and investigations pursued by the Ministry. Researches have gone on and are continuing. I assure the hon. Gentleman that we are taking every precaution to find the means by which the outbreak occurred and to prevent any recurrence.

Mr. Bullard

Is there a definite and absolute distinction in the clinical and other symptoms between this disease and fowl pest? I mean an absolute distinction, not one that is a matter of judgment on the part of the expert. Further, is my hon. Friend quite sure that this disease must stay on the list of diseases for which there is slaughter after attacks, in view of the enormous amount of trouble caused among poultry keepers by the fowl pest scheme which we had earlier and which we have now abandoned?

Mr. Scott-Hopkins

The two viruses, the virus of the Newcastle disease of fowl pest and that of the per-acute form of fowl plague, are completely separate. The vaccine for fowl pest is not effective at all against fowl plague. The present arrangement must continue because this is an extremely acute form of disease with a very high mortality rate, and I think that the only method of controlling it is that practised at present, namely, slaughter.