HC Deb 02 March 1964 vol 690 cc890-2
4. Mr. S. O. Davies

asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what conclusions he has reached as to the cause of the death of about 100 domestic pets in the Merthyr Tydvil area after being fed from the carcase of a dead horse found in the neighbourhood; and what was the nature of the poison that killed the horse and subsequently the domestic animals.

Mr. Soames

I would refer the hon. Member to the full statement about this incident made by my hon. Friend in reply to the debate on the adjournment on 11th February.

Mr. Davies

Is not the right hon. Gentleman now fully satisfied that that reply was wholly unsatisfactory? Will he not make a positive statement or give a positive assurance that any of these rodenticides and pesticides which include these lethal poisons shall be banned, instead of going only part of the way as has been the case up to now?

Mr. Soames

As the hon. Gentleman will be aware, the use of fluoroacetamide in insecticides has already been banned under the poisons rule. Under the amended rule the sale of these substances for use as rodenticides has been placed under very much stricter control than it was, and urgent consideration is being given by the Advisory Committee on Poisonous Substances, an expert committee which advises the Government, as to whether there is any case for stricter precautions bearing in mind the considerations of public health and efficiency from the point of view of rat control.

Mr. Davies

When does the right hon. gentleman expect to get any information from the Committee which is at work on this investigation?

Mr. Soames

The hon. Gentleman will, I think, be aware that there is already very strict control of the sale of this substance. It can be obtained only on a certificate from a medical officer of health or authorised officer of the agricultural departments for specific use in specific places. This much has already been done. It only remains for the Advisory Committee on Poisonous Substances to report. This is a considerable job for that Committee to do. I know that it is well aware of the urgency of the matter. I am afraid that is all I can say.

26. Mr. Hayman

asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what reply his Department has sent to a letter from the Clerk of the Cornwall Sea Fisheries Committee about the disposal in the sea of fluoroacetamide-tainted soil.

Mr. Scott-Hopkins

As this is rather long, I will, with permission, circulate it in the OFFICIAL REPORT.

Mr. Hayman

At what point is this fluoroacetamide-tainted soil put on vessels and how long will it take from that point to beyond the Continental Shelf where it is to be dumped? I think I can assure the hon. Gentleman that the County Council has accepted the explanation he has already given, but will he and his right hon. Friend also keep in mind the fact that there is widespread anxiety throughout the country about the use of these chemicals and poisons in agriculture, and a view that the Ministry is too complacent about the dangerous aftereffects they can have?

Mr. Scott-Hopkins

As to the main burden of the supplementary question, I can assure the hon. Gentleman that there is no question of any complacency on my right hon. Friend's part. We are fully alive to the dangers which are inherent in some of these poisons. Indeed, just now in answer to a Question he said that the use of fluoroacetamide had been referred to the Advisory Committee.

Following is the reply:

24th February, 1964.

Dear Sir,

Fluoracetamide in the Sea

I am directed to reply to your letter of 14th February, addressed to the Secretary.

You are quite right in saying that fluoracetamide is an extremely soluble compound and it is because of this that Sir Rudolph Peters and our own scientists have advised that dumping the contaminated soil in the sea beyond the Continental Shelf will be quite safe. You will appreciate that there is no reason to suppose that there is more than a small quantity of fluoracetamide in the material at Smarden. The dilution will be enormous and before any of the currents could reach any fishing grounds, the fluoracetamide content would be infinitesimal.

Nevertheless in order to void the risk of leakage during transit the firm has accepted advice to pack the contaminated soil into containers mixed with cement. The set will be very hard and the material will reach the bottom beyond the Continental Shelf. Erosion will be slow and the disintegration of the material will also be slow.

You will thus see that the method by which this material is to be disposed of corresponds closely with your suggestion, since the very small quantity involved will be released into the sea over an extended period.

Yours faithfully,

E. H. Borr.

E. T. Verger, Esq.,

Clerk of the Cornwall Sea Fisheries Committee.

County Hall,



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