HC Deb 02 March 1964 vol 690 cc899-901
9. Mr. Hilton

asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if he will state the cost to the Exchequer of supplying cheap vaccine for treating poultry against fowl pest during the last financial year; how much he estimates it will cost during the current year; and if he will make a further statement on the success of the scheme for vaccinating poultry.

Mr. Soames

From 5th November, 1962, when subsidised vaccine was first made available, to the end of the 1962–63 financial year, the cost to the Exchequer of fowl pest vaccine, and of its transport and storage, less the sale price, was £319,000. The corresponding figure for the current financial year is estimated to be £418,000.

On 10th February, in reply to my hon. Friend the Member for Newbury (Sir A. Hurd), I reviewed progress of the vaccination policy. Experience since then has continued to show that, where vaccination is widely and properly practised, control is at least as successful as it was under the slaughter policy. The disease situation in Norfolk and Suffolk, where good use has been made of vaccine, is in marked contrast to that in Lancashire and in Cheshire and Shropshire where vaccine has not been so widely used, and outbreaks have been numerous and spread has been rapid. Of the 851 outbreaks which were confirmed in January and February, no fewer than 480 were in these three counties, and were it not for the large number of outbreaks in these counties the position in England and Wales would be considerably better than in previous years. At this time of year, there is usually a high incidence of disease in Norfolk and Suffolk, but in January and February this year there have only been 28 outbreaks, which compares with an average of 238 for the previous four years. Experience continues to demonstrate that, where disease does strike a vaccinated flock, it is usually less severe, and the amount of illness and mortality is notably less than in infected unvaccinated flocks.

Mr. Hilton

I thank the Minister for that reply, and I am glad to note his tribute to the success of the arrangements in Norfolk and Suffolk, but is he aware that even now there is concern at the results following some of the vaccinations in Norfolk and Suffolk, because, in certain instances, outbreaks have occurred two or three times after vaccination and each subsequent outbreak appears to have produced a worse mortality rate than the previous one and, although they do not actually die, many birds are made virtually useless? Is the Minister convinced that enough money is being spent on research in view of the importance of poultry rearing?

Mr. Soames

Where individual cases are concerned, of course, I shall always do my best to ensure that the maximum amount of advice and help is forthcoming. The figures I have given generally for the two months do show that the position is very much better today than it was before vaccination.

Mr. Prior

Will my right hon. Friend admit that a good many people in Norfolk and Suffolk are not so satisfied as his divisional veterinary officers are about the control of fowl pest? Will he consider the suggestion that a lot more research should be carried out by his Department in the testing under field conditions of fowl pest vaccines and vaccines against other diseases which may or may not arise in intensive methods of production?

Mr. Soames

As regards research, it is most important that both we ourselves, through our facilities in laboratories and in the field, and the manufacturers should pursue research seeking, perhaps, for improved vaccines. I was not giving a statement of opinion. I was stating a matter of fact and figures when I said that there had been 28 outbreaks in January and February this year whereas there had been an average of 238 for the previous four years. This is a considerable improvement. I know that my hon. Friend is aware—and I share his concern —that there are some poultry keepers who, for some reason or other, have found that the vaccine has not been so effective as it has been in other places, and we shall be glad to give what help we can.

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