HC Deb 25 May 1966 vol 729 cc443-5
3. Mr. Onslow

asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what assistance his Department has offered to the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries of the Republic of Ireland in identifying the organism causing salmon disease in certain Irish rivers; and if he will make a statement.

6. Mr. Farr

asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what action he is taking to prevent the disease at present affecting salmon in Irish waters from spreading to United Kingdom rivers.

12. Mr. Kimball

asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if he will make a statement about the fish disease now affecting Irish rivers; and what action he will take to safeguard all freshwater fish in the United Kingdom.

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

My Department and the Scottish Fisheries Department, with the help of the Public Health Laboratory Service and the Torry Laboratory of the Ministry of Technology, are carrying out experiments to isolate and identify the bacteria responsible for the disease.

With regard to action to prevent the disease spreading to this country, I would refer the hon. Member to the reply given by my right hon. Friend on 4th May to the hon. Member for Gainsborough (Mr. Kimball) and the hon. and gallant Member for Knutsford (Sir W. Bromley-Davenport).

Mr. Onslow

I thank the Joint Parliamentary Secretary for that reply. Does he agree that it is in the public interest that the facts of this situation should be known as fully as possible? Will he undertake to publish as soon as he can a statement, for the information of fishermen and in the interests of the tourist trade between this country and Southern Ireland?

Mr. Hoy

Yes, indeed. We realise how serious the position is, as do the Government of Southern Ireland. As soon as we have anything definite to say, I assure the hon. Gentleman that we shall make it known.

Mr. Farr

In connection with the risk of infection spreading to this country, has the hon. Gentleman circularised angling and fishing clubs, which organise expeditions to the Republic at this time of the year, bearing in mind that infected tackle could well cause the disease to spread to this country?

Mr. Hoy

We have made public the dangers which are involved in this. I am certain that no angler who goes to Southern Ireland will be unaware of the danger, nor of his responsibility for ensuring that it does not spread.

46. Dame Joan Vickers

asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food whether he will seek consultations with the Government of the Irish Republic with a view to ensuring that waders, gum boots, and fishing tackle used for the fishing of salmon in the Republic of Ireland are thoroughly cleaned in order to prevent the spreading of disease to Great Britain.

Mr. Hoy

This is something which depends on the voluntary co-operation of anglers. I do not think it would be appropriate to raise it with the Irish authorities.

Dame Joan Vickers

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that his reply is very disappointing? The disease can only be carried by equipment of the kind mentioned in my Question. If it is not disinfected and the disease is brought into this country, it will ruin our salmon industry. Will the hon. Gentleman look at this again?

Mr. Hoy

We have not yet discovered what the disease is. When we find out, we shall be able to take action. I am certain that we have drawn the attention of all anglers fishing in these rivers—as have the Irish Government—to the need to take precautions. Knowing anglers as I do, they will respond in order to see that it does not spread further into this country if it can possibly be prevented.

Mr. G. Campbell

While trying to find out the cause of the disease, will the hon. Gentleman nevertheless take all the elementary precautions he can to prevent the disease spreading?

Mr. Hoy

We have already done so. My right hon. Friend made this clear, in reply to an earlier Question, in a statement on the matter. I thought that the hon. Gentleman would have been aware of that.