§ 4. Mr. Biffen
asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if he has concluded his investigations into the source of the current foot-and-mouth epidemic; and if he will make a statement.
§ 8. Mr. Grant-Ferris
asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food whether he has now decided to keep the ban on the importation of meat from the countries where foot-and-mouth disease is endemic in force pending the findings of the independent inquiry which he has undertaken to set up.
§ 21. Mr. Stodart
asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if it is still his intention to retain the ban on certain imported meat only up to 4th March; and if he will make a statement.
§ Mr. Biffen
Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that there is a widespread local belief that this epidemic originated from a consignment of Argentine lamb? Is he also aware that, ever since the Gowers Report, a strong shadow of suspicion must fall on Latin-American meat? Will he take this into account in his statement?
§ Mr. Grant-Ferris
Does the right hon. Gentleman realise that the delay caused by his not answering questions about the ban has caused the greatest gloom in agricultural areas? If—I sincerely hope that he does not—the right hon. Gentleman decides to lift the ban, will he remember that it is vital that it should be kept on mutton and offals and that no carcases should come here which are not decapitated?
§ Mr. Stodart
Does the right hon. Gentleman appreciate that, with time running out and 4th March so near, his failure to make this statement today in answer to the Questions on the Notice Paper makes it abundantly clear that he has not yet made up his mind on this, and this is something which is bound to cause the greatest distress in farming circles?
§ 9. Mr. Temple
asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food whether he will make a statement on supplementary financial assistance proposed by the Government to assist farmers who had their livestock slaughtered in the early weeks of the recent foot-and-mouth disease epidemic.
§ 10. Mr. Temple
asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food whether, following further consideration, he will now make a statement concerning the special position for tax purposes of compensation payments made to farmers as a result of livestock losses in the recent foot-and-mouth disease epidemic.
§ 11. Sir J. Langford-Holt
asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what is the result of his consultations regarding measures to ensure that sums received by farmers as compensation as a result of foot-and-mouth disease are not subjected to tax.
§ 58. Mr. Biffen
asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if he will now make a statement on the supplements proposed for the valuation of stock of early victims of the foot-and-mouth epidemic; and on the tax treatment of compensation for stock compulsorily slaughtered.
§ Mr. Peart
There has been an encouraging response to the measures already taken to assist restocking—including the National Farmers' Union's Restocking Scheme, the special arrangements for bringing the help of the Ministry's Advisory Service to each affected farmer and for encouraging grant-aided improvements, and the special £10 per acre Ploughing Grant.
In the light of this the Government will now be deciding what further help may be necessary. I hope to cover the taxation and compensation problems in my statement on 4th March.
§ Mr. Temple
Is the Minister aware that these "non-answers are becoming rather 1382 monotonous? Is it not time that farmers knew exactly where they are? Farmers have had to face the problem of restocking and it is high time that they knew about their position with regard to the tax, which I raised in November, and with regard to valuations. This has been known to the Minister for many months.
§ Mr. Peart
The first part of my reply was not monotonous, and has been welcomed by the industry, and I believe by the hon. Member. The matter of taxation was mentioned by the Chancellor yesterday. My Department is still having consultations with the Treasury and the Inland Revenue, I will make a statement on 4th March. That is not being monotonous.
§ Sir J. Langford-Holt
The Chancellor said yesterday that he had not made up his mind; at the same time he wanted to do justice to the farmers. Would the right hon. Gentleman convey to the Chancellor that he can quite easily do this by reaching a decision quickly, and ensuring that these payments are not subject to tax?
§ Mr. Biffen
In view of the somewhat ambivalent nature of the Chancellor's answer yesterday, could the Minister take this opportunity to confirm that he stands by the principle that the compensation shall be treated, in terms of tax, in such a way that it enables the farmer to replace the stock which has been compulsorily slaughtered?
§ Sir W. Bromley-Davenport
Will the right hon. Gentleman not agree that any net compensation paid to farmers cannot be regarded as fair unless it is sufficient to replace every single beast that has had to be destroyed?
§ 19. Mr. Peter Mills
asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what steps he is taking to protect consumers from the effects of another outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease.
§ 24. Mr. Maxwell-Hyslop
asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food whether he will take all possible steps to prevent further outbreaks of foot-and-mouth disease.
§ Mr. Maxwell-Hyslop
Does the Minister realise that the South Irish Government have imposed a ban indefinitely on imported meat from diseased areas? Does he regard it as coincidental that they have been free from the disease?
§ 20. Mr. Marten
asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if he will make a statement on the foot-and-mouth disease situation.
§ Mr. Peart
Since I reported to the House on 15th February there have been six further outbreaks, bringing the total to 2,339. 208,800 cattle, 100,700 sheep, 133,400 pigs and 39 goats have been slaughtered. Compensation paid or pay- 1384 able to date is estimated to be £26.3 million.
The recent reappearance of disease at Spetchley, Worcestershire, has necessitated the reimposition of infected area restrictions over much of the county. Elsewhere it has been possible to reduce still further the areas already under restrictions and to combine them into one area.
§ Mr. Marten
In view of the possible spread or respread of infection, and as the Minister is now releasing imported meat out of cold storage, could he tell the House precisely what arrangements are being made for the disposal of the bones from this meat and the waste?
§ Mr. Godber
Arising out of the answer to the Question by my hon. Friend the Member for Banbury (Mr. Marten), can the right hon. Gentleman give a firm assurance that none of this meat is being sold across the counter in a form in which bones could become available?
§ Mr. Temple
Is the right hon. Gentleman aware of three cases of recrudescence of this disease on infected premises, and 1385 has he any plan for disinfecting once again all the infected premises to make certain that the virus has been got rid of?
§ 41. Mr. Wingfield Digby
asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what has been the total cost, so far, of the foot-and-mouth epidemic to public funds.
§ 49. Sir C. Osborne
asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if he is aware that farms which have suffered from foot-and-mouth disease, and then been declared free of the disease, have caught it a second time on restocking; and if he will consider imposing a minimum period before restocking can take place.
§ Mr. Peart
It is the normal practice not to permit restocking until six weeks have elapsed from the date of slaughter or four weeks from the date of final disinfection, whichever is the earlier. This period is sufficient in the vast majority of cases but occasionally there have been second outbreaks of disease on farms after restocking. I do not think it would be desirable to extend the present minimum period before restocking but I am taking other steps to minimise the risks of a second outbreak on a previously infected farm.
§ Sir C. Osborne
Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the second outbreak has caused a great deal of anxiety among farmers who want to restock, and that they would appreciate guidance from him on this, because apparently they will 1386 run greater financial risks if they restock and fail the second time?
§ Sir A. V. Harvey
Will the right hon. Gentleman confirm that those unfortunate farmers who have had a second outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease will get the same compensation, or at any rate not less than they did on the first occasion?