§ Mr. Biffen
(by Private Notice) asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if he will make a statement on the oubreak of foot-and-mouth disease confirmed at Northwood near Wem.
§ The Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (Mr. Fred Peart)
Although my veterinary inquiries are not entirely completed, it seems probable that the outbreak at Northwood reported yesterday is a case of recrudescence of disease. A Press Notice, issued by my Ministry on 28th February, drew attention to the possibility that the disease could reappear on farms which have had the disease and been restocked. Particulars were given of the measures being taken to reduce this risk. It was made clear that it cannot be entirely eliminated.
§ Mr. Biffen
At this point, can the right hon. Gentleman confirm that the virus is O1, and similar to that identified in the consignment of lamb which is circumstantially believed to have caused the initial outbreak?
§ Sir J. Langford-Holt
Can the right hon. Gentleman confirm or deny a report of a further outbreak in Minsterley in Shropshire, which is not, I understand, a reinfection but is at a place nearly half a mile from the previous infection?
§ Mr. Thorpe
In view of this news, has the right hon. Gentleman given reconsideration to his policy of allowing imports?
§ Dr. John Dunwoody
Would my right hon. Friend agree that, nevertheless, there is still anxiety about meat imports? Would he look into the question of the experimental work which has been done abroad on irradiation of meat, which seems to suggest that this is a technique which can kill foot-and-mouth virus in meat without damaging or changing the meat in any way? If this technique could be applied, we could possibly import meat from all over the world, with no risk at all to British agriculture.
§ Mr. Godber
But does not the right hon. Gentleman accept that this new outbreak re-emphasises the seriousness of the whole problem? Will he not accept that there is widespread feeling that he should not have readmitted this meat? Would he further explain why he did not tell us last week that he was already releasing this meat from cold store?
§ Mr. Peart
The right hon. Gentleman knows that that is entirely another question. The House made a decision on this. We are now dealing with something which is being investigated. I believe that all the evidence so far shows that this is a recrudescence of the disease. I hope that he will wait until I have had final veterinary inquiries before being so dogmatic.
§ Mr. Hazell
I am sure that all hon. Members would wish to express sympathy with those now affected by this new outbreak, but would my right hon. Friend agree that this is not a primary outbreak and, therefore, not attributable to any action which he has decided upon regarding imports of meat from South America?
Mr. J. T. Price
Although everyone in the House and the country understands and appreciates the natural anxieties of the farming community faced with this news, would it not be a great pity if someone, through sheer political motives, continued to indulge in political gamesmanship and used this issue in spite of the tremendous devotion of the people in the public service and elsewhere who 249 have helped to put down the major epidemic?
§ Mr. Grant-Ferris
Would the right hon. Gentleman realise that farmers in the affected district gladly accept the restrictions which his veterinary officers must put upon them, but that they are at a loss to understand why he will not accept the restrictions which his officers want to put on him?