HC Deb 24 March 1970 vol 798 cc1331-72

  1. 1) The appropriate Minister may, in accordance with a scheme made by the appropriate authority with the consent of the Treasury, pay to the owner of any herd of cattle kept in the United Kingdom, or to any person concerned with the management of such a herd, such sums as that Minister thinks fit to expend in connection with the eradication of brucellosis, and may in particular, if the scheme so provides, pay any such sum by way of supplement to, and subject to any terms or conditions governing the payment of, any grant or subsidy payable under or by virtue of any enactment other than this section.
  2. (2) A board constituted by any scheme relating to the marketing of milk and made under the Agricultural Marketing Act 1968 or any enactment of the Parliament of Northern Ireland shall, in accordance with any scheme in that behalf made by the appropriate authority with the consent of the Treasury, make to producers registered under the scheme constituting the board payments in connection with the eradication of brucellosis, being payments in respect of milk sold, or deemed for the purpose of any payments under the scheme constituting the board to have been produced, on or after 1st April 1970; and the sums from time to time required by such a board for the making of payments under this subsection shall be paid to the board by the appropriate Minister.
  3. (3) Paragraph (c) of section 5 of the Diseases of Animals Act 1950 (under which the Minister may make orders prohibiting or regulating the movement of cattle into, out of or within any area which is for the time being an eradication area or an attested area) shall be amended by adding at the end of that paragraph the words "or, if the area is an eradication area or an attested area for purposes connected with the control of brucellosis, imposing with respect to cattle in that area such other prohibitions or requirements as he may consider necessary or desirable for the purpose of eradicating that disease".
  4. 1332
  5. (4) Payments made by any Minister under subsection (1) or subsection (2) of this section shall be treated as production grants for the purposes of section 3 of the Agriculture Act 1957.
  6. (5) In subsections (1) and (2) of this section—
  7. (6) A scheme under subsection (1) or (2) of this section—
    1. (a) may relate to herds or producers in one part only of the United Kingdom or (the appropriate authorities acting jointly for the purpose, if different) in two or more such parts;
    2. (b) may be varied or revoked by a subsequent scheme under that subsection;
    3. (c) shall be made by statutory instrument which shall he subject to annulment in pursuance of a resolution of either House of Parliament.—[Mr. Mackie.]

Brought up, and read the First time.

Mr. Mackie

I beg to move, That the Clause be read a Second time.

Mr. Speaker

With this new Clause, I have suggested that we take Government Amendment No. 54, plus Amendment (g), in subsection (1), after 'provides', insert '(a)', Amendment (h), in subsection (1) at end insert: (b) pay such sum as represents the difference between the price fetched by an infected animal when slaughtered and that which it is estimated by one of his inspectors that the animal would have fetched, if sold in the open market in sound condition. and Amendment (i), in subsection (3), at end insert: Section 7 of the Diseases of Animals Act 1950 shall apply for the purposes of this section in the same way as it applies to offences under the said Act. I have been asked by the Opposition whether I will allow a Division on Amendment (h). I am prepared to do that, but I think that there is some uncertainty among the Opposition about the Amendment on which they wish to divide the House.

Mr. Godber

It is on Amendment (h).

Mr. Speaker

So be it.

Mr. Mackie

As I understand it, Mr. Speaker, with this new Clause we are considering Amendment No. 54, which proposes the deletion of Clause 100. The new Clause is intended to take its place. In this way, we can look at the brucellosis scene as a whole rather than piece-meal.

If we are to free the national herd from brucellosis there must be an effective inter-play between voluntary accreditation and compulsory area eradication. Neither will succeed by itself. Voluntary accreditation alone would leave us with "islands" of infection; area eradication alone would deny us replacements for slaughtered animals. What we need is a programme carefully integrated to ensure that, as we enter upon compulsory eradication in some areas, voluntary accreditation continues to make headway elsewhere in the country. We have tabled our new Clause to permit a balanced approach of that kind.

When the hon. Member for Westonsuper-Mare (Mr. Wiggin) moved Clause 100 upstairs, he explained that its object was to persuade the Government … to institute a compulsory area eradication scheme with full compensation."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, Standing Committee B, 10th March, 1970; c. 1097.] and that the tuberculosis provisions in Section 3 of the Diseases of Animals Act, 1950, had been borrowed and modified for that purpose.

Let me clarify the statutory position here. Section 3 of the 1950 Act was neither intended nor used for conducting compulsory area eradication schemes against tuberculosis. It was the vehicle for paying bonuses to owners of beef and dairy herds voluntarily participating in the Attested Herds Scheme.

The House will be aware that the Government have decided to bring in a system of bonuses—"incentives" is probably a more realistic term—to give further stimulus to the voluntary accreditation of brucella-free herds. The framework of this new scheme has been constructed in consultation with the leaders of the industry, and was announced in last week's White Paper. I ought perhaps to enlarge a little on these proposals.

The present Accredited Herds Scheme was designed for the late '60s as the precursor of compulsory eradication. The new incentives scheme is purposely being shaped for the '70s as the partner of compulsory eradication. From now on we want owners of the healthier herds to go for voluntary accreditation. Those with more heavily infected herds may decide to await compulsory eradication. I am confident that the milk and beef premiums will give owners of clean or relatively clean herds a very real incentive to gain and retain accredited status thus swelling our reservoir of replacements and sustaining it as area eradication programmes develop. The immediate benefits will go—rightly, as I see it—to those who have pioneered accreditation and who bring their registered herds into the new scheme. They will be eligible for the milk premium from 1st April and for the beef supplement in the calendar year 1970.

Full details of the new scheme will be announced as soon as possible. Meantime, subsections (1) and (2) of the new Clause, which have purposely been drawn in the widest possible terms to allow for a developing situation, provide basic powers that would enable us to pay incentive grants of any kind either directly—and linked to other grants where appropriate—or through the milk marketing boards.

The new scheme will provide the sinews of compulsory eradication. My right hon. Friend has already announced our aim of starting limited eradication projects next year, and preliminary discussions with organisations concerned have already started.

The hon. Member for Weston-super-Mare rightly made the point that the eradication of brucellosis is a somewhat different problem from the eradication of tuberculosis. He was very fair about this. I sometimes wish that others were as seized of the point as he is. However, at least where the statutory position is concerned, much the same powers will serve for compulsory eradication of both diseases. We eradicated tuberculosis under the powers available in the Diseases of Animals Act, 1950. For example, we declared eradication areas under Section 5(a), regulated movements under Section 5(c), and so on. Section 84(3) enables comparable arrangements to be introduced for brucellosis. However, the lessons of TB eradication, and the nature of brucellosis as a disease, make it clear that supplementary powers may be needed in some instances—for example, to regulate the vaccination and testing of animals in eradication or accredited areas. Subsection (3) of the new Clause would give us enabling powers for measures of that kind.

To sum up, the new Clause covers most of the ground in Clause 100, and much more besides. I ought, however, to say a word about the timing and compensation aspects of compulsory eradication because these were specifically inserted by hon. Members opposite when the Bill was upstairs. They wanted to hustle us—I do not mind that—into area eradication by making it mandatory to start on 1st January, 1971. I cannot emphasise too strongly that the timetable for eradicating an area is more important than the precise starting date. Inevitably there will be very strict controls over movement of stock into and within eradication areas. These will be irksome, and if we start prematurely they will drag on unnecessarily. In our planning and discussions for next year's compulsory eradication programme, we shall aim for a starting date which is consistent with clearance of the area, and lifting of the necessary restrictions, in the minimum time.

I have already explained that the voluntary scheme and the incentives which go with it are directed primarily towards healthier herds. To offer compensation in that sector would simply attract infected herds, which would be better dealt with by compulsory area eradication programmes when special financial assistance will be available.

In tabling new Clause 100 in Committee, hon. Members opposite wanted compensation in compulsory areas to be paid at 100 per cent. Under the Government's new Clause as it stands, or, indeed, by the application of Section 17 of the Diseases of Animals Act 1950, a scheme can be introduced for compensation at any desired level. What is at issue, therefore, is not the statutory provisions we need but the level of compensation which should be incorporated in any schemes that may be tabled in years ahead. Clearly, there must be consultations with the industry on this, but it may help if I indicate the general approach we have in mind.

In the compulsory eradication situation, there will be instances where healthy animals may have to be slaughtered because of excessive exposure to brucellosis in a herd heavily infected with that disease. In such instances we envisage paying 100 per cent. compensation. Elsewhere, we shall be dealing with reactors. Here I must be quite categorical and say that the Government do not intend to pay 100 per cent. compensation. Those with memories of T.B. eradication would readily agree that we simply cannot afford deliberately to create a situation in which it pays people to buy up reactors in the confident knowledge that they—and any other animals they may infect—will command 100 per cent. compensation. What we want is a premium on vigilance against the disease, including prudent purchasing. The special emphasis of Government approach to brucellosis consists of paying rewards for healthy animals and not inflating the value of reactors.

For compulsory eradication, the broad approach which we have outlined to the industry, and which has still to be discussed in detail, was given in last week's White Paper. Briefly—and this is a quite new concept from anything that was done in the T.B. age—we propose to apply an incentive approach for owners of herds which are subject to compulsory eradication programmes, although their incentives will be augmented by a flat-rate "replacement grant" for slaughtered reactors. The replacement grants will take the form of a headage payment which, judging by the speech he made in Committee, will commend itself to the hon. Member for Edinburgh, West (Mr. Stodart). In this way we shall retain the principle of putting a premium on the healthy animals in the herd, while offering help towards replacing reactors that are compulsorily slaughtered.

We still have some way to go in our discussions with the industry, more particularly on the arrangements for compulsory eradication, but I have been encouraged by the degree of support already accorded to these new initiatives, including the welcome which they have enjoyed from the British Veterinary Association. I have also been fortunate in an assurance of assistance from the chairmen of the milk marketing boards. I hope that the proposals will commend themselves to the House so that the Government can have the necessary enabling powers.

Mr. Timothy Kitson (Richmond, Yorks)

How does the hon. Gentleman arrive at his figure of £5 million expenditure in a full year, as provided in the White Paper? If the figures which his right hon. Friend gave are correct, there are a little under 300,000 cows in the dairy herd which are brucella-free, which could amount to no more than £4 per cow per annum, taking an average of 1,000 gallons per cow. How does he arrive at a figure of £5 million spread over a full year——

Mr. Speaker

Order. These points should be made in debate rather than by intervention.

Mr. Mackie

I am sure that my right hon. Friend will reply to that point when he replies to the debate.

9.45 p.m.

Mr. Stodart

I think that one should express a measure of both congratulation and sympathy for my hon. Friend the Member for Weston-super-Mare (Mr. Wiggin) who, not only in his first year as a Member of the House but in, I think, the very first Committee of which he was a member, succeeded in getting a new Clause into a Bill. Now he will realise perhaps the cruelty of parliamentary proceedings as he is here tonight to watch the Government do their best to get that Clause out again.

I begin by quoting a publication. When we are talking about brucellosis it is important to know what the problem is, and I hope that I shall not exaggerate it. I quote from the publication "World Medicine" dated 23rd September, 1969, which says: Britain is one of the few countries in Western Europe which still has endemic brucellosis. In cows, the "natural" hosts, the disease causes abortion, loss of milk yield, and lowered fertility. In man it can cause anything from a mild transient fever to a chronic and practically incurable infection that can produce a lifetime of misery. Despite the fact that the disease is not notifiable, it is one which I think has a very grave incidence. It is interesting that a good deal of work has been done by the Aberdeen Medical Laboratory in trying to ascertain the widespread nature of the disease. It is significant that of 2,000 samples of blood sent to the laboratory in 1967, no fewer than 600—that is, one in every three—showed infection at some time—not necessarily in 1967 but at some time—and three people out of every thousand in the North-East of Scotland are suspected of having brucellosis.

Certainly that makes the estimate of the overt disease being present in one out of every 500 of the population—and that is equivalent to 1,000 cases every year—look perfectly possible. Therefore, it is a disease in a very big way and there are some who, on good and substantial grounds reckon that the true figure is double that which I have just quoted.

The North-East of Scotland is a very well-known livestock rearing area and it may therefore be that the incidence is greater. It certainly is a heavy incidence and it gives credibility to the estimates that 50 per cent. or even 60 per cent., of all veterinary surgeons have been infected by the disease.

Mr. James Davidson (Aberdeenshire, West)

As a Member representing an agricultural constituency in the North-East of Scotland, I feel bound to say that I put a Question to the Minister not long ago asking him to say which areas of the United Kingdom were worst affected, and the North-East of Scotland was not one of them. I hasten to add that I should not like to say which areas of the United Kingdom are worst affected, but the North-East of Scotland is not one of them. If the north-east of Scotland is badly affected, there are other areas of the United Kingdom which are affected a great deal more.

Mr. Stodart

That is an extremely helpful observation to my case. But the disease is a good deal more serious than many people suppose. What certainly is true is that possibly more work has been done in Aberdeen on this disease than anywhere else, and obviously the work there has been drawn from the surrounding countryside and therefore perhaps more has been published from that area than from any other.

So far as the disease in our cattle stocks is concerned, as opposed to the human infection, brucellosis is the only disease of cattle, other than cystitis, which is of major economic significance and which is prevalent in the United Kingdom at the moment. The position varies very much from district to district—and this probably ties up with what the hon. Member for Aberdeenshire, West has just said. I understand that in Scotland as a whole 1,000 herds are fully accredited, that 12½ per cent. of the herds in the Aberdeen Milk Marketing Board area are fully accredited, that 20 per cent. in the north of Scotland area are fully accredited, and that 30 per cent. in the County of Ayrshire are fully accredited. Therefore, there are different concentrations of the disease in different parts of the country.

Eradication or accreditation is taking place at the rate of about 3 per cent. per annum. I understand, and as my hon. Friend the Member for Leominster (Sir Clive Bossom) observed in Committee, that this, on a quite faultless calculation, would mean that, unless the rate was stepped up, it would take some 30 years to eliminate the disease altogether. One has to remember also that the 3 per cent. has been the pace while we have been dealing with cleaner herds and that a reduction in the pace becomes almost inevitable when we start on the more infected herds.

Thus, we now have this new Clause from the Government. One good point in it is that subsection (3) allows for area eradication to he made by order. Although I am not quite clear about it from the hon. Gentleman's speech, I understand that the payments to be made, by the Ministry in England and Wales and the Scottish Office north of the Border in the form of production grants for beef cows, and by the Milk Marketing Boards for dairy cows, are clear enough and are written into subsections (1) and (2).

I understood the hon. Gentleman to say that these subsections or some other provisions in the Clause allow for payment of compensation. If that is so, I have not yet stumbled upon that provision. But, from the White Paper, we know that the incentives are to be 37s. 6d. for a beef cow and 1¼ d. per gallon for milk. What has been the basis of this calculation? If one takes the average yield of a milk cow——

Mr. Speaker

Order. Is the hon. Gentleman drifting into the farm price review? We are debating brucellosis.

Mr. Stodart

By no stretch of the imagination, Mr. Speaker. The bonus payments are for the eradication of brucellosis. The average milk yield of a cow in the United Kingdom is about 800 gallons annually. That, at 1¼d. a gallon, will, by my calculation, give each dairy cow an incentive of 83s. 4d. The beef cow gets 37s. 6d. Why is there this very emphatic favouring of the dairy cow as against the beef cow so far as the clearing out of brucellosis is concerned, although it is a disease which, I imagine, is found in both?

Obstacles have always been put up against those of us who have been calling for a determined campaign to eradicate the disease. Three reasons are given—first, the shortage of veterinary staff, secondly, the cost, and thirdly, the numbers of clean replacements which are available. Not everybody, even in the veterinary world, would accept the first objection that there is not the veterinary staff available to mount a really determined campaign.

The second obstacle, that of cost, is one which has been the subject of a great deal of controversy. The estimate of the Ministry has been put at between £40 million and £50 million and yet—and this was a point raised with the Parliamentary Secretary in Committee upstairs and I believe he gave no reply, nor did he even make any reference to it—the Ulster achievement in eradication, if applied pro rata in this country would cost not £40 million or £50 million but £10 million. This apparent anomaly is something we would certainly wish to have explained to us in more detail tonight.

The right hon. Gentleman, however, has always held very strongly to the third obstacle, the number of replacements available if we were to go full steam ahead. Frankly, this perhaps is why the new Clause strikes me as lacking any real air of determination to get rid of this disease and to tackle it as a really major scourge; because we must realise that the risks to infection are greater. I believe they will tend to get greater than they have been previously because herds are getting larger as each year passes and they are now tending much more to be kept loose in yards rather than tied up in barns. The longer that eradication is delayed, the greater is the risk to the herds that are at this moment clean.

Reactors have to be kept off the market and I am certain that this can be done only if compensation is paid. I know that the right hon. Gentleman has said, and everybody has agreed with him, that we all deplore the wilful selling of reactors to other breeders. But let us not blind our eyes to the fact that that does happen. It should not happen but it does, and I am quite certain that it will continue to happen until compensation is paid. There must be penalties for those who offend against regulations of this kind. I suggested upstairs that, once compensation is paid, anyone who sells—and I suppose the words as we have heard them this afternoon are "knowingly or recklessly"—a reactor ought to have his milk licence removed. One ought to get very tough with such people; and any dealer who knowingly or recklessly trades in animals that he knows to be reactors ought to be prosecuted and handled very roughly. The Clause lacks reality because of the items that are left out, such as the question of compensation. It is essential for a successful policy——

It being Ten o'clock, the debate stood adjourned.

Ordered, That the proceedings on the Agriculture Bill be entered upon and proceeded with at this day's Sitting at any hour, though opposed.—[Mr. Cledwyn Hughes.]

Question again proposed, That the Clause be read a Second time.

Mr. Stodart

The Farmers Weekly of 13th March last carried a report saying: An all-party committee of the House of Lords has been set up to press the Government to introduce a slaughter and compensation scheme for eradicating brucellosis. One noble Lord, the report said, had said that it was hard to determine the cost of such a scheme, but, based on Northern Ireland's work, a slaughter and compensation policy could cost £9 million.

The immediate past president of the Ayrshire Cattle Society, Mr. Robin Forrest, said, as reported in the Journal of the Scottish N.F.U.: We may not be in a position financially to afford a full-scale eradication policy, but a much more positive approach to the prob- lem, at least in our dairy herds, is overdue. Financial incentives, wisely devised, and spread over some years, accompanied by action against the irresponsible, could do much. The Minister will recall some words that were cruelly written about him by the Chairman of the Scottish Milk Marketing Board, who does not pull his punches. In a newspaper report of December, 1968, a headline read: Kill infective cattle, say Milk Boards. Mr. William Young strongly advocated the slaughtering of reactors and the payment of compensation along the lines of a scheme which, I gather, he put to the Scottish Office. It would be interesting to know what reaction came from Government Departments to that scheme.

Section 7 of the Diseases of Animals Act, 1950—which we say should apply in any brucellosis campaign—makes it an offence for anyone to make a false statement in order to get compensation and an offence to obstruct anyone who wants to inspect animals suspected of having the disease.

It surprises me that there is nothing in the new Clause dealing with the subject of offences against those who try to take advantage, be it of incentives or compensation, and this should have been included in this proposal, which, as drafted, lacks bite. Unless there is compensation and unless offences are dealt with, we cannot believe that the Government are serious in this matter.

Mr. Scott-Hopkins

My hon. Friend the Member for Edinburgh, West (Mr. Stodart) has covered the main point which I had intended to make. I wish, at the outset, to make it clear that I welcome any attempt by the Government, no matter how inadequate, to eradicate brucellosis or even to start on the process of eradication.

It seems that the beginning of subsection (1) of the new Clause could cater for a future scheme for giving compensation, and that the latter part could allow for additional incentives to be given. Subsection (2) concerns the dairy side, and, in this connection, last week-end I discussed these proposals, along with the Price Review, with farmers in Derbyshire, where there is a fair amount of brucellosis. Whether it is greater or less than the amount mentioned by my hon. Friend the Member for Edinburgh, West I do not know. Farmers with accredited herds have, I was told, received a document circulated by the Ministry telling them what action they should take. This is very worrying.

Although these incentives in the Price Review White Paper and embodied in this new Clause are to encourage farmers to have their herds accredited, what the Ministry has put forward is a disincentive. In the document which has come from the Ministry it appears that those who have accredited herds have a choice. They can go into the new scheme when it is made next month and thereby get bonus payments for beef or dairy cattle. Assuming it is for dairy cattle they will have to opt out and get no compensation for break-downs in their herds. Slaughter has to take place following break-downs on the third test. If they opt out they are encouraged by the Ministry to insure their herd.

The rough figures which the Minister gave for an 85-cow milking herd showed an increase of about £250 per year, yet the actual premium that would have to be paid to the N.F.U. insurance scheme is about £340 or £360. Therefore they would be worse off. In addition, they would suffer diminution and the actual cost of the animal slaughtered and the animals bought for replacement. The incentive in the choice facing those with accredited herds is not sufficient and will not have the desired effect.

Mr. John M. Temple (City of Chester)

My hon. Friend has postulated an insurance premium. Was it on the basis of a commercial herd or a pedigree herd?

Mr. Scott-Hopkins

It was on the basis of a commercial herd. Presumably on the basis of a pedigree herd the premium would be higher. The incentive would be greater to stay in the existing scheme whereby, if there should be a break-down in the herd, compensation would be paid for the slaughter of reactors.

This is not the right way to go about the matter. It is the wrong choice. The only way to effect an increase in the number of accredited herds or in eradication of brucellosis must be to bring in a compensation factor under lines 1–4 of subsection (1) of the new Clause. Those lines give the Minister power to bring in compensation for slaughtered animals in herds which are at the moment accredited, be they pedigree or commercial herds.

I hope the Minister will look at this to see whether it can be done. Whether it should happen in particular areas or on a broader basis, I leave to the right hon. Gentleman and his advisers to say, I believe that without this compensation factor, which the Minister could bring under these lines, he will not get the incentive scheme working properly. Indeed, many of my farmers with accredited herds who came to see me on Saturday were definite in their decision that when the choice came they would not opt for the new scheme. This would be a great pity.

I welcome the fact that the Government are starting something, but, as my hon. Friend the Member for Edinburgh, West said, it is no good doing it unless it is done properly. That is very important. I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will bear it in mind when he answers the debate.

Many factors and issues are involved. There are the questions whether we should start in a small area and whether there is a sufficient pool of accredited herds now in existence. I am told that in my own county of Derbyshire there are 100 accredited herds. I imagine that the position is different in other counties. Perhaps the Minister agrees that there is the beginning of the possibility of the introduction of a compulsory eradication scheme in several areas. This is something that he looked at very carefully. If the right hon. Gentleman wishes the incentive scheme to work, he must introduce compensation for those herds which are accredited now. If he does not, I do not believe that the incentive scheme will get off the ground for either the dairy or the beef herd.

I welcome the introduction of the scheme by the Minister. Although it is inadequate, it is a move in the right direction.

Mr. Daniel Awdry (Chippenham)

During the period before the Price Review I had a number of meetings with farmers and vets in my constituency, and I was immensely impressed by their deep anxiety over the whole question of brucellosis. Many farmers in my part of the world feel utterly frustrated and depressed about it, and accuse the Government and Parliament generally of being far too complacent about the whole matter. One vet, who has written to me several times, tells me that he and his family have had the disease three times. It is a horrible disease for human beings to get.

The disease is rampant in the South-West. I have no exact figures for my part of Wiltshire. Farmers are, naturally, reluctant to make public the details of their misfortunes. But I know several farmers who live near me who have the disease in their farms, and I realise the appalling effect it has on their herds. Brucellosis should be made a notifiable disease. I have raised that point in correspondence with the Minister, and I am not at all convinced by the answer being given. I do not want to go into all the arguments now, but it is no less than common sense that brucellosis should be included among notifiable diseases without delay. That would at least confirm that Parliament regards the matter as urgent and serious.

As I have said, I have no statistics for my constituency, but I gather that more than one in 10—possibly two in 10—of all animals in the country are affected by the disease, so we have a gigantic problem. The only proper solution is eradication. The Government are right to pursue that course, but it must proceed on a regional basis. My farmers in Wiltshire are very anxious, because they fear that their region may not be one of the priority regions. I hope that the Minister can give some reassurance to farmers in Wiltshire when he replies.

If we are to have a policy of slaughter, there must also be a policy of proper compensation. It is nothing less than simple equity, and, therefore, I hope that the Amendment will be supported in the Lobby.

10.15 p.m.

Mr. Alick Buchanan-Smith (North Angus and Mearns)

As the owner of a herd that has gone through the accreditation scheme, I would first pay tribute to the work of the animal health officers in Scotland in trying to carry forward the present scheme. I have been tremendously impressed, not only by the interest and hard work of those who have been responsible for it, but by their co-operation and helpfulness towards farmers who have tried to enter the scheme.

Secondly, I would support what was said by the hon. Member for Aberdeenshire, West (Mr. James Davidson) in his intervention, that in the North-East of Scotland the incidence of the disease is only as great as the anxiety of those in that area to get it clear. The fact that figures are often quoted for that area is by no means indicative that the disease is worse in that area than in other areas. It is just that there is a far greater consciousness about the disease on the part of the public health and veterinary opinion in that area.

I should like to make four points. First, I welcome very much the introduction of the carrot rather than the stick in future plans of eradication. I am convinced that this is far more likely to progress the scheme than any compulsion. I shall not go into the question whether the carrot is adequate, but I support the arguments which have been put forward from this side of the House.

Secondly, I support the need for area eradication. This will provide the greatest safeguard if the scheme is to go forward as quickly as possible. There is public money involved in the scheme, and it must also be remembered that large sums of private money are put into the scheme by individual farmers.

The best preservation a farmer can have is to know that in the herds around him the disease has been eradicated. Even though a farmer may take every possible precaution, he can do nothing about a fox or a dog or somebody walking around and bringing infection on to his land from a neighbouring farm. Years of work and a great deal of money can be wasted in one moment, unless that farmer is surrounded by a whole area in which brucellosis has been eradicated.

My third point is to hope that the Minister will be satisfied about sources of replacement stock. Last summer I went to Ulster to obtain brucellosis-free stock. Even though the stock came from herds in which the disease had been eradicated, those animals still had to be treated and had to undergo blood tests and procedures in the same way as if they were coming from herds which had not been freed from brucellosis.

While I was in Ulster I was much impressed by the way in which this scheme had progressed. I hope that we shall treat the sources of stock from Ulster as being generally accredited as though they were being brought from other accredited farms within the mainland of Great Britain. If we are to have these sources of replacement and to use them properly, we must make sure that the procedures involved in getting brucellosis-free stock do not clog up the whole machinery.

I met the Ministry's veterinary staff in Ulster and was greatly impressed not only by the work they did and by their experience in eradication, but also by the livestock salesmen and others in Ulster in their helpful attitude towards us and the rest of the United Kingdom in our desire to get such stock.

My last point is to hope that eradication will go forward and that the Minister in England and Wales and the Secretary of State in Scotland will make the public more aware of what is being done. The disease of brucellosis has a strong public health connotation. Because of the way in which it is treated in the Press, on television and on the radio we in agriculture are often given a bad name. There was a television programme on 26th January in which brucellosis was dealt with. I challenged the chairman of the B.B.C. about the way in which the programme was dealt with since there was an inference that milk from accredited herds could not necessarily be accepted as being free of brucellosis.

In a letter to me the chairman said that it was not possible that the information available to the production team would be such that raw milk from accredited herds could be guaranteed brucellosis-free. What a damnation that is of any official brucellosis eradication scheme, unless the Ministry and other official bodies can say that milk from accredited brucellosis-free herds is clean milk. I ask the Minister to publicise the scheme in the farming community and in the rest of the country amongst milk consumers, and to give a guarantee that fresh milk from brucellosis-free herds it is as good as, if not better than, pastuerised milk.

Mr. Hawkins

When I was about 16, I remember suffering from this disease for about six months, and it was very unpleasant. This is a serious matter not only for human beings but for our herds, and it will be serious when we enter the Common Market and, I hope sell cattle to the Continent because many continental countries are free from brucellosis. Ireland has successfully carried out a scheme, and the Conservative Government, before the 1964 election, were ready to start an eradication scheme in Scotland. There has been a scandalous delay in introducing a scheme. There has been a voluntary scheme and now we have another scheme which is better than the last one, but we are still lagging behind. I have a lot to do with markets and the sale of cattle and I am convinced that an area scheme, with compulsory slaughter and full compensation is the only way to eradicate the disease within a reasonable time.

After the foot-and-mouth epidemic, when many people on the Welsh border, in Shropshire and elsewhere, wanted to replenish herds, they found that cattle which had probably failed the test were being passed across into this area, and the incidence of the disease in this area grew rapidly. My hon. Friend the Member for Richmond, Yorks (Mr. Kitson) has for years been pressing this question of brucellosis. The Government cannot say that they have not been warned, and that they have not been told that something further should be done.

On a previous Clause in which the Government were defeated in Committee, the Minister referred to the defeat as a snap vote, but Clause 100, which Amendment No. 54 will destroy, was inserted at about 11.45 a.m. I do not put that down to the slackness of hon. Members opposite, or to their appetite for more congenial business, but hon. Gentlemen who were absent were in favour of the new Clause, and I had hoped that some of them would have come forward to say so tonight.

May I ask about the payments which will be made under the Clause as outlined in the White Paper?

I understand that 37s. 6d. is to be paid for a beef cow and that the payment for a dairy cow will work out at about £5. Some of my farming friends have said that this seemed to be unbalanced and that the beef herds would come off much worse. I hope that the Minister will comment on this. I want to be clear whether all the followers in, say, the beef herd will receive a payment, even calf heifers. Or is it only to the heifer when she has actually calved and become a cow?

If all the followers are to receive this headage payment it makes things more even for the beef herd as against the dairy herd. If the Minister had put a little bit more money into this scheme and started one area eradication scheme with compulsory slaughter and full compensation, East Anglia would have been an easy area to begin with. I do not say that it is the worst area; it is probably the best area, with the lowest amount of brucellosis. Herds are far more dispersed, the cow population is not nearly so great in the Eastern Counties and this would have been an easy area, with small compensation. It would have been a start to encourage the whole scheme. I sincerely hope that the Minister will think about this again over the next 12 months and see whether he can start something which will put an end to this horrible disease once and for all within the next five years.

Sir Robert Grant-Ferris (Nantwich)

We ought to get this matter into perspective. I am sure that the Minister has fought our battle for us in the terms which we are now fighting it with him. The trouble is that Cabinet responsibility is such that he has to speak with the voice of the Treasury and the Government. I am sure that he has fought for exactly the sort of things that we are asking him now. It should be clearly understood that, whatever he says, in his heart he knows that what hon. Members are asking for is the right thing. We have eradicated tuberculosis and we did that with a policy of proper incentives to milk producers. I was a milk producer at the time and we received something like 4d. a gallon. We got rid of that disease.

We are only fiddling with this job now. The House must understand that it is because of Cabinet responsibility that we are up against a parsimonious Treasury which does not understand what an essential matter this is, vital to the health of the country. The arguments put forward tonight should be put into force without delay.

Would the Minister say a word about the successful conversations which he and his Department have had with auctioneers with regard to the housing of brucella-free cattle at yards, and other matters which are likely to be brought into legal force in an Order expected to be brought in about 1st June?

Mr. Hazell

I congratulate my right hon. Friend on making funds available for the eradication of brucellosis. The financial inducements set out in the Price Review will be helpful. I agree with the hon. Member for Norfolk, South-West (Mr. Hawkins) that Norfolk is one of the best areas for experimentation in the eradication of this disease, for the reasons that he mentioned. The number of cow herds in the area is relatively small in relation to the rest of the country. It is also an area remote from the rest of the country. These two factors combined suggest that Norfolk would be a first-class area for the development of a pilot scheme.

I was surprised to hear the hon. Gentleman suggest that more funds should be made available than my right hon. Friend has provided in the Price Review. I thought that the Opposition were against public money being spent on agriculture. I have tried to understand their policy, though it is difficult to follow, and it seems to point to the view that British agriculture should depend almost entirely on its own resources. For hon. Gentlemen opposite to ask for more money than that which is provided for in the Price Review, however commendable the purpose might be, is to contradict their general argument about support for agriculture as a whole——

Mr. Peter Mills rose——

10.30 p.m.

Mr. Hazell

No, I will not give way. I intend to make only a few brief remarks. I congratulate my right hon. Friend on making provision in the Price Review as the first step towards the eradication of a disease about which everyone engaged in agriculture is concerned and wants to see removed as soon as possible. I hope that the industry will take advantage of the opportunities now afforded by the additional funds being made available for the purpose, and that we may see a pilot scheme started in Norfolk which will spread throughout the country and remove the disease for ever, as tuberculosis was removed a few years ago.

Mr. Peter Mills

I must answer the hon. Gentleman's accusation. He is extremely shortsighted. He does not realise that, by spending a little, one can gain a lot of money, and the amount which would be gained through an eradication scheme in terms of extra calves and milk would be great. A Tory Government would spend a bit of money in order to get a lot more in return.

Mr. Hazell

But that is not contained in the official policy of the Opposition, whereas my right hon. Friend is making definite allowances for the purpose of eradicating the disease.

Mr. Mills

I was prepared to give way, though the hon. Gentleman refused to give way to me. But I think that I have made my point. It is clear that an investment in an eradication scheme by whatever Government are in power will produce first-class results. The hon.

Gentleman failed to make that point, and it is worth making.

The disease is a very serious one. It is serious to agriculture and to the consumer, and it is very widespread. My hon. Friend the Member for Edinburgh, West (Mr. Stodart) is right when he says that it is far more widespread than the Government or any other body are prepared to admit. The more one studies it, the more one realises the problems. The veterinary profession knows only too well how difficult it is to eradicate the disease.

The Minister referred to the Clause providing a bonus, but subsection (4) says that the payments shall be treated as production grants …". I think that "production grant" is a better term than "bonus". "Production" implies someone doing something about it, rather than receiving a gift or bonus.

I await with interest the details of the scheme which have been promised. I hope that they come forward fairly soon, so that we can clear up many people's fears and explain to the agricultural community what the Government intend to do. I therefore hope that we shall have an assurance from the Minister that these details will be given as quickly as possible so that we can make a careful study of the scheme and put it into operation.

I believe that much could be learned from the tuberculosis eradication scheme. On the whole, that scheme worked very well. If we make the progress with this scheme that we made with the tuberculosis scheme it will be of great benefit to agriculture and to the consumer. After the steps which have been taken on a voluntary basis, it will be difficult to continue eradication with the hard core of farms which remain unless we use slightly tougher measures. The new Clause lacks punch. I believe that more could be done, though I welcome the steps that the Minister is taking.

I believe that compensation is vital. We have seen with other diseases—for example, swine fever—that, as soon as compensation is paid to farmers, they seem to disappear overnight. I am not saying that that would happen with brucellosis. But it is extraordinary how quickly swine fever cleared up. I am sure that compensation helped considerably.

We have not heard anything tonight about branding of reactors. I know that this is a difficult subject, but we must mark or brand these animals. Otherwise, they may find their way back into the open market. I know the difficulties only too well, but I think that some way could be found to ensure that these animals were branded.

I welcome subsection (3) which refers to dealing with this matter on an area basis. I am sure that this is the right way to start. It is important to get one area cleaned up as a source of replacement for other areas.

I notice that the Milk Marketing Board will have to carry out the scheme in its application to dairy herds. Will the Milk Marketing Board be compensated for the costs that accrue through the scheme? Perhaps the Minister will be able to answer that when he winds up the debate. It will obviously be paid by the Government, because line 16 states that payments shall be paid to the board". Will the board also be paid for collecting it, or is this part of the burden which it will have to bear? How will it be paid? Will it be paid as a production grant clearly shown on the milk cheque? I think that that would be the best way of doing it.

I welcome any step towards the eradication of this beastly disease. I hope that in the not-too-distant future, with an energetic Government working on it, we shall see the complete eradication of this disease which is doing so much harm to the dairy industry and to quite a few consumers.

Mr. James Davidson

I sometimes feel that this side of the House is a little prone to exaggeration, but on this subject there has been none. I felt in complete accord with the hon. Member for Edinburgh, West (Mr. Stodart) in what he said and in the steps which he recommended.

At a party in my constituency I asked the oldest British Legionnaire present to what he attributed his long health and vitality. He replied, "Man, I have never touched a drop of milk since the day I was weaned." Despite that, I stress the point made twice already that, although a great deal of research has been done into brucellosis in the North-East of Scotland, that area is no worse than most other areas of the United Kingdom. The reply to the Question which I put to the Minister not long ago supports the point made by the hon. Gentleman that East Anglia is perhaps the area of the United Kingdom which is most clear of the disease. I shall not mention the worst area, but it is not Scotland. The North-East is probably about average. I welcome any legislation which gives enabling powers to tackle this disease.

Mr. Kitson

The hon. Gentleman is suggesting that he knows the best and worst areas for this disease. As there has not been a survey for a number of years on a herd to herd basis, can the hon. Gentleman explain how he has those figures?

Mr. Davidson

All I can say is that I put down a Question and received a reply, which was not very specific, so perhaps the hon. Gentleman had better direct his question to the Minister rather than to me.

Mr. Kitson rose——

Mr. Davidson

I have answered the hon. Gentleman's question. It is not a riddle. If he reads HANSARD he will see the reply which I received, and then he will know as much about it as I do.

One or two suggestions have been made about how this problem might have been tackled with a little more energy and urgency. I was not a little surprised to hear from the Conservatives a suggestion that reactors should be branded. The cold branding of reactors might be one way of ensuring that reactors to brucellosis are not bought inadvertently in the market, which is what is happening at the moment.

Perhaps I might tell the House about a typical case which came to my notice the other day. A neighbouring farmer rang me up. He had sold a good dairy bull, which was a reactor, to the Farrow Cow Ring in Aberdeen, where there are no holds barred, and no guarantees, and anybody who buys a beast there knows that he is getting one that has something wrong with it. The bull was bought by a dealer, who resold it for a great deal more than he paid to the farmer, who had intended it to go for slaughter. The farmer was surprised when he was rung up by the man who had bought the bull and asked for a licence for it. He asked me what he should do about it. My advice was not to pass on the licence under any circumstances. What he finally did was up to him. I did not ascertain that.

The incentives offered through the Price Review are most welcome in the initiation of a voluntary scheme. I prefer the Clause in the Bill to the new Clause, with one exception, and I take the point made by the Joint Parliamentary Secretary. If there is 100 per cent. compensation, this will make it profitable for people to buy up reactors, and this is the wrong sort of incentive. I am all for eradication and the payment of compensation, but 100 per cent. compensation is totally unrealistic.

What will happen in the interim period until this eradication and compensation scheme gets going on an area basis? What will happen to the reactors that are thrown out if there is no way in which other farmers can recognise them? Surely there should be a prohibition on the sale of reactors except for slaughter? Or at least they should be marked in some way so that those who purchase them can recognise them.

Any steps which forward the fight to eradicate this dangerous disease are most welcome, but the Clause in the Bill is preferable to the new Clause.

Sir David Renton (Huntingdonshire)

Before the hon. Gentleman sits down——

Mr. Davidson

I have sat down.

Sir D. Renton

In view of what the hon. Gentleman said about attempting to eradicate the disease, would he agree that an incentive to reporting the disease in any case is the best hope of eradication? Would he not agree that the best incentive to reporting is full compensation?

10.45 p.m.

Mr. Wiggin

I thank my hon. Friend the Member for Edinburgh, West (Mr. Stodart) for his kind remarks. It has been an interesting experience for me to propose Clause 100. There is no truth in the rumour that my friends are now referring to me as "Bruce". But the credit for this move on this side of the House must go to my hon. Friend the Member for Richmond, Yorks (Mr. Kitson) who has pursued this matter for many years. It was due to his assiduous attention to duty that we were able to pursue this matter in Committee, and to have Clause 100 added to the Bill. I am glad that the Government have seen fit to take the hint and have introduced their own Clause, although the criticisms levelled at Clause 100 are not entirely valid.

Nothing in the new Clause except the starting date could not have been adequately dealt with by our Clause. The then Minister of Agriculture, now Leader of the House, said in July, 1966, in referring to a scheme to eradicate brucellosis, that the Government intended to start "as soon as possible". That phrase has meant 3¾ years, which is not untypical of the way in which the Government attend to matters of this urgency.

I dealt at length in Committee with the iniquities and difficulties of this disease. I do not need to go into details: the large attendance at this debate shows how well informed my hon. Friends are on the subject. But, beside the effect on animals, nearly 1,000 human beings a year, according to the British Medical Journal, are infected with brucellosis. One can only hope that the Government have been influenced by humanitarian considerations as well.

I welcome the proposal to increase the price for milk from brucella-free herds. I said in Committee: The payment of a bonus on milk from brucella-tree herds is an obvious inducement and, indeed, may well become part of any scheme, as it did with tuberculosis."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, Standing Committee B; 10th March, 1970, c. 1098]. Many of my farmer friends have asked how much the grant will bring. The answer seems to be about £4 or £5. If full compensation is not to be paid, even now it will be costly for any dairy farmer to eradicate the disease, particularly if it is at the 20 or 30 per cent. level which is freely eradicated throughout the country. For those with beef herds, the situation will be much worse.

One can only press the Minister to reconsider this figure as soon as possible, but his decision not to pay 100 per cent. compensation, which is another thing that they have taken out of the Clause, seems strange. The argument that people can buy reactors and sell them at a profit surely holds water only if the Ministry's valuers are not up to their job. When foot-and-mouth disease was raging in my area, the Ministry was very hot on any valuer who paid a price even slightly above market value for cows being slaughtered. It is amazing to suggest that a profitable operation could be conducted in reactors.

This will be a pretty complicated business. I hope that the Government, in any scheme they introduce, will take steps to stop cattle which have been aborted in the previous two or three months, are excreting and highly infectious, from being placed in any place or market. The hon. Member for Aberdeenshire, West (Mr. James Davidson) referred to a market in Scotland. It is not my experience of well conducted cattle auctions in England that things are quite as haphazard as he would make out.

Mr. James Davidson rose——

Mr. Wiggin

I will just finish. Throughout the whole of this Bill, on which we have slogged for many months, I cannot recall any instance of an Opposition suggestion being taken up by the Government, except possibly in relation to this new Clause. Even here, it seems that they have missed out two or three most important features. I hope that we shall be able to carry the sub-Amendments tonight.

Mr. John Nott (St. Ives)

I believe that I have in my constituency the very first area in the United Kingdom which was declared brucellosis-free—the Isles of Scilly, which is noted for many admirable things. For this reason, and because my constituency has very intensive dairy production, I want to take up a little time on this subject, although I have not the practical knowledge of the subject that is displayed by my hon. Friend the Member for Torrington (Mr. Peter Mills). However, a member of my family who lives in his constituency in Devonshire contracted the disease, and I know that it is most dangerous and distressing, not only for those who contract it but for the farmers who find it on their farms.

I want to convey to the House some of the comments made to me during the weekend in my constituency following the Price Review. I am not in a position to know whether my farmers' reactions are fair in every respect, but their claim is that the new 1¼d. per gallon for brucellosis-free herds is likely to be less of an incentive to farmers to bring new herds into this condition than the old system. My farmers are saying this widely. They say that the old arrangement, whereby they had accredited herds and full compensation, was better than what is now proposed. They say that they do not think that anyone will find it worth while to get his herd accredited when he will get no compensation—or at least, no compensation figure has yet been announced—for reactors.

I understand that the Minister is not announcing tonight what the compensation is to be under the new scheme. But it is what farmers want to know. They say that, when the old T.B. scheme came in years ago, there was 4d. a gallon and 75 per cent. compensation for reactors. The feeling is that, until a full compensation figure is available, the new scheme will not provide the incentive necessary to eradicate this disease. There is great concern in the West Country about brucellosis and there seems to be the feeling that 1¼d. per gallon on milk will be inadequate to bring many more herds into a brucellosis-free category when no announcement has been made of what the compensation figure is to be. I repeat what my farmers have told me. They say they must know what the compensation figure is to be and hope that it will be full compensation and that such a scheme will be introduced soon.

Mr. Hooson

Has the Ministry estimated how long it will take to eradicate brucellosis under this scheme? I imagine that before a Department introduces a scheme of this kind, by Amendment, it makes an estimate, based on the figures available to it, of how long the task will take.

We are discussing a national problem. I am convinced that in parts of the country the majority of cows in auction marts are carriers of brucellosis. This was illustrated to me by a story I heard from a veterinary surgeon last week. A hill farmer had wistfully said, "That cow over there is the only sound one in the herd. She brought her calf properly while the rest aborted, and she is the only one I have bought in the last five years". The point of the story is that that cow was the carrier. She had aborted previously and did not abort on the last occasion, but she had carried the disease to the whole herd.

Many farmers could repeat that story, perhaps not to the same degree. There was brucellosis in my herd some years ago, and it was carried by a cow that I had obtained from outside. Unfortunately, few farmers will admit to having, or having had, the disease in their herds. The problem facing the country is much greater than anybody will admit publicly, and that includes the Minister. It is important, therefore, to know how long the Ministry estimates it will take to eradicate brucellosis under this scheme.

From the point of view of my area, I assure the right hon. Gentleman that, certainly for hill farmers, the incentive of 37s. 6d. per cow for a brucellosis-free beef herd is not a sufficient incentive. At that money, a farmer with a herd of, say, 50 cows will get about £93, which is not the price of one cow. If farmers are to have brucellosis-free herds, they need a greater incentive.

The only real eradication method is to go for an area eradication scheme, with adequate compensation, thereby clearing the disease area by area. There is no other way but for the Ministry to get tough with farmers over this.

Mr. Kitson

I will not detain the House, since in the last six years I have said virtually everything to hon. Members about brucellosis that could be said, except that I am extremely disappointed with the right hon. Gentleman's attitude in rejecting one Clause and replacing it with the proposed new Clause.

Only six days before the Price Review I said in Committee upstairs: Many of us think that if there is not to be a compulsory slaughter system, and if the Government do not intend to accept the Clause, the Government may have other things in mind. What could they do? I suppose that there is the possibility of giving a premium payment for brucella-free milk".—[OFFICIAL REPORT, Standing Committee B, 12th March, 1970; c. 1109–10.] I was delighted to see that, within six days of making that statement, the right hon. Gentleman acted on my suggestion.

How much of the £5 million incentive will go to Northern Ireland? The eradication scheme in Ulster is nearly complete. If a large percentage of this premium is to be paid to Northern Ireland, what percentage will that be of the total figure and how has the right hon. Gentleman arrived at the sum of £5 million for a full year? If there are only 300,000 brucella-free or accredited dairy cows in the country producing about 800 gallons of milk each, how will the cost be £5 million a year? I hope that the Minister will explain.

We on this side are extremely disappointed that the new Clause will not bring forward the brucellosis eradication scheme as quickly as we would like, but I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will continue to press for area eradication, and that we shall have a scheme within the next year.

11.0 p.m.

Mr. Godber

We have had a very interesting and constructive debate. We are accustomed in agricultural debates to having a very scant attendance on the other side of the House, but I am surprised that when we are considering a Clause which deals not only with agricultural matters but the health of the nation hon. Members opposite have not shown greater interest. However, the discussion has shown a unanimity of view which I hope will be of some encouragement to the Minister to do better than he now proposes.

My hon. Friend the Member for Weston-super-Mare (Mr. Wiggin) moved in Committee a new Clause on the subject which, on a Division, was added to the Bill. We thought it a very good Clause for the eradication of brucellosis. I also pay tribute to my hon. Friend the Member for Richmond, Yorks. (Mr. Kitson), who for more than six years has consistently campaigned for action. There has been a good deal of pressure. We all know that the previous Minister of Agriculture claimed, when himself in Opposition, that he would do a lot in this direction, but it has been left to his successor to take action. We are glad that he has done so.

Does the Clause enable the right hon. Gentleman to provide, if he is so minded, not only for area eradication but for full compensation for the slaughter or re- actors? Subsection (1) could possibly be interpreted as giving him this power, but the House would like a clear assurance that this is the case.

As to the Parliamentary Secretary's arguments about compensation—and rather odd arguments some of us found them—we strongly recommend acceptance of our Amendment (h), which faces the problem of compensation in such a way as not to provide a specific inducement for the sort of nefarious conduct of which the hon. Gentleman spoke, but does provide sufficient compensation to bring about the results we all want to see.

We do not think that this new Clause is so good as our own, but it marks some move towards a measure on which there seems to be complete unanimity of view. The point that rightly worries my hon. Friends relates to what is to happen to reactors in the absence of compensation payment. Will the Minister face this problem? If he does not, there is the danger of spreading reactors more widely. He should also decide the question of marking reactors or of forbidding their sale except for slaughter, if he is not prepared to go to the extent of full compensation.

The real nub of the problem is when we are to get a start on area eradication. The Minister, I understand, has said that he thinks that he could start some time next year, but I think that he could start even this year if he were willing to choose his areas carefully and, perhaps, start on a small scale. The important thing is to make a start on which one could build, so getting a nucleus of herds in an area where one could have every confidence that the disease was being successfully combated.

The case has been made so forcibly by my hon. Friends that I do not think it necessary for me to emphasise any more the various points which have been made. We all believe that eradication of brucellosis should be carried out, but it should carry with it some provision for compensation on slaughter. We should proceed to area eradication at the earliest moment. We hope that the Minister will give an answer which will show his concern and that he will do all he can in the very near future not only to provide for what he has suggested in the Clause, but to go further in the way my hon.

Friends have so forcibly represented to him.

Mr. Cledwyn Hughes

We have had a most important debate on a subject which is of interest not only to the House and the agricultural industry, but to the nation at large. As hon. Members have said, there is growing concern about this disease among members of the public generally. I was impressed by what I thought was a constructive debate in another place on this subject a few weeks ago.

I am grateful to hon. Members who have extended a welcome to our scheme. Some were more grudging than others. I was charged by the hon. Member for Edinburgh, West (Mr. Stodart) with having no sense of determination. It ill becomes him, or any other hon. Member opposite, to level that kind of charge at the Government, because they were remarkable for doing nothing during the whole 13 years when they were in office. Of course, they have far more determination, punch and drive in Opposition than they had in Government.

The hon. Member for Norfolk, South-West (Mr. Hawkins) was affected by this disease when he was 16 years of age. He obviously knows a great deal about it and is much concerned about it. I must protest at the use of the term "scandalous delay" in relation to the Government. We have acted constructively and rightly. I join with the right hon. Member for Grantham (Mr. Godber) in congratulating the hon. Member for Richmond, Yorks (Mr. Kitson) on his persistence in seeking Government action in relation to this disease. I have been looking at his record on this matter in the years before the present Government came to office. I ask the hon. Member for Weston-super-Mare (Mr. Wiggin) to do a little careful homework and research in the Library to see the record of his party when in Government. Then, perhaps, he will be a little less harsh in criticism of the present Government.

We have the Questions which the hon. Member for Richmond, Yorks quite properly put to his hon. Friend the Member for Derbyshire, West (Mr. Scott-Hopkins) when he was Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry. The hon. Member initiated a debate on a Friday on brucellosis and he received no assurances from the agri- cultural Ministers of that time. I have before me the Questions he asked. On 11th May, 1964, the hon. Member asked Mr. Soames a Question on this subject. The last words spoken by the hon. Member on that occasion were: I beg to give notice that, owing to the importance of this matter, I shall raise it on the Adjournment at the earliest opportunity."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 11th May, 1964; Vol. 695, c. 7.] So much for the performance of the Opposition when they had the opportunity to do something about this problem. I am sorry that I have had to say this, because I hoped the House could have dealt with an important matter of public health and animal health in a non-partisan way, but once again I have been disappointed.

Mr. Godber

It is the Minister who has imported the partisan element. Will he now face up to the position that we when in office did a major job in the eradication of tuberculosis? Is he saying that the Ministry vets could have dealt with this at the same time as dealing with tuberculosis? If he is not saying that, the whole of his argument falls.

Mr. Hughes

Of course I agree that the Tory Party when it was in power, the Labour Party when in power, and Mr. Tom Williams in particular, paved the way for the eradication of tuberculosis. This was an effort which was supported in a non-partisan way by hon. Members on this side, as I well remember. But after the eradication of tuberculosis, there were years in which the Tory Government could have done far more to secure the eradication of brucellosis than they did.

Nor would I have brought these facts to the fore in this debate had not so many hon. Members made party political points about this. Credit for action must be given to this Government. One would think that brucellosis did not exist under the Tory Government. We introduced the first scheme for accredited herds. We are introducing the first eradication areas to be set up next year. We have also introduced this effective scheme.

Mr. Kitson

The right hon. Gentleman has quoted criticisms that I made of the Conservative Government and of the Labour Government. I notice that he did not quote these words used by the present Leader of the House when he spoke as Shadow Minister of Agriculture—he has since been Minister of Agriculture—in the brucellosis debate on 19th June, 1964; the right hon. Gentleman said—c. 1724—that the Government must get on with the job of eradicating brucellosis. I hope that the Minister will add that to his list of quotations.

Mr. Hughes

That is precisely what we have done. I was prepared to agree with the right hon. Member for Grantham that good work had been done by the Conservative Government in the eradication of tuberculosis. What no hon. Member opposite has done today is to give credit for the difficulties that the Labour Government have encountered—in particular, the difficulties encountered by my right hon. Friend the present Leader of the House in combating the foot-and-mouth epidemic. Hon. Members opposite would agree with my proposition in private. I am sorry that when on their feet in the House they are not prepared to make the point.

A number of important points have been made by hon. Members. They have asked me to reply to their questions, and I will seek to do so. The hon. Member for Edinburgh, West raised the question of milk/beef incentives. The 1¼d. per gallon is equivalent to something either side of £4 per dairy cow, depending upon yield. The hon. Gentleman asked why only £1 17s. 6d. was paid on the beef animal. This relativity has been carefully calculated to take account of the disease risk considerations. For example, I can name three. First, experience here and in Northern Ireland shows that dairy herds are far more vulnerable to brucellosis. Second, dairy replacements cost more. Third, dairy enterprises lose more income when reactors have to be culled and movement restrictions applied. Our aim is a "neutral" relativity which will not influence milk/beef production or profitability.

The hon. Member raised the question of the cost of eradication. This can be assessed more realistically when we have the experience of next year's compulsory eradication projects. There is no evidence at present that the weight of infection is on the increase. One or two hon. Members raised this quite properly as a matter about which they are apprehensive. In fact, there is no evidence of that kind. All our evidence is that the national incidence of brucellosis remains substantially unchanged. There are some local variations, for example there is somewhat less in East Anglia and more in the West Midlands.

11.15 p.m.

Mr. Stodart

We often hear about the Northern Ireland experience, and it is said that it would not cost us here the figure of £40 million which is cited. Can the right hon. Gentleman explain what causes people to say that it need cost us only £10 million, in the light of the Northern Ireland experience?

Mr. Hughes

I cannot give a precise answer to that question now. We have learned a great deal from the Northern Ireland experience. I shall try to provide an answer before the end of the debate, and I take the point. If necessary, when the Bill comes back to the House, we may be able to say something about it.

I was asked by the hon. Member for Richmond, Yorks about the basis of calculation of the £5 million in the first full year, 1971–72. The calculation takes account of the expected increase in new applications following the introduction of the incentive scheme. For this year, 1970, basing ourselves on herds already accredited and in the immediate pipeline, we estimate that the cost will be just over £3 million.

We had an interesting speech from the hon. Gentleman the Member for Derbyshire, West, who dealt with this problem when he was a Parliamentary Secretary at the Ministry of Agriculture. He asked about insurance. It is difficult to see why private insurance against reinfection need be excessive. We already have nearly 700,000 accredited cattle registered in Great Britain, of which barely 1,000 so far have had to be slaughtered because of reinfection in the herds concerned, and the net compensation paid, after deducting carcase value, has been less than £100,000. We must compare this with the £3 million incentives which we expect to pay this year and the £5 million next year. We should reserve judgment on this until the insurance companies put out their prospectuses. I know that the National Farmers Union is particularly interested in that point.

Next, the hon. Member for Derbyshire, West, asked about compensation.

He will know that hitherto compensation is payable only at the final blood test or on reinfection, and it has been running at about £1¼ million a year. We know also—I repeat it—that the new incentives are worth about £5 million in a full year. Our aim is to attract clean or relatively clean herds which are not yet accredited, estimated at at least 20,000 to 30,000. Owners of more heavily affected herds may decide that they would do better to await compulsory eradication. That may be their view, and I think that it could be right.

The hon. Member for Chippenham (Mr. Awdry) and others raised the question of compulsory area eradication, that is, the question of limited projects. As regards choice of areas—obviously, this has not yet been decided—I can tell hon. Members that preliminary discussions are already in progress with interested organisations, including the National Farmers Union and the British Veterinary Association.

The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Grantham and other hon. Members mentioned the question of timetable, and I agree that this is important. It depends on the size of selected areas. We do not want projects to drag on, for two reasons. First, movement restrictions, when they begin, are bound to be irksome to farmers. We do not, therefore, want a premature start. That, I think, is a strong argument. Second, project experience will be needed for main area eradication programmes which will follow.

The hon. Member for Norfolk, South-West, asked about discussions with interested parties. The problem of marketed reactors is being discussed with interests concerned, including the National Farmers Union and the auctioneers' institute, of which the hon. Gentleman is a member. I cannot pre-judge the outcome tonight.

In the meantime, there are three features of the new incentive scheme for owners who participate. First, all tests will be undertaken free of charge by the agricultural departments. Second, all reactors must go to the abbatoir. Third, payment is by healthy animals, not reactors. This should encourage prudent buying.

We had a constructive short speech by the hon. Member for North Angus and Mearns (Mr. Buchanan-Smith), who talked about Northern Ireland. Arrangements already exist for accepting Northern Ireland stock into the scheme, subject to satisfactory transit arrangement.

The hon. Members for Torrington (Mr. Peter Mills) and Aberdeenshire, West (Mr. James Davidson) asked about branding of reactors. Under the incentive scheme just announced reactors must go to the abbatoir. I note that hon. Members are in favour of the branding of reactors, and I take the point.

The hon. Member for Torrington also raised the question of payments through the Milk Marketing Board. The board's reasonable costs will be met. I would draw attention to lines 15 to 17 of the Clause. The actual payment methods are being discussed with the Board, and I hope that we can quickly reach a satisfactory conclusion.

I want to say a word on the third Amendment——

Sir R. Grant-Ferris

I think that the right hon. Gentleman inadvertently missed me out. I asked a specific question about the agreement his Ministry had come to with auctioneers about the housing of brucella-free cattle at markets, and other attendant questions, and whether he intended to bring in an Order he is likely to introduce at the beginning of June.

Mr. Hughes

Certainly we shall come to a conclusion on the matter. I said we are having discussions with the auctioneers' institutes on these subjects. I shall make an announcement as soon as I can.

I want now to deal with the third Amendment. I do not question its objective, but I hope that hon. Members who tabled it will accept that it would not serve the purpose they intend. Section 7 of the Diseases of Animals Act, 1950 creates two distinct types of offences. The first, under subsection (1), consists of making false statements to obtain money under Sections 3 and 4. The Act applies only to Great Britain, whereas there is provision for payments under the new Clause to extend to Northern Ireland. The new incentive premiums will be payable there. It follows that any machinery for creating offences should equally be capable of application throughout the United Kingdom.

The second type of offence is under subsection (2) and concerns obstructing or impeding inspections connected with schemes for payments under Sections 3 and 4. Here again the starting point is forms of payment which would be applicable only in Great Britain. As I have explained, if it is necessary to create offences here, these, like the payments, should be capable of application throughout the United Kingdom. We shall look at this and if necessary introduce an appropriate provision in another place.

I would therefore commend the proposals in the Clause to the House. The farming industry and the country at large have been very anxious that we should clear the country of this disease as soon as possible. I am sure that that is an objective that all Members on both sides will share, and that it will attract support from outside the House. If there have been criticisms—and sometimes there have been fairly emotional criticisms—I think that they have been made in the heat of the moment and have not been directed at the general desire that we should do all we can to eradicate the disease.

The farming community is concerned to see its stock free from this disease and it looks forward, as we all do, to the day when eradication of yet another major disease is accomplished. It is only

in this way that we can finally remove the real anxieties that are abroad about the associated risks to human health, especially in the rural areas—by drawing in an increasing number of herds which are free or nearly free from this disease. The new incentives will increase the tempo of the campaign to shorten the road to final eradication. We now have new initiatives to combat brucellosis, new opportunities for the industry to grasp, and the prize is total freedom from what is an insidious disease.

I hope that the House will lend its full support and encouragement to this new Clause.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause read a Second time.

Amendment (h) proposed to the proposed Clause: After subsection (1) insert: (b) pay such sum as represents the difference between the price fetched by an infected animal when slaughtered and that which it is estimated by one of his inspectors that the animal would have fetched, if sold in the open market in sound condition.—[Mr. Godber.]

Question put, That the Amendment be made: —

The House divided: Ayes 145, Noes 177.

Division No. 89.] AYES [11.25 p.m.
Alison, Michael (Barkston Ash) Clark, Henry Hamilton, Michael (Salisbury)
Allason, James (Hemel Hempstead) Clegg, Walter Hawkins, Paul
Archer, Jeffrey (Louth) Corfield, F. V. Heald, Rt. Hn. Sir Lionel
Astor, John Crouch, David Higgins, Terence L.
Atkins, Humphrey (M't'n & M'd'n) Crowder, F. P. Hiley, Joseph
Awdry, Daniel Dalkeith, Earl of Hill, J. E. B.
Baker, W. H. K. (Banff) Dance, James Holland, Philip
Balniel, Lord Davidson, James (Aberdeenshire, W.) Hooson, Emlyn
Bennett, Sir Frederic (Torquay) Dean, Paul Hordern, Peter
Bennett, Dr. Reginald (Got. & Fhm) Dodds-Parker, Douglas Hornby, Richard
Bessell, Petar du Cann, Rt. Hn. Edward Howell, David (Guildford)
Biffen, John Eden, Sir John Hunt, John
Biggs-Davison, John Elliot, Capt. Walter (Carshalton) Hutchison, Michael Clark
Black, Sir Cyril Emery, Peter Iremonger, T. L.
Blaker, Peter Errington, Sir Eric Jenkin, Patrick (Woodford)
Boardman, Tom (Leicester, S.W.) Eyre, Reginald Johnson Smith, G. (E. Grinstead)
Body, Richard Farr, John Johnston, Russell (Inverness)
Bossom, Sir Clive Fisher, Nigel Jopling, Michael
Boyd-Carpenter, Rt. Hn. John Fletcher-Cooke, Charles Kershaw, Anthony
Boyle, Rt. Hn. Sir Edward Fortescue, Tim Kimball Marcus
Brinton, Sir Tatton Foster, Sir John King, Evelyn (Dorset, S.)
Bromley-Davenport, Lt.-Col. Sir Walter Fry, Peter King, Tom
Brown, Sir Edward (Bath) Gilmour, Sir John (Fife, E.) Kirk, Peter
Bruce-Gardyne, J. Glover, Sir Douglas Kitson, Timothy
Buchanan-Smith, Alick (Angus, N&M) Glyn, Sir Richard Knight, Mrs. Jill
Buck, Antony (Colchester) Godber, Rt. Hn. J. B. Lane, David
Burden, F. A. Goodhart, Philip Langford-Holt, Sir John
Campbell, B. (Oldham, W.) Gower, Raymond Lewis, Kenneth (Rutland)
Carlisle, Mark Grant, Anthony MacArthur, Ian
Carr, Rt. Hn. Robert Grant-Ferris, Sir Robert Mackenzie, Aiasdair (Ross & Crom'ty)
Chataway, Christopher Griffiths, Eldon (Bury St. Edmunds) Maclean, Sir Fitzroy
Chichester Clark, R. Hall-Davis, A. G. F. McNair-Wilson, Michael
Marten, Neil Rossi, Hugh (Hornsey) Walters, Dennis
Maxwell-Hyslop, R J. Royle, Anthony Ward, Christopher (Swindon)
Maydon, It.-Cmdr. S. L. C. Russell, Sir Ronald Ward, Dame Irene
Mills, Peter (Torrington) Scott-Hopkins, James Wells, John (Maidstone)
Mills, Straiten (Belfast, N.) Sharples, Richard Whitelaw, Rt. Hn. William
Miscampbel, Norman Silvester, Frederick Wiggin, Jerry
More, Jasper Smith, John (London & W'minster) Wilson, Geoffrey (Truro)
Morgan, Geraint (Denbigh) Speed, Keith Winstanley, Dr. M. P.
Morrison, Charles (Devizes) Steel, David (Roxburgh) Wolrige-Gordon, Patrick
Mott-Radcly[...]e, Sir Charles Stodart, Anthony Woodnutt, Mark
Noble, Rt. Hn. Michael Stoddart-Scott, Col. Sir M. Worsley, Marcus
Page, Graham (Crosby) Tapsell, Peter Wright, Esmond
Page, John (Harrow, W.) Taylor, Frank (Moss Side) Younger, Hn. George
Pardoe, John Temple, John M.
Prior, J. M. L. Turton, Rt. Hn. R. H. TELLERS FOR THE AYES:
Pym, Francis Vickers, Dame Joan Mr. Hector Monro and
Renton, Rt. Hn. Sir David Waddington, David Mr. R. W. Elliott.
Ridley, Hn. Nicholas Wainwright, Richard (Colne Valley)
Allaun, Frank (Salford, E.) Greenwood, Rt. Hn. Anthony Morris, Charles R. (Openshaw)
Anderson, Donald Gregory, Arnold Murray, Albert
Archer, Peter (R'wley Regis & Tipt'n) Griffiths, Eddie (Brightside) Neal, Harold
Armstrong, Ernest Hamilton, James (Bothwell) Newens, Stan
Atkinson, Norman (Tottenham) Hamling, William Norwood, Christopher
Bagier, Gordon A. T. Hannan, William Oakes, Gordon
Barnes, Michael Harrison, Waiter (Wakefield) O'Halloran, Michael
Baxter, William Haseldine, Norman Oswald, Thomas
Bence, Cyril Hattersley, Roy Owen, Dr. David (Plymouth, S'tn)
Bennett, James (G'gow, Bridgeton) Hazell, Bert Page, Derek (King's Lynn)
Bidwell, Sydney Henig, Stanley Palmer, Arthur
Blackburn, F. Herbison, Rt. Hn. Margaret Parkyn, Brian (Bedford)
Boardman, H. (Leigh) Hobden, Dennis Pearson, Arthur (Pontypridd)
Booth, Albert Hooley, Frank Peart, Rt. Hn. Fred
Boston, Terence Horner, John Pentland, Norman
Bradley, Tom Howarth, Robert (Bolton, E.) Perry, Ernest G. (Battersea, S.)
Bray, Dr. Jeremy Howie, W. Perry, George H. (Nottingham, S.)
Brooks, Edwin Hoy, Rt. Hn. James Prentice, Rt. Hn. Reg
Brown, Hugh D. (G'gow, Provan) Huckfield, Leslie Probert, Arthur
Brown, Bob (N'c'tle-upon-Tyne, W.) Hughes, Rt. Hn. Cledwyn (Anglesey) Rees, Merlyn
Brown, R. W. (Shoreditch & F'bury) Hughes, Roy (Newport) Richard, Ivor
Buchan, Norman Hunter, Adam Roberts, Rt. Hn. Goronwy
Buchanan, Richard (G'gow, Sp'burn) Hynd, John Roberts, Gwilym (Bedfordshire, S.)
Butler, Mrs. Joyce (Wood Green) Johnson, Carol (Lewisham, S.) Roebuck, Roy
Carmichael, Neil Johnson, James (K'ston-on-Hull, W.) Rowlands, E.
Carter-Jones, Lewis Jones, Rt.Hn.Sir Elwyn(W. Ham, S.) Shaw, Arnold (Ilford, S.)
Coe, Denis Jones, J. Idwal (Wrexham) Shore, Rt. Hn. Peter (Stepney)
Coleman, Donald Jones, T. Alec (Rhondda, West) Short, Mrs. Renée(W'hampton, N.E.)
Concannon, J. D. Judd, Frank Silkin, Rt. Hn. John (Deptford)
Conlan, Bernard Kelley, Richard Silverman, Julius
Crosland, Rt. Hn. Anthony Lawson, George Slater, Joseph
Dalyell, Tam Leadbitter, Ted Small, William
Davidson, Arthur (Accrington) Lee, Rt. Hn. Jennie (Cannock) Snow, Julian
Davies, E. Hudson (Conway) Lee, John (Reading) Spriggs, Leslie
Davies, G. Elfed (Rhondda, E.) Lewis, Ron (Carlisle) Summerskill, Hn. Dr. Shirley
Davies, Dr. Ernest (Stretford) Lomas, Kenneth Taverne, Dick
Davies, Rt. Hn. Harold (Leek) Loughlin, Charles Thomas, Rt. Hn. George
Dempsey, James Lyon, Alexander W. (York) Thomson, Rt. Hn. George
Dewar, Donald Lyons, Edward (Bradford, E.) Tinn, James
Diamond, Rt. Hn. John McCann, John Urwin, T. W.
Dickens, James MacColl, James Varley, Eric G.
Doig, Peter Macdonald, A. H. Wainwright, Edwin (Dearne Valley)
Dunwoody, Dr. John (F'th & C'b'e) McElhone, Frank Walker, Harold (Doncaster)
Eadie, Alex McGuire, Michael Wallace, George
Edelman, Maurice Mackie, John Watkins, David (Consett)
Edwards, William (Merioneth) Mackintosh, John P. Watkins, Tudor (Brecon & Radnor)
Ellis, John McNamara, J. Kevin Wellbeloved, James
English, Michael Mallalieu, E. L. (Brigg) White, Mrs. Eirene
Ennals, David Mallalieu, J.P.W.(Huddersfield, E.) Whitlock, William
Evans, Fred (Caerphilly) Mallalieu, J.P.W. (Huddersfield, E.)
Evans, Ioan L. (Birm'h'm, Yardley) Mapp, Charles Williams, Alan (Swansea, W.)
Faulds, Andrew Marquand, David Williams, Alan Lee (Hornchurch)
Fernyhough, E. Mayhew, Christopher Williams, Mrs. Shirley (Hitchin)
Fitch, Alan (Wigan) Mellish, Rt. Hn. Robert Willis, Rt. Hn. George
Fletcher, Rt.Hn.SirEric(Islington, E.) Mendelson, John Wilson, William (Coventry, S.)
Fletcher, Ted (Darlington) Mikardo, Ian Winnick, David
Fraser, John (Norwood) Millan, Bruce Woodburn, Rt. Hn. A.
Gardner, Tony Miller, Dr. M. S. TELLERS FOR THE NOES:
Garrett, W. E. Mitchell, R. C. (S'th'pton, Test) Mr. Neil McBride and
Golding, John Molloy, William Mr. Ray Dobson.
Gray, Dr. Hugh (Yarmouth) Morgan, Elystan (Cardiganshire)

Clause added to the Bill.

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