HC Deb 17 November 1970 vol 806 cc1011-3
5. Sir G. Nabarro

asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food whether he will make a statement upon losses incurred by recent fowl pest ravages and steps taken to prevent spread and additional outbreaks.

Mr. Prior

I would refer my hon. Friend to the reply my hon. Friend gave to the hon. Member for Merioneth (Mr. William Edwards) on 3rd November. Since that time the number of outbreaks has risen to 1,606 up to 12th November and the total number of birds on the holdings involved to nearly 12 million. No information is available on the number of these birds which have died from the disease, but there have been serious losses in some flocks, particularly broilers.—[Vol. 805, c. 336–8.]

Sir G. Nabarro

Having regard to the very virulent character of this pest and the huge losses in Nottinghamshire, Leicestershire, Northamptonshire and now in Worcestershire, including the middle of my constituency, are supplies of Christmas fare, chickens and eggs yet threatened?

Mr. Prior

I do not believe that Christmas fare, chickens or eggs are seriously affected, but it would be wrong not to realise how serious the situation is and the enormous losses that have been incurred in certain counties. I can only urge the farming community to take every possible precaution to vaccinate to keep the disease down. I am extremely worried about the present position.

Mr. Cledwyn Hughes

As the right hon. Gentleman said, it is an extremely serious epidemic. What trials are being made with live vaccine, and what results have emerged from those trials? What may also result in terms of higher prices for poultry meat as a result of the epidemic? The price of poultry meat is rising for other reasons as well, as the right hon. Gentleman is aware.

Mr. Prior

I could not answer the last part of the question, except to say that if there are fewer birds about there will be some increase, but I should not like to quantify that. We are carrying out trials with live vaccine involving about five million birds. It is still too early to give any indication of the success of those trials; the earliest started about 10 days to a fortnight ago. As soon as I have further information I shall give it to the House. I hope that the House will support me in the carrying out of the trials, which involve a change of policy. It is a very serious situation.