HC Deb 02 March 1971 vol 812 cc1376-7
8. Sir G. Nabarro

asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what were the losses in the quinquennium 1966–1970, respectively, for foot-and-mouth disease, swine fever, and fowl pest, and the aggregate losses for these three diseases; and what consideration he is giving to underwriting losses for these three diseases by an insurance scheme mutually agreeable to all farmers and his Department, and to giving producers security against losses on their farms from swine fever and foot-and-mouth disease.

Mr. Anthony Stodart

The losses, excluding staff costs, incurred by the Ministry for the five-year period were £33,232,000 for foot-and-mouth disease, £112,000 for swine fever and £150,000 for fowl pest. It is not possible to assess aggregate losses by the industry and others, as the extent of consequential loss is not known. My right hon. Friend is not considering underwriting farmers' losses from swine fever and foot-and-mouth disease, but insurance is available through commercial channels.

Sir G. Nabarro

Does not my hon. Friend recognise that there is some obvious inconsistency here in that the Government reimburse for losses due to foot-and-mouth disease and swine fever but not for fowl pest? Would it not be a good policy to try to secure a national scheme for insurance of animals and fowl against all these classes of disease and for all the owners of such animals and fowl to contribute compulsorily to such an insurance scheme?

Mr. Stodart

I put it to my hon. Friend that there is compensation by the Government for foot-and-mouth disease and swine fever and that that is better than insurance so that the Government may have a free hand to slaughter. I would not rule out applying his idea to other diseases where it was more appropriate, but I must point out that the policy of slaughter and compensation did not work in 1963 and that the best insurance is vaccination. That is proved by the fact that the figure of outbreaks was about 2,000 a year in 1963 and fell to under 40 in 1969.

Mr. Bob Brown

Is there anything at present to prevent farmers from insuring against these losses? Is the hon. Gentleman certain that farmers can get hold of a reliable insurance company?

Mr. Stodart

I understand that commercial insurance against fowl pest is no longer available.

Mr. Scott-Hopkins

Is my hon. Friend aware that it is virtually impossible to get any kind of insurance for fowl pest regardless of whether one goes for the dead vaccine or not? While ruling out compensation, does not he agree that there is a difficult position for poultry farmers when there is no form of insurance available, save the dead vaccine, which is not as effective as all that?

Mr. Stodart

I can only tell my hon. Friend again that the success of the vaccination policy can be judged by the figure of outbreaks, which fell so substantially when vaccination was done. I am afraid that it is the fact that people have become slightly casual about it that really is responsible for the present outbreak.

Sir G. Nabarro

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. In view of the replies to Questions Nos. 7 and 8, I beg to give notice that I shall seek leave to raise the matter on the Adjournment.