HC Deb 02 March 1971 vol 812 cc1374-6
7. Sir G. Nabarro

asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what estimate he has made of the effects of fowl pest during the 12 months ended 28th February, 1971 both ad valorem and in relation to numbers of birds lost; how this compares with those for earlier periods; and what are the results of vaccination.

Mr. Anthony Stodart

Since 1963 no information has been available on the number or value of birds lost as a result of fowl pest. However, with permission, I will circulate in the OFFICIAL REPORT details of the annual numbers of outbreaks and birds involved in that period. As for the effect of vaccination, losses in infected flocks which were properly vaccinated have in almost all cases been very substantially lower than in unvaccinated flocks.

Sir G. Nabarro

Is my hon. Friend aware that the ravages are now appalling? Has he learnt of the case in my constituency where 86,000 birds were lost in a single incident? Is he aware that in the last few days there have been numerous cases in Northumberland and Durham? Is it not time the Government gave a lead in this matter and insisted compulsorily on vaccination with the latest and best vaccines available?

Mr. Stodart

It would not be practicable to insist on compulsory vaccination because the policing required would make such demands on manpower that it really could not be enforced. It is true that there have been over 5,000 outbreaks now and it is a tragedy that only 11 per cent. of the flocks have been fully vaccinated. If it is any satisfaction to my hon. Friend, in Worcestershire, at least, that figure is 18 per cent. and I commend the county for it. The message which must be given is that vaccination must be done.

Mr. Rankin

Now that these birds are to be herded in cages the size of which is still undefined, can the hon. Gentleman assure us that there will not be an even greater danger of fowl pest outbreaks with the birds being kept so closely together?

Mr. Stodart

I can hardly imagine that the disease could be much worse than in this present epidemic.

Sir J. Langford-Holt

On 9th February my hon. Friend said that 85 per cent. of affected flocks had not been vaccinated, adding that vaccination is vital. Will he consider possible compensation for farmers whose flocks are known to have been properly vaccinated but who suffer losses? Would this not be a useful inducement to get 100 per cent. vaccination?

Mr. Stodart

In nearly every case in which it has been claimed that a flock has been fully vaccinated in accordance with instructions, investigation has shown that this was not so. I am afraid that I cannot give any assurance or any indication that we would be prepared to go back to the policy of 1963.

The following is the information:

Year March—February Number of outbreaks Total number of birds involved
1964 2,697 Not available
1965 1,527 Not available
1966 330 Not available
1967 200 3,702,233
1968 169 3,465,918
1969 92 1,120,034
1970 22 295,829
1971 5,267 32,974,186

21. Sir J. Langford-Holt

asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what are the latest weekly figures of fowl pest outbreaks; and what the prospects are of the epidemic ending.

Mr. Anthony Stodart

The numbers of outbreaks of fowl pest during the two weeks ending 28th February were 200 and 159 respectively. These are considerably below the peak of 359 in the week ending 10th January, but are still very high. To reduce the risk of the spread of disease to the comparatively disease-free areas in the north and southwest of England and in Wales, my right hon. Friends have made an Order, to come into effect on 8th March, to prohibit the movement of live birds, excluding day-old chicks, into these areas. I will, with permission, circulate details of the areas in the OFFICIAL REPORT.

Sir J. Langford-Holt

Do my right hon. Friend's statistics show that there was a remarkable effect with the change to live vaccines, and in these circum- stances is he satisfied that the changeover was made as soon as it should have been?

Mr. Stodart

The change was made as soon as there was an adequate result from the tests which we felt had to be made under working conditions in this country. The matter has been going successfully. We are making experiments with slightly stronger live vaccine, but it is too early to assess the result.

Following is the information:

The Scheduled areas are:

  1. (a) Cumberland, Westmorland, Northumberland, Durham and the Furness Division of Lancashire;
  2. (b) Cornwall and Devon;
  3. (c) Wales.