HL Deb 10 February 1965 vol 263 cc123-5

3.5 p.m.


My Lords, I beg leave to ask the Question which stands in my name on the Order Paper.

[The Question was as follows:

To ask Her Majesty's Government:

  1. (a) to state the cost to the Exchequer of the fowl pest slaughter and compensation policy during the last two years in which that policy existed:
  2. (b) to state the estimated cost to the Exchequer of the fowl pest vaccine subsidy for the two years ending March 31, 1965;
  3. (c) whether, in the interests of animal health, Her Majesty's Government will extend the vaccine subsidy after March 31,1965.]


My Lords, the policy of compulsory slaughter with compensation for fowl pest operated throughout Great Britain until March 31, 1963. In the last two years of the policy the cost of compensation for birds slaughtered, for hatching eggs destroyed, and for the miscellaneous expenses involved in these operations totalled £13,478,000. In the two years ending March 31, 1965, the cost to the Exchequer of fowl pest vaccine, and of its storage and transport, less the sale price, is estimated to be £563,000. When the policy of vaccination with dead vaccine in England and Wales was announced in July, 1962, dead vaccines were not in commercial production, and the Government of the day decided that vaccine would be subsidised for two years, in order to encourage the greatest possible use of vaccine during a period when vaccine production costs could reasonably be expected to be high. The manufacturers of vaccine have recently announced that they are able to offer vaccine at prices very little higher than the subsidised price and that supplies will be readily available from local sources. We do not, therefore, intend to continue the subsidy on the vaccine after March 31, 1965. Although the Government will thus cease to subsidise and distribute vaccine on March 31, there should not, and indeed there must not, be any decrease in the use of vaccine. I appeal to all poultry keepers, in their own and the national interest, to keep on vaccinating and to persuade their neighbours to do so as well.


My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord for that reply. Would he not agree that the policy of vaccination has been outstandingly successful? Is he quite certain that the removal of the fowl pest vaccine subsidy will not result in the vaccine's being used less widely, thereby possibly encouraging the resurgence of the disease?


My Lords, we certainly hope that it will not be the case that there will be a less wide use of it. As a result of the fact that it has been found possible to reduce the price of this vaccine commercially we rather think this will not be the case. But we certainly urge everyone to continue this policy which, where used to a reasonable extent, for up to 80 or 85 per cent. of the flock for the area, does provide a first-class measure of control.


My Lords, will the noble Lord give an assurance that the Government will continue to watch the situation with regard to fowl pest very closely, and not hesitate to jump in again if the situation so requires? Can he also pass on to his right honourable friend the gratitude of many people in the industry for the way in which there has been control of a disease which looked at one time as if it would be uncontrollable, often at great inconvenience and distaste to the staff themselves?


I am delighted to be able to say, Yes, my Lords.