§ [The Question was as follows:
§ To ask Her Majesty's Government, in view of the death and illness of persons caused by psittacosis in consequence of their having been in contact with recently imported parakeets, whether they will state how many cases of this disease have been diagnosed in man in Great Britain since the Parrots and Miscellaneous Birds (Prohibition of Importation) Order 1953 was rescinded by the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food on November 1, 1966; and how many outbreaks of psittacosis (Ornimosis) there have been in recently imported psittacine birds since Novembr 1, 1966.]
§ THE MINISTER OF STATE, DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH AND SOCIAL SECURITY (LORD ABERDARE)
My Lords, psittacosis is not a notifiable disease in man or animals, and the full information for which the noble Lord asks is not therefore available. If, however, a doctor suspected that a patient was suffering from psittacosis he would send a specimen of blood for laboratory examination. The numbers of confirmed cases in Great Britain reported by the Public Health Laboratory Services in their Communicable Diseases Reports are: 84 in 1967; 78 in 1968; 75 in 1969; and 60 in 1970, up to November. We have no comparable information about incidence in animals.
My Lords, is the noble Lord aware that there is very deep concern, particularly in the 1364 veterinary profession, about this particular disease, because since the Order was revoked there has been a large increase in the number of parrots introduced into this country? Is the noble Lord aware that something like 4,600 have been introduced in those places where the R.S.P.C.A., for example, has the opportunity of examining them; and that this is quite apart from the numbers in other places? Will the noble Lord consider reimposing the Order so that we may prevent the disease rather than cure it afterwards?
§ LORD ABERDARE
My Lords, the original Order was imposed for reasons of control of Newcastle disease and not psittacosis. It was because Newcastle disease was no longer subject to slaughtering methods and there was a policy of vaccination that the Order was withdrawn. It did not apply to psittacosis. The fact is that we are keeping a very close watch on the incidence of psittacosis, and I think the noble Lord will agree that the figures I have given show a falling trend.
My Lords, is the noble Lord aware that the fact remains that a very large number of parrots have been brought into this country since the date of the revocation of the Order? In view of the fact that there is concern about this matter, does he not think that the Order should be reimposed, irrespective of its original intention? Is it not a fact that import control over these birds would enable us to avoid the kind of diseases which they spread and which can produce pneumonia in man?
§ LORD ABERDARE
My Lords, it is not only parrots who spread psittacosis; it can come also from pigeons. To reimpose import controls would be a very expensive and involved process.