§ 3.15 p.m.
§ THE EARL OF ONSLOW
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 how many prosecutions have taken place in each of the last five years for not boiling pig swill.
My Lords, the statistics for prosecutions of all kinds under the Diseases of Animals Act are not broken down to give separate figures for breaches of the Waste Food Order. There are, however, seventeen cases which are known to the Government, where local authorities have brought successful prosecutions during the last five years for infringements of the Order. These are: 1968, five cases; 1969, three cases; 1970, four cases; 1971, four cases; 1972, one case.
§ THE EARL OF ONSLOW
My Lords, I thank the noble Earl for his reply. Would it not be possible to increase these prosecutions, in view of the fact that the 1967 outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease was caused by swill and it is almost certain that the present outbreak of swine vesicular disease has also been caused by swill? There is considerable concern in the agricultural community at this aspect.
My Lords, I appreciate my noble friend's concern, but he will realise that it is for local authorities to decide whether prosecutions are necessary to enforce the Order, and, of course, standards of enforcement do vary between local authorities. I would also tell my noble friend that my right honourable friend wrote to the local authorities immediately after the official outbreak of swine vesicular disease on December 11 to ask them to take particular note of the pig swill Order.
§ LORD HOY
My Lords, it is a little unsatisfactory that so little information should be available. The noble Earl informs us that local authorities do not 245 even have to notify this disease in particular, although it is such a dangerous one. If in fact swine vesicular disease is as dangerous as all that—and it is—ought not proper steps to be taken to notify every case of it?
My Lords, I did not say that the local authorities do not have to notify the disease. What I said was that we have no breakdown of the figures for prosecutions under this Order; it comes under the Diseases of Animals Act, which, of course, would contain very many other subjects for prosecution. I agree that the problem of pig swill is a very serious one, and that is the reason why my right honourable friend informed the local authorities that he hoped that they would pay particular attention to it.
§ LORD HOY
My Lords, surely when this disease is so dangerous—and that is admitted by everyone—one ought at least to be able to see what steps have been taken to deal with offenders under the Act. I ask the noble Earl to consider having a look at the regulations again, to see whether we could get a breakdown in figures to show how the problem is being tackled.
My Lords, I will certainly take the point of the noble Lord, Lord Hoy, and see what can be done about it. I agree that the present Order has some practical defects of administration, and a revised Waste Food Order is in preparation.
LORD NUGENT on GUILDFORD
My Lords, is my noble friend aware that my noble friend Lord Onslow is right in his suspicion that it is through pig swill that swine vesicular infection is being passed from one herd to another? Is he aware that it is a new situation, so far as we know, for this virus to be rampant in the country? In the light of the fact that this disease is being passed from one farm to another through the swill, and because of irregularity in the handling of pigs, will he ask his right honourable friend the Minister of Agriculture to take a fresh look at the regulations covering the boiling of swill, because that is the source of this disease?
My Lords, I entirely agree with my noble friend Lord 246 Nugent. Our investigation into the original outbreak of this disease suggests that it was introduced in swill, and there have been eleven cases of this outbreak where swill is the probable cause. I would repeat to him what I told the noble Lord, Lord Hoy, that my right honourable friend is in fact looking at this very point and intends to see where the Orders can be tightened up; and if they can, he will introduce a new Waste Food Order.
§ LORD ROYLE
My Lords, in view of the exchanges that have gone on between the noble Earl and other noble Lords, has not the time arrived for the Government to look at the restrictions on imported beef from South America? It would appear that it is now proved that it is not that which has caused foot-and-mouth disease.
My Lords, I think that that is a slightly wider question. The fact is that where there is swill, or offal, it must in any case be boiled, whether it has come from abroad or not.
§ LORD TANLAW
My Lords, can the noble Earl say whether, when compensation is given for compulsory slaughter, any investigation is previously undertaken into whether or not the person who is getting compensation has complied with these pig swill regulations?
My Lords, I could not answer that without notice. Where compensation is given and where animals are slaughtered a very detailed investigation is gone into to try to decide where the outbreak originated.
§ LORD TANLAW
My Lords, would compensation be stopped if it was discovered that the person concerned had not complied with the regulations?
My Lords, without wishing to be too specific, my impression is that if a person had to have his animals slaughtered he would be compensated. If it had been shown that he had committed an offence under the Waste Food Order he would be prosecuted.
§ BARONESS SUMMERSKILL
My Lords, may I ask whether there is any evidence that the virus is transmissible to the agricultural worker?