HC Deb 19 May 1972 vol 837 cc211-3W
Mrs. Kellett-Bowman

asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food whether the review of the terms for the compulsory eradication of brucellosis has yet been completed; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Prior

My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Scotland and I have now completed our review of the way in which the terms of compulsory eradication have affected the owners of heavily infected herds in the initial eradication areas. It is clear that some herd owners have already suffered significant losses and that the terms operate inequitably as between the owners of herds of different sizes and kinds. Furthermore, it has been made plain to us by the farmers unions and by the farmers themselves that in their view the only fair way to compensate herd owners whose animals are slaughtered compulsorily is to relate the payments to the value of the animals concerned.

We have therefore agreed, in consultation with the unions, that the present Area Eradication Scheme should be closed to new applicants forthwith and replaced by a scheme under which the Ministry or the Department will be responsible for the removal of reactors and dangerous contacts and the herd owner will be paid compensation based on their full market value. The valuation will be agreed with the owner, or in default of agreement settled by an independent arbitrator, and will be based on the market value of the animal as non-accredited.

For reactors it will be subject to a maximum of £240, but for dangerous contacts there will be no upper limit. This maximum will be subject to periodic review.

We have already assured herd owners who are taking part in the Area Eradication Scheme that any improvements in the terms which were introduced as a result of the review would be applied retrospectively. We propose to honour this assurance by offering these herd owners the option of transferring to the new scheme with effect from the date when they joined the present scheme. In calculating how much is due to those who choose to change over we shall have to take account of the payments they have already received under the scheme and their receipts from the sale of reactors. This will be a complicated calculation, but we shall send each herd owner a full explanation before he has to make up his mind whether to stay in the existing scheme or to change to the new one.

I should make it clear that these changes in no way affect the arrangements for the payment of incentives under the voluntary incentives scheme or the obligation which herd owners who are taking part in that scheme have accepted to slaughter reactors without payment of compensation. Indeed we consider that all herd owners must accept some responsibility for maintaining the disease-free status of their herds after they have become accredited; and we remain convinced that it is essential for herd owners to insure their herds against the possibility of infection or re-infection.

Nevertheless, we accept that in eradication and attested areas the Government should contribute towards the cost of maintaining freedom from the disease, at least for the duration of the eradication programme. We have therefore agreed that within these areas where reactors are slaughtered compulsorily in accredited herds which are not taking part in the voluntary schemes compensation should be paid at the rate of 75 per cent. of the value of the animal. For dangerous contacts the payment will represent the full market value. The valuation will be based on the market value of the animals as accredited. For reactors it will be subject to a maximum value of £240, which means a maximum payment of £180 for each animal. There will be no upper limit for dangerous contacts.

Outside these areas we are anxious that the owners of herds which have become accredited under the incentives scheme should continue to participate in the Scheme and to slaughter reactors voluntarily in accordance with the rules after their period of eligibility for incentives has expired. When this time comes—and this will not be before 31st March, 1976—we propose to offer to these herd owners compensation at the rate of 75 per cent. of the accredited value—subject to a maximum payment of £180 for each animal—for reactors which they agree to have slaughtered. The payment will, of course, be subject to the owner's continued compliance with the rules and conditions of the scheme. As under the compulsory scheme the Ministry or Department will be responsible for the removal of the animal and will retain the carcase value.

Finally, we have agreed with the unions that the 1,000 or so herd owners who remain in the old Brucellosis (Accredited Herds) Scheme will be allowed to retain the existing benefits until 31st March, 1980, and will thereafter be eligible for terms similar to those available to the incentives-expired herds under the incentives scheme.

It will be recognised that these new terms represent a change in our previous approach to compulsory eradication. But we have taken the decision because we are anxious that our brucellosis eradication programme shall succeed and we recognise that we shall not achieve that success unless farmers are satisfied that the compensation terms are fair and reasonable. The fact that we have been able to reach agreement so quickly with the unions on these new terms encourages us to believe that we now have a scheme which will ensure the full co-operation of the industry in our eradication programme.

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