HC Deb 13 July 1978 vol 953 cc766-7W
Mr. Mark Hughes

asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what is the current position on enzootic bovine leukosis infection among cattle in Great Britain; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Strang

This disease has been found for the first time in Great Britain in the course of testing cattle imported in recent years and their progeny. So far, four instances of infection have been confirmed, in herds in Angus (2), Gloucestershire and Somerset, and results which as yet are inconclusive are being investigated in 13 other herds.

The first requirement is to establish the extent to which the disease, which is associated with a virus infection and which develops slowly, exists in the national herd so that a long-term policy can be determined in the full light of the facts. The survey will concentrate on herds containing imported animals and their first generation progeny and will take about three months. Discussions with representatives of breed societies, farmers' unions and the British Veterinary Association have confirmed that the most effective way of conducting the survey, with full co-operation from the herd owners concerned, is to provide for the slaughter of infected cattle and the payment of compensation at full market value. Alternatively, it has been agreed, herd owners may choose to keep infected animals in isolation and under movement restriction until the long-term policy is decided.

Existing powers in the Enzootic Bovine Leukosis Order 1977 make bovine leukosis a notifiable disease and provide for the containment of the disease by controlling the movement of infected cattle and by tracing and testing contacts. Two further orders are now being made: the Enzootic Bovine Leukosis Order 1978 will provide power to require the slaughter of any bovine animal in Great Britain on account of the disease and the Enzootic Bovine Leukosis (Compensation) Order 1978 will provide that, for any animals so slaughtered, the compensation shall be the market value.

It is hoped to make a statement on the long-term policy for the disease in the autumn.