Foot-and-Mouth Disease

Oral Answers to Questions — Agriculture – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 27th January 1947.

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Photo of Mr Simon Digby Mr Simon Digby , Dorset Western 12:00 am, 27th January 1947

asked the Minister of Agriculture whether his Department have formed any conclusion as to the origin of the infection which led to the present outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease in Dorsetshire and Somersetshire.

Photo of Mr Thomas Williams Mr Thomas Williams , Don Valley

Yes, Sir. The conclusion has been reached that the infection was brought from the Continent by birds.

Photo of Mr Simon Digby Mr Simon Digby , Dorset Western

asked the Minister of Agriculture what research is being carried out into foot-and-mouth disease; how many persons are engaged on such work; and what is the annual cost.

Photo of Mr Thomas Williams Mr Thomas Williams , Don Valley

Investigations at the Foot-and-Mouth Disease Research Station at pirbright are directed in the main to ascertaining the nature and properties of the virus of the disease, devising the most practical methods of protecting animals against infection, and improving tests for detecting the presence of the virus and determining the protective properties of vaccines and anti-sera. The staff engaged at the station comprises four research officers. 11 technical assistants, 15 animal attendants and 14 farm maintenance and clerical staff. The estimated cost of the work, including capital expenditure, in the present financial year is £61,000. Actual expenditure in the previous three years averaged £37,000.

Photo of Mr Simon Digby Mr Simon Digby , Dorset Western

Does not the Minister think it might be worth spending more money on research and less on compensation; and is it not a fact that during the war the Germans developed a new immunising agent for this disease?

Photo of Mr Thomas Williams Mr Thomas Williams , Don Valley

I am not at all sure about the immunisation. I am sure, however, that we are spending almost double the amount of money this year for this purpose than was the average expenditure during the past three years.

Photo of Mr Simon Digby Mr Simon Digby , Dorset Western

asked the Minister of Agriculture whether he is satisfied that the policy of slaughtering is the best method of combating foot-and-mouth disease, in view of the failure of this policy to arrest the present outbreak in Dorsetshire and Somersetshire; and whether he will state the value of the cattle, pigs and sheep so far slaughtered there.

Photo of Mr Thomas Williams Mr Thomas Williams , Don Valley

Yes, Sir. I am satisfied that the slaughter policy to eradicate foot-and-mouth disease is by far the best, and that no other known method would have been so successful in preventing the spread of the disease. The value of the animals so far slaughtered in Dorset and Somerset is about £140,000.

Photo of Mr Simon Digby Mr Simon Digby , Dorset Western

Is not the Minister aware that there is a good deal of anxiety amongst farmers at the complete failure of the success of this policy; and will he review it in the light of the latest discoveries and research?

Photo of Mr Thomas Williams Mr Thomas Williams , Don Valley

This matter has been reviewed on very many occasions. My predecessor sent a note to the "Sunday Times" on 9th March, 1941, explaining the reasons for the Department adopting this slaughter policy. I would commend the hon. Member's notice to that statement.