Foot-and-mouth Disease

Oral Answers to Questions — Agriculture – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 17th July 1952.

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Photo of Sir Neill Cooper-Key Sir Neill Cooper-Key , Hastings 12:00 am, 17th July 1952

asked the Minister of Agriculture whether he is aware of the difficulties that producers are experiencing in finding food to keep pigs after the date they are due for collection for slaughter in areas affected by foot-and-mouth regulations; and what steps he is taking to meet this difficulty.

Photo of Mr Thomas Dugdale Mr Thomas Dugdale , Richmond (Yorks)

Yes, Sir. County agricultural executive committees have authority to issue coupons for additional rationed feedingstuffs to producers in these circumstances.

Photo of Mr Niall Macpherson Mr Niall Macpherson , Dumfriesshire

asked the Minister of Agriculture what steps he is taking to test the claim of a person, of whose name he has been informed, that she knows a cure for foot-and-mouth disease which was successfully applied in 1924.

Photo of Mr Thomas Dugdale Mr Thomas Dugdale , Richmond (Yorks)

There are several known cures for foot-and-mouth disease, but herds in which animals were kept alive for treatment would remain sources of infection for many weeks. To allow farmers to adopt cures would be incompatible with the present policy, which aims at stamping out infection by the immediate slaughter of infected and contact animals.

Photo of Mr Niall Macpherson Mr Niall Macpherson , Dumfriesshire

Irrespective of the slaughtering policy, would it not be a good thing, in the interests of scientific knowledge and veterinary practice, to try out all cures which are suggested and to establish the necessary conditions of isolation for the purpose?

Photo of Mr Thomas Dugdale Mr Thomas Dugdale , Richmond (Yorks)

All suggested cures are very carefully considered. This is the kind of subject which will, no doubt, be considered by the Departmental committee which I propose to set up.

Photo of Mr Eric Johnson Mr Eric Johnson , Manchester, Blackley

Is my right hon. Friend aware that many small farmers appear to be quite ignorant of the more elementary precautions which they might take to prevent the spread of the disease? Will he impress upon them the importance of reporting to the Department's veterinary officers any unusual symptoms in their cattle?

Photo of Mr Thomas Dugdale Mr Thomas Dugdale , Richmond (Yorks)

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for his intervention. We try at all times to impress upon farmers the importance of doing this, but his supplementary question will draw extra attention to the subject.

Photo of Mr George Brown Mr George Brown , Belper

How soon shall we know about the appointment of the Departmental committee, its members and when it will start work?

Photo of Mr Thomas Dugdale Mr Thomas Dugdale , Richmond (Yorks)

Perhaps the right hon. Gentleman will put a question down about that, but I hope that the committee will be able to begin its work in the early autumn.

Photo of Sir Fergus Graham Sir Fergus Graham , Darlington

Is my right hon. Friend satisfied that there is adequate leadership and information in the North? Is he aware that the farmers themselves cancelled the Carlisle Show but no advice was received from the Ministry? Is he also aware that the races were held and that apparently the Langholm Common riding is in the balance?

Photo of Mr Thomas Dugdale Mr Thomas Dugdale , Richmond (Yorks)

I am in daily touch with the situation in that part of the world, and I will bear in mind what my hon. Friend has said.

Photo of Sir Ian Fraser Sir Ian Fraser , Morecambe and Lonsdale

asked the Minister of Agriculture the present position with regard to foot-and-mouth disease.

Photo of Mr Thomas Dugdale Mr Thomas Dugdale , Richmond (Yorks)

I am glad to say that there has been a steady improvement in the position in recent weeks. There have been 29 outbreaks of foot-and-mouth disease in the first half of July as compared with 63 and 43 in the first and second half of June. Disease is still active in parts of Kent and in the Dumfriesshire and Cumberland area, and a further case has occurred in Devon this morning. With the improvement of the position in the Midlands controlled area restrictions are being removed from most of the Midland counties tonight. The southern counties of England remain subject to some risk owing to the serious position in France, where 39,000 fresh outbreaks occurred in the second half of June. Of these 5,800 were in departments immediately opposite the South Coast, and I am afraid that it will be necessary to retain controlled area restrictions in southern England for some time longer.

Photo of Sir Ian Fraser Sir Ian Fraser , Morecambe and Lonsdale

While recognising the unusual skill of the experts at Pirbright, may I ask my right hon. Friend whether he can assure us that the experiences of this very grave outbreak during the past year will lead to every possible research being made at Pirbright, including researches for suitable enclaves in the matter of inoculation?

Photo of Mr Thomas Peart Mr Thomas Peart , Workington

In view of the Minister's reply concerning the position in France, does he not appreciate that it is about time that the British Government, in conjunction with France, undertook some real inter-Governmental action on this question?

Photo of Mr Thomas Dugdale Mr Thomas Dugdale , Richmond (Yorks)

There is a Question on the Order Paper about that, which is to be answered later.

Photo of Mr Anthony Hurd Mr Anthony Hurd , Newbury

As the southern counties must expect to be in a controlled area for some time to come, will my right hon. Friend see what restrictions on movement can be eased, because the position is very difficult among farmers at the moment in the matter of cattle breeding and similar immediate problems.

Photo of Mr Thomas Dugdale Mr Thomas Dugdale , Richmond (Yorks)

Consultations are continually taking place between my Department and farmers in that part of the world.

Photo of Mr Thomas Peart Mr Thomas Peart , Workington

asked the Minister of Agriculture what official representations have been made to the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations to secure combined Governmental action to eradicate foot-and-mouth disease.

Photo of Mr Thomas Dugdale Mr Thomas Dugdale , Richmond (Yorks)

No official representations have been made to the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations, as they are already considering with other international bodies a scheme for dealing with foot-and-mouth disease in the Western European countries.

Photo of Mr Thomas Peart Mr Thomas Peart , Workington

Will the Minister himself initiate dicussions on this matter? After all, we did take inter-Governmental action on the Colorado beetle when we ratified the Convention last year, and is it not possible to do something like that about foot-and-mouth disease?

Photo of Mr Thomas Dugdale Mr Thomas Dugdale , Richmond (Yorks)

As far as comparing this problem with that of the Colorado beetle is concerned, perhaps I might explain to the House that foot-and-mouth disease is a very much more complicated subject than Colorado beetle infestation, because the beetle is very different from a highly infectious virus which may occur in a number of different forms. Infestation by beetles may be dealt with simply by spraying, but nothing like that position exists in the case of foot-and-mouth disease.

In some countries where it is endemic, various cures are adopted; in other countries where it is not endemic a slaughter policy is appropriate. May I also tell the House that the former Chief Veterinary Officer of the Ministry, Sir Thomas Dalling, is now chief veterinary consultant to the F.A.O., and is taking a very prominent part himself in discussions about the scheme.

Photo of Mr Thomas Peart Mr Thomas Peart , Workington

Will the right hon. Gentleman agree that whilst there is scientific consultation, he himself in a previous debate admitted that infection was being carried by birds in their flight from France, and that the foci of infection should be attacked there? If that is so, do we not need inter-Governmental action such as that embodied in the European Plant Protection Organisation?

Photo of Mr Thomas Dugdale Mr Thomas Dugdale , Richmond (Yorks)

There again I think this is one of the problems that will have to be considered by the Departmental committee, and I am bearing these questions in mind the whole time, to see whether there is any useful action that I can take.

Photo of Mr Niall Macpherson Mr Niall Macpherson , Dumfriesshire

Is my right hon. Friend aware that this is not a problem for us or for Western Europe alone, that the disease has spread to Canada, and that it has undoubtedly become a world problem and one for the United Nations?

Photo of Mr Thomas Peart Mr Thomas Peart , Workington

asked the Minister of Agriculture what proposals he has received from the French Government as to joint action against foot-and-mouth disease in each respective country.

Photo of Mr Thomas Peart Mr Thomas Peart , Workington

Will the Minister himself initiate discussions?

Photo of Mr Thomas Dugdale Mr Thomas Dugdale , Richmond (Yorks)

This raises the same problem as the previous Question, and I should like advice from the Departmental committee that I propose to set up.

Photo of Mr Douglas Jay Mr Douglas Jay , Battersea North

Could the Minister consult the Dean of Canterbury on these matters?

Photo of Mr Thomas Peart Mr Thomas Peart , Workington

asked the Minister of Agriculture what will be the terms of reference of the proposed Departmental committee to inquire into the present foot-and-mouth epidemic.

Photo of Mr Thomas Dugdale Mr Thomas Dugdale , Richmond (Yorks)

The composition and terms of reference of this committee have not yet been settled, but every aspect of the present system of control will come under review by the committee.

Photo of Mr Thomas Peart Mr Thomas Peart , Workington

There must not be any complacency about it.

Photo of Mr Thomas Dugdale Mr Thomas Dugdale , Richmond (Yorks)

I can assure the House that there will be no complacency about it but, as I said in announcing the committee, we must deal with this question of the infectious period before we ask our officers to turn to their committee work.

Photo of Mr Niall Macpherson Mr Niall Macpherson , Dumfriesshire

asked the Minister of Agriculture what is the normal interval of time between the notification of a case of foot-and-mouth disease and official confirmation of it.

Photo of Mr Niall Macpherson Mr Niall Macpherson , Dumfriesshire

Is my right hon. Friend aware that there have been cases of longer intervals than that, and while four hours may be the normal figure is he satisfied that everything is done in every case to ensure that the surrounding neighbourhood is informed of the circumstances at the earliest possible moment?

Photo of Mr Thomas Dugdale Mr Thomas Dugdale , Richmond (Yorks)

Yes, Sir. It is true that in certain cases the time has been longer but in other cases it has been shorter.

Photo of Sir Archer Baldwin Sir Archer Baldwin , Leominster

Would my right hon. Friend consider instructing his veterinary officers in every county to go to the Farmers' Union meetings and give farmers instruction about the early stages of the disease?