Aujeszky's Disease

Oral Answers to Questions — Agriculture, Fisheries and Food – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 6th December 1984.

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Photo of Mr Clement Freud Mr Clement Freud , North East Cambridgeshire 12:00 am, 6th December 1984

asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what representations he has received concerning the evaluation and administration of claims by his Department as a result of Aujeszky's disease; and if he will make a statement.

Photo of Mrs Peggy Fenner Mrs Peggy Fenner , Medway

A number of representations have been made about the Aujuezky's disease control and eradication programme, in particular in relation to the cost of the scheme and the Ministry's handling of the salvage operation. My right hon. Friend the Minister answered questions on these points at a recent meeting of the Select Committee on Agriculture, making it clear that he did not accept these criticisms.

Photo of Mr Clement Freud Mr Clement Freud , North East Cambridgeshire

Will the Parliamentary Under-Secretary reconsider her decision not to give further assistance to the eradication scheme? Will she accept that pig farmers are the most ill-fated of the members of the National Farmers Union, and will she do something to help them?

Photo of Mrs Peggy Fenner Mrs Peggy Fenner , Medway

No, Sir. The industry opted for the scheme after a second poll and did so on the basis of the industry paying for the scheme. The second poll enforced that.

Photo of John Home Robertson John Home Robertson , East Lothian

Will the Parliamentary Under-Secretary stop trying to get round the fact that the scheme has already cost more than twice as much as the Department originally estimated and is now adrift by about £15 million? Do the Government want to eradicate Aujeszky's disease? If so, why will the Minister not accept responsibility to underwrite a fair proportion of the cost?

Photo of Mrs Peggy Fenner Mrs Peggy Fenner , Medway

I welcome the hon. Member for East Lothian (Mr. Home Robertson) to the Dispatch Box. Estimates at the inception of disease control programmes are necessarily speculative. The producer poll form—the original document—emphasised the difficulties of estimating and stated that the net cost might be at least £6 million, excluding consequential loss payments of £3·5 million, paid against Ministry advice, and interest payments.

Photo of Mr Albert McQuarrie Mr Albert McQuarrie , Banff and Buchan

Does my hon. Friend accept that the cost was £27 million and that at the present moment the actual debt due on Aujeszky's disease eradication is £15·4 million? Should not the Minister consider that and not penalise the producers?

Photo of Mrs Peggy Fenner Mrs Peggy Fenner , Medway

As I have just said, at the second poll the producers asked for matters to be arranged in this way and they did so on the basis that the pig disease eradication fund would pay.