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.
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.
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?
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.
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.