§ 31. Sir PERCY HURD (for Mr. HANBURY)
asked the Minister of Agriculture whether, in view of the serious recent outbreaks of foot-and-mouth disease in Dorsetshire, he can now make any statement as to the progress of research into the causes of this pest; and whether the Government is using all its powers to further scientific investigation?
§ Mr. ELLIOT
The Foot-and-Mouth Disease Research Committee is, I believe, doing all that is possible in the investigation of this very difficult subject. The programme of work contemplated by the Committee was recently considered by the Agricultural Research Council, and approved. The Fifth Progress Report of the Committee is expected to be available in about two months. It will deal inter alia with the work of the Committee on possible means of the introduction of infection into this country and of spread within the country, as well as with problems of immunity.
§ Sir P. HURD
Has my right hon. Friend considered the suggestion put forward for more intensive research in order to remedy this devastating disease, perhaps on some island or other isolated area?
§ Mr. ELLIOT
I have given consideration to the problem whether research on this subject can be intensified, but I have to be guided very largely by scientific experts, and the Agricultural Research Council has approved of the present course of investigation.
§ Major COLFOX
Has my right hon. Friend considered the fact that shepherds and others thrown out of employment through foot-and-mouth disease receive no compensation of any kind, and cannot something be done to help them?
§ Mr. ELLIOT
I think that special ad hoc legislation to deal with this problem itself would be rather a difficult matter, and that it should form part of a more general review.
§ 32. Sir P. HURD (for Mr. HANBURY)
asked the Minister of Agriculture whether he is satisfied that the policy of slaughter for foot-and-mouth disease has justified itself?
§ Mr. ELLIOT
I am circulating a statement in the OFFICIAL REPORT. I may, however, say that I am fully satisfied that the relative freedom of this country from disease could not have been maintained in the present state of knowledge other than by the slaughter of affected animals and those in contact with them.
§ Following is the statement:
§ From 1932 inclusive to the present date there have been 69 separate centres of foot-and-mouth disease in Great Britain. In 44 of these centres infection was limited to one or two farms, and in 42 centres the period of operation of the infected area restrictions did not exceed one month. In the remaining 27 centres there was some further spread of infection, but in 25 of these centres disease was completely eradicated and restrictions removed in less than two months, and in the other two centres in less than three months. These results could not have been achieved, with the present knowledge of the disease, by the adoption of any other policy than slaughter of affected animals and those 1130 in immediate contact. The operation of this policy for a number of years was examined by the Departmental Committees of 1922 and 1925 and received their approval. The only alternative to slaughter under existing conditions is a policy of isolation and treatment. The Departmental Committee which reported in 1925 strongly condemned isolation as being equivalent to the abandonment of any hope of eradicating the disease from this country, as it would necessitate the prolongation of restrictions, increase the difficulty of supervision of outbreaks, involve owners in heavy losses, and lead to the disease becoming permanently established in this country.