§ 2.41 p.m.
§ [The Question was as follows:
§ To ask Her Majesty's Government whether, seeing the importance of avoiding cruelty to animals, they are aware that Mr. William Milne, of Durris, Aberdeenshire, has recently imported rabbit carcases from England infected by myxomatosis, with the intention of spreading disease among rabbits on his land, and whether, since this is contrary to the recommendations of the Carrington Committee, which have been accepted by the Minister of Agriculture, immediate steps will be 1176 taken in the Press and over the B.B.C. to make known the official view, so as to prevent further incidents of like nature which cause days of indescribable suffering before death; and, furthermore, whether, taking into consideration experience gained in England, immediate action will be taken to confine the spreading of the disease in Aberdeenshire, and to burn all infected carcases.]
§ THE JOINT PARLIAMENTARY SECRETARY, MINISTRY OF AGRICULTURE AND FISHERIES (LORD CARRINGTON)
My Lords, my right honourable friends the Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries and the Secretary of State for Scotland have asked the Myxomatosis Advisory Committee to consider, at a meeting which it is holding later this month, these and other suggestions made for preventing or discouraging the deliberate spreading of the disease.
My Lords, while thanking the noble Lord for his reply, may I suggest that this matter should be treated more urgently than that, since this disease is running very rapidly through different parts of Scotland? If I may I would draw your Lordships' attention to a report that was issued fairly recently by the senior veterinary officer of the National Veterinary College of France, where rabbits have been decimated by that disease. The report states that on account of its extreme cruelty, and also because, in the long run, immunity is likely to be developed, the disease should not be encouraged. Just before coming into your Lordships' House I was handed a letter from the head ghillie of Craigievar, Aberdeenshire, my home, in which the following occurs:I telephoned yesterday and was informed that several people had actually called at Durris for infected rabbit carcases …
§ THE LORD PRESIDENT OF THE COUNCIL (THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY)
My Lords, I am loath to intervene on this very important subject, but it is a very strict rule in this House that questions must be questions, and not statements. If the noble Lord has a matter with which he wishes to deal at greater length, it is always open to him to put down an unstarred Question, which could be discussed. That would allow him to develop his subject. I think it will 1177 be agreed that it is not in accordance with the practice of the House to make very long statements on Starred Questions.
I beg your Lordships' pardon. I will take the advice of the noble Marquess the Leader of the House and will put down an unstarred Question.
My Lords, may we take it that the Minister of Agriculture and the Secretary of State for Scotland are definitely opposed to the spreading of this disease to Scotland?
My Lords, before the noble Lord answers, may I ask that the Government will treat this matter as one of urgency, as my noble friend Lord Sempill suggested in his remarks a moment ago?
§ LORD CARRINGTON
My Lords, the Myxomatosis Advisory Committee are meeting next Monday and this is being treated as a matter of urgency. With regard to the question of the noble Viscount, Lord Elibank, the Advisory Committee have already pointed out that they are strongly against the deliberate spreading of the disease by the Government. They are now being asked to consider what steps if any, should be taken against the spreading of the disease by private individuals.
My Lords, may we take it then that the Minister of Agriculture and the Secretary of State for Scotland are opposed to the spreading of the disease in Scotland?
§ LORD CARRINGTON
I happen to be Chairman of the Myxomatcsis Advisory Committee and it would be wrong for me to make up my mind on what is right or wrong before I have even met my Committee.
§ LORD MATHERS
My Lords, may I ask the noble Earl whether he is aware that this inducement of disease is looked upon with repugnance by a large number of people in this country?
§ LORD CARRINGTON
My Lords, yes, indeed; and in the first Report of my Committee we were strongly against the spreading of the disease, because we thought it was most inhumane.
§ THE EARL OF LISTOWEL
My Lords, may I take it from what the noble Lord said that the Advisory Committee are not reconsidering their decision to allow the disease to take its natural course?