§ Mr. Ralph Howell
asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food whether he will give further details of the progress of voluntary brucellosis eradication; and, in the light of this, whether he will now announce plans for the introduction of compulsory eradication into further areas in England and Wales.
§ Mr. Peter Mills
Since the announcement of increased milk and beef incentives in March, 1971, nearly 33,000 more herd owners have joined the voluntary incentives Scheme. This means there are304W now over 64,000 herds taking part in voluntary accreditation, representing over 50 per cent. of all the testable cattle in Great Britain. This is very encouraging progress and represents a remarkable response on the part of the farming industry to our policy of giving the maximum encouragement to voluntary action.
Nevertheless, I recognise that it is essential that this progress is followed up by the gradual extension of compulsory eradication on an area basis. The first areas were scheduled in March, 1971, and since then my right hon. Friend has announced that eradication will start in Norfolk and Suffolk in April, 1973. In addition, it has now been decided that the programme over the next two years will be as follows:
- (1) Wales Extension Area—Compulsory eradication to start on 1st January, 1973.
- (2) North-West England Extension Area—Compulsory eradication to start on 1st November, 1973.
- (3) West Sussex—Compulsory eradication to start on 1st November, 1973.
- (4) Essex, Cambridgeshire and the Isle of Ely—Compulsory eradication to start on 1st April, 1974.
My right hon. Friend will shortly be making an Order applying the provisions of the Brucellosis (Area Eradication) (England and Wales) Order, 1971, to the extension areas as from the dates shown. In due course, further orders will be made formally declaring West Sussex and Essex, Cambridgeshire and the Isle of Ely to be eradication areas and controlling in these counties the use of 45/20 vaccine.
Although it is too early to announce specific dates for the start of eradication in yet further areas, I am anxious that the owners concerned should have as much warning as possible. For this reason, the following areas have been scheduled for eradication starting on or about the dates shown:
- Carmarthen (West), Pembroke, Brecon and Radnor—Sometime during 1974.
- Lincolnshire (Holland), Huntingdon, Soke of Peterborough, Bedford, Hertford, Greater London (part)—Late 1974 or early 1975.
- Surrey and Berkshire—Late 1974 or early 1975.
This programme represents a continuation of our policy of introducing eradication into those areas which have shown very good voluntary scheme progress. This is why we have decided to schedule a new area in West Sussex, which will 305W provide a good springboard for extension into Surrey and Berkshire at a later stage. In East Anglia the low level of infection, together with the high proportion of testable animals already in the voluntary schemes, mean that there is scope for rapid progress with eradication.
I recognise that farmers in northern Lancashire and part of the West Riding may be disappointed that we are not proceeding with eradication in the North-West extension area until November of next year. We have taken this decision, however, in the light of the replacement difficulties which emerged in the North-West following the introduction last year of eradication in the initial area. We would not want to take any action which would increase these difficulties and must of course bear in mind the strains which are being imposed generally on our veterinary resources now that nearly half of our professional staff time is being employed on the task of brucellosis eradication.
Similarly, I realise that farmers in Devon—where very considerable voluntary scheme progress has been made—may be a little disappointed that I have not announced a date for the start of eradication there. But before we can begin eradication in a county with such a large cattle population we must be sure that the replacement position is fully satisfactory. This is why we will be keeping a close watch on the position there and in other areas, and in the light of progress it is proposed to make a further announcement in the autumn.